THE U.S. MISSILE SHIELD

3 10 2009

 

 

 

After President Obama’s decision…

 

THE U.S. MISSILE SHIELD: WHAT’S ALL THAT FUSS ABOUT

 

By David Dastych

 

Warsaw,Poland: President Barack Obama announced his decision to scrap U.S. missile defense plans for Poland (10 interceptors) and the Czech Republic (X-band Radar) on September 17 at night. There couldn’t have been a worse timing and a more surprising way to communicate that. September 17 was a painful 70th anniversary of the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, synchronized with Hitler’s conquest of that country, which began the most devastating Word War II on September 1, 1939. The Obama Administration ignored the commemoration of that anniversary in Gdansk, where 20 heads of states and prime ministers attended and Russia’s Vladimir Putin could easily steal the show. A relatively low-ranking U.S. delegation didn’t even speak up.

 

In this context, no wonder that the Czechs and the Poles reacted to the U.S. President’s decision very nervously and with a lot of resentment. A popular Warsaw Axel Springer’s tabloid, “FAKT,” which has the largest circulation, ran a front page in big black & red letters reading: “How naïve we were. BETRAYAL! U.S.A. SOLD US TO RUSSIA AND STABBED US IN THE BACK,” a gross exaggeration of course. But this outrageous title represents somber feelings of at least a large part of the Polish population, fearful of Russian aggression, even if that is not even blackmail but a slander in the Russian media.

 

The Czechs are more pragmatic but, as Karel Janicek (AP) reported from Prague, an editorial in Hospodarske Novine said: “an ally we rely on has betrayed us, and exchanged us for its own, better relations with Russia, of which we are rightly afraid.” And Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said he made two concrete proposals to U.S. officials on Thursday in hopes of keeping the U.S.-Czech alliance strong: for the U.S. to establish a branch of West Point for NATO members in Central Europe and to “send a Czech scientist on the U.S. space shuttle to the international space station.” Both proposals reflect a true practical approach of the Czechs.

 

In Poland, the official reaction was that of sorrow and hope. Vanessa Gera, a well-informed AP journalist I know, quoted President Lech Kaczynski as saying he was concerned that Obama’s new strategy leaves Poland in a dangerous “gray zone” between Western Europe and the old Soviet sphere. Kaczynski expressed hopes that the U.S. will now offer Poland other forms of “strategic partnership.”

 

 

Political, not military

 

Political, not military or geo-strategic reasons lay under negative Eastern European reactions to President Obama’s firm and impolite ruling out of the “missile shield” plans of the Bush administration.

 

A much respected Israeli political commentator, Professor Barry Rubin, who also writes for my media agency, summed that up in his recent column:

 

“The suspicion in places like Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as those like Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, and a dozen other countries, is that the United States (or at least this president) won’t protect them from the Russian bear. To some extent, at least, they saw this small American military presence as insurance against Russian threats and see losing it as making them more vulnerable.”

 

Professor Rubin hit the point: it’s a fear of Russia, of the autocratic and nationalistic Putin-Medvedev regime, that evokes nervous reactions not only in the Czech Republic and Poland but also across the whole region from the Baltic States to Romania, Moldavia and the Ukraine.

 

Reuters’ David Cutler accented in FACTBOX that the Obama administration had been cooler on the shield, which includes building a radar base in the Czech Republic and placing interceptor rockets in neighboring Poland, than the previous leadership of George W. Bush

 

“The intention to construct sites in central Europe had angered Moscow, which called it a threat to its security and threatened to take retaliatory measures. Both Poland and the Czech Republic were part of the Soviet bloc and have joined the European Union and NATO since the fall of their communist governments in 1989.”

 

One could remind on this occasion that Russia opposed the extension of NATO to its borders but finally made itself peace with Poland and other states of Eastern Europe and the Baltic States becoming members of the Atlantic Alliance. Yet the Russian “peace pipe” with NATO did not match all U.S. military initiatives on the former Soviet-dependent landmass of Eastern Europe. While Russia tolerated a buildup of U.S. military bases in Bulgaria and Romania, the Kremlin strongly opposed a future deployment of a U.S. interceptor base in Poland and of a forward-based X-band missile radar in the Czech Republic. For Russians enough was enough and the Kremlin announced counter-measures, such as a retaliatory deployment of Iskander (SS-26) short range missiles in the Kalinigrad region, bordering with Poland.

 

Russian fears and objections

 

What was Russia afraid of in case of the deployment of 10 unarmed interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic? Rick Rozoff of Global Research analyzed Russian objections in his recent (Sept.18) report:

 

 “The deployments were negotiated with both prospective host countries by the preceding George W. Bush administration under the guise of protecting the United States from alleged long-range missile attacks by what were described as rogue states: Iran and North Korea.

