Reports Show Iranian, North Korean, Chinese Missile Threats Worsen
And Then There Is A Reawakening Russia
New reports confirm that multiple missile threats facing the United States are worsening, threats that years ago prompted Washington to institute a $100 billion, multi-year, multi-layered missile defense development program led by the Missile Defense Agency.
Iran, North Korea and China pose palpable and worsening threats, with both missile and nuclear programs, according to new assessments. And Russia continues to pose a formidable strategic threat.
One assessment was delivered by Army Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The other newly-presented perspective, by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, was an airing and discussion of its 2007 annual report to Congress that experts outlined on Capitol Hill last week.
While Iran is improving its military to counter any attack by a larger adversary such as the United States, Iran also can conduct offensive operations with ballistic missile and naval forces, Maples reported.
For example, Iran is procuring fast missile patrol boats and anti-ship cruise missiles and underwater mines, Maples noted.
And, since early last year, "Iran has begun to invest heavily in advanced air defenses," he added, "taking delivery of the advanced SA-15 tactical surface-to-air missile systems," and at the end of last year "announced it will acquire the strategic, long-range SA-20."
Not only are these weapons intimidating, they will permit Iran to defend key facilities, such as nuclear program centers, according to Maples.
While Israeli aircraft in 1981 demolished the Osirak plant where Iran was thought to be working toward nuclear weapons production, the Arab nation since has decentralized its nuclear processing facilities and moved them deep underground where they are resistant to air strikes.
Iran also is moving ahead with offensive missile capabilities.
"Regular Iranian ballistic missile training continues throughout the country, [and] Iran continues to develop and acquire ballistic missiles that can hit Israel and central Europe, including Iranian claims of an extended-range variant of the Shahab-3 [missile] and a new 2,000-km (1,243 miles) medium range ballistic missile … called the Ashura," Maples reported. As far as Israel is concerned, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be wiped from the map.
"Beyond the steady growth in its missile and rocket inventories, Iran has boosted the lethality and effectiveness of existing systems with accuracy improvements and new sub- munition payloads," Maples continued.
In defiance of outrage from industrialized nations and pressure from the United Nations, Iran is obstinate in continuing to produce nuclear materials, openly in a non-covert operation, that leaders of Western nations fear will be used to develop and build nuclear weapons. Iran says the materials are needed for nuclear electrical power generation, even though Russia has supplied enough nuclear material to fuel such a plant.
And the U.S. take on this?
On the one hand, Maples said that Iran halted its nuclear weaponization and covert uranium conversion and enrichment-related work in 2003.
But, Maples continued, "we assess that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons. Iran continues to develop its enrichment program in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions."
According to Maples, at this point, "Iran is producing uranium enrichment feed material at Esfahan, claims to be enriching uranium in 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz and is working on more advanced centrifuges.
"It also continues to build a heavy water reactor at Arak which will be capable of producing plutonium that could be processed for use in a weapon."
And there are other disquieting maneuvers by Iran, Maples said.
For example, "Tehran continues to seek dual-use biotechnical materials, equipment and expertise which have legitimate uses, but also could enable ongoing biological warfare efforts."
Therefore, Maples continued, "We assess that Tehran maintains dual-use facilities intended to produce chemical warfare agents in times of need and conducts research that may have offensive applications."
Thus there is in the Middle East, within missile range of Israel and Europe, a rogue and belligerent nation that not only moves to acquire longer-range missiles, but which also has a nuclear materials production program and is in a position to shift to production of biological weapons agents.
North Korea has long-range artillery close to the demilitarized zone border with South Korea, "complimented by a substantial mobile ballistic missile force with an array of warhead options to include WMD that can strike U.S. forces and our allies in [South Korea] and Japan," Maples reported.
Some analysts and lawmakers see the threat from North Korea diminished because a test of its longest-range missile ended in failure, with the missile destroyed. But Maples is not reassured by that.
