As Russia Rattles the Saber over Missiles, the U.S. Commits to Further Dialogue

In seems that the drama over the United States proposed missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic just won’t go away. First German Chancellor Angela Merkel stirs things up by placing the responsibility on NATO to defuse the crisis, followed by an announcement from a Russian general that they would be willing to attack these missile sites, and threatened to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty if the U.S. plan is not retracted. These aggressive comments come exactly at time in which the Americans look prepared to dedicate themselves to closer engagement with the Russians, raising questions about who seeks and benefits from either escalation of the crisis or reconciliation. Below I post an extract from a new, extensive article in the Times entitled “U.S. Reaching Out to Russia,” reporting on a change of heart in the Washington policy community. This isn’t just a mismatch of “tone and reality,” but a serious asymmetry here between diplomacy and provocation. The FT reports that Vladimir Putin’s presidential security council is “revising” the state’s military doctrine, to “take account of the growing role of force in the foreign policy of “leading states”:

Without naming the US, it echoed the language of Mr Putin’s complaints about Washington’s unrestrained use of force. “Leading states are paying increasing attention in military policy to modernising their military forces and improving their weaponry,” the statement added. “Modern forms of armed conflict are being actively implemented, technologies for use of force are being reviewed, the configuration of military presence is being changed, and military alliances are being strengthened – particularly Nato.”

RIA Novosti also quotes the head of the Russian Air Force commenting that the missile system would be an easy target for an air strike:

“Missile shield elements, which are located in silos, are very vulnerable and have weak defenses,” Lieutenant-General Igor Khvorov said. “Therefore, all aircraft deployed by [Russian] strategic aviation can either apply electronic counter-measures against them or physically destroy them.”

From the New York Times:

In the wake of criticism from President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle of political advisers and generals, there is a growing acknowledgment among officials in Washington that the United States has not responded as rapidly or eloquently as it might have to a widespread sense of grievance in Russia. This frustration grows from a view, broadly held in the Kremlin and among the Russian people, that the Russian leadership has accommodated many of Washington’s interests in the years since the Soviet Union fell but that Washington has not reciprocated. Senior administration officials said that their initiative called for engaging Russian leaders in private discussions to illustrate that the United States was putting extra effort into nurturing the relationship and that Russia deserved a more thorough dialogue on American foreign policy and national security plans. A senior administration official involved in developing the strategy said that under the program “we’ll have more consultation and we’ll do it more extensively and more intensively, so that there is a good understanding of each other’s views.” “That is not to say that every objection and concern has to be accommodated or that they have some kind of veto over our program,” the official said. “What it does say is that we should be willing to sit down, both Russia and the United States, in a real dialogue, and have a real dialogue where we try and address the interests and concerns of both sides.”

Furthermore, a U.S. Lieutenant has pointed out that if indeed they wanted to shoot down Russian missiles, they would move the silos further West to a country such as England:

Gen Obering said the missile defence system in Europe was aimed at protecting the US and Europe from Iranian missiles. He said the fact that the Pentagon wanted to place the interceptors in Poland reinforced the argument that the US was not trying to build a shield against Russian missiles. “We would not have chosen Poland or the Czech Republic if our criteria were to try to somehow offset the Russian ICBM advantage,” Gen Obering said. “We would have moved it farther west so that we could again give us more time to do that tracking and targeting.”