 

Interceptor missiles in Poland would only be of use in protecting the U.S. if Iran possessed intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of being fired over the Arctic Ocean. No serious person has ever suggested Iran has such a capability or ever will.

 

But Russian ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin remarked last November that U.S. missiles in Poland could hit his nation’s capital of Moscow in four minutes, as NATO warplanes that have patrolled the skies over the Baltic Sea since 2004 could reach Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg, in five minutes.

 

Leading Russian officials, political and military, have unanimously accused Washington of targeting their own nation and its strategic forces rather than Iran with its third position missile shield plans.”

 

If no “serious person” could expect Iran or North Korea to become soon capable to attack the U.S.A. by their long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles, then the Russians might judge that the American missile site in Poland and a long-outreach radar in the Czech Republic could serve other purpose. U.S. officials often repeated, in response to Russian accusations, that 10 unarmed interceptors in Poland were no match for the Russian missile might. But still the Russians obstinately argued that they didn’t want these missiles deployed. Why?

 

It’s my guess the Kremlin treated future U.S. installations in Poland and the Czech Republic as a part of new global anti-missile system that could become a serious threat to the offensive strategic capability of Russia and to its defenses.

 

“Much of the world, then, was relieved to read the news that the U.S. was reversing course and renouncing designs to base missile shield facilities in Eastern Europe. What Washington has stated, though, is not so straightforward” (Rick Rozoff).

 

New global architecture

 

Rejoicing over the recent Obama’s decision to abandon plans for the U.S. missile defense in Easter Europe, the Russians could have “won a battle but not a war.” A new planned architecture of the global missile defense, announced last week by President Obama, Secretary Gates and General Cartwright, poses a much more serious threat to Russia and not only to that country. Let me quote Global Reasearch and Rick Rozoff again, in plain words:

 

“The underlying motive for a universal interceptor missile system – based on land, at sea, in the air and in space – is to secure uncontested American international military superiority by making itself and key allies impenetrable to retaliation by nations like Russia and China.”

 

What is that “architecture” composed of? According to top American military experts and politicians, this new planned global anti-missile system could become the first ever realization of Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” project announced in 1983. At the time  “The Great Communicator” launched his plan, aiming at the Soviets, the United States had no technical and scientific means to build such defense system and President Reagan could only bluff to make the Soviet Union’s burden of military expenditures heavier. But now the technology moved forward and the futuristic projects might be put into real life.

 

A new system proposed by the Pentagon now will be like a “triad,” composed of a mobile part on sea and land and of airborne missile interceptors. Later on (probably after 2015) land-based interceptors and sensors will be added to beef up the existing mobile units, all combined with space “watchdogs” (satellites).

 

Not to go into technical details, it’s enough to say that parts of this global anti-missile systems are already in operation: Aegis class warships with SM-3 (Standard Missile 3) interceptors, MEADS (Medium Extended Air Defense System), equipped with Patriot and Nike-Hercules missiles, in Europe and under NATO command. Land-based interceptor missile sites and radars are already functioning in California (Vanderberg Air Base) and in Alaska (Fort Greely). Early warning radar systems have been already deployed in Norway (Vardo), Greenland (Thule Air Base) and also in Enland (Fylingdales) as well as in Japan and Israel.  The ABL (Aiborne Laser) system is being tested, as well as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense).

 

All systems are interoperable with other defense systems.

 

Does Russia know what’s in the store? I bet they know well and they are beefing up their own defenses.

 

Poland, the Czech Republic and probably also other countries of Eastern Europe will be invited to join the American anti-missile defense systems, under NATO, and also they might house land-based elements of that “global architecture” of missile defense.

 

In this week, Poland’s Foreign Minister,  Radek Sikorski, is going to the U.S.A. for initial talks about Poland’s future part in the new American anti-missile defense, a global one, also protecting all Europe (except Russia, Belarus and Ukraine).

 

But the Russians seem to be happy with the Obama administration’s decision to put away a (doubtful) threat in Poland and in the Czech Republic. The Russian Defense Ministry announced they might resign of the planned deployment of Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad region, at the Russian-Polish border. It’s a stabilizing factor. But only the future will show what will be a Russian reaction to a new, global anti-missile system that the Obama administration is advocating now. Poland and the Czech Republic should not worry. But it was bad political behavior of the “imperial” Obama Presidency which spoiled the show last week.

 

                                        — ends  —-

 

 

Submitted on Sunday, September 20, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

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