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  • Russian Deployment of S-300 Missiles Threatens U.S. Interests in the Caucasus

    A picture taken on April 9, 1992 shows a Russian S300 missile burning away from its pad in Priozorsk during a training launch. Russia on December 22, 2008 denied that it was delivering sophisticated S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran, following reports it was about to supply the weapons to the US arch-foe.

    On Wednesday, Gen. Alexander Zelin, the commander of the Russian Air Force, announced that Moscow had deployed a state-of-the-art S-300 (SA-20 Favorit) long- range air defense system in Abkhazia, a region of the Republic of Georgia that Russia has occupied since the August 2008 war.

    Since then, Russia recognized breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent republics. According to Zelin, the task of the air defense systems is “to prevent violation of Abkhaz and South Ossetian airspace and to destroy any aircraft intruding into their airspace no matter what their purpose might be”.

    However, there is much more than the defense of Abkhazia to the Russian deployment. Taken together with the S-300 base in Armenia, it extends the strategic air space over South Caucasus and over parts of the Black Sea, furthering Russian control.

    The response from the Obama Administration was faint. P. J. Crowley, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and State Department spokesman said: “I believe it’s our understanding that Russia has had S-300 missiles in Abkhazia for the past two years.” He later claimed that this is “not necessarily” a new development. This is another example of the Obama Administration’s “don’t let your missiles interfere with my reset policy” approach.

    However, with this move Russia is yet again flagrantly violating the August 2008 ceasefire agreement, negotiated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. It called upon both countries to withdraw troops to pre-war positions and restore status-quo ante bellum. In addition, Russia has built up to five military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the past two years alone.

    Although the range of the system is about a 120 miles, the deployment has to be seen in the context of recent Russian policies in the Caucasus. Moscow negotiated a contract extension for basing troops in the Armenian Gyumri military base till 2044. It will assume joint control over Armenian borders. As the leading member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Russia controls air space over Armenia. Now Moscow is reportedly selling an S-300 air defense system to Azerbaijan.

    There is a clear strategy behind these actions. While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hails “soft power” in the Caucasus, Moscow engages in a hard, classic political-military power projection in this strategic region, which connects the Atlantic (via the Black Sea and Mediterranean) with the energy riches of Eurasia. As President Medvedev stated in his post-war 2008 speech, this is “a zone of Russian exclusive interests”, where it is willing to use force.

    Most importantly from the perspective of the United States, Russian actions are aimed at denying the United Space airspace and over-flight options. The surveillance aspect is no less important—depending on the actual deployment of the air defenses: associated radars will be able to picture or “paint” much of western Georgia and the adjoining Black Sea coastline. The ultimate objective for Moscow is to become an uncontested hegemon in the South Caucasus. And of course this has potential implications in case of an Iranian contingency.

    The Russians are committed to deployments in the Caucasus that lead to the strategic denial of U.S. power projection in that region. This bears on the U.S.’s future ability to resupply Afghanistan; to use power to disarm a nuclear Iran; to ensure energy supply from the Caspian; and to help pro-Western friends and allies. These are hardly great accomplishments for the Obama “reset” policy”.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    13 Responses to Russian Deployment of S-300 Missiles Threatens U.S. Interests in the Caucasus

    1. Brandy says:

      The neocons lose again! Russia is four moves ahead of the US but then again it is Russia's near abroad so why should they not have strategic interests? You are a hypocrites Cohen.

    2. Vahan Dilanyan, Yere says:

      When Turkey and Armenia intensified their negotiations on rapprochement in 2007, the withdrawal of Russian 102nd military base seemed to be potentially possible though the good legal grounds that make the Base remained. Via Turkey Armenia could integrate the Euro-Atlantic Community easier, so I saw the solution of the problem in the formation of political will and readiness of Armenia the NATO and US could provide with in perspective.

      However, the negotiated contract on prolonging the term of the basing put a great obstacle on this regard. Agree that it showed the failure of the US policy in the region.

      The strategy of Russians considers a "military blockade" which is accompanied with the economic one.

      Stemming from the background of the fact the August war cut some of its traditional access to the South, Russia is establishing alternative accesses while trying to isolate Georgia, the NATO alley in the region. Moscow’s policy on buying Azerbaijan’s gas, which is still expected to become one of the main suppliers for Nabucco, and its intention to realize the Russia-Azerbaijan-Iran railroad, is in line with this strategy as well.