"Development of the Taepo Dong 2, which has the potential to reach the continental United States with a nuclear payload, continues despite a failed July 2006 test launch," Maples warned "North Korea also continues work on an intermediate range ballistic missile."
He also is not totally convinced that a six-party agreement means North Korea is guaranteed to surrender and hand over its nuclear weapons and production facilities.
Should the six-party deal founder, such as if North Korea suddenly renounced its concessions, he predicted, then it "is likely to respond with resumed production of fissile material at Yongbyon while also increasing rhetoric intended to encourage a return to dialogue on [North Korean] terms. In such a scenario, additional missile or nuclear tests could occur."
North Korea in 2006 successfully tested an atomic weapon in an underground detonation.
While some analysts have hailed North Korea for its entering into the six-party talks and a related deal, Maples remains wary.
"Although North Korea has halted and disabled portions of its nuclear program, we do not know the conditions under which Pyongyang would entirely abandon its nuclear weapons capability," Maples said.
He cited some worrisome points.
North Korea "could have stockpiled several nuclear weapons from plutonium produced at Yonbyon [reactor] and it likely sought a uranium enrichment capability for nuclear weapons. It may also have proliferated nuclear-weapons-related technology abroad."
North Korea, in 2002, shipped missiles to the Middle East, to Yemen. Though forces of Spain interdicted the shipment, it was declared legal and permitted to continue on its way.
"North Korea may be able to successfully mate a nuclear warhead to a mobile ballistic missile," he cautioned.
Aside from nuclear weapons, North Korea has expertise in other weapons of mass destruction. "North Korea has had a longstanding chemical warfare program and we believe North Korea’s chemical warfare capabilities probably included the ability to produce bulk quantities of nerve, blister, choking and blood agents," Maples told the lawmakers.
And it would be difficult for the United States to upbraid North Korea for contravening established norms here.
"North Korea has yet to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention and is not a member of the Australia Group," Maples noted.
Then there is the biological weapons threat.
"North Korea possesses a biotechnical infrastructure that could support the production of biological warfare agents," Maples stated.
"North Korea continues to research bacterial and viral biological agents that could support an offensive biological warfare program," he reported. "This biological infrastructure combined with its weapons industry give North Korea a potentially robust biological warfare capability."
China "is building and fielding sophisticated weapon systems and testing new doctrines that it believes will allow it to prevail in regional conflicts and also counter traditional U.S. military advantages," Maples reported.
This Chinese rising military might is multifaceted, encompassing the entire panoply of weaponry.
"The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is building its own sophisticated aircraft, surface combatants, submarines and weapon systems while still buying others overseas," such as from Russia, Maples reported.
He listed a few of the myriad new cutting-edge weapon systems that China is acquiring.
"China is integrating Russian-produced Kilo-class submarines and Sovremenny-class destroyers into the (PLA navy, or PLAN) as well as S-300 PMU2 surface-to-air [SAM] missiles and Su-27 aircraft into the air force," Maples noted.
"China has developed and begun to deploy indigenous SAM systems which, together with SAMs imported from Russia, provide Beijing with a modern, layered, ground-based air defense capability to defend important assets," Maples observed. "China bought four S-300 PMU-2 (SA-20) air defense battalions and intends to buy four more.
"This increases its engagement range out to 200 km," or 124.3 miles.
That is more than the 100 miles of water in the Taiwan Strait separating Taiwan from the Chinese mainland, where China has assembled 1,300 radar-guided missiles aimed at Taiwan.
"China is developing a layered maritime capability with medium-range anti-ship ballistic missiles, submarines, maritime strike aircraft and surface combatants armed with increasingly sophisticated anti-ship cruise missiles," according to Maples.
What this means is that the United States couldn’t send non-stealthy ships such as aircraft carriers into the Taiwan Strait to block China from invading Taiwan, as China has vowed to do if Taiwan doesn’t submit to rule by Beijing. Sending American ships into the strait would expose them to destruction by those Chinese missiles.
