07MOSCOW522, RUSSIA’S SILENT CONCERN OVER CHINESE ASAT TEST

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW522 2007-02-06 15:50 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO9566
OO RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0522/01 0371550
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 061550Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7235
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 4169
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 2643
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 4086
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 000522 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/06/2017 
TAGS: PARM MCAP PREL RS CH
SUBJECT: RUSSIA'S SILENT CONCERN OVER CHINESE ASAT TEST 
 
REF: A. STATE 7445 
     B. MOSCOW 402 
 
Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs Alice G. Wells. 
 Reasons 1.4 (B/D). 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  Moscow's relatively muted reaction to 
Beijing's test of an anti-satellite missile last month belies 
its deep concern about a pending arms race in space.  Caught 
offguard by Beijing's action and unprepared to meet the 
challenge, Russian officials have publicly downplayed the 
significance of the test and, in some cases, implicitly 
blamed US policy for initiating the drive to militarize 
space.  Russia will be pressed to respond in kind, but it 
remains unclear whether the country currently has the 
technological prowess to keep pace with the US.  In the 
short- to medium-term, Moscow will likely continue to call 
for a formal ban on weaponization of space.  END SUMMARY. 
. 
------------------------------- 
NO OUTWARD OFFICIAL CONCERN ... 
------------------------------- 
 
2.  (C) Moscow's reaction to Beijing's January 11 test of an 
anti-satellite missile (ASAT) has been relatively muted, 
partly because it occurred more or less at the same time as 
the media trumpeted the proposed deployment of US missile 
defense components in Poland and the Czech Republic 
(reftels), which Russian officials regard with greater 
concern.  Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov initially dismissed 
reports of the successful destruction of a satellite by a 
Chinese missile but later said simply that Russia opposed 
deployment of military strike systems in space.  President 
Vladimir Putin, echoing the views of many in the country's 
defense establishment, implied that US space policy extending 
back to the 1980s sparked the Chinese drive to counter US 
capabilities, which could lead to a new arms race.  The US, 
said Putin, had "let the genie out of the bottle." 
 
3.  (C) At a January 29 session of the US-Russia Strategic 
Security Dialogue, Deputy FM Sergey Kislyak also tried to 
downplay the test, telling U/S for Arms Control and 
International Security Joseph that Moscow viewed the Chinese 
test as a signal of Beijing's concern about space weapons, 
which did not necessarily suggest an intent to develop such 
weapons.  Kislyak proposed consideration of a ban on 
weaponization of space, as well as other confidence building 
measures, to mitigate the potential for an arms race. 
 
4.  (C) Oleg Burmistrov, Chief of the Political-Military 
Section in the Foreign Ministry's North America Department, 
echoed Kislyak's views and suggested to us that the Chinese 
test was not militarily significant or a threat to Russian 
interests.  Burmistrov encouraged the US strongly to renounce 
militarization of space in order to head off a possible new 
arms race. 
. 
------------------------------- 
... BUT DEEP DOWN WE'RE WORRIED 
------------------------------- 
 
5.  (C) Independent defense analyst Pavel Felgengauer told us 
that Moscow was worried about the implications of the Chinese 
test.  Russia did not currently have the technological 
capability to match the US in space, which would force Moscow 
to continue to press for a formal ban on weaponization in the 
short- to medium-term, at least until Russia had reviewed its 
options.  Felgengauer added that Russian officials had been 
dismayed by China's neglect in informing them in advance of 
the test, as well as by the Russian defense establishment's 
failure to detect it immediately or to recognize its 
significance. 
 
6.  (C) Ivan Safranchuk of the World Security Institute also 
said Moscow was not happy about China's ASAT test.  Russia 
had engaged in considerable diplomatic efforts to prevent an 
arms race in space and wanted to preserve space as 
weapons-free.  China and Russia, as strategic partners, had 
previously taken the ethical high ground with their criticism 
of US efforts to design space-based weapons platforms and 
support systems.  Safranchuk continued that China's ASAT test 
could be interpreted as an escalation of an arms race in 
space which, until now, Russia had deliberately refrained 
from joining.  The Chinese test had undermined both Beijing's 
and Moscow's diplomatic positions.  He also asserted that 
 
MOSCOW 00000522  002 OF 002 
 
 
Beijing had previously denied that it was pursuing any type 
of ASAT program.  In the wake of the January 11 test, Russian 
trust in China will likely suffer. 
 
7.  (C) Safranchuk said he expected the US to respond to the 
Chinese challenge, leading to a further escalation.  In spite 
of Russian officials' attempts to downplay the significance 
of the test, Safranchuk thought Moscow would also be forced 
to respond, potentially leading to a costly arms race 
involving the US, China, Russia, and possibly other nations. 
In the meantime, Ru
ssia will not openly criticize China since 
the two countries remain strategic partners, but Moscow is 
"silently unhappy" with these latest developments. 
. 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
8.  (C) Faced with missile-related challenges on opposite 
sides of its borders, it remains to be seen how Russia will 
respond to the Chinese ASAT test.  Official GOR statements 
suggest that Russia currently lacks the technological prowess 
to keep pace with the US in space, and many of its 
space-based reconnaissance systems are of dubious reliability 
as a result of deterioration during the 1990s.  Until Russia 
determines how it will respond to this latest challenge, 
Moscow will likely continue to press for a formal ban on 
weaponization of space as an interim measure at least. 
BURNS

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