Thursday, December 6, 2007

News Item - Russia: US rollback on missile defense

Russia: US rollback on missile defense

Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov contends that the United States has not lived up to agreements made earlier in the year regarding a proposed US missile defense system to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The system would put missiles in these countries to defend the United States against ICBM’s launched by “rogue states” (Iran and North Korea are usually mentioned as the rogues). The United States has assured Russia that the missiles are purely defensive and are designed to counteract a small number of missiles, meaning that they would be useless against Russia’s thousands of ICBMs.

The proposed bases though have greatly upset Russia. The United States’ position is that Russia is being needlessly stubborn on the matter and is simply annoyed that the Czech Republic and Poland, two nations once satellites of the Soviet Union, have turned their backs on them.

But the claims made about the missile defense bases are very similar to claims made about the expansion in NATO in the 1990’s. NATO was created after World War Two to defend Europe against an invasion by the Soviet Union. After the Soviet Union’s collapse, many Eastern European nations were eager to join NATO - membership serving as a symbolic breaking away from their communist pasts.

Watching NATO, their former adversary, quickly expand across Europe, often right up to their border, not surprisingly upset Russia. In response, the United States was quick to point out that NATO was solely a defensive alliance and was therefore nothing to be concerned about since our nations were now friends.

But in 1999 things changed. It was then that NATO forces conducted an 88-day bombing campaign against Serbia to compel them to stop their military action in Kosovo. Kosovo, however, was not a NATO member, nor had Serbia attacked any NATO forces. NATO’s bombing campaign was specifically designed to get Serbia to end their action in Kosovo. The defensive alliance had now gone on offense.

In politics perception is everything. It is something to consider as Russia raises objections to the defensive missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.
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