U.S. to reject Russia’s proposal to jointly operate radar station in Azerbaijan

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U.S. to reject Russia’s proposal to jointly operate radar station in AzerbaijanU.S. to reject Russia’s proposal to jointly operate radar station in AzerbaijanDespite Russia’s reiterated proposal to jointly use the Gabala radar station, experts doubt the U.S. administration will agree. “The incoming Obama Administration will not deploy a U.S. missile defense system in Azerbaijan, since the incoming Obama administration is much more skeptical about the effectiveness of ballistic missile defense than the outgoing Bush administration,” U.S. expert on Caucasus Mark Katz said.
It is not late to take Russia’s proposals for the U.S. and Europe to jointly resist missile threats from the South, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the Spiegel on Feb. 15.
“By deploying radar stations on the Russian territory and in Azerbaijan it is possible to create a radar chain to foresee any missile threat from the South. That is an alternative to U.S.’s unilaterally developed plans,” he said. 
West’s political elite have on numerous occasions spoke out on possible joint use of radar stations by the U.S. and Russia, including the Gabala radar station.
In late December during his visit to Moscow U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Vice Chairman Richard Lugar called to more attentively approach Russia’s initiative to deploy missile defense system in Azerbaijan. President-elect Barack Obama will not give up the U.S. project on deployment of missile defense elements in Europe, Lugar said to Echo of Moscow radio station on Dec. 17.
“Maybe, Russia’s initiative to deploy station in Azerbaijan (Gabala RLS) will be considered as an option,” said Lugar.
A defense system against Iran, which can use missiles against the EU, is in the interests of Russia and the entire EU, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana told the Echo of Moscow on Feb. 12. He said an agreement should be signed primarily between Russia and NATO. “Consultations on the issue are underway,” he said.
American security experts believe use of Gabala radar station is less likely to take place as they are skeptical of willingness of the new administration to create a confrontation with Russia.
“The possibilities for the Obama Administration to deploy a missile defense system in Azerbaijan are very small,” American security expert Yannis Stivachtis said. President-elect Obama made clear during his campaign that the new U.S. Administration will favor diplomacy over the use of coercive diplomacy, he said.
“The deployment of a US missile defense system in Azerbaijan could only lead to confrontation,” Virginia University International Studies Program Director Yannis Stivachtis wrote to Trend News in an email.
According to the expert, this, however, would confirm to the world what the Russian Government was saying all along, namely that the US missile defense system installed in the Eastern Europe targets Russia and not Iran or any other country.
The U.S. plans to install radar in the Czech Republic and ten interceptors in Poland until 2010 under the pretext of ensuring defense against missile threat from Iran. Russia fears that this system will threaten its security. In early November, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stated as a reply to deployment of elements of the U.S. missile defense in Europe that Russia will deploy Iskander missile complexes in the Kaliningrad Oblast and introduce radio-electronic suppression of missile defense elements.
“President-elect Obama and his administration will not deploy missile defense system in Azerbaijan or in Poland and the Czech Republic,” U.S. George Mason University professor Katz wrote to Trend News in an email.
“The Obama team might see holding off on this deployment as a positive gesture that Tehran will appreciate,” Katz said.
Russian expert Mikhail Delyagin shares Katz’s opinion.
Russia offered to use its radar station in Gabala, but NATO expressed no interest, Globalization Studies Institute Director Mikhail Delyagin told Echo of Moscow. “Gabala radar station is not a very good resource. But were Americans creating a system against Iran, they would got interested even in this station,” he said. The fact that they are not interested in the radar station shows that the missile shield is aimed against Russia, not Iran, he said.
However, a Russian expert believes that U.S. is likely to use Gabala Radar Station to improve relations with Russia.
The new U.S. administration will get what it needs from its partners as well as from Russia by not taking unilateral hard stance, Russian security expert Mikhail Remizov said. “The result will be the same – America’s interests ranking in fairway with small expenses,” National Strategy Institute President Remizov said. He said the joint use of Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan with Russia is a good opportunity for U.S. “It can be a reason for Obama not to speed up deployment of missile defense in Europe, at least, at full capacity,” he said.
An Azeri expert says deployment of the American missile shield in Azerbaijan is fortification of the U.S. in only one Caucasus region which pursues balanced political line by favorably maneuvering in geopolitical location.
“Pushing missile defense to Azerbaijan is testament to Moscow’s weaker position in the country. It will lay an encouraging foundation for Azerbaijan’s NATO membership and will block strategic corridors for missile programs of not only Russia and Iran, but also China who attracts American political experts by its defense programs,” LEADER Media Holding analytic group expert Tofig Abbasov told Trend News.
The success of this initiative can also be a reliable starting point for U.S. against influential Islam states such as Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Though American observers are sure that U.S. is not going to use Gabala Radar Station, some analysts argue that it is likely to take place in future, he said.
“The decision of Obama to deploy a US missile defense system in Azerbaijan may take place in response to a Russian action,” Stivachtis said. “The question, therefore, is: is it in the interest of Kremlin to provoke a confrontation with the U.S. that would encourage the latter to deploy a US missile defense system in Azerbaijan?” he said.
Some analysts argue that the economic problems that the US currently faces at home in conjunction with the over-stretching of US forces world-wide, provides Russia with considerable opportunities to challenge the United States, the expert said. /Trend/