(VOAvideo of US, Poland Sign Missile Defense Deal)
American plans for missile defense bases in bordering nations infuriate Russia, and the US has had to bend over backwards to push through the Polish and Czech sites over the objections of those nation's populace - even going so far as to offer Poland US troops and air-defense missiles on their border with Russia. But why is the Bush administration pushing so hard for a defense against a so-far entirely hypothetical threat from Iran and to have bases for missiles that don't work?
Phil Coyle, the Pentagon's former top weapons tester (.pdf), says it's all for nothing. "The system proposed for Poland and the Czech Republic doesn't exist, has never been tested, and has no demonstrated effectiveness to defend Europe or the U.S. under realistic operational conditions," Coyle contends in an exclusive conversation with DANGER ROOM.
He says that even our existing missile defenses, installed in Alaska, couldn't stop more than one or two rudimentary missiles from, say, Iran. "For these reasons the U.S. BMD system proposed for Europe is causing strife with Russia for nothing."
Well, not exactly for nothing.
Even if the proposed European missile defense bases are massively expensive and inflammatory White Elephants, both the Bush administration and the neoconservative hawks who think-tanked their plans feel they can get some very useful things (for them) out of those multi-billion boondoggles.
For one thing, neocon elements close to the Bush administration are already advocating spurning international treaties against weapons in space and pushing for the return of Reagan's "Brilliant Pebbles" program. Such a program would inevitably be a threat to Russia's deterrent force whether the ground-based systems are or not. Significantly, the Russians are ahead of the Western public in noticing that little detail. Take for example the influential neoconservative Heritage Foundation think-tank. Any bold emphasis is mine.
This is no time for the U.S. to slow the pace of developing and deploying effective defenses against ballistic missiles. Indeed, the Bush Administration and Congress need to accelerate the effort by focusing on developing and deploying the systems that offer the greatest capability. A detailed proposal for proceeding with the most effective systems was issued by the Independent Working Group on missile defense in June 2006. The report specifically refers to space-based and sea-based defenses as the most effective components of the layered missile defense system design advocated by the Bush Administration. While the sea-based systems have continued to make progress in recent years, the effort to develop and deploy space-based interceptors has languished. ...on May 20, 2003, the White House released a description of a presidential directive signed earlier by President Bush that related to his policy for developing and deploying a layered missile defense system as soon as possible to defend the people and territory of the United States, U.S. troops deployed abroad, and U.S. allies and friends. When fielded, this layered defense will be able to intercept ballistic missiles in the boost (ascent), midcourse, and terminal phases of flight.
The plans, in other words, require Aegis-equipped vessels or platform loaded with interceptors stationed just off America's coast and "Brilliant Pebbles" constellations of space-based interceptors in clear violation of international treaties on weaponizing space. The Heritage Foundation's view is that the US populace should be deceived about this by doublespeak - a propoganda campaign to say that since ballistic missiles already cross into space, space is already weaponized and so hanging a whole bunch of new weaponry in orbit won't make a difference - while extra money is poured into space-based weaponry.
Now Russia isn't a guilt-free state by a long chalk, and it isn't my purpose today to apologize for its many failings - but as Putin pointed out when he asserted that the new US missile defense systems will turn Europe back into a confrontational frontline between two great powers, "Let's not talk as if on one side we are dealing with pure, white and fluffy partners and on the other side with a monster that has just left the forest." Of course this planning is inflammatory, and of course it freaks the Russians out. They're watching the neocons plan quite openly to destabilize the balance of deterrence between two nations with over 12,000 nuclear warheads each, while all the time U.S. hawks push for NATO membership of nations they originally promised Russia wouldn't host NATO troops ever. It's clearly not in Russia's national interests to accept this and when has any never ever not acted in its own perceived national interest?
But even then, the Russians originally tried to negotiate with the Bush administration, to dissolve the confrontation with diplomacy. They offered the U.S. the use of a radar base in Ajerbaijan which is actually better placed for early warning notification of launches from the Middle East and Asia than the Czech site. They offered a multiple-partner co-operative venture, a sort of "NATO for missile defense"where any nation who wished could join and partake of a mutual umbrella of ABM coverage which might one day protect the whole world against nuclear conflicts. The U.S. turned them down flat because they wished to be the only keyholder.
Like so much of neocon planning, it's all about that will-o-the-wisp, "global hegemony". By encircling Russia with military allies, planning a massively layered ABM system which will fatally undermine Russia's deterrence and by trying to exclude Russia from influence over it's own geopolitical backyard in a way America would never allow for its own, the neoconservatives plan is intended to prevent Russia ever reclaiming superpower status and to ensure Europe remains reliant on American military and economic might. What they never seem to have contemplated is that Russia might make moves to stymie them or that some European states might object to being consigned to to America's perpetual shadow. The phrase "it'll be a cakewalk" isn't just a slogan for these folks, it's an entire way of wishful thinking.
John McCain is a keen supporter of that wishful thinking and "strongly supports" missile defenses "to hedge against potential threats from possible strategic competitors like Russia and China". He also strongly supports continued poking of the Russian bear with blunt sticks which can only annoy it. Should he become President the blind-to-the-facts neoconservative push for hegemony will continue under his leadership and the world will become a more unsafe place.
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