Therefore, the United States first would have to use super-stealth aircraft to take out those missile batteries, a job for the F-22 Raptor stealth supersonic fighter-attack aircraft.
However, there are fewer than 100 of those planes ready for operational duty now, and Congress is considering whether to cut off production at 183, or perhaps 20 more. It is unclear how the Air Force might persuade Congress to fund production of the 381 F-22s by Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] that the Air Force says it requires.
Importantly, Maples said the United States sees China looking beyond the time when it might invade and conquer Taiwan, to a day when China would become a huge Asian force.
"China is looking beyond a potential Taiwan contingency and is pursuing capabilities needed to become a major regional power," according to Maples’s testimony.
"The (PLAN) already operates a large surface and an increasingly modern submarine fleet and may be seeking to operate an aircraft carrier," Maples continued. "The [PLA] air force is developing an extended-range, land-attack cruise-missile-capable bomber."
China now must integrate all that hardware into a smooth operation, he added.
Then there is yet another facet of the rising Chinese military might, in space and counterspace capabilities.
They "have significant implications for U.S. space-based communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in a Taiwan Strait contingency and beyond," he warned.
"Beijing operates communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [CISR] operations in a Taiwan Strait contingency and beyond," he projected. "Beijing operates [CISR], navigation and Earth resource systems with military applications and will continue to field more advanced satellites through the next decade."
Maples pointed to the successful Chinese anti-satellite (ASAT) shot in January last year.
In addition to destroying its own weather satellite in orbit with a ground-based interceptor missile, "China also is developing jammers and kinetic and directed-energy weapons for ASAT missions," he stated. China temporarily disabled a U.S. military satellite by "painting" it with a ground-based laser.
"Citing its manned and lunar space programs, China is improving its ability to track and identify satellites — a prerequisite for anti-satellite attacks," he observed.
Then there is the elephantine Chinese missiles program.
"China is developing missiles of all ranges," he said. "The CSS-10 Mod-X-2 (DF-31A) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) can strike the continental United States and is joining China’s operational inventory along with the less-capable DF-31" ICBM, Maples said.
"Other future ICBMs could include some with multiple, independently targeted reentry vehicles," or MIRVs. As well, development continues "on the conventional DF-21 (CSS-5) medium-range ballistic missile … variants which can hold U.S. regional assets at risk."
Not only are these missiles formidable, they are becoming nigh-impregnable to attacks.
"China’s nuclear force is becoming more survivable with the deployment of DF-31 and DF-31A road-mobile ICBMs and the eventual deployment of the JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missile," Maples continued.
Currently, China "has less than 50 ICBMs capable of targeting the United States; however the number of ICBM warheads capable of reaching the United States could more than double in the next 15 years, especially if MIRVs are employed. China has also fielded over 1,000 CSS-6 and CSS-7 conventional short-range ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan."
While such missiles could target non-stealthy U.S. Navy surface ships such as destroyers and cruisers, and could lock onto U.S. aircraft carriers, the United States only now has just awarded contracts to build the first two radar-evading DDG 1000 Class destroyers, which won’t be operational for years. And the program to develop the stealthy coastal fighter, the Littoral Combat Ship, is dead in the water, with two vessels (Freedom and Independence) not yet operational, and contracts for later copies canceled because of cost overrun concerns.
China "also is developing more capable conventional missiles able to range U.S. and allied military installations in the region," Maples cautioned. "Chinese conventional missile upgrades may include maneuvering reentry vehicles with multiple constellation, satellite-aided navigation and terminal guidance."
As grim as that picture is, it may grow darker.
"China’s nuclear weapon stockpile likely will grow over the next 10 years as new ballistic missiles are activated and older ones are upgraded," according to Maples. "China likely has produced enough weapon-grade fissile material to meet its needs for the immediate future. In addition, China likely retains the capability to produce biological and chemical weapons."
Could China, with all this burgeoning high-tech hardware, provide a nasty surprise, hitting the United States with an unexpected threat not foreseen by U.S. intelligence?
