Russia’s Cold War anger over U.S. shield: misjudged?

July 10, 2008

Signing of missile defence treaty

Russia’s angry response to an accord between Washington and Prague on building part of a U.S. missile defence shield in the Czech Republic is reminiscent of the rhetoric of the Cold War. Although Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says Moscow still wants talks on the missile shield, his Foreign Ministry has threatened a “military-technical” response if the shield is deployed.

That phrase could have come straight out of the Soviet lexicon and seems more at home in the second half of the last century than now. Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer called it psychological pressure to try to encourage opposition to the missile system among Europeans, and described it as “the same sort that was used in the 1980s by the Soviet Union when the United States deployed cruise missiles in Europe.”

We are, of course, a long way from the tensions of the Cold War. But the dispute is reminiscent of the war of words between the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1980s over another missile defence system — the Strategic Defence Initiative proposed by Ronald Reagan. His dream of a partly space-based missile system, otherwise known as Star Wars after George Lucas’ 1977 film, never became a reality but the row over it plagued Soviet-U.S. relations for years.

Star Wars actors

The disagreement over the missile defence system that George W. Bush now wants to be partly based in Europe risks having a similar impact on U.S.-Russian relations. Perhaps fittingly, it has been referred to as Son of Star Wars.

I was a correspondent in Moscow in the 1980s when the dispute over Star Wars was at its height. The disagreements were clear. Reagan wanted to deploy a multi-billion-dollar land- and space-based shield to shoot down incoming missiles. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said the programme would disrupt the nuclear balance and fuel an arms race in space, and expressed  hope that Europe would not become “a testing-ground for the Pentagon’s doctrines of a limited nuclear war”. 

The disagreement led to the collapse of a 1986 superpower summit in Iceland.

When I was back in Moscow in the 1990s, Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin were at loggerheads over U.S. plans for a Star Wars-style missile defence umbrella, even though Clinton had pulled the plug on Star Wars in 1993. Moscow said plans to develop the new missile defence system would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, an agreement Moscow saw as a cornerstone of global security.

Similar issues hung over Vladimir Putin’s presidency and now threaten to strike a severe blow to hopes of an improvement in U.S.-Russian ties at the very start of Medvedev’s presidency.

Washington says it needs a missile defence system based partly in Europe to provide protection against any attack on  European or U.S. targets by rogue states such as Iran, which tested new long- and medium-range missiles on Wednesday. Russia says the missiles could threaten its own defences and might become a bigger threat over time it if the system expanded.

In the 1980s, Moscow was worried about a project that would have based missiles outside the former Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. It is now concerned about a system that would be even closer to home. A radar tracker is to be placed on Czech soil and, if a deal is reached with Warsaw, 10 interceptor missiles could be installed in Poland. Both Poland and what was then Czechoslovakia were members of the Warsaw Pact.

If Poland does not reach an agreement with the United States, Lithuania has been suggested an alternative site for the interceptors. That would be an even less welcome prospect for Moscow because the Baltic state was part of the Soviet Union. Little surprise, then, that Medvedev took a firm line on the issue in comments he made at the group of Eight summit in Japan.

But Moscow could risk shooting itself in the foot by reverting to rhetoric that harks back to the Cold War. Michal Kaminski, an aide to Polish President Lech Kaczynski said on Wednesday Russia’s reaction was unacceptable. He said it showed Poland should “strengthen our alliance with the United States because beyond our eastern border there are politicians who use a language we thought had vanished many years ago, the language of might and imperial ambitions.”


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I’m led to believe that this article’s purpose is to state that its okay to place U.S missiles in Eastern Europe at such close proximity to the world’s largest country and Russia’s protests were totally unjustified as the missile shield is to defend against “rogue states” like Iran.

Anyone still remember the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960s? The US also had a big reaction over missiles placed at its borders because it threatened their national security. The Soviets and Americans then came to a deal to remove their respective missiles from foreign countries that were close to their borders.

What if the Soviets have justified placing their missiles in Cuba to deter the US from attacking it? Would the US then agree to the missile placement? I think not. There is still the threat of those “defensive” missiles becoming offensive in a wink of an eye. If America could not accept that scenario then. So why should Russia accept this scenario now? Therefore, Russia’s anger is definitely justified over the placement of the U.S missile shield.

Posted by Maurice | Report as abusive

Yes there is a contradiction here!i agree with Maurice!
But let’s look, from the facts presented with this shield.He protects only some countrys from this eastern europe part,so if the enemy is Iran(theory), then the shield say already who is going to be attacked or who is not going to be defended.But in reality it has some other use in geopolitics of this posible war, because it creats a direct conflict under another motif, but the real one.
What can i say smart agresive strategy!Maybe U.S. can aforded this time!What goes around comes around, i guess!

Posted by Burca Alice Larisa | Report as abusive

Defense…Interceptor…Shield. That all sounds really threatening doesn’t it. I mean, my god, everyone knows that the Soviet Union was only trying to “defend” Cuba in Cuban Mis-syle Crisis, right? Grow up. rUSS(R)ia is reverting, electing KGB officials and the communist party is strengthening again. Democracy is slipping there and no one seems to care. Oh well, guess we will have to wait for the next Reagan to take care of this mess.

Posted by Ptrizzle | Report as abusive

It seems to me that the world would have been a better place if these missiles/nuclear capabilities never existed in the first place. “Man” a/k/a men, have to have their toys, “who has the bigger weapon”, “who can wipe out an entire continent with the flip of a switch” PATHETIC Should I start not paying bills now since the end is obviously near due to the ignorance of the “MAN WORLD”. What’s worse is this all cannot be reversed now no matter how hard any one nation tries which ultimately means, eventually, we’re all done! Oh, except for those men who will be a few hundred feet underground.

