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Missiles In Kaliningrad

To openly deploy ballistic missiles in the Kaliningrad region would be a huge escalation of tensions between East and West in Central Europe.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Jul 05, 2007
The ballistic missile defense showdown in Central Europe between the United States and Russia took another grim leap forward this week: Russian First Deputy Premier and former Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that if the Bush administration pushed ahead with its plans, Russia would respond by openly deploying ballistic missiles targeted on the bases in its oblast or region of Kaliningrad.

Why bother to make the announcement at all? Or to stipulate that the missiles would be deployed in Kaliningrad? After all, neither the Polish interceptor base nor the Czech radar facilities will be operational before 2009 at the earliest, possibly later. And by then, a Democratic president may well be installed in the White House who is ready to play ball with the Russians and scrap President George W. Bush's BMD deployment plan in Central Europe entirely. Already, the Democratic-controlled 110th Congress has been moving cautiously but purposefully to slash funding for the program and, where the political heat was too much, to do it outright, delay funding or link it to caveats and reassessments in the future.

But the Kremlin has never seen the plan to build the bases as "only" about BMD to protect Europe and the United States from Iranian nuclear missiles. They see it as the biggest, boldest bridgehead yet in the U.S. and NATO encroachment on the old former Soviet area's sphere of influence in Central Europe and even among the former Soviet republics of the so-called "near abroad" that for decades -- and in many cases for centuries -- were part of the Soviet or Russian Empires.

The Russian government's response, as articulated by Ivanov, was not primarily about the nuts and bolts of BMD issues, or even about maintaining the mutual assured destruction, or MAD, balance between Russia and the United States that has maintained the overall peace of the world for the past six decades. It was primarily a hard-ball political message sent to Washington, to the Czech Republic and most of all to Poland: "Do not take your security and the stability of Central Europe for granted if you continue to ignore us."

Kaliningrad, although utterly ignored by the American news media, remains one of the most important potential flashpoints and security issues between Russia and the nations of the European Union.

Like East Prussia, the independent city of Danzig -- today Polish Gdansk -- and the Polish corridor in the two decades between World Wars I and II, Kaliningrad is a messy, potentially explosive geopolitical anomaly left over from the Cold War. The oblast, or region, is in an integral part of the Russian federation. But it is cut off from any land contact with the rest of Russia and its land borders are with Lithuania and Poland, both pro-Western, traditionally fiercely anti-Russian former Soviet client states. Lithuania was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union for half a century. Today, both Poland and Lithuania are member states of the European Union and the U.S.-led NATO alliance.

Kaliningrad was up to 1945 the traditionally German city of Koenigsberg and an ancient center of culture and learning. But in the years since the collapse of communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, it has become the Russian "Gibraltar" -- the last outpost of Russian military and strategic power on the Baltic and a potential area from which Moscow could put pressure on Lithuania and Poland.

To openly deploy ballistic missiles in the Kaliningrad region would be a huge escalation of tensions between East and West in Central Europe.

Reporting Ivanov's threat Thursday, the pro-Western Baltic Times commented, "It may be no coincidence that the Russian threat to boost its military presence in the Baltic came on the same day that Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus signed a bill confirming construction of a new pan-Baltic nuclear power plant on his country's territory. Lithuania has been joined by Latvia, Estonia and Poland in the project but rejected Russian demands that it should be allowed to tender for the job of building the plant."

Poland, the Czech Republic and the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have all been eager to embrace their EU and NATO identities and to turn their back on Russia, their huge old neighbor to the east. All five nations have assumed that the guarantee of security they enjoy under Article 5 of the 1949 Washington Treaty that founded NATO will forever protect them against any future pressure or threats from Moscow.

Over the past 14 years, Democratic and Republican presidents and policymakers alike have eagerly expanded NATO farther and farther east, confident that in doing so they were stabilizing Central Europe behind the U.S. nuclear and military shield.

But with the U.S. Army bogged down worse than ever in Iraq, and other security threats and potential challenges beckoning around the world from Iran through China to North Korea, the U.S. ability to continually ensure that guarantee looks increasingly questionable.

The policy of deploying BMD assets in Central Europe makes a great deal of sense from the narrow perspective of defending the United States and Western Europe against Iranian nuclear armed missiles. But it now threatens to set off a huge anti-Western reaction on the part of Russian policymakers that could create far greater and more immediate threats than the one the BMD interceptors are intended to counter.

Source: United Press International

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Interpreting Nukes In Japan
Washington (UPI) Jul 05, 2007
If the United States had not dropped nuclear bombs on Japan, World War II could have dragged on even longer and claimed more Japanese as well as American lives. That line of thinking is a mainstream U.S. theory when justifying the Truman administration's decision to attack Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. But merely mouthing that idea in front of a group of university students is ill-advised for a public figure, as Japan's defense minister found out earlier this week.

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