Here, the picture is not quite so clear.
While a military threat, China is, it should be noted, a huge trading partner of the United States, with vast Sino-American economic interactions. The U.S. imports about $300 billion more goods from China each year than China buys from the United States, meaning China has all that money to buy whatever it wishes, from large chunks of major U.S. corporations and banks, to the latest military gear.
Just how much money China is shelling out for a technologically advanced military is tough to tell, according to Maples. "China’s total military-related spending for [last year] could be as much as $85 [billion] to $125 billion," he projected, noting that China’s announced military spending figures are far from realistic accounts of all outlays. For example, the PLA budget "still does not include large costs for strategic forces, foreign acquisitions, military-related research and development and paramilitary forces.
"China’s accounting opacity reflects a lack of institutional capacity as well as an unwillingness to comply with international standards for reporting military spending.
"China also remains reluctant to share details about its growing ASAT capabilities."
Indeed, China has become a worrisome figure in space.
"Growing capabilities in counter-space, cyber warfare, electronic warfare and long-range precision strike could help China achieve strategic surprise," Maples acknowledged. "Nevertheless, China’s security strategy emphasizes strategic defense, which integrates diplomacy, economics and information with conventional military operations." Thus it is unlikely that Chinese military actions could catch the United States totally by surprise.
"If Beijing adheres to this strategy, we will have indications of Beijing’s concerns along with warning of imminent crises," he estimated.
That said, however, he issued a caveat.
"While Chinese security strategy favors the defense, its operational doctrine does emphasize seizing the initiative through offensive action, including possible preemptive action. China does not view an offensive operational doctrine within the context of a strategic defense as contradictory."
To view Maples’s testimony titled "Current and Projected National Security Threats to the United States" in full before the committee, please go to
http://www.dia.mil on the Web and click on Testimonies & Speeches.
A similar ominous portrait emerges from the Report to Congress of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
According to the report, China brandishes not one but three types of long-range ballistic that can strike targets in the United States from launch sites in China (see map on page 99 in the report).
One, the JL-2, with a range of 8,000 kilometers (4,971 miles) can hit targets as diverse as Minneapolis, Maui and Malibu; Los Angeles and Las Vegas; Seattle and San Francisco. Further, when mounted in a submarine launching tube, such as the nuclear-powered Jin Class, the JL-2 can be fired from beneath the Pacific Ocean and strike any target on the East Coast of the United States.
Two other Chinese ballistic missile weapon types, the DF-31A (which can be road-mobile and thus hard for an opponent to target) and the CSS-4, can be launched from within China and strike any target in the 50 United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, all of Europe, Asia including of course Japan, and Africa.
In other words, all three of these Chinese missile types hold at risk all of the highly industrialized nations in the world.
The report discusses the daunting Chinese capabilities in a section on catastrophic warfare.
"The PLA’s capacity to wage catastrophic warfare is improving, as development continues on both the nuclear and conventional components of China’s strategic missile forces," the report stated.
"Although China officially maintains a ‘no first use’ policy with respect to its nuclear weapons, it is engaged in the modernization of its nuclear arsenal to improve both the survivability and the range of its strategic nuclear missile forces."
The report casts an especially wary eye at the JL-2 embarked on the Jin Class nuclear-powered submarines, which have limitless range. The first Jin is expected to complete testing and be commissioned this year. With this advancement, "China will possess an even more survivable nuclear deterrent that could target most locations in the United States from protected underwater locations off China’s coast," without the submarine even having to venture far out into the Pacific.
To be sure, the United States wields more nuclear-tipped missiles than China, and the principle of Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD, applies to China just as it did to the former Soviet Union.
In all this, China is moving to develop a defense industrial base that can produce cutting-edge military hardware on its own, rather than China purchasing weapons platforms from Russia or other foreign sources.
"The Chinese military industrial complex is modernizing to provide the weapon systems and components needed to achieve PLA objectives," the report stated. Although much of the defense wares China buys may come from Russia or other foreigners, "Chinese defense manufacturers increasingly are becoming able to develop indigenous systems with new capabilities."