Posted by Michelle | Report as abusive

Republicans love to say how we “won” the cold war as they bow down before there god man reagan, Some day there will come a Russian who won’t back down like they always did in the past a sort of george bush type holy roller know it all. And then well all die and deservedly so.

Posted by DLS | Report as abusive

What I have noticed void from the consversation is that the missile shield maybe being placed in Czech Republic and Poland as a way to protect U.S. interests and Europe from Russia’s unsecure and deterorating missile infrastructure and command and control system. I see the missile shield not as a threat to Russia but as a precaution against accidental launches or the possibility that a radical Islamic group or other radical groups gain access to Russian nuclear arsenal and launch attack against Europe or the U.S. I think it is time that Russia faces the fact that their inability to totally maintain security over its nuclear assets makes it just as much of a liability to U.S. and European security as Iran’s missiles.

Posted by William | Report as abusive

Ptrizzle, it sounds threatening when this system is in your back yard. You moving away from the subject here, how about working together on the solution not going how one country feels is best. Russia also offered to build this system in former Soviet Republic, no one wanted to hear about this proposal. How do you take that?

Posted by timer | Report as abusive

Maurice, I don’t think you understand the difference between the placement of offensive missile capability on the island of Cuba and defensive capability in eastern Europe. The missiles in Cuba were equipped with nuclear warheads, while the ones in Poland are interceptors which take out such nuclear warhead tipped missiles. Despite both sharing the word ‘missile’, these are two completely different technologies. The defensive interceptor missile cannot be considered an offensive threat anymore than a barricade can be considered a battering ram.

The Russians know this. When they say that anti-missile defense is a threat, what they mean is that it is a threat to their nuclear armament. They’re not happy because they want to retain the capability to strike Western targets in order to preserve their (inflated) role within the geopolitical sphere as a super-power (at least militarily). In truth Russia has dwindled to become a mere regional power (albeit a massive regional power, area wise). Their Soviet nuclear military capability is really the only thing keeping them at the table of big boys (UNSC Permanent 5) and the perceptions of power.

Boohoo. Russia has a historically massive inferiority complex, to the extent that no buffer zone is too large and no threat capability too great. No other country, not even China, considers the bilateral affairs of its neighbors to be its own personal business as much as Russia does. Only Russia would see missile-defense (read: ability to prevent nuclear destruction) as a threat to their own interests.

Those criticizing missile defense fail to see in it the potential to end the nuclear era.

Posted by ende | Report as abusive

Installing US shield close to Russia’s border is clearly a provocation. You can’t improve your security at the expense of others. Its sickening to see how warmongering tactics is winning in the Western countries.

Posted by MRT | Report as abusive

This all looks and feels like a double agenda with a hidden motif. We, the public, are always presented with phony motifs – going to war with Iraq is one example. Yes S. Hussein is gone but at what cost?! Missile shield installations – for Iranian and North Korean missiles, no my fellow citizens – this is just another false motif. The cold war was never over as far the Pentagon strategists are concerned, if it were they would all be out of their trillions. It is rather simple, the world has changed dramatically in the past 20 years, but it may take much longer to change the way we think in this country.

Posted by Kent Reynolds | Report as abusive

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Posted by Russia’s Cold War anger over U.S. shield: misjudged? | 1913 Intel | Report as abusive

Hopefully Americans will not allow this to happen. The U.S. is already sticking it’s nose into too many foreign affairs and needs to get the heck out of them all. I sure would not allow that to happen if I was Russia. We sure didn’t let it happen w/ Cuba.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

well, guys, everything you said above certainly makes sense! All of you have a reasonable motive to think that today the world is not what it was at least 30 years ago, and it takes a lot to be certain we will have no problem with radical ones who just long for possessing a Big Boom Bomb to have chance to dictate their wiil. But if everyone wants to be safe in the future why don’t the U.S. president and his europeans parnters face the truth that it will be more useful for all of us if the missile shield consolidates all concerned countries. Our both presidents – the former and the present – proposed some interesting and more effective decions but noone lended an ear to them. In this situation it makes everyone in Russia think that both Europe and America still suffer from the Cold War complex themselves!!! Isn’t strange to say that we are all strategic partners and carry on passing over our interests anyway?!!!
You know, if the radars were placed before our south state borders , for example in Azerbaidzhan, as Putin proposed once, closer to the potential threats we would understand that. But when the U.S. place missiles against Iran and northern koreans behind us in Europe, and Russia turns to be between a rock and a hard place it makes our people think that you don’t act like “friens” you keep on assuring us! You brackets us with them! And now you are exasperated by how our government reacts to this actions!

Posted by Alex from Russia | Report as abusive

I think you are all forgetting something ,what about the rights of Poland and the former prisoners states of the former Soviet Union ,Don’t they have a say in what go’s on in th? country,or! do we to treat them as pawns ,Remember they became free to do as they wish! ,Those countries know better than most about oppression, or shall we allrun and hide from the big bad Rusians ,Thank! God! for people like Bush and Regan,Long live freedom and Democracy

Posted by Maxbear | Report as abusive

What is also striking in this conversation is how little the Europeans have been factored into this question, if you make an exception of the two countries in which the missile shield installations are supposed to be built. Washington has opted to deal directly with the Czech Republic and Poland, without ever raising the shield’s question as a point of discussion worthy of all of its European NATO allies. It is an interesting choice considering that if the missile threat (from Iran, one would believe, all the more following this week’s balistic weapons tests) is real, then it is a threat that concerns all of the Europeans, linked in the Atlantic alliance through a solidarity clause. Yet the dispute over the missile shield is presented as one between the United States and Russia only. The real point may be that the US has not (and might not have) secured a consensus decision from all its European allies on the opportunity for this shield. It’s another sign of the breakdown in trans-Atlantic solidarity. Russian opposition to the shield makes sense in Russia’s interest in that it can eventually obtain sweeteners for its grudging acceptance, and it can show that as a power it can still intimidate; the Europeans’ point of view on the other hand remains unexplained, and is totally murky, when you consider the potential advantages, for the Europeans, should they associate themselves fully in building the shield: protection against errant missiles but even more, important technological windfalls for any European firm involved in this engineering and technological challenge.