    3. Eugene Pilcher, Rock says:

      Once again, Obama leaves a legacy of foreign affairs incompetence. Reagan would have demanded Russia withdraw the troops and the S-300 deployment or face trade sanctions and he would have won. Now our economy is so weak from government deficit spending, sanctions might not even be a threat anymore.

    4. Tim Ellison says:

      Sounds like Ariel Cohen is clinging to the hope that Russia would remain weak forever or that they should ignore their own interests in the region. Times have changed indeed. He and Vladimir Socor can run away and cry into their pillows. Georgia will have a new leader next.

    5. Rolland Powell River says:

      The placing of the defensive S-300 anti missle force is not unexpected.

      The US system is supposidly to protect against Iran but this is nonsense

      The United States and Nato have put their missile systems in Poland, and many other countries directly threatening Russia, China, and Iran .

      It is about time that the United States and Nato stop their proliferation of missile systems, and move to a peace course of action; that means no more threatening countries with Nuclear or conventional weapons,

      No more illegal invasions, or bombing of countries we do not agree with.

      The West has become the enemy of all freedom loving people of the world.

      We, the people, demand that the War Criminals of the Iraq and Afghanistan, invasion and bombing be prosecuted and sent to jail.

      America take your country back from the criminals leading your Government.

      .

    6. Alex Postallian says:

      Obama picked the wrong horses with the Jews and turks.His pussy policy didnt work with the Big Bear.Now will we hear rantings and raving from the turks and the turk in Azerbaijan,I think not,with the Bear looking over the Armenians shoulder.

    7. Vahan Dilanyan, Yere says:

      Russians have dwindling demographics and crippling economy, but they are becoming burgeoning energy giant. Russia managed on its energy policy over the Central Asia-Europe line, won the demands of its energy and the transit for the South Stream. Instead US were sending Biden to the Eastern Europe to declare about not taking the Russia as serious, and holding meetings about Nabucco’s vital importance with having neither gas, nor money.

      Sure, Reagan considered the economic weakness of Russia as basic one; however, the Obama administration should revise its “reset policy” and take into a high consideration of constructive dilemmas: do nothing and wait for the “Russia’s domestic collapse” thesis come true, or take measures over the situation that is becoming out of hand.

    8. Alex says:

      Though neocons got this fixation on Russia as an enemy, the reality is different.

      Russia supports US efforts in Afghanistan, Russian doesn't want Iran with WMD, though it acknowledges Iran's right to civilian nuclear power.

      Abkhazia was forced to be part of Georgia in soviet times by Stalin (a Georgian himself of course). So if Georgia gained independence from Russia, why Abkhazia cannot be independent from Georgia? Georgia just acts like little soviet union by depriving people of their freedom. Abkhazia has been independent from Georgia since USSR disintegrated in 1991, right until Psychoshvilli cowardly aggression 2 years ago, on the day when Olympic games have begun. McCain wanted this puppet as means to pull Russian whiskers when required. Nothing to do with ideas of democracy and freedom.

      So I guess S-300 would help to keep idiotic ideas from Sakashvilli's head.

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    11. Rezo says:

      TO ALEX

      While soviet union collapsed, there were 15 republics who gainded indepedence, as soviet constitution gave this right to those republics..

      If the otonomy republics have the same right, so all Russian north caucasus and other republics have the same right too, am i wrong?

      if so, tell me why?

      and how the normal person can suggets that any teritory of georgian side of caucasus mauntans was artifically anexed to Georgia?

      look at the topography map for god's sake , ther was not even land conection to Russia, until rocki tunnel was build in 80-th!

      you areguments are lauhgeble!

      stalin created this artifical otonomy, withing Georgian, not by anexing it@

      and what about ethnicly cleansed Georgian population of those territories? are you gonna ask them, where they wanna see those territories?

      Russia has much lower moral ground against Georgia, it's so obviouse

    12. daxure says:

      Alex get real do you, Russia was, is and will be occupant till it's Russia's end !

    13. Scot, New Jersey says:

      To Rolland;

      Since you obviously know nothing about geopolitics, perhaps you'd like to educate yourself first instead of just spouting some canned, liberal talking points. And Oh, by the way, your shout of "we the people" would require you to be an American, so wise up…you have no standing to call for the prosecution of Americans that actually protected the interests of the United States and the free world in general (including Canada) against the global Jihadist threat. Russian agression is also a cancer that, if left unchecked, will result in the subjugation of more and more people/territories under that State's failed and evil system.

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