- - Thursday, May 16, 2013

Russia is engaged in a major buildup of both nuclear and conventional missile defense systems at the same time Moscow is seeking legal limits on U.S. missile defenses, according to U.S. officials.

The Russian military is developing and deploying an array of new and modernized anti-missile interceptors that are part of a strategic doctrine that calls for defending against what Moscow believes to be an increasing threat posed by offensive ballistic missiles, said U.S. officials with access to intelligence reports.

New systems monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies under development or in the deployment phase include an advanced S-500 missile defense system currently being built in addition to the already available, and very capable, S-400 and S-300 defenses.

Additionally, the Russians are upgrading the SH-08 nuclear-tipped anti-missile interceptors that have been deployed around Moscow for more than two decades.

Other new Russian defenses with capabilities against both aircraft and missiles include SA-20 and SA-21 surface-to-air missiles, and a new advanced system called the SA-X-23, an advanced version of the S-300.

U.S. officials said the defenses are assessed as effective against cruise missiles, bombers, jet fighters, short- and intermediate-range ballistic missile, and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Disclosure of the Russian missile defense buildup comes as the Obama administration is seeking to reach an agreement that critics say could result in legally binding restrictions on U.S. defenses. There are also fears an agreement with Russia will compromise classified technical data on missile defense that the administration is considering sharing with Russian officials.

One official said the administration is suppressing evidence of the Russian defense buildup. Instead, the White House is pressing ahead with questionable missile defense negotiations with Russia that are aimed at mollifying Moscow’s concerns that U.S. and NATO defenses are covertly aimed at countering Moscow’s strategic arsenal.

A second official said the Russians recently began announcing publicly a large-scale modernization of their missile defenses.

“What gives?” this official asked. “Why is the United States kowtowing and trying to please the Russians over their concerns about our missile defenses, and no one ever says anything about their missile defenses?”

In talks with the Russians on missile defense, Obama administration negotiators have not proposed that the Russians limit their missile defenses as part of any agreement, the officials said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin this week met with top officials, including the defense minister, chief of the military’s general staff, deputy defense minister in charge of armaments, and commanders of the military branches.

A presidential spokesman told Interfax the meeting was “dedicated to problems of the development of new missile defense systems and to issues of counteracting the existing systems.”

Arms control advocates have argued that missile defenses upset strategic stability and complicate efforts to reduce strategic offensive arms. But if that is the case, “why is Russia doing it and why are we letting them do it,” the second official asked.

If that logic is correct, “the Russians are merely getting us to disarm our defenses and disarm our offenses and shame on us,” he added.

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