At this point, it is true that China can’t modernize all of its defense industry segments simultaneously, since modernization is difficult and expensive, and therefore must advance first in the highest-priority segments. "Thus, Chinese defense industries are giving priority to sectors that are critical to PLA strategic objectives," the report explained.
Once a decision is made to move in a given area, however, China is doing well.
For example, "Chinese shipyards are now building second-generation nuclear powered submarines, newly-designed frigates, and a large fleet of oil tankers to support naval operations in the event of a Taiwan conflict that would require carrying out blockade or sea lane denial missions, as well as delaying or deterring support from other countries" attempting to aid Taiwan, a clear reference to the U.S. Navy.
As well, "Chinese shipyards are building modern destroyers and frigates," the report noted. "The Luzhou-class guided missile destroyer and Jiangkai II guided missile frigate complement China’s improvements in submarine technology with enhanced anti-surface and anti-air capabilities."
These findings buttress Pentagon testimony earlier before the House Armed Services Committee, the report notes.
Further, Chinese aerospace and defense industries are moving ahead to develop systems for space and counter-space capabilities, such as China’s successful test last year of an anti-satellite ground-based interceptor missile to destroy one of its own weather satellites in orbit.
The report observes that China would wish to knock out U.S. satellites just before any Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
"Space and counter-space capabilities have considerable implications for carrying out disruptive missions in Taiwan Strait contingencies, as well as other possible mission involving space-dependent adversaries" such as the United States. "The United States would lose a significant technological edge [over China] if space-based assets were not available in such a conflict."
That ability to smash to smithereens any U.S. satellite that Beijing targets is real and believable. "China has developed an advanced anti-satellite program consisting of an array of weapons that could destroy, damage, or temporarily incapacitate an adversary’s satellites," such as the U.S. military birds in orbit on which American armed forces depend for communications, intelligence and more.
"The use of high energy lasers to temporarily blind U.S. satellites in late 2006 and the use of a direct-ascent anti-satellite kinetic weapon to destroy an aging Chinese satellite in early 2007 demonstrate that China now has this capacity," the report warned.
China is honing its ASAT skills alongside another deeply disturbing capability, gaining the power to bring the U.S. business and financial sectors to their knees, and perhaps to deal a staggering blow to American military operations.
"Chinese military strategists have embraced disruptive warfare techniques, including the use of cyber attacks [by cadres of computer hackers assailing U.S. information- technology systems], and incorporated them in China’s military doctrine. Such attacks, if carried out strategically and on a large scale, could have catastrophic effects on the target country’s critical infrastructures."
Aside from developing capabilities to demolish U.S. satellites, China also is moving to develop sophisticated satellites of its own.
"Chinese aerospace companies are now producing advanced imagery and reconnaissance satellites capable of military applications, and have plans to field satellites capable of infrared, multi-spectral, and synthetic aperture radar imaging" according to the report.
"Moreover, Chinese aerospace companies have developed and launched an indigenous navigation satellite constellation in which a group of carefully placed satellites working together provides a larger operational picture than any single satellite could provide." Four Beidou satellites in orbit over China and nearby nations provide an accuracy within 20 meters, a significant advance over earlier systems.
Looking broadly at just how China is advancing high-tech innovations throughout its defense industry, Beijing is using technology from the United States, from Japan, and from Chinese civilian firms that have products with potential for dual-use (both military and civilian use) applications.
As to how China is gaining U.S. technology, sometimes that involves outright espionage. The report carries a rundown of recent moves by U.S. authorities to prosecute individuals spying for China, case after case (page 105 in the report). And aside from classic military spying, the report notes that China also is prosecuting "an aggressive and large-scale industrial espionage campaign."
Between the traditional military spying and industrial secrets pilfering, "Chinese espionage activities in the United States are so extensive that they comprise the single greatest risk to the security of American technologies."
