Missile Defense or Missile Offense? – Its all the same to Russia

There has been a big commotion on the topic of missile defense lately. According to Philip Coyle, who used to be in charge of weapons testing in the Pentagon, the threat used to justify the system was exaggerated.

Another witness said the missile system offerred no prospect of defending the US from a real attack.

According to BBC, another witness, Lisbeth Gronlund, co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program, told the hearing the US was no closer to being able to “effectively defend against long-range ballistic missiles than it was 25 years ago”.

The United States proposed plan is to create a system that will allow them to effectively destroy incoming ballistic missiles fired from either North Korea or Iran. The system would rely on radars in Alaska, California, and Fylingdales (UK).

When the United States attempted to do the same in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia’s President Putin voiced great displeasure over the entire endeavour. He even went as far as threatening to target Europe with missiles should the proposed missile defense program go ahead.

NUCLEAR WARHEADS

US

Russia

Land-launched: 1,600

Land-launched: 2,146

Sea-launched: 3,168

Sea-launched: 1,392

Air-launched: 1,098

Air-launched: 624

Source: Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) data 2007

Unknown to many, a similar scenario happened during the Cuban missile crisis whereby the Soviet Union sent nuclear missiles to Cuba in response to the presence of US Jupiter and Thor missiles in Turkey. The Soviet Union ended up agreeing to remove the nukes from Cuba only after the US agreed to the secret removal of US missiles from Turkey.

History shows us that should the US continue to push for the proposed missile defence in Eastern Europe, Russia would not stand down and do nothing. Worst still is that the worsening relations between Russia and the United States would push Russia to develop a  closer military ties with China. A similar ‘missile defense’ system with China perhaps?

Nuclear missiles are used mainly for influence (bargaining leverage) rather as a weapon against other countries. Instead of destroying everything from the face of the earth, there is more incentive to keep them in cold storage for defensive purposes. No country would ever dare attack another country with nuclear arsenal only to risk being nuked into oblivion.

While the missile defense system is originally planned to prevent warheads from North Korea and Iran, the more logical explanation is that they are meant to serve other purposes for the United States. Russia with its vast amounts of natural reserves (especially gas) can threaten to blackmail European countries with petro-politics.

Its monopoly of pipelines from Central Asia to Europe is a lifeline that could easily be cut in an event of future conflicts (like the scenario not long ago involving Ukraine). Furthermore, China’s missile capabilities have improved dramatically over the last two decades which threatens to erase any edge in US military superiority. Last year, China successfully shot down its old weather satelite with a missile launch from inland China to the horror of the Pentagon.

While the possesion of nuclear missiles in the hands of either North Korea or Iran would not be desirable, the more rational reason for the missile defense system would be to provide Western powers with another bargaining chip against Russia and China.

 

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