Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | October 10, 2009

Yo, Nobel Dude. Your Missile Defense is Blocking Our Missiles.

We saw this one coming.  Well, some of us did.  The incredibly popular President Barack Obama of the United States of America didn’t go nearly far enough last month in offloading our missile defense plans.

Russia has been informing us of that in no uncertain terms.  Obama’s offense is having decided to continue down this confrontational missile defense path, but by other means.  Instead of ground-based interceptor missiles, he proposes to defend Europe (and perhaps eventually North America, although that’s somewhat fuzzy) against Iranian missiles using Aegis warships, and maybe some tactical ground-based systems (e.g., Patriot).  It’s cheap, it’s ready now, it’s not in Poland or the Czech Republic — what’s not to love?

But the Russians aren’t welfare mothers in Chicago, overcome by the charisma.  They do their homework.  And they immediately detected the flaw in this plan.  Obama can’t fool them:  it’s obvious to the meanest intelligence that if we deploy Aegis warships for missile defense, anywhere around Europe, the North Atlantic, or the Arctic, we could defend Europe and/or North America against missiles launched from Russia.

The Reuters report summarizes it nicely:

Russia remains suspicious about Washington’s new anti-missile plans and fears its strategic nuclear weapons could still be threatened by the reconfigured scheme, the country’s envoy to NATO said on Tuesday.

As Russia’s NATO envoy Dmitri Rogozin asks:

“Where are the guarantees that this mobile thing, be it a boat, a cruiser, or a battleship with a mounted missile-defense system and with missile interceptors, will not sail into our northern seas?”

Where, indeed?  The telling passage of the Reuters piece follows:

Russia opposed the original U.S. plans because it did not believe assurances from Washington that they were directed at future missile launches from countries like Iran. It feared the scheme would target its own arsenal, upsetting the strategic nuclear weapons balance in Europe.

“The strategic nuclear weapons balance in Europe.”  See, there they go again, still living in the Cold War.

This is a point Americans need to understand.  The Russians still predicate their concept of national power on being able to hold Europe and the US at risk with long-range ballistic missiles.  They will never cease objecting to American missile defense plans, because all of the ones we would reasonably come up with might, in fact, be used to defend us and our allies against Russia’s missiles, as well as against anyone else’s.

Very few Americans are aware today that we officially renounced the concept of security based on a “nuclear weapons balance” — the premise of “MAD” during the Cold War — in George W. Bush’s first year in office.  The 9/11 attacks preempted this whole issue in our national consciousness.

But a memory jog may call to mind the fact that Bush abrogated the old ABM Treaty, by which we had agreed not to develop defenses against ICBMs and SLBMs (the submarine-launched versions).  He did this by the treaty’s terms, which allowed abrogation by one party on notification; and his purpose was, precisely, to repudiate the concept of security through mutual assured destructionDoing so left the US free both to develop and deploy missile defenses, and to minimize the significance of a “balance,” among nuclear arsenals, to our decisions about our own.  By abrogating the ABM Treaty, we specifically withdrew acknowledgment of a Russian “right” to hold us and our allies at risk, as a guarantee of Russia’s security against us.  By the same token, we no longer asked Russia to acknowledge an American “right” to hold Russia at risk.

Bush outlined the posture underlying this policy as early as a 1 May 2001 speech at the National Defense University.  He enshrined this major shift in national policy in the Treaty of Moscow, signed with Russia in May 2002.  The treaty, also known as the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), was intended as a follow-on to the stalled START II negotiations, which sought to bring US and Russian arsenals down significantly below even the START I levels.  Although the parties agreed in principle on nuclear arms reductions, a key point remained unresolved, as affirmed through diplomatic exceptions:  the US asserted the national right to build and deploy a missile defense, while Russia was in disagreement with that posture.

Russia has consistently, since 1983, expressed her position as follows:  if the US resists being held at risk by Moscow’s strategic missile force, we are seeking a destabilizing advantage over Russia, and imperiling her security.  Russia never accepted the shift in US policy announced by Bush, and continues to operate on the assumption that missile defenses are destabilizing.  Stability, in a Russian view that has been expressed absolutely without variation for more than two decades, depends on Russia being able to hold the US and other nations at risk with her nuclear arsenal.

Obama made a huge de facto concession to this view with his announcement that we would scrap the East European missile defense sites.  The Russians are now pointing out that any missile defense that could intercept Russian missiles violates Russia’s view of her security requirements.  The argument is more difficult in the US now, because there are dozens of geographic permutations for a mobile missile defense against Iranian missiles, and it becomes absurd to earnestly argue — as many well-intentioned but shortsighted pundits did about the East European missile defense sites — that none of them could be interpreted as a defense against Russian missiles.

