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08 Missile Defenses: Harking Back To The 1980s

File image.
by Andrei Kislyakov
RIA Novosti political commentator
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Aug 27, 2008
The year 2008 has been the most productive for American missile shield plans since Ronald Reagan launched his famed Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) in the 1980s.

But the 1980s are also remembered for an unprecedented level of military confrontation between the U.S.S.R. and the United States.

It looks as if the current situation - on August 20, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed an American-Polish agreement on a third positioning area for the American missile system in Europe - is pushing Russia into another confrontation with the West and could re-ignite the nuclear missile threat on the European continent.

Today is not an occasion to argue whether Iran's missiles threaten Western Europe or not, though it is true that an Iranian rocket launched on August 18 as part of preparations for orbiting Iran's first satellite points to a possible threat in the future.

But whether there is a threat from Iran or not, the Russian military and political establishment is convinced that American anti-missiles in Poland are only part of a plan to build up a U.S. nuclear potential in Europe directed against Russia. Naturally, Moscow is considering retaliatory options.

Colonel General Viktor Yesin, first vice president of the Academy for Security, Defense and Law Enforcement, thinks that "in reply Russia could reinforce its air grouping in the Kaliningrad Region to neutralize missile silos in Poland."

Another general, Leonid Ivashov, who heads the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, believes that "in response Russia could site Iskander theater missile systems and high-precision cruise missiles in the Kaliningrad Region, western Russia, and Belarus."

The generals are right. All this could be done, and perhaps with a measure of success. But there are two factors that not only reduce the military effect of the proposed measures, but also make them very dangerous for Western Europe and European Russia.

Under a clause in the agreement, the United States undertakes to provide Poland with 96 Patriot missile systems to modernize and strengthen its air defenses.

Another clause of the agreement declares that the U.S. will render Poland military assistance if it is threatened by a third state. Should Russia start acting strongly in the Western sector, Poland would at once remind the U.S. of that point.

The Czech Republic and the Baltic states would also demand more guarantees for their security. That could mean only one thing: an immediate appearance near Russian borders of modern conventional weapons capable of hitting targets within European Russia.

On the other hand, such a buildup in areas bordering on Russia, which could tip the balance of strength in the West's favor, is well capable of burying the main instrument of European security - the 1987 Treaty on Shorter and Medium Range Missiles.

The military, including former chief of the General Staff Yury Baluyevsky, has time and again paraded reasons for returning these missiles to Russia's arsenal.

If this happens, or rather if Moscow decides to withdraw from the treaty, America (unlike Russia) will not take long to restart production. The Tomahawk BGM-10G ground-based nuclear cruise missiles that were destroyed under the 1987 Treaty are basically similar to sea and air launched cruise missiles currently in service with the American air and naval forces.

Nor do things augur well for a new Russian-American document on strategic weapons limitation. Moreover, any moves to pull out of the treaty will put nuclear non-proliferation on the back burner for a long time.

Does Europe need to be "mined" once again to assuage fears of Iran?

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Source: RIA Novosti

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