Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Don’t fool us; missile shield is all about Russia not Iran

I was chatting with colleagues from my newspaper Alyson Neel and Erduan James today over how states behave in an anarchic international system under certain circumstances and we agreed in unison that the Cold War is an ideal laboratory for most type of research related to that.

I am happy to see that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has launched a debate on Wednesday that looks more or less like a typical Cold War wrangling over the anti-aircraft missile defense shield.

Since the chaotic demise of the Soviet Union, Russia and the U.S. had hard times in closing gaps between each other and this is something we should not be surprised of: domestic politics hardly change foreign policy strategies. But the primary and underlying reason behind ever-fresh standoff between Russia and the U.S. is definitely missile defense shield that both former President George W. Bush and the incumbent one tried to install in Russia’s backyard.

U.S. President Barack Obama had an attempt to what he named “reset” relations between the two subtle foes and he might have attached big significance to eating hamburgers in an American restaurant as a way to bury decades of hostilities. Suffice it to say that neither of Obama’s efforts to repair ties with Russia yielded a significant return.

Medvedev threatened the U.S. and NATO on Wednesday to deploy missiles to target the missile shield in Poland and Romania if Washington falls short of convincing Russia that the missile shield is aimed at Iran, not Russia. He added that he still hopes for a deal with the U.S. on missile shield, underlining that the U.S. and its allies were shrugging off Moscow’s call to cooperate on this defense plan that annoyed Moscow for years. Russia wants written, legal guarantees that the shield is not directed at Russia but other countries, particularly Iran.

NATO did not a good job last year during its Lisbon summit, fooling everyone that Iran is posing an existential threat to NATO member states and that deployment of missile shields in Romania and Poland and early warning radar system in Turkey is worth building as an effective way to intercept ballistic missiles from Iran. Flourishing ties between Iran and Turkey then put Turkish officials on the defensive and Turks adamantly opposed specifying Iran as a target in the shield.

The question is if a war breaks out between Iran and Israel/U.S., why on Earth Tehran would bomb Warsaw or Vienna? It is beyond doubt that Israel has a sufficient capability to intercept any ballistic missiles from Iran. Why would NATO allies want to specifically stress Iran as a target in the missile shield if it is not about deflecting Russia’s attention? Russia consented last year to the deployment of missile shield in three countries as the West assured Moscow that it will cooperate and jointly run the shields. That did not happen and NATO refused to work with Russia on this.

Russians also requested a written legal document from NATO, indicating that the missile shield is not against Russia’s nuclear arsenals yet with no avail.

Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin seems angrier than any Russian on this issue. He accuses Washington of “openly lying” about its missile defense plans. "We won't allow them to treat us like fools. Nuclear deterrent forces aren't a joke."

It is clear now that NATO has no choice but press ahead with missile defense plans to get Eastern European allies under its security umbrella at the expense of its already worsening ties with Russia. NATO could also give written guarantees to Moscow that the missile defense is not really about Russia. Seriously, who cares what is on paper? Hitler also shook hands with Stalin and signed many papers how to divide Europe just before the World War II. What we saw at the end of the day was a Soviet Union flag in eastern side of Berlin.

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