Posted by Paul Vallet | Report as abusive

This all looks too ideological. Seems that neo-conservatives are even better than the commies in making a theatre out of facts.

1. We need to install our peaceful rockets in order to save the world from possible evil intentions
2. If you are against our peaceful rockets than means you are non-democratic, autoritarian, non-friendly (basically, the evil)
3. But our peaceful rockets are not pointed against you.

Posted by Andrei | Report as abusive

Enough already!
American defense against rogur missile’s, accidental firing? Not been needed in the last fifty yeas so why now? This is nothing more than a continuation of an aggressive American foreign policy, there are enough missiles in europe already to act as detterent without this.
Britain, France, Russia and Israel, all have the capability of obliterating a nation, why do we need another player to join the game?
If America needs to defend its sovereign integrity then fine, but why should we be part of that defense? What’s in it for us that we don’t already have? All I see is it raises our profile as a target for any nation that deploys these missiles.
Interesting that despite everyones concern over Iran’s possible nuclear capability, no one is shouting louder than America, why is that? America is thousands of miles away and Iran is years away from a missile capable of reaching America even if it had something to deliver!
Where was this concern when India and Pakistan went nuclear? This sucks of hidden agenda!

Posted by European One | Report as abusive


From what you are saying, you seem to be a staunch Republican supporter. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that but as timer was saying, this is really not the point.

Having systems with pseudo-friendly names does not make it defensive and non-threatening by nature.

Take for example, in World War Two, the Germans land forces were called the Wehrmacht, loosly translated to “defensive forces”. But as history has shown, there is absolutely nothing defensive in the nature of its operations at the onset of the war, until in early 1943, when the war swung in favor of the Allied Forces.

If the Soviet Union termed their missile placements in Cuba, “People’s Defense Rockets”, would you feel more secure knowing that the missiles can reach you within 15 minutes but it is only “purely defensive” in nature?

While it may be true that democracy is not that prevalent as what you might expect in Russia, we cannot deny that the people there are still free, stable and strong. Captialism and democracy failed them in the 90s, you cant expect them to keep believing in it while their stomachs remain empty.

Posted by Maurice | Report as abusive

Maurice what are you on about, for a comparison with the cuban missile crisis perhap you would like to tell us how many nuclear warheads are planned to be deployed in this missile defense deployment? These interceptors have no warheads, whereas the missiles the sovoks wanted to deploy in cuba had nuclear warheads, do you understand the difference? Probably not. Are you also aware that the soviets (or russians) never complied with the ABM treaty, probably not….. You FSB sovoks are a lot dumber than you used to be.

Posted by Alexandr | Report as abusive

To answer your point, Maurice, I have the impression that Russian public opinion hasn’t really expressed itself much on the question of the missile shield. Does the average Russian person really feel a threat to national security because of this shield? Perhaps, inasmuch as most of the news sources which Russians consult take their line from the presidential administration, which probably has more preoccupation about the shield than the average Russian does.

The argument that the 90s were bad years for the standard of living of ordinary Russians , however, does not serve to justify either the more authoritarian drift of the Russian government in recent years any more than the Russian stance on the missile shield.

Moscow somewhat indicated an understanding for the problem posed by Iranian missile capacities when it suggested last year to include its radar facilities in the system, in order to substitute itself to US installations in Eastern Europe. After this proposal was deemed insufficient, it even said that it might accept the shield provided that Russian control officers be attached to the tracking sites. To sum up, it seems that after all, Russia (and the Russians) don’t seem to object that strongly to the principle of a missile shield. What Russia is really after is “adequate compensation”. This should allow for a negotiated compromise, that is, if all parties are actually willing to negotiate. Granted, there me be an absence of will to negotiate in Washington as much as in Moscow, which doesn’t mean that the other European capitals, alongside Warsaw and Prague, should not have some imput to give to this.

Posted by Paul Vallet | Report as abusive

To Paul Vallet,

I appreciate your input on this matter, but I would also like to state that democractic ideals cannot be applied for every single situation.

Democracy, rule of the people, who are the people? Which group represent the people? Let’s just say that the government represents the people. So why did President Bush continue the Iraq War when it is clear that the majority of US citizens are already sick and tired of it? And look all around you. Free market ideals and free speculation, all democractic in nature, what has it given to the common man? An endless cycle of poverty!

Just because a country is succeeding and uses a different approach than yours does not make it an “evil authoritarian regime”, the common people in Russia are happy and most importantly desire this stability that their central government had provided them for over a decade.

Let’s look at Iraq, liberated and given democracy. What are the results? Groups fighting over power to this “democracy”. People killed, its even unsafe to walk the streets without military patrols passing by you every 10 minutes. Is this the democracy Iraq wants? Having to pass through a checkpoint just to go to the grocery store?

Back to the point of the missile placement. Yes, Russia appears to be willing for a compromise, but the fact remains that the US wants Russia to compromise but not the other way round. When Russia counteroffered to share its radar in its southern borders, the US totally ignored that proposition, and continued on with this missile shield. Russian public is only silent because they trust that their government can handle the issue efficiently.

If you realize, only the US public has the luxury of protesting outside their government offices without being arrested. Shouting against the Iraq War did not change anything.

It is ironic that Russia must compromise with their borders while the US must not, in the name of their “national security”. Doesn’t other countries’ have their national security issue too?

And regarding Alexandr’s point of the Cuban Missile Crisis: So are you saying that the US will accept the placement of missiles just outside their borders if their warheads are conventional ones? Nuclear or conventional does not matter; people are still equally dead.

Posted by Maurice | Report as abusive

Interesting discussion though somewhat missing the point of the reality we’re living in. Russia isn’t ideologically different from the west anymore – there is no communist ideology vs western capitalism anymore. And it’s pretty clear by now that the West never intended to invade the eastern bloc – the way Soviets feared, and I’m pretty sure that no one wants to do that now. I think that Russia is missing a great chance with its insane claims, and cynical rethoric. They have great source of natural wealth that should be used to fix their country, because so far its a broken shell of an empire, with deep social problems that will cause many more problems in the future. Unfortunately Russia’s government is taking the easy way out to gain it’s citizen’s favor by playing to their paranoia. That’s all there is to it.
What? After the US places it’s anti-missile system in Poland and Czech republic, they will invade Russia? Please – give me a break. If the US want’s to spend money on their military instead of fixing their own aging infrastructure – let them. Unless there is some great plan that no one knows about to instigate a world conflict to take over natural resources – I don’t think we need to worry. Russians, should relax a little, their role as an empire in the past was solely based on fear of a nuclear conflict, and never had any basis in it’s economic wealth. Now that all the cards are on the table – do we really need to go back to that? Can the Russians not just fix their economy, so it’s more than just natural resource based? Yeah – big task, but hey- China is doing it, and so is India…

Posted by Eryk | Report as abusive

Some of you say that the system will be defensive and the intercectors have no nuclear war heads. First, they do not have right now, but Russian military officials said it doesn’t take to much time to change the war heads to nuclear ones and even add more intercectors later. USA refused to let permanent Russian inspectors on the base! Second, the radar that is about to be built is very powerful one; it can track everything not just from Iran’s side but also it can trace everything in western Russia! I believe this is the major goal why USA tries to build it at specific location. Russians understand this very well.. Right now there is a balance of military power in Europe and the World is safe. If the radar is built the balance will be sharply destructed and this will put the World into great danger. I bet this will create new arms race and this one might end up suddly for all of us..

Posted by Evgeny | Report as abusive

Sorry if I made anyone mad, but I just look at the way things have gone down. Russia has threatened to point nukes at nations in Europe. And, as has been stated, these are DEFENSIVE missiles. The kind that take down OFFENSIVE missiles. So the threat to Russia’s defense is basically saying that we can take out 10 out of about a thousand or more russian nukes, after they have launched them. They just don’t like the “West” to have any say anywhere near them. By the way, I am not a republican, I don’t like George Bush, and have no loyalties to any particular party at all. I just don’t like it when people try to make up reasons to bash the US, like a DEFENSIVE SHIELD making people’s lives in danger. Like I said, Grow Up! Anyone who lived during the cold war has heard this all before. These are cold-war era diplomats making these statements out of Russia. Please dont try to make 2 + 2 = 5. It makes us as “Westerners” look dumb.

Posted by Ptrizzle | Report as abusive

A duel is when two guys have guns and nobody has a body armor.
A murder is when two guys have guns but one has a body armor.
Building a stronger defensive system is a road to a potential murder.

Posted by Dima | Report as abusive

What Russians should do is to place their missiles in to Serbia and Venezuela even Cuba, then lets observe reaction of the warmongers like GW Bush and his cronies, who plays with fire burns by one.

Posted by Zoran | Report as abusive

Indeed, I would stick to the topic of the missile shield and Russia’s position towards it because if we start mixing in reflections about which systems of government are the fairest and the whole complaint about the Iraq war (read in a purely US domestic perspective without thought about the international aspects of this) we lose a great deal of focus and it doesn’t necessarily help us to understand the question and the stakes any better.

I would say that where the question of Russia’s government is relevant to this topic is indeed that certain forms of government that allow a wide discussion of political issues, with a variety of point of views, contribute better to general understanding of the issues and help both governments and populations to come up with constructive solutions to problems. I sincerely think that where the current Russian government has done wrong is in insisting on control of public opinion. That is not, in any case, what has helped Russian economic recovery. It is unfortunate that in present day Russia there are no opposition parties that have a voice either in the Duma or in the media, that any kind of normal political debate between conflicting views does not take place because then, surely the whole Russian perception of this question would probably be different.

The Russian proposals for a radar in Azerbaidjan were actually considered and discussed. Contrary to public impressions, the two governments actually do discuss, and they do it better even now that at any time during the Cold War. In the end, this proposal was not seen fit to handle the problem at hand, which is the balistic capacity of Iran (developed from North Korean models, themselves elaborated on original Soviet models). It is unfortunate that this proposal (a much more constructive attitude than threatening to target missiles at both Poland and the Czech Republic) did not work, but there it is, negotiations do fail, and this can’t be explained away by a great plot theory. Russia still has a range of offers that it can make on this matter and perhaps in the near future (the US election is only 3 and half months away now) a satisfactory solution can be hammered out. Considering that it will probably take more months to get the system up and running, there is ample time for both governments to find a modus vivendi over this issue.

Really, the point here is that using this very real problem, which is neither entirely of either Russia or the US making, as a pretext to further deterioriate delicate relations is the least construyctive attitude of all.

Posted by Paul Vallet | Report as abusive

If we have an atlas right now, we will see that Azerbaijan is geographically closer to both North Korea and Iran than the Czech Republic or Poland will ever be.

Compromise can be probably reached, sure. But it will have to be before any construction of the shield takes place. Once the shield is being built, the US will just continue on, after all why waste money demolishing it? They will then say its perfectly okay because it is already there. Isn’t that what happened to Iraq? There is cuurently no evidence of WMDs there, but US soldiers still continue to be deployed .

10 missiles might not seem like much, but remember, NATO is just behind those interceptor missiles. What’s there to stop NATO allies to bring forward their offensive missiles and use the launch pad built so close to Russia, able to monitor military movements as well, when the time comes? The general direction seems to be heading East and not Southeast…

Posted by Maurice | Report as abusive

well i think this would be totally different if russia was doing this.

americans ask yourself would you like misiles placed in canada mexico or cuba with the ability to hit your home town? no you wouldn’t. whether these are “peaceful” or not it only takes one person to change “peaceful” to “offencive”. we all know this is because america is throwing a paddy because other countries it doesn’t have strong allies with have nuclear weapons and it’s asserting authority over russia as if to say “look we’re still big boys” so i am against this. If it was the other way round it would not be so acceptable

Posted by Craig | Report as abusive

On paper (geographically as you say) the Azerbaidjan proposal seemed attractive, and actually, I suspect that it could still be used as one of the ways to couple Russian early warning systems with the American one. However, in terms of tracking missiles from Iran (in the North Korean case I believe that Alaska sites are in charge of this) as they reach their cruising altitude and then in order to intercept them, substituting Azerbaidjan for both Czech and Polish sites would not fit the purpose. At best I suspect that the system would have to do with the Azerbaidjan radar, the Czech radar and the Polish based interceptors. Again, if communications as well as people on site eventually allowed the Russians to participate in the activities of the shield, this might assuage fears.

However, there is no discussion of bringing NATO offensive weapons to the Polish site, the more so because Poland’s government is only negotiating to accept these interceptors and a few Patriot batteries for air defense, and it is driving a hard bargain to do so: it is doubtful then that any US government would have any interest in bringing offensive nuclear missiles there, for which there is, anyway, no need. The US government is also perfectly clear that there is no cause now or in the near future for war with Russia as Mutually Assured Destruction, in this case, still stands, missile shield or no missile shield. It is a vast exaggeration for the Russian government to hint to its people that this is what is in store. The majority of the US offensive nuclear capacity is submarine-launched and there is no need of a ground site like Poland’s to reinforce that, what is under the waters will do just fine if God forbid it actually had to be used. The trend is even in fact towards the removal of US nuclear warheads stored on European grounds; many European governnments are wishing it, and for instance the whole of the arsenal in Britain has been removed a couple of weeks ago, within days of the publication of an official report on the inadequate storage facilities. A country that acts so quickly in this instance is probably unlikely to be planning a sneak attack on Russia from Polish soil.

You have a point, Maurice, in suggesting that the compromise ideally would come before the installations are built, but once the agreements have been signed and ratified (which is yet uncertain), a calendar must go ahead. If Russia hasn’t a more constructive proposal to make, but opts for threats instead, then it must assume the consequences of that political choice, which are still that it can’t prevent the building of the sites; which is why the prefered option would be to join them, that’s the solution that should be looked for. After all, Russia and the West have no trouble cooperating on sensitive space technology for the ISS for instance. There would be much in the form of technology transfers for Russia in such a deal.

Posted by Paul Vallet | Report as abusive

Russia is now a fully-fledged fascist dictatorship, resurgent with Putin still the supreme leader and head of what is in effect a dyed-in-the-wool Russian mafia state.

If anything, the missiles will guard us all from a raving monster who thinks he can take over Europe by foul or even clandestine means? That is exactly the scenario.

Even now he evolves his plots to, for example, eventually get Russia into the EU and then attempt to annexe it with the aid of his ‘friends’, etc. Some hope! Remember: He wants gay men put down!

Putin is a dangerous man and Russia is now a state run by crooks for crooks. The corruption is endemic and profound and the human rights abuses and the destruction of democracy is absolute.

If Putin wants to be seen as a real stateman, he will step down and sign his country over to democracy and a full adherence to human rights.

But that will never happen.

Posted by The Truth Is… | Report as abusive

Ahh…good point. But I did not say that NATO will deploy nuclear missiles to Poland, I just said that they will deploy missiles, any type that they see fit for the situation.

When India and Pakistan contested over the disputed Kashmir region, as recent as 1999, they both had nuclear armaments in reserve. But we do not see a nuclear fallout as a result of their conflict, we see a status quo.

As long as one side do not actually launch a nuclear missile, there is no reason for the other to do so, unless we are talking about an irrational opponent, but that’s a different story. MAD, does not really apply in this scenario. So there’s still the threat of NATO’s missile inventory being used offensively or in a threatening manner in Poland’s or Czech Republic’s “missile shield”.

There are also conventional missiles and bombs which have the same destructive capability as smaller nuclear weapons but they are difficult to deploy from a distance. A foward base does really matter in gaining a significant advantage in combat.

This missile shield might serve its purpose to “protect”, but from who? Right now, the US says its Iran. In the future, when there is another conflict, the missile shield might not protect countries’ in terms of collateral damage, but in terms of “national interests”. Having a missile shield is like having a rotating turret, you do not know where is it aiming. If Russia decides to take a course of action that the US disagrees very violently, that “shield” will become a gun.

And if you have noticed, its a US missile shield, not an European missile shield. If its the EU deciding that a shield is needed for its defense, it’s much more justifiable than a United States missile shield smack in a foreign country.

Posted by Maurice | Report as abusive

Here, we are moving into the domain of speculation about the future. I believe that it is precisely because there are completely different reading about what the future holds which is at the root of this Russo-American disagreement. We are also returning to the point that I made earlier, that the European allies have not been made a party to this discussion. If Russia wants these Europeans to come on its side in this argument, then the last thing it needs to do is to threaten to target Poland and the Czech Republic, because then, the Europeans are more likely to show solidarity to these two countries, and they are also more likely to move towards the US point of view.

The gist of this argument as I’m understanding it is that in some unforeseeable period of time that US is going to want to bully or make war on Russia and that the shield once installed gives it an advantage. But first, we might have to know for what reasons Russo-American relations would deteriorate so badly that there would be a risk of armed hostility. The present reasons for disagreements have very little potential for escalation in the next five or ten years, really. Many of these disagreements can in fact be fixed. In five or ten years, the current Russian president may be in his second mandate or a new person will have been elected and it is quite possible that by then Russian politics will have genuinely liberalized, allowing for even better relations between Russians, Americans and Europeans. That is at least the most rational course to pursue, all three have a vested interest in cooperation rather than hostility, which comes from elsewhere. It’s entirely speculative that relations are bound to go badly, hence, the missile shield will all of a sudden become an “offensive” instrument. We might also point out that Russia’s government is currently making a substantial effort to renovate the armed forces thoroughly, it now has the financial means to do so, and in the near future, Russia is likely to remain a substantial military power which one hs difficulty in believeing that it could be threatened by whatever small installations are planned in Poland. Another poster mentioned earlier that Russia was having an inferiority complex which pushed it to want to appear as the victim in this issue, but whoever really believes in Russia’s formidable potential has a hard time believing that Russia is such a helpless victim here. In any case, the present rhetoric shows Russia as anything but a victim.

On the other hand, no such guarantees are likely to come from Iran in the near future. The Europeans have consistently tried to obtain guarantees from Iran and made a number of proposals which the US, even if it wasn’t negotiating itself, could be brought on board to participate in, if an agreement was reached. Even the United Nations has been involved and unfortunately it has to be said that neither Russia nor China have been helpful on this issue in their Security Council votes. The Iranian problem thus remains one of clear and present danger, and since the use of force is ruled out, for the Europeans to shelter behind a shield, even one operated by the Americans, is a rational course of action. This needs to be well understood by the Russians too. If they were to act decisively to help to counter the Iranian missile potential, then the Europeans would feel less need for the shield itself. Right now, that is not the case. For the future, well, it’s also up to Russia to decide whether it wants improved relations or not, and Russia’s rulers ought to see that their best interest is indeed in improved cooperation rather than in a simply contrarian attitude.

Posted by Paul Vallet | Report as abusive

The Truth Is…

You seem to be implying that those missiles indeed serve to be aiming towards Russia and not the “rogue states” that the United States expressed as Iran and North Korea. The agenda of provoking deteriorating relations seems to lie with the U.S then instead of Russia.

Did Russia get so heavily involved with the domestic affairs of other countries like the U.S? If you look at history, the U.S conducts more wars in the past century than any other country. Panama, Iraq, Vietnam. All involved the United States heavily. Whereas the Soviet Union chose to not get directly involved in wars, but only sent military aid, with the exception of Afghanistan.

When Russia is on the verge of becoming a Third World country during Boris Yeltsin, you call that a democracy. When Russia is succeeding after Vladimir Putin assumed the presidency, you call it a “fascist dictatorship”. So the allies of the U.S are democracies and all those with negative relations are “fascists”?

Yes, the regulations in Russia may be stricter than the U.S, but it works for them and the people accept that. Russia did not conduct state terrorism, or condone illegal activities or sent threats for no reason to other countries if it did not concerned them. While the U.S sent warnings about military action if countries did not do things their way, even when their borders are relatively safe. A good example: Iraq.

If you just look at the combat record of the U.S and her allies compared with the rest of the world. The U.S would then become the “fascist” imposing their will around the globe.

Posted by Maurice | Report as abusive

Maurice, you are responding to someone else here; I have obviously made none of the assertions you are denouncing; you might however nuance some interpretations. Russia’s and the Soviet Union’s historical record is far from the ideal representations that you are offering.

Yes, Russia does get involved in the domestic affairs of other countries today, and so did the Soviet Union in the past, and its predecessor regime. During the Tsarist period, it intervened repeatedly to put down anti-monarchist risings in Europe. During the Soviet period, it had the network of communist parties around to world to do its bidding, not to mention that it forcibly integrated nations into the USSR after it had destroyed their independence in 1922, and from 1945 to 1990 it held the eastern half of Europe under satellite status, not that of ally, since the Brezhnev doctrine held that all these governments had to follow the exact same ideological line towards communism as Moscow did, or face the consequences (Czechoslovakia in 1968). Throughout the Cold War it is fair to say the USSR conducted many such similar interventions as the United States did, after all, they were both superpowers in pursuit of geopolitical supremacy. As for the post 1991 period, one knows very well that Russia exercises a supervisory role in many of the former Soviet republics, referring to them as “Near Abroad”, and in many cases still has substantial numbers of troops stationed there. It tried (and failed) to interfere in Ukraininan elections in 2004 and the result was that its preferred candidate eventually lost. It has encouraged separatists both in Moldavia and in Georgia and there have been a number of bullying actions against the three Baltic States. In other words, Russia’s record isn’t as clean as it claims, and that is why there is suspicion of Russia’s motives. You can regret it but there it is.

It’s a clear exaggeration to refer to the Yeltsin years as democracy, unfortunately, Putin’s supporters seem to think that the chaos of those years is a justification for more authoritarian government. Again, I say that the censorship of the press and of civil society is not what has allowed a certain measure of prosperity to return to Russia, and in the long run ordinary Russians won’t be so accomodating of this exceptionnal state, as they know that they deserve better. On the other had calling the Russian government fascist is ridiculous overstatement. It would be more accurate to say that Putin, inspired by his former Soviet experience, has reintroduced many aspects of societal control (a powerful police, youth movements, a controlled media) that he thought necessary to govern. I wopuld say this is much more of a National-Communist model of regime rather than a fascist one.

Posted by Paul Vallet | Report as abusive

I may agree with you, Paul Vallet, on the interventions by the Soviet Union, but not on Russia.

Russia and the Soviet Union are two seperate entities, some people often confuse between them but that’s not the point.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia did not once threatened countries with military force, I’m not talking about Chechnya here, I’m talking about sovereign nations. When regions broke off with Georgia, it was a time of political uncertainty and there was a vacuum of power i.e, 1991. When the dust settled, the breakaway regions already decided to be independent, Russia is placing their troops there as peacekeepers, not an expenditory force.

Having strict societial control also helps turn countries prosperous; do you not agree that a strong police deters crime, something which attracts investors? Do you not agree that youth movements give them some purpose instead of wasting their summer vacations on video games? Do you not agree that controlled media helps censor out undesireable images and words for children? All these contribute to a stable society.

But it seems that we are drifting away from the topic on the missile shield, so I would like to restate my stand again: It is not justifiable for the United States to place a missile shield in Eastern Europe as it clearly a threat to regional stability by itself. The shield may protect now. But who knows what would be used for later? The US has thus far indicated their opinion that Russia is not very trustworthy as a member of the G8. Words like this spark tension, not by Russia, but by the US.

Posted by Maurice | Report as abusive

We are back at the same point as before Maurice: you’re stating the Russian point of view that the missile shield is bound to be used against Russia in the future, when there currently is no evidence that such an escalation will occur. You mention some criticism of Russia within the G8 forum. Those are statements that are routinely exchanged between countries either in bilateral or in multilateral settings when there are disagreements, but they do not constitute the proof that there is hostile intent, and it is even more difficult to make the case that there is a direct link between this supposed hostility and the future use of the missile shield. I will repeat what is pretty clear now: if Russia is worried about the future use of the shield it must do what it can to be involved in its operation. Threatening the host countries is a completely counter-productive stance, and, one might add, those are way more worrying words than saying that “Russia isn’t a very trustworthy member of the G8″… in part because Russia’s behaviour then totally validates those words.

It is then that we can make a link to Russian policy vis a vis neighbouring territories, because whether Russians like it or not these actions have contributed to shape Russia’s image abroad (in the same way that the Iraq war has shaped that of the United States). There are 25,000 Russian troops garrisoning Tajikistan, the 14th Army in Transnistria, and of course the “peacekeeping forces” in Abkhazia and South Ossetia; each of these three cases belongs to a different political scenario but what is undoubtely true is that Russia is more than willing to step in to enforce its own conception of what ought to be law and order in these regions, and it has doen so unilaterally, not through negotiated agreement with all the parties concerned. Perhaps it keeps the peace, but it is hard to deny that it is a Russian peace.

Hence a suspicion about Russian motives, also, when they argue against the missile shield. That is how the outside world can see it, and if Russia would understand this better, then it might have a more effective argument to convince that it deserves some say in how the missile shield is used. At the present moment, anyhow, few will believe Russian speculative claims that the shield is bound to be used against them. Certainly if Russia had more appeased relations with its neighbours such suspicions of conflict would not take hold.

Posted by Paul Vallet | Report as abusive

Paul Vallet,

It seems you really like to deal with the future, whether the US will use the shield against Russia. Okay, let’s take your point that there is no evidence of that going to happen, because the tension now stems from heated dialogue.

Okay, now you think about that about one minute… Then consider this question:

Will Iran or North Korea really launch their missiles against Europe?

Based on your argument, no it should not as it is just heated dialogue there is no conclusive evidence that they will do it. Then may I ask what is the missile shield for then?

Posted by Maurice | Report as abusive

Maurice, I don’t think you are completely following my argument. Iran and North Korea are in a totally different category of governance and political regime than either Russia or the United States. Russia and the United States have been nuclear powers for a long time and ironic as it may seem, the Cold War has been a good school of restraint for either of them. They understand that these are weapons of last resort that can only come into play in the case of a war that has already begun. The governments have correct checks over the use of such weapons and can be counted upon to act with the utmost caution. Besides, the Cold War and subsequent years have created a culture of negotiation between the two that survives even disagreements, even if tempers are elevated, the dialogue always resumes and continues, and that is cause for optimism.

There is no such guarantee to be had either from King Jong Il or from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Their regimes are way more opaque, way more repressive, way more extremist than anything we see from the traditional great powers. I think you are mistaken to use my argument of no conclusive evidence of a future Russo-American conflict to apply it to the behaviour of North Korea or Iran, as the two cases cannot be compared.

Both Americans and Europeans would definitely welcome a strong Russian assistance in reining in the dangerous regimes in North Korea and Iran, but in the various negotiation processes, Russia has regularly denied that there is a problem at all. If the Russians want to gamble with remaining under a potential threat from those two countries that is their prerogative; but they should then understand that others may not have such trust and wish for protection. To then construe that Russia is the intended target of these measures is purely twisting the facts.

Posted by Paul Vallet | Report as abusive

Paul Vallet

In earlier comments the point was made that the missle shield will be able to stop only 10 BM’s enroute and in fact
the submarine defense was actually much more capable as a counter threat. In addition, the US has nuclear capabilities in South Korea and Guam to handle Kim Jong Il.
I really enjoyed the intelligent dialogue between you and Maurice and a few others. I still must agree with Maurice that this is a tactic to pressure Russia unnecessarily.
Paul didn’t say much about this and,not to stray from the topic too far, but I get irked when people make comments about Putin being KGB as if that proves something. Bush the first wasn’t just a CIA operative, but the director, then a president, and now his son is a president. So let us not pretend that serving in the intelligence field disqualifies anyone from national leadership positions in either country.
There is a blog called which has some terrific analysts discussing these issues from an alternative position that I think both of you gentlemen might enjoy checking out. Us-Russia relations are at a 20 year low

and I would really like to see this changed for everyone’s benefit. We can’t play around anymore, the stakes are just too high.


Posted by Brandon | Report as abusive


For my part I’m still not convinced that the issue of the missile shield can be summarized as “just another neocon initiative to to confront Russia”. As you remind us, rightly, these interceptors are few in number and what more, the technology is still far from tried and successful (and it’s been almost thirty years in the making, so that still leaves us a lot of time before one can be sure that the whole scheme does work… the best objection I would have to the shield is its financial cost for an uncertain technological return). Hence the protection it offers is in only case against the launch of a single rocket… which is very little compared to Russian capacities. This is why it takes a lot of convincing to believe that Russia’s nuclear deterrent is supposedly threatened by the sites in Poland and the Czech Republic.

For clarity’s sake, I’d like to stress that I am not in a position of systematic incomprehension of Russian points of view. I follow Russian politics for professional reasons, I’ve met and talked with a lot of Russians IRL, and I’ve traveled to the country twice. I am also learning the language. However, on this issue, I am not convinced by the objections that Russians and their government make to this scheme. If Russia had done everything it could to halt proliferation of balistic weapons (and the Soviet Union before that) I might have a more sympathetic ear, but we have a historical legacy of Soviet/Russian balistic sales to developing countries, which then developed more powerful models, and therefore it is a situation that has to be lived with. The shield might offer only limited protection, but I believe an attempt at some sort of insurance is legitimate, and worth making; and if Russia would associate itself to this attempt I would feel very pleased. As you do I think Russo-American relations should improve and make the world a better place.

On the subject of Putin’s past career I’m sorry if it irks you, but it is a fact that this past career has shaped his experiences and world view… you will note that I never said it disqualified him, but that some behavior can be expected out of this. Besides, Putin is hardly the only ex political police (that term applies way more to the KGB than foreign intelligence, which was a very small part of what the Committee for State Security did in Soviet times) type among the Russian leadership. It’s fair to say that the KGB has been somewhat compared to a sort of Graduate School of Government, its personnel had access to the most accurate information, could travel abroad, knew foreign languages… but their essential brief was to command and control and repress. That’s a different kind of learning curve than one acquired as Director of Central Intelligence… as for the son, if he’d actually been CIA or learned something from his father, he might (well, we never know) have turned out more “intelligent” (sorry for the pun)

Perhaps the ex KGB types will not have such an importance in Russia once this generation has passed. After all President Medvedev reflects a new type, that of the management of major state monopoly businesses (Gazprom). They may be ruthless tycoons when they want to, but it still leaves them with a different world vision than that of a policeman.

Posted by Paul Vallet | Report as abusive

By the way, thanks for the reference to the blog, I will have a look at it…

and it just occurred to me that being a senior manager in the energy business isn’t all that attractive in terms of world view… look at Dick Cheney

Posted by Paul Vallet | Report as abusive

USA again stiring up trouble around the world for motives only known to the elite. Those (us) who are not in the know are all arguing amongst ourselves again (just like we did during Iraq and all the other wars in the past) When the truth finally comes out it is to late to do anything, those who agreed with US either change there tune or are to proud and some cases stupid to do so. The Elite know this and know also that most of us have short lived memories and they can do the same again and again.

I read some comments and astonished to read that people believe they know the facts (ie.. no warheads), are they in the know? No. Theses people are just repeating what they have been told by the square box or from another reapeater. When are people going to think for themselves? when are people going to realise that we are all brothers and sister’s? when are people going to value one live as the same as everyone elses life?

I keep seeing and hearing the word Democracy being thrown about. I am fed up with hearing people saying that democracy is freedom, how far from the truth these people really are. I live in a democracy and every day I hear the word spin being used by many reporters and politicians. But i never hear anyone discuss the meaning of spinning (lieing) or anyone one complaining. I believe that some people like living in a world of lies and fabrications as this has benifits for them (Elite, richest), others have not got a clue what reality is as they have been lied to from the very begining and gain nothing from the lies, if anything they loose out but still hold the flag up of demorcracy with pride. It makes me sad…

George Bush’s have always have named those who were evil and millions followed. George Bush once said that “communisim was evil” and millions agreed and fell sorry for those who lived in comminist staes etc, but when gorge bush sits in china (a comminist country applauding the chinese goverment for the olympic games etc) no one says anything…. I find this very odd.

I find it very odd also that Georgia attacks another state first and the western media only mentions russia behavoir!!!!
I find it very odd that the US are the only nation in the world to have ever used a nucluer weapon in history against another country, and they get to name the evil ones!!!!

before you start throwing accusations at me for being anti american or anti anything please think before doing so? I am anti killing innocent people.

Posted by Alex (UK) | Report as abusive

I sincerely feel the people of both the Russia and USA are good, honest, hardworking people. Both countries do indeed have problems. The USA and Russia have a corrupt media. Conflict between the Russians and the USA sells papers. Both countries are ruled by special interests and greed.

We both need a three party system.

We really need a truly free press – Russians are afraid to voice their opinions – Americans are influenced by a press which is only interested in ratings. We all get a distorted view of reality.

Bush – beware of a man who feeds off of oil.
Putin – beware of a man who feeds off of oil.
Both men suffer from the same malady – the “short man complex”.

Short little men are by nature always attempting to prove themselves, using any means possible!

Just imagine what a great world this would be if our people had the real power to elect our leaders! We have the power to change our future. We need courage and commitment. As always, it’s up to all of us!

Posted by Andre Zack | Report as abusive