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Russia’s Protest on Missiles is “Perplexing”

Today the Wall Street Journal is running an op/ed by Marshall Billingslea, a former assistant secretary general of NATO and former chairman of the NATO-Russia Council’s ad hoc working group on theater missile defense. Excerpts from “Moscow’s Missile Defense Bluster”:

Moscow should be well aware that the proposed defense installations are focused on the emerging Iranian threat. Russian defense planners surely understand the physics and geography of the potential deployment, and know that a Czech radar facing south and 10 interceptors in Poland pose no threat to the credibility of the Russian deterrent of thousands of warheads. It would be physically impossible for interceptors in Poland to chase down Russian ICBMs headed toward North America. The Russian ICBMs move too fast, and defensive interceptors cannot win such a “tail chase.” Nor could they get out of their silos fast enough to protect Europe from a Russian missile attack, even if the radar were facing in that direction, which it wouldn’t be. The radar would not be able to see incoming Russian missiles in time, and — again — the interceptors would be thrown into a losing tail chase. In other words, the system proposed for Poland and the Czech Republic is clearly designed to protect against Iran, and not against Russia. No doubt about it. Unlike the NATO nations, who are in the early stages of developing missile defenses, Russia has long possessed its own antiballistic missile defense for its capital, making recent Russian protests even more perplexing. What’s more, the Kremlin has been deeply engaged in theater missile defense cooperation with NATO. The NATO alliance and Russia have done complex modeling and simulations, improving one another’s understanding of how to defend against short-range missiles. Through the NATO-Russia Council, they have conducted multiple joint exercises and developed the command-and-control mechanisms needed to jointly defend territory from attack — Russian troops working alongside NATO forces. Moreover, NATO has consistently held open the option for deeper Russian involvement in missile defense work. Recent rhetoric aside, this is not an adversarial relationship; it has been a highly positive, friendly one. For these reasons, one would think that the missile defense system being discussed by the Czech Republic, Poland and the U.S. would be uncontroversial and widely applauded, including by Russia. Iran’s nuclear ambitions and defiance of the United Nations Security Council (of which Russia is a permanent member), combined with its aggressive missile-testing program and plans for a “satellite launch” with a multi-ton rocket, would seem to be compelling reasons for multinational cooperation on such a protection. Recall that Iran already has a small number of ballistic missiles capable of hitting some NATO members, and that it clearly wants the ability to target all of Europe and North America. Together with its crash nuclear program, Iran’s missile ambitions are worrisome enough. But Tehran’s aggressive behavior is a source of even greater concern. This past summer, the terrorist group Hezbollah began firing barrages of Iranian-supplied missiles at Israeli cities. Now there is overwhelming evidence that Iran is supplying terrorists in Iraq with advanced weapons; the proof ranges from seizure of sophisticated Iranian-produced explosives in insurgent stockpiles to the actual capture of Iranian operatives. … Rather than squaring off over the issue of missile defense, policy makers should take a hard look at the real security threat: the behavior of rogue regimes such as Iran and North Korea. In the case of Iran, Russia could choose to play a decisive role by terminating the flow of technology into worrisome nuclear programs and continuing to signal resolve through the U.N. Security Council. All nations have an inherent right to defend themselves. Indeed, it is an obligation for democratic governments. With Russian help, we could ensure that missile defense is not the last and only line of defense against Iran.

Full article here.