Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Russia threatening new cold war over missile defence

In yesterday's article, the Guardian highlighted the intensity of the debate over US ABM systems in Europe. Despite President Bush's recent telephone call to President Putin about potential cooperation on the issue and even participation in the ABM project, the Kremlin administration and especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Parliament have not responded favorably to such propositions. The Guardian argues that the probabilities of a renewed cold-war, on a much lower scale, are increasing and that Russia is seriously looking to diving into another arms race. Excerpts of the article are presented below:

The Kremlin has not publicly spelt out its plans. But defence experts said its response is likely to include upgrading its nuclear missile arsenal so that it is harder to shoot down, putting more missiles on mobile launchers, and moving its fleet of nuclear submarines to the north pole, where they are virtually undetectable.

Russia could also bring the new US silos within the range of its Iskander missiles launched potentially from the nearby Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, they add.

In an interview with the Guardian, the Kremlin's chief spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Moscow felt betrayed by the Pentagon's move. "We were extremely concerned and disappointed. We were never informed in advance about these plans. It brings tremendous change to the strategic balance in Europe, and to the world's strategic stability." <...>

Defence experts say there is little doubt that the real target of the shield is Russia. "The geography of the deployment doesn't give any doubt the main targets are Russian and Chinese nuclear forces," General Vladimir Belous, Russia's leading expert on anti-ballistic weaponry, told the Guardian. "The US bases represent a real threat to our strategic nuclear forces." <...>

The same day Russia ruled out cooperating with the US over the shield. "Despite certain signals received in recent days from the US side ... I see no political foundation for it," said Sergei Ryabkov, a foreign ministry spokesman. Moscow now had little choice but to take the bases "into account in our strategic planning", he said.

Analysts said there was a common feeling in Russia that the US had reneged on an agreement after the collapse of the Soviet Union to abandon cold war politics. "Cold war thinking has prevailed, especially on the western side," Yevgeny Myasnikov, a senior research scientist at Moscow's Centre for Arms Control, told the Guardian. "Russia has been deeply disappointed by what has happened after 1991. Nato started to expand, and the US started to think it had won the cold war. We had hoped for a partnership. But it didn't happen."

The last paragraph perfectly illustrates the reasons for the behavior of the Russian side. The historic positions of Poland and, to a lesser extent, the Czech Republic to oppose any signs of dominance and political power of their eastern neighbor, (while also watching out for Germany) heighten Russia's concerns. Russia has two clear means which it can pursue, and which may guarantee a halt in the militarization of Eastern Europe.

First of all it should prolong the process and force a long period of negotiations, diplomatic notes of concern, to drag the issue well into 2008, when changes in the US administration and a most likely changing US policy may overturn the ABM initiation process. But, with candidates such as McCain and Clinton this is very unlikely. Second, it should continue stirring up the grievances of the European nations toward the US's poorly implemented foreign policy, as well as toward the seemingly power-hungry new EU members, Poland especially.

Both routes, however, will most likely postpone the debate to a further time. As the world stand right now, Eastern Europe continues to fear its neighbor; Russia continues to maintain, perhaps unwillingly, its imperial image, and the US is desperate to regain the power lost under the collapsed foreign policy of the Bush administration. And what better way to do it, then by serving as the guarantor of security in Europe.

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