The fact is, if we deploy a system that can defend us and our allies against missiles from Iran, it will be able to intercept missiles coming from Russia.  Even if we never once put Aegis warships (or improved sea-based follow-ons) in the waters of the Arctic, where they would have to be stationed to intercept ICBMs aimed at us over the North Pole — we could.  Russia won’t simply take our word for it that we aren’t going to.

I’m not counting on Obama to get this dialogue with Russia on a better footing, and inform Russia that her objections do not constitute a veto over our missile defense plans.  Bush started down the right track, but wanted to avoid a pitched confrontation with Russia over this issue.  His administration thus never acknowledged what is true:  that interceptors in Poland could have taken out Russian missiles launched on certain vectors, particularly missiles launched at Europe.  Of course they could have.  Well-meaning media commentators had to use a set of static, narrow, and easily-breached assumptions to insist that the Polish site was out of position to intercept Russian missiles — and it would have been far better for us to spare ourselves the trouble, and acknowledge that we and Russia differ on this issue.

The question remains, and Russia knows her answer to it.  Should Moscow be able to hold us and our allies at risk with nuclear weapons, as the primary means of retaining a basis of national power and guaranteeing her security?  This question, however simple it is for Russia, has been a tough one for us.  Obama is acting as if we have agreed on one particular answer.  Is he right?

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Responses

  1. Do you foresee, in the next decade, any point of conflict with the Russians that would possibly lead to threat of nuclear war?

  2. This is all a good reason, in my mind, to ramp up our production of oil and gas and coal and nuclear power. If we can reduce the amount of fossil fuels that have to buy from others AND cut down the the world price for a barrel of oil, most of these Russia problems would disappear. Russia’s economy is so heavily dependent on oil and gas that it would collapse I think if those revenues were taken away – or even reduced significantly.

    The left of course fights tooth and nail to prevent us from drilling for our abundant fossil fuel supplies and for opening up new nuclear reactors. Unshackle those industries and the benefits for the USA are enormous. Revenues for us that otherwise go to Russia, Iran, Venezuela and terror sponsoring Arabs. Less Russian mafia like intimidation, less Hugo Chavez revolutionary socialism, less influence of terror sponsoring states, less money for terrorists themselves.

    It’s awfully frustrating that we leave these guns in their holster. The priorities of the left are, to me, anathema to the well being of this country.

  3. Ritchie, I kinda had the idea that, following the end of WWII, the US made a strategic determination that we
    would not spend our own oil resources until the rest of the world’s were exhausted.
    Not really a decision to be laid at the feet of those bad, bad liberals.

    • Fuster: What is your evidence for your assertion re the strategic determination you claim was made?

      • He’s probably talking about the various schemes establishing Naval Petroleum Reserves, the stories of which are a very good argument for keeping the government out of energy. The entire Defense Depeartment now uses something like 1% of U.S. energy production, which shows the ridiculousness of those old time guys worrying about the navy not having enough oil for ship propulsion if they should ‘let it all be used up.’

  4. That seems an imminently blinkered idea that put’s us at the mercy of the Ilkwan tribes, the
    Venezuelan junta and the Russian siloviki, all those parties that are actually developing our own resources. Russia’s more nationalist now, more like the nasty old czars that started pogroms and/or Bismark’s Germany

  5. Welcome, narciso. Your comments will post immediately from now on. And I agree, Russia has reverted to her longstanding form of “nationalism,” which I would characterize more as hegemonism. It’s unquestionably a major element of Russia’s strategy (under Putin, who is a quintessentially Russian strong man) to control as many natural resources as possible, and prevent competition and market freedom from rendering price benefits to buyers.

    RE — I absolutely agree we need to be drilling and refining in the USA, and off our shores. The big things we would do with that are (a) drive the world price of oil down to a lower point of stability, because of the increase in GLOBAL supply and the decrease in US demand for imports; and (b) kick-start our economy with revenue, jobs, and lower-cost energy.

    If we want to be able to foster energy independence for Europe, Japan, and South Korea, we have to have a high-functioning economy. The best favor we could do the resource-hegemony aspirations of Russia and China is impoverish ourselves with the fanatical ideology of climate-changeism.

  6. Far from being clever, the alleged deliberate strategy of not drilling our own oil until the world’s supply is depleted is foolish. As oil becomes more scarce (if it does) other technologies will come on line because they will be economically sound. We want to develop those, not rely for those on other nations.

