News / Europe

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Opposes US Missile Defense Plan

In a photo provided by the U.S. Navy, a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) is launched from the Aegis cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67), during a joint Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Navy ballistic missile flight test, off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii (File Photo)
In a photo provided by the U.S. Navy, a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) is launched from the Aegis cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67), during a joint Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Navy ballistic missile flight test, off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii (File Photo)

Russia continues to oppose U.S. plans for a ballistic missile defense system. We look at Moscow’s view and the position taken by a group known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes Russia and China.

Defense system

For years, Russia has been very critical of U.S. plans for a ballistic missile defense system in Europe.

In 2009, President Barack Obama shelved a Bush administration proposal to station 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic.

Arms control expert Joseph Cirincione says the new plan is far more flexible.  

“The U.S. is deploying a new system of anti-missile interceptors based on Aegis destroyers and cruisers," he said. "But the plans for that system also include advanced land-based versions, some of which would be based in former Warsaw Pact countries, including Poland and Romania. And if those missiles achieve the capability the U.S. would like to see for them, they would have some capability to shoot down Russian long-range ballistic missiles - that worries Russia.”

Russian opposition

The United States has consistently stated that the ballistic missile defense plan is not aimed at Russia but is to defend against possible missile attacks from countries such as Iran.

Front row from left, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Kazakhstan's President Nazarbayev and Russian President Medvedev walk after a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Kazakhstan's capital Astana, June 15, 2011
Front row from left, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Kazakhstan's President Nazarbayev and Russian President Medvedev walk after a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Kazakhstan's capital Astana, June 15, 2011

Cirincione says there is another reason why Russia opposes the missile defense plan.

“Russia doesn’t like having such a strong U.S. presence on its borders - and it leads to suspicions," he added.

"The U.S. presence in Afghanistan, in Iraq, the bases we have, the supply agreements we have with Uzbekistan and other countries," continued Cirincione. "Relationships, of course, with Poland and other East European countries are not related to Russia, are not focused at Russia. But Russia has almost a traditional paranoid view and they see things being aimed at them. So yes, Russia is very concerned about what it sees as a growing U.S. presence on its borders.”

Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Russia is part of a regional alliance known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The other members are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and China. Some experts say Russia sees the organization as a potential counter to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - or NATO.

At its summit meeting last month, the six members criticized the missile defense shield, saying “it could harm strategic stability and international security.”

Chinese-Russian agreement

Marko Papic, analyst with STRATFOR, a private intelligence firm, says it is very significant that Moscow persuaded Beijing to sign a document opposing the U.S. ballistic missile defense plan - or BMD.

“The organization itself is not important. What’s important is that China is also voicing displeasure over the BMD. And it’s not doing so because it cares about what’s going on in Europe for Europe’s sake, but rather it shows that Beijing is worried that the BMD system in Europe could become a model - a strategic model - that the United States applies in other parts of the world, including in China’s neighborhood,” said Papic.

At the NATO summit in Lisbon last year, the United States and Russia agreed to collaborate on the issue of missile defense. Experts say while some progress has been made, Moscow is still fundamentally opposed to the U.S. missile defense plan.

Viktor Kremenyuk, a respected analyst at Moscow’s Institute for U.S. and Canada Studies, told Russian media that if Moscow and Washington do not agree on a joint missile shield, then Russia will turn to China for help.

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