Experts argue Washington may use Gabala Radar Station

Azerbaijan, Baku, Dec. 22 /corr. Trend E.Tariverdiyeva, R.Agayev / Despite the doubts of the American experts regarding the use of Gabala RLS in the missile defense system of the USA, the experts from the CIS do not exclude this possibility.

"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," Mark Katz, American expert on the Caucasus, said.

The Vice Chairman of U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, called on to more attentively approach the initiative of Russia on deployment of missile defense system in Azerbaijan during his visit to Moscow. The U.S. President-elect Barack Obama will not give up the U.S. project on deployment of the elements of missile defense system in Europe, said Lugar in his interview with "Echo Moscow" radio station on Dec. 17.

"Maybe, the initiative of Russia on deployment of station in Azerbaijan (Gabala RLS) will be considered as an option," said Lugar.

At the summit of G8 held in summer 2007, Moscow proposed the USA to jointly use Gabala RLS in Azerbaijan, and also the station on prevention of missile launchings constructed in Armavir, the south of Russia.

American security experts believe that the 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," Yannis Stivachtis, American expert on security, said. President-elect Obama made clear during his campaign that the new US Administration will favor diplomacy over the use of coercive diplomacy. 

"The deployment of a US missile defense system in Azerbaijan could only lead to confrontation," Stivachtis, Director of International Studies Program at Virginia University, told Trend via e-mail.

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 Eastternm Europe targets Russia and not Iran or any other country.

Until 2010, the United States plans to install radar in the Czech Republic and ten interceptors in Poland under the pretext of ensuring defense against the missile threat of Iran. Russia fears that this system will threaten its security. At early Nov., the 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," Katz, professor of the U.S. George Mason University, said to Trend by e-mail.

The incoming Obama Administration has repeatedly said that it will try to improve relations with Iran. "The Obama team might see holding off on this deployment as a positive gesture that Tehran will appreciate," Katz said.

However, 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, said Mikhail Remizov, Russian expert on security.  "The result will be the same - America's interests ranking in fairway with small expenses," said Remizov, President of the National Strategy Institute. 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. 

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 manoeuvring 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," Tofiq Abbasov, expert of LEADER Media Holding analytic group, said to Trend .

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?" Stivachtis noted.

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, expert said.

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