UPI International Editor
Washington (UPI) June 06, 2007
If U.S. President George W. Bush follows through with his controversial plan to set up a defensive missile shield in two former Warsaw Pact countries, years from now historians will be asking which came first: the missile shield to protect Western allies from rogue states, or a coalition of rogue states assembled by Russia to counter the missile shield proposed by the United States?
Russia's President Vladimir Putin said he would respond to the U.S. plan by pointing Russian missiles at Western European cities. In the unlikely event that this highly explosive tit-for-tat were to develop into a new arms race, Putin knows that in spite of Russia's newly found wealth thanks to the rising price of oil, Moscow would still have a hard time matching dollar for dollar the United States of America.
"The West does not have an effective strategy of dealing with the challenges posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin," said Andrei Illarionov, Putin's former economic adviser and G8 sherpa, now a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.
"Russians are not so stupid as to match the U.S. system-by-system because the U.S. has an economy that is 13 times bigger than Russia's economy," Ariel Cohen, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told United Press International.
"The Russians will confront the U.S. in an asymmetrical fashion," said Cohen. "And that is through using energy resources as the new instruments of foreign policy and political insolence, through supporting the anti-American forces around the world."
Having learned the lessons of the Cold War that a direct confrontation with the United States is an expensive prospect and one that ultimately lost that war for Soviet Russia, what the Russians could end up doing instead is to challenge the United States indirectly. As an example, Cohen argued that the Russians could build a new coalition of "rogue states" that include Iran, Venezuela, possibly Cuba and North Korea and Syria -- and in the process making U.S. life miserable.
Additionally, the Russians could try to play the Chinese card against the United States. If that were to happen, the Heritage scholar points out the irony of such a move on Moscow's part.
"Whichever future coalition may be created, Russia is doomed to play second fiddle to China," said Cohen. "If China becomes a part of this coalition, Russia will play second fiddle, and if the coalition does not include China it will probably not have the critical mass to severely obstruct U.S. foreign policy."
Still, Bush's plan to install a system of "defensive missiles" in the Czech Republic and Poland has the Russians seeing red.
The U.S. president's attempts at placating the Russian president seem to fall on deaf ears; Bush told Putin that the missile shield is intended to protect the United States and its European Allies from rogue states -- read here Iran -- now on its way to acquiring nuclear capability. And should Tehran equip its Shehab-3 missiles with nuclear warheads, they would be in a position to strike any European city within a range of about 1,300 kilometers, or 880 miles; or any city in Israel for that matter.
"Vladimir, you shouldn't fear a missile defense system," Bush told Putin. "It is purely a defensive measure, not aimed at Russia but at true threats."
But there is also more to this "Cuban missile crisis" in reverse than meets the eye. As Cohen, an expert on Russian affairs elucidates, there's a very important domestic component to this story.
"There is competition for Putin's mantle for succession and by putting out signals that Russia is confronting foreign and domestic enemies, I think Putin is signaling that he's going to support a more security-minded faction as opposed to a more economic-minded fraction."
But Washington should not blind itself to the realities of modern Russia, one that has adopted a free market economy. Indeed, there are many hidden dangers that come with Bush's missile plan, and not least of them is the economic factor.
Ultimately, it was the Soviet Union's inability to keep up with the United States' military spending that finally bankrupted the Soviet Union.
At a time when the United States is involved in fighting two wars -- in Iraq and Afghanistan -- at a cost of $811 billion to date -- Washington should be careful not to fall into the very trap it set for Soviet Russia at the height of the Cold War.
Source: United Press International
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GAO Tips The Scales On ABM
Washington (UPI) June 01, 2007
A recent upbeat GAO assessment of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's record in Fiscal Year 2006 may have influenced Democratic lawmakers in Congress to back the program. "Over the next five years the Missile Defense Agency expects to invest $49 billion in the Ballistic Missile Defense system's development and fielding. MDA's strategy is to field new capabilities in two-year blocks," said the March 2007 report, which the U.S. Congress mandated as the Government Accountability Office's annual record of the MDA's progress during fiscal year 2006.
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