MOSCOW — Russia may consider a preemptive strike on a missile defense system in Europe if the U.S.-led NATO project continues as planned, a top official said Thursday.
Russian Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov, in a sign of the tension between Russia and the United States over the missile defense plans, said during an international conference that a strike by his country might be possible.
“A decision to use destructive force preemptively will be taken if the situation worsens,” Makarov said.
Makarov’s remark followed a statement by Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who said Russian and U.S. consultations on the subject were “close to a dead end.”
“This will mean that the U.S.A. and NATO intend to develop the ABM [anti-ballistic missile] system without taking Russia’s concerns into consideration,” Serdyukov said. “Now our countries are faced with a dilemma: We will either pass a cooperation test and jointly react to new missile challenges and threats or will be obligated to take up military-technical measures given the realization of anti-missile plans.”
Serdyukov said Russia doesn’t agree with the opinion “that it is impossible to come to terms on the ABM issue.”
In November, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to withdraw from the New START nuclear arms control deal with the U.S. and deploy missiles aimed toward U.S. defense installations in Europe after becoming upset over missile defense consultations between the two countries.
Russian officials Thursday showed a computerized version of imaginary strikes by Russian nuclear missiles on imaginary targets on the U.S. East Coast.
Alexander Vershbow, NATO’s deputy secretary-general and a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, said that there was no desire to disturb global strategic stability with the planned missile defense system.
“Quite the contrary: NATO missile defense will be capable of intercepting only a small number of relatively unsophisticated ballistic missiles,” Vershbow said. “It does not have the capability to neutralize Russian deterrence.”
Alexander Golts, a defense expert and deputy editor in chief of the Yezhednevny Zhurnal, or Weekly Journal, a liberal online publication, said in an interview that the Kremlin was building political pressure before the NATO summit this month in Chicago, but probably had no intention of following through with a strike against the U.S. or NATO.
“To deliver a preemptive strike means to unleash a war which the Kremlin will never dare,” Golts said.