One cautionary note must be raised: as worrisome as the commission report may be, it is based on the best U.S. intelligence estimates, and they have been proven wrong before, with Pentagon leaders being startled to learn that Chinese military advancement is far ahead of American estimates. In other words, Chinese espionage seems to be first-rank, while U.S. intel work sometimes is wanting.
"Several Chinese advances have surprised U.S. defense and intelligence officials, and raised questions about the quality of our assessments of China’s military capabilities," the report noted.
What intelligence estimates say currently is that the "Chinese defense industry, while still lagging far behind that of the United States, has begun achieving noteworthy progress over the past years. New generations of warships, fighter aircraft, spacecraft, submarines, missiles, and other sophisticated weapon platforms are coming off production lines at an impressive pace and with impressive quality."
The U.S.-China commission also heard testimony from several expert witnesses at a daylong hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
China is making territorial claims on vast maritime areas, according to Peter A. Dutton, associate professor in the China Maritime Studies institute at the U.S. Naval War College. The college is headquartered at Newport, R.I.
"The Chinese are seeking to alter the traditional balance of maritime rights between coastal states and the international community, especially in and above the Exclusive Economic Zone," Dutton explained. That is a zone extending 200 miles from the China coastline. Taiwan, however, is but 100 miles from the mainland coast, and the United States and other nations say their ships have a right to traverse the strategically critical Taiwan Strait freely. In the 1990s, President Clinton sent U.S. Navy carrier groups into the strait to block Chinese hostilities, such as Beijing ordering missiles fired toward Taiwan.
China also claims as its territory certain islands in the South China Sea.
"China’s efforts to alter the balance of maritime rights are part of its overall anti-access strategy, and could have an impact on the perceived legitimacy of U.S. operations in the region, especially in times of crisis," Dutton warned.
"In response, the [United States] should promote military engagement [with China] to build trust; communicate the expectation that China exercise international prerogatives in offshore waters and airspace; commit to the preservation of the legal freedoms at sea that belong to the international community; and maintain its commitment to naval strength in East Asia."
Another witness before the commission warned that China is aggressively increasing the scope of its sovereign territorial claims.
For example, in 2001 a Chinese fighter aircraft was sent to intercept a U.S. Navy EP-3 intelligence plane that was flying quietly in international airspace.
The fighter came recklessly close to the EP-3, then collided with it, heavily damaging the Navy aircraft and imperiling the two dozen Navy men and women in uniform aboard it.
With their craft crippled, the Navy crew issued an international radio distress call that China refused to recognize, and then made an emergency landing on Hainan Island in Chinese territory, where Chinese troops rushed the aircraft, took the Navy crew prisoner, and ransacked the Navy plane in an attempt to obtain U.S. intelligence and hardware secrets.
China held the crew prisoner for 10 days until the United States issued an apology ("very sorry … very sorry) for the Navy crew landing the plane on Chinese territory.
That is what can happen when a belligerent China oversteps its bounds, according to Philip A. Meek, U.S. Air Force associate general counsel for international affairs.
"Although these flights by U.S. Navy aircraft were lawful under international law, China nevertheless deployed military fighter aircraft to harass the Navy EP-3, with unfortunate results."
Meek said one must wonder what sort of novel territorial claims may next erupt from Beijing, perhaps asserting that it owns any portion of outer space over China.
"Since Chinese authors have voiced similar objections to [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] satellites passing over China’s territory and its [exclusive economic zone, or EEZ], it is conceivable that China would assert the rationale of the [EEZ] … as their claimed legal basis for any attacks on these satellites in outer space.
"Further, China might extend its actions beyond ISR satellites and enforce any alleged territorial claims in outer space by engaging commercial communications satellites and direct broadcasting satellites that pass overhead and broadcast materials China considered objectionable or a threat to its national security."
If China passes laws claiming that its territory extends vertically through the stratosphere and into outer space, that "definitely would be a cause for concern," Meek cautioned.
