MOSCOW. (Military commentator Nikita Petrov for RIA Novosti) - The Federation Council, the upper house of Russia's parliament, has approved the January 25 decision of the lower house to denounce the agreement with Ukraine on the use of its early warning radars.
The bill will be forwarded to the president for approval. If he signs the relevant decree and the document is published in the official press, the agreement will be sent to Kiev along with notification that the Kremlin will stop using its Dnepr radars in Beregovo near Mukachevo, and Nikolayevka near Sevastopol.
Six to 12 months later, as specified in the intergovernmental agreement, the Ukrainian radars will stop supplying Russia with information about the launches of strategic missiles in the southwestern and western zones.
General of the Army Nikolai Pankov, state secretary and deputy defense minister of Russia, said one of the reasons for the decision was Kiev's intention to join NATO.
But that is not the main reason. First, Ukraine may join the bloc only after holding a national referendum to learn public opinion, which does not seem to support the intention of the incumbent president, prime minister and parliamentary speaker.
And second, the Kremlin cannot stop its early warning cooperation with Ukraine, allegedly because Ukraine wants to join NATO, and at the same time advocate mutually beneficial relations in the missile sphere.
The January 25 parliamentary session, which approved the termination of the radar agreement with Ukraine, also decided to prolong the agreement with Kiev on the warranty servicing of Russia's largest strategic missiles, the R-36M (NATO classification SS-18 Satan) and the subsequent R-36M2 Voevoda missile.
Satan, which can carry 10 independently targeted nuclear charges, was designed at the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau in Dnepropetrovsk, in the south of central Ukraine. Under the 1992 Lisbon agreement between Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and the United States, Ukraine may not produce such missiles or have other types of strategic weapons.
This is why it partly scrapped the Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95MS Bear strategic bombers and turned the rest over to Russia as debt repayment.
The Dnepropetrovsk plant, where the Voevoda was made in Soviet times, now produces trolleybuses, but its missile designers still provide routine maintenance to and repair Satans, when and if necessary, under the agreement prolonged by the Russian parliament. Russia has only 75 such missiles now, but they form the core of its strategic deterrence force.
The decision to stop ABM cooperation with Ukraine was made for pragmatic reasons. Colonel General Vladimir Popovkin, commander of the Russian Space Forces, said that the Dnepr radars, for whose information Russia pays $1.3 million annually, exhausted their service warranty in 2005 and their modernization would cost at least $20 million. Is it worth it?
Unlike the radars in Azerbaijan, Belarus and Kazakhstan, the Ukrainian systems are not manned by Russian officers. Both the qualifications of the radars' civilian Ukrainian personnel and the data they provide to Russia are questionable.
The Sevastopol radar is the largest of the two problems because unlicensed radio stations of vessels fishing in the Black Sea use the same frequency. If not for information from the satellites monitoring the region, the data from Dnepr could be interpreted to indicate an incoming live missile. Russia's Space Forces have to recheck information from that radar, losing time and money, which is crucial for organizing a reply strike in a war.
Russia will also stop using the Ukrainian radar because it now has a radar supplying the same type information, but better. Last year, the Voronezh-MD radar, which is cheaper to maintain, was put on test duty at the Lekhtusi village near St. Petersburg. The Ukrainian radars are manned by 80 specialists, while a crew of 15 is enough for the Voronezh.
Moreover, the range of the Dnepr is 4,000 km ( 2,486 miles), while the effective range of the Voronezh is 6,000 km ( 3,729 miles).
When another Voronezh radar, under construction near Armavir in southern Russia, is put on combat duty, Russia will no longer need the Ukrainian radars. The Russian Foreign Ministry will most likely send the notification terminating the use of the Mukachevo and Sevastopol radars when the Armavir radar is put on test duty.
Colonel General Popovkin said Russia would eventually stop using the radars in Belarus (the Volga radar in Gantsevichi, near Baranovichi), Azerbaijan (the Daryal in Gabala, near Mingechaur), and Kazakhstan (the Dnepr, Daryal-U and Dnestr radars near Lake Balkhash), although not in 2008 or 2009.
The Gabala radar has recently caused quite an uproar. First, its service life is nearly exhausted, and Russia pays Azerbaijan $7 million a year for leasing the station manned by Russian officers, whose families live in a nearby settlement. The Armavir radar will cover Gabala's zone of operation, and so Russia could stop using it.
But the Kremlin has proposed that the Pentagon use the Gabala radar to monitor air and missile launches in the Middle East, primarily from Iran, on the condition that Washington renounces its plans to deploy ABM elements in Eastern Europe.
If Washington accepts the offer, the Gabala radar would be modernized and its service warranty prolonged.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of Trend