Saturday, October 27, 2007

Russian sabre-rattling

The head of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces Colonel General Nikolai Solovtsov told a news conference yesterday that Russia will conduct five launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles by the end of 2007. The launches will include a RS-18 (SS-19 Stiletto), a RS-12M (SS-25 Sickle), a missile interceptor and a heavy RS-20 (SS-18 Satan). During the course of the year Russia has already conducted seven missile tests, the latest test launch occurred on October 18.

On the same day Solovstov warned that Moscow could restart at short notice production of short- and medium-range missiles:

“If a political decision is taken on creating such a class of missiles, obviously Russia will build them quickly. We have everything needed to do this.”

This is just another warning sign directed towards the United States that is related to the row over the missile defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic. Just yesterday President Putin made a comparison between the U.S. missile shield and the Cuban Missile crisis.
However, the threats to restart the production of short- and medium-range missiles will not cause major concerns or fears on the other side of the Atlantic, because it is obvious that it is only a fight with words. Russia is not in a position to jumpstart its missile production. As UPI reported earlier this year:

Redevelopment and redeployment of intermediate-range missiles for use against NATO also presents several logistical problems. Russia's primary ballistic missile assembly plant at Votkinsk is only capable of a historical peak production capacity of approximately 80 missiles per year.

Since the actual rate of production has been closer to the minimum rate -- 12-15 per year for more than a decade -- Votkinsk's optimal production capacity is likely to have fallen closer to 30 missiles per year as unused production lines have been shut down.

Like in several earlier occasions the statement made by Colonel General Solovstov has not to be seen as a credible threat, but rather as some sabre-rattling and a call for attention. Russia does not want to be ignored and side-lined.

Photo: © RIA Novosti

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