Russian Ballistic Missile Defense: Rhetoric and Reality

Russian Ballistic Missile Defense: Rhetoric and Reality
Russian Ballistic Missile Defense: Rhetoric and Reality
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Russia's actions in Ukraine are not the only challenge to relations with the United States. U.S. plans for ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability in Europe have led to aggressive rhetoric from Moscow, which continues at the time of this writing even though attention in the West is focused almost exclusively on Ukraine. Russia’s strenuous opposition to the U.S. European Phased Adaptive Approach plans is based on claims that this capability is intended to compromise Russia’s nuclear deterrent capability. Most of these claims have been dismissed as groundless. Yet, all discussion of the subject highlights the U.S. current and proposed deployments, and entirely ignores Russia’s own missile interception systems, which are claimed to have comparable capability. Russia protests that U.S. missiles pose a potential threat to strategic stability, and has made belligerent threats of direct military action to prevent their deployment. But no mention at all is made of the strategic implications of Russia’s own systems, despite the fact that if the performance and capabilities claimed for them by Russian sources are accurate, they pose at least as great a threat to deterrence as do those of the United States. This monograph aims to describe Russia’s claims for its missile defense systems, and, where possible, to assess the likelihood that these claims are true. This will form a basis for considering whether discussion of Russian capabilities should be an integral part of future conversations with Russia on the deployment of U.S. and allied BMD  ( Ballistic Missile Defense) assets.

KEIR GILES is the director of the Conflict Studies Research Centre (CSRC), a group of deep subject matter experts on Eurasian security formerly attached to the United Kingdom (UK) Ministry of Defence. Now operating in the private sector, CSRC provides in-depth analysis on a wide range of security issues affecting Russia and its relations with overseas partners. After beginning his career working with paramilitary aviation in Russia and Ukraine immediately following the fall of the Soviet Union, Mr. Giles joined the BBC Monitoring Service (BBCM) to report on political and military affairs in the former Soviet space. While still working for the BBCM, Mr. Giles also worked for CSRC at the UK Defence Academy where he wrote and briefed for UK and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) government agencies on a wide range of Russian defense and security issues.  He is the only double Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) in London, UK, as well as a regular contributor to research projects on Russian security issues in both the UK and Europe. Mr. Giles’s work has appeared in a wide range of academic and military publications across Europe and in the United States.


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This text may appeal to U.S. national security strategists, lawmakers, policy analysts, foreign service officers, and diplomacy negotiators, especially those involved with Russian leadership and military ballistic defense programs.  High school students in global studies and world history classes and undergraduate to graduate students pursuing coursework in international security and Government/political science classes may be interested in this resource for research about Russia’s military position, especially their ballistic missile defense program.

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Defense Dept., Army, Strategic Studies Institute
  • Giles, Keir
Key Phrases:
  • Ballistic missile defenses, Russia (Federation)
  • Deterrence (Strategy)
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