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Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 17:16 GMT
Russia tests anti-missile system
By Jonathan Marcus
BBC diplomatic correspondent

President Vladimir Putin
Putin is signalling the modernisation of Russia's ageing system
Russia has successfully tested a modernised anti-ballistic missile at a range in the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan, its defence ministry says.

The A-135 missile is said to have successfully hit a training target.

The test suggests Russia has a working system in place around Moscow as the US presses ahead with the deployment of its new anti-ballistic missile (ABM).

Russia's test is a sign that both Russia and America seem to be viewing the world in quite similar ways.

In the wake of the 11 September attacks in New York and Washington, Russian President Vladimir Putin was quick to tie his country into the global war on terror.

Just as US President George W Bush is pressing ahead with the deployment of a brand new missile defence system, so Mr Putin is signalling that Russia's ageing system is now being modernised.

Whatever prestige Mr Putin may hope to gain from such a missile test, it seems entirely irrelevant when compared with Russia's most pressing security problems
But the same questions that are often asked about the US system can equally be levelled against the Russian. For a start, how effective is it?

The US programme has been plagued by technical problems and setbacks.

Even now it is still very much a work in progress.

Unlike America, Russia never got out of the ABM business, but its system has long been regarded by experts as moribund and dependent upon a less and less reliable and truncated system of early-warning stations.

But the real question is why either country is determined to put so many resources into this basket.

Is the launch of a long-range ballistic missile, many critics ask, the most likely avenue of nuclear attack?

As the conflict in Chechnya and the recent attack on the school in Beslan demonstrates, Russia's conventional armed forces are woefully inadequate.

Whatever prestige Mr Putin may hope to gain from such a missile test, it seems entirely irrelevant when compared with Russia's most pressing security problems.




SEE ALSO:
Russia bares its military teeth
02 Oct 03 |  Europe


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