    Of course, the last I heard the problem wiht driling for oil in the US hinged on environmental protection–the same factor that cripples our nuclear energy production.

  7. It was the right idea when it was adopted, Margo.

  8. The Russians made a big stink and prevented a tiny implementation of land based interceptors which would have been easy for them to monitor, and easy for them to knock out if desired, so they could have felt perfectly safe if they weren’t paranoid as groundhogs.

    If they now complain about the alternative, which is ship based systems that they can’t monitor and that can be surged to provide any level of capability desired we should tell them to pound sand. Let them be terrified. They’re probably happier terrified.

  9. fuster, is it the right idea now? So what if it was right when it was adopted? It’s not a good idea now, so let’s lift the restrictions. Virtually every conservative/Republican wants to do so. The liberals have blocked such efforts.

    • I couldn’t say that it’s the right idea now, or even since the mid-70s, but I’m not sure that lifting the restrictions isn’t also an idea that’s time has passed.

  10. Ritchie, it’s very mysterious, isn’t it? Here’s the key: It’s never the right idea for America to do thinks that make the country and its citizens more self-reliant. Green energy is OK, because it is government sponsored, making the citizens less self-reliant, and also because it won’t work. But nuclear and oil, based on technologies we now have and independent organizational capabilities now in existence and independent (to an extent) of the government, are never a good idea.

  11. Margo, it is a little mysterious. However, after years of reading about such desires and policies of the left, I’ve come to the conclusion that progressives, above all else, desire social control. They want to shape our lives so that we drive the “proper” cars and eat the “proper” food and that we all have the “proper” sort of healthcare.

    The environment? That’s just the vehicle they use to get to the ultimate destination – govt control, so as to be able to dictate to the masses the “proper” way to live so we can all achieve a form of utopia (as defined by progressives). I sincerely doubt that, if I could snap my fingers and make all of our environmental “problems” disappear, the progressives would be truly happy about it. They’d be robbed of the opportunity to institute laws and regulations that would dictate to us how we “should” live our lives.

  12. Ritchie, so true. All the more difficult to combat because it is a sort of instinctive move rather than a thought-out strategy for the left.

  13. “The Russians still predicate their concept of national power on being able to hold Europe and the US at risk with long-range ballistic missiles.

    They will never cease objecting to American missile defense plans, because all of the ones we would reasonably come up with might, in fact, be used to defend us and our allies against Russia’s missiles, as well as against anyone else’s.”

    Exactly correct. From any military’s point of view, anything that lessens your capabilities and increases an actual or a potential opponent’s capabilities, is de facto a military advantage and therefore a BAD thing.

    If the situation were reversed, we would think exactly as the Russians do.

    The Russians know that they can’t catch up to us technologically, they haven’t the technological prowess to create their own robust missile defense system, especially as their ‘reaction time frame’ for response to an attack is so much shorter than ours.

    So the only hope they have for military parity is MAD.

    As they have no other viable military strategy for self-defense, military parity is vital.

    That said, they are certainly pursuing a covert strategy using rogue nation/terrorist proxy agents against the US and, it’s working.

  14. Oops, didn’t close off the italics correctly in my comment above. My response starts at “Exactly correct”.

    “Green energy is OK, because it is government sponsored, making the citizens less self-reliant, and also because it won’t work.”

    Short-term, oil and gas exploration and efficient nuclear power plants are the way to go.

    Long term, alternative energy generation is a vital, national security issue.

    There is nothing inherent to alternative energy research and development that requires government through sponsorship to control it. How that research and development is structured and promoted is the key factor.

    Government needs to provide significant, long term incentives for private enterprise to pursue research and development and, then get out of the way.

  15. Geoffrey, I’m hoping that “get out of the way” is going to be a significant mind set in our next batch of politicians. I’d love to see the spirit of the tea parties manifest itself in as many future “hands-off” politicians as possible. I feel as if “get out of the way” is about the biggest favor our elected officials can do for us. Especially when factoring in who our elected officials currently are.

  16. I very much agree that energy self-reliance is very important for America’s future. But I worry about the government start-up.

    Nuclear power did get an early government start with basic research, and government then did get out of the way. For a while at least. Now excessive regulation is the main reason nuclear cannot be expanded.

    Many of the green technologies on the table now have had their basic research done decades or even centuries ago. Wind and solar are well researched; they just have inherent limitations for scale-up. What is needed here is practical invention, and that should depend on cost/benefit calculations–which the government cannot make. Private industry has made those calculations and concluded that except as window-dressing and magnets to lure government funds, these technologies are not worth investment.