Another possibility is whether China might wage cyber warfare against computer IT networks of other nations if those networks contain materials drawing Chinese displeasure.
China might attempt to mount lawsuits or revoke business licenses of those firms, and failing that, "China might resort to computer network attack to remedy what it perceives as a security threat to China," Meek stated.
Any Chinese move to wage cyber warfare "would affect the national security of the [United States] and other space faring nations adversely," Meek continued, with his warning encompassing U.S. military, civil and commercial space and cyberspace assets, and encompassing economic damage as well.
"Any attempt by China to establish territorial claims in outer space would strike at the very core of space law and should be strongly opposed at all levels of government," Meek advised, and his words there encompass not merely U.S. interests, but rather global interests. "All nations that benefit from space would be affected adversely," he stated. "The global economy is dependent upon the fundamental priciples of freedom of navigation in outer space, and upon the inability of nations to assert territorial claims in space."
The U.S.-China commission report, a 351-page bound volume, can be viewed in full, along with testimony presented to the commission on Capitol Hill last week, by going to http://www.uscc.gov on the Web and looking for the 2007 "Report to Congress of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission" at the Web site home page.
Turning back to Maples, the Defense Intelligence Agency director, it may be that what is past is prologue.
While the West may regard the Cold War as the bad old days, for some Russian leaders it may be a time viewed with nostalgia, days when Russia was one of only two superpowers, and respected as such, or at least greatly feared.
"Russia is trying to re-establish a degree of military power that it believes is commensurate with its renewed economic strength and general political confidence," Maples said.
That economic strength derives in part from the shift from a planned, centralized economy to a semi-capitalist system, and from Russia becoming an exporting power, selling goods around the world ranging from big-ticket military hardware to huge amounts of energy supplies.
"Perceived Western encroachment into its claimed areas of interest and Islamic or insurgent threats along its periphery are driving Russia’s current military activities and modernization efforts," Maples observed.
Moscow again wishes to be a preeminent player on the global stage.
"Russia’s widely publicized strategic missile launches, increased long-range aviation flights and Kuznetsov carrier strike group deployment are meant to signal Moscow’s continued global reach and relevance to domestic and international audiences," Maples stated.
Another way that Russia is telling the planet that it’s back, big as ever, is in its military buildup, financed from a newly flush government treasury.
"Russia has made a major commitment of almost 5 trillion rubles to its 2007-2015 budget to develop and build new conventional and nuclear weapon systems, with Moscow’s priority on maintenance and modernization of the latter," Maples disclosed.
And these will be impressive advancements, if — if — they work.
"Development and production of advanced strategic weapons such as the SS-27/TOPOL-M ICBM and the Bulava-30 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) continues," Maples reported. "In April, Russia rolled out the first Dolgorukiy-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) designed to carry the Bulava-30 SLBM which continues testing despite several publicized failures."
Still, Russia has older submarine-based ICBMs that work.
Russia as well is developing a combination short-range ballistic missile and cruise missile, and it may be expanded later to encompass new artillery and multiple rocket launching systems.
And there are new road-mobile ICBMs, and a Topol-M with a multiple independent reentry vehicle warhead.
Further, "Russia retains a relatively large stockpile of non-strategic nuclear warheads," Maples observed.
And that is a concern, for fear terrorists may strike and steal such weapons or fissile materials to use in attacks against the West.’
Some Russian scientists have been "publicizing information on chemical agents designed to circumvent international arms control agreements and to defeat Western detection and protection measures. Such work may be continuing today," Maples stated.
While use of such weapons hasn’t been seen among advanced nations since the first half of the 20th century, that may not still be true where Russia is concerned. "Russia may consider using chemical or even biological agents in counterterrorism situations as demonstrated by its use of chemical incapacitants to resolve the Dubrovka Theater hostage situation in 2002," Maples asserted.
He also provided the commission with estimates of potential threats in other nations, including Syria and Pakistan, and problems posed by such factors as rogue nations with deeply buried weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities.