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U.S. Missile Scheme Threatens Return of Cold War
[Analysis] Washington's plans are perceived as a threat in Moscow
Michael Werbowski (minou)     Print Article 
Published 2007-02-23 16:41 (KST)   
As the world inches ever closer towards another war in the Gulf region let's turn our focus to Europe, where the U.S. seeks to deploy an anti-missile shield armed with "interceptors." This has caused great consternation in Moscow. Washington seems befuddled by Russia's apparent "overreaction."

There is a certain sense of deja vu to all this. In the early 1980s when it was proposing the "star wars" space-based missile shield, the U.S. decided to deploy cruise missiles in Western Europe. This was seen as an attempt to offset the threat of the mobile SS-20 rockets on the Soviet side.

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Washington at the time saw the SS-20 nuclear-tipped missiles, which were mobile and were stationed at the time in Poland and central Europe, as a direct threat.

Subsequently, at the behest of Washington, missile batteries were installed on West German territory despite popular unrest and opposition to the plan at the time. The move fueled a wave of anti-American sentiment throughout Europe which the Soviets capitalized on by sowing dissent among NATO allies.

A new cold war in the making?

Fast forward to today and it appears the U.S. wishes to extend it strategic-nuclear protective umbrella further east by stationing a radar and missile sites in former Warsaw pact states. Such silos and radar systems are to be installed in this historically tense "hot zone" between East and West.

One can't blame the majority of Czechs and the Poles for being reluctant about all this. They have seen all this before and are not to keen on returning to the old cold war days by playing the part of pawns in another nuclear chess match (1).

A minor diplomatic tiff or a possible prelude to a full blown nuclear standoff?

Western media reports describe Moscow's verbal response to the anti missiles scheme as "saber-rattling." But just taking a glance at the map demonstrates or highlights the nature of the perceived threat in Moscow.

Looking at it from Russia's angle the country is now practically surrounded as almost never before in its history. For centuries Russia has fallen pray to hostile invaders.

In modern times it was invaded during the Napoleonic wars and then during the immediate aftermath of the Russian revolution during the civil war an allied intervention sought to bolster the "white Russians" in their unsuccessful bid to overthrow the Bolsheviks who took power in Moscow (2).

Then there was the Wehrmacht's brutal assault and invasion of Soviet territory in 1941. In the past these incursions failed. However, we see once again a military alliance moving into former Soviet space now that NATO has expanded to the Baltic States. It is effectively camped on Russia's doorstep.

The U.S. counters any accusations of aggressive posturing against its superpower former rival by insisting that the weaponry to be stationed in Poland and the Czech Republic is not aimed at it but at "rogue states" such as Iran.

This appears to be sophistry or put more aptly simply misleading on Washington's part. Under President Bush the United States is conducting one of the most expansionist, militaristic and highly aggressive foreign policies in its history. No wonder then that Moscow is a tad miffed by the missile plan.

Russia for its part, has certainly not been a paragon of peace. It overran central Europe after the Second World War. But it did so while repelling a retreating aggressor-invader.

Furthermore, what was the Soviets' sphere of influence in eastern and central Europe comprising of Poland and the former Czechoslovakia is now firmly anchored within the West. Central Europe already enjoys NATO's article 5 protection from any attack and it needs no more security assurances. In addition territory which Russia considers "its own" such as the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia -- which were incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1941 -- are also in NATO. Hence, the Western military alliance now borders Russia.

This is unprecedented in the alliance's history. During the cold war, the policy known as "containment" devised by the eminent Kremlinologist and American diplomat George Keenan -- who was opposed to NATO expansion in the 1990s -- was meant to confine Soviet expansionism and limit it reach. Today the West however apparently seeks to corner or worse corral Russian by expanding NATO into its former Soviet space, rolling back its former sphere of influence even further to the Russian border and perhaps even beyond.

But each time Moscow sees itself threatened by outside aggression, as in the case of the U.S. proposed missile shield, it has taken effective countermeasures to ensure its territorial integrity and security is maintained.

You can bet it will do so again.

In 2001 reports coming from an unnamed Pentagon sources (3) suggested that Russia was playing a "shell game" with tactical nuclear weapons in its territorial enclave by moving them in or out of Kaliningrad. The possibility of Russia retaliating for the installation of the so called "defense shield" by stationing nuclear weapons in its Kaliningrad Oblast or region cannot be excluded in the current volatile context.

This would effectively render Poland and by extension NATO vulnerable to a nuclear strike. Using more "soft power" tactics Moscow can of course shut off gas and oil supplies to its Western clients. It has done so in the past as we have seen recently.

Calling Moscow's bluff on the energy supply issue could leave many Eastern European states allied to the U.S. literally out in the cold.

Moscow might also be tempted to withdraw from the intermediate and short range nuclear forces treaty (INF) of 1987 (4).

Whatever the outcome of the stand off over the missile scheme, the Bush administration seems to be following in the steps of previous powers which have sought to "strangle" Russia either by means of invasion, incursion or in a less confrontational fashion through "containment." Each time this has destabilized the continent of Europe. The missile defense shield if deployed is bound to be a repeat of one of history's most bitter lessons.
(1) "Czechs Must Learn to Love the Bomb Again" by Michael Werbowski
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_Intervention_in_the_Russian_Civil_War
(3) http://archives.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/europe/01/03/russia.weapons/index.html
(4) http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20070221/61097198.html
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Michael Werbowski

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