March 2, 2007

A Message To Putin

The US has sent a message back to Vladiimir Putin after his eruption at Poland and the Czech Republic for considering the installation of American missile-defense infrastructure. After the Russian president's threat to start aiming medium-tange missiles at eastern Europe, the Missile Defense Agency answered by adding the Caucasus as another desired site for their system:

The director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said Thursday that Washington wants to base an anti-missile radar in the Caucasus, a move that could provoke a further rift with Russia.

Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering declined to specify which country the long-range radar could be installed in, but noted that "it would be very useful for the anti-missile system."

Speaking on a stop at NATO headquarters in Brussels, he said "we would like to place a radar in ... the Caucasus."

The United States has said the planned defenses would not be aimed at Russia, and are intended to defend against missile attacks from countries such as Iran.

It's hard to view that as anything less than a message to Putin, and the substance of that message is that we will not be cowed by the Kremlin.

It's not as if the Russians share our security concerns anyway. Their deputy Foreign Minister told the press that "In the modern world, security is indivisible." Funny, but they didn't seem to think that when they agreed to supply Iran with nuclear power and when they stuffed billions of dollars into Saddam's pockets. They made security divisible over the last few years, especially in Southwest Asia.

That left us with a security gap regarding Iran, who now tests missiles that have enough range to hit our allies in the Middle East as well as potentially those in eastern Europe, with the Shahab-3. They could add nuclear warheads to those missiles in six months, and we need to find a way to stop them. Since the Russians have made it much easier for them to develop the fissile material necessary for the nukes, we have to focus some of our effort on defense rather than prevention.

Why the Caucasus? It would give a more complete encirclement of Iran with the MDS. As Putin undoubtedly sees, it would also make a better shield from Russian missiles if the need arose, and given his recent moves in Belarus, Ukraine, and internally to Russia, he's making the case that it will. The message reminds Putin that the borders of his new empire are a great deal smaller than those of the Soviets, if he chooses to take Russia down that path again.


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