    While we are preserving our energy independence from the rest of the world we need to be careful not to hollow out our society into a command economy with the irrational investments and stagnation that accompany such economies.

  17. “Wind and solar are well researched; they just have inherent limitations for scale-up. What is needed here is practical invention”

    Wind is inherently a low density energy source. Solar much less so. Current efficiencies do not allow for large-scale energy generation & distribution of solar but the technology is advancing. A real problem for solar is it’s variability and an inherent limitation; nighttime. Energy storage is also a real problem for solar.

    There are attractive alternative energy generation technologies that show real promise but are 20-50 yrs out from large scale implementation. Nuclear Fusion, hydrogen fuel cells and geothermal are but a few.

    I believe that practical invention will hold paradigm changing promise for the future.

    Till then we will have to use our oil, gas and nuclear resources wisely which, as we all know, we are not presently doing.

  18. Isn’t it amazing how the missile shield, suposedly to intercept Iranian missiles, somehow evolved into a pretext for putting the uppity Ruskies back in their box. The Russians got the message. Loud and clear. The message is “We own Eastern Europe now, dude”.

    Lets have some straight thinking here. If either the Russians or ourselves had a nuclear exchange the result would be unthinkable. This (in case anyone has forgotten) is called mutually assured destruction. All the missile shields in the world would only stop a small percentage of the thousands of agents of devastation we and they still retain. The Russians know this. We know this.

    So, the only purpose of the shield was (unnecessarily) to poke a finger in the eyes of the Russians. They predictably poked back. They refused to co-operate on Iran. Another stroke of neo-con genius up there with the war on Iraq – a useless missile shield at the expense of Russian co-operation on a matter of vital US interest.

    Thankfully, someone in the administration decided to get a grip on this. We are now in the process of reversing the damage. We are to have a missile defence more appropriate to the actual Iranian threat (such as it is), and the Russians are beginning to re-engage with us on Iran.

    This debacle (courtesy of the Cheney gang)showed that we don’t own Eastern Europe. Neither do the Russians. They already knew that. Eastern Europe now owns itself. All opinion polls showed the people of Poland etc. were overwhelming in their opposition to asisting this empty provocation by providing a site for the missiles. And just in case some of you think that this is because they are somehow intimidated by the Russians. They aren’t. Remember, these are the same people who actually put their derrieres on the line to get their freedom from the Russians. The Cheney gang, so quick to shout “appeasement” never put their own (I’m thinking here of grey/brown ungulates with long ears) on the line for anything.

    • “the Russians are beginning to re-engage with us on Iran.”

      When was that?

      I think you underestimate the Russians. The missiles are secondary. The Russians have made up their mind that Iran is going to be a nuclear power, it is going to be our problem, not theirs and they are acting accordingly. That is what rational strategic thinking is. Throwing fits over missiles they know full well cannot hurt them – that´s for public consumption.

      If I am wrong, then we are looking for rational behavior in a nation that could be forced by Dick Cheney to conduct assassinations by polonium enema in the middle of Europe. That´s even worse.

    • Your theory also works only in isolation. As it breaks down when you look at Russia´s behavior and interests as a whole, it also cannot explain the Obama foreign policy in general. Kissing up to a former opponent is nothing new – we have done it before. But kissing up to all of them, with nothing to show for in return? And then at the same time alienating a whole lot of allies? W. worked successfully to improve our relationship with India. Obama´s first snub took only hours. India counts a whole lot more than Sudan or Venezuela, no? Is that realism? Is it realism to insult Gordon Brown (several times), bully Israel and Honduras, expose the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic to ridicule?

      I´m afraid the explanation has more to do with Obama´s psychological makeup than anything else. In the end, Obama doesn´t care about foreign policy at all. His enemies are found at home. He cares about fundamentally changing America. And when he said that, it was one time he told the truth.

  19. [...] Russians never bought off on Reagan’s determination to end the “MAD” nuclear stand-off, or on Bush II’s announcement in [...]

  20. […] Obama cancelou o plano de Bush, em 2009, modificou o escopo e o propósito da missão de defesa de mísseis de grande alcance na sua revisão. Em vez de defender a Europa e os Estados Unidos contra mísseis lançados do sul da Ásia, o plano de Obama defende apenas a Europa, pelo menos até 2018 e provavelmente até bem depois. (Não há nenhum cronograma concreto para a implantação de uma capacidade de defesa contra mísseis balísticos intercontinentais lançados neste eixo.) […]


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