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Russia Packs New Missiles For Opening Talks With US Over ABM

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Greg Austin
Brussels (UPI) Nov 17, 2008
Barely one hour after Barack Obama's victory speech, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced plans to deploy missiles in Russia's westernmost region of Kaliningrad that could attack U.S. military targets in Poland. The targets are limited, small in number and do not yet really exist: They will exist if and when the United States completes the ballistic missile defense system it plans to place in Poland, along with a sophisticated radar component in the Czech Republic.

The reaction in Europe and the United States ranged from outrage in Poland to serious concern at NATO headquarters and disappointment in the White House. Russia claims it has been backed into a corner by U.S. erosion of key cornerstones of European and global security and by aggressive moves to expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into areas that affect Russia's vital security interests.

How did we arrive at this point? Russia sees new threats from NATO and the United States, and they see new threats from Russia. And even where they see common dangers -- as in the case of potential and actual missile threats from Asia and the Middle East -- they cannot find common ground on how to deal with them. How do we reverse this steady escalation of tension and confrontation?

Twenty years ago Moscow and Washington agreed on the radical measure of eliminating all intermediate-range nuclear forces. This year, to mark the anniversary of the treaty that banned them, the two countries launched a bid to have other countries join that treaty and commit to a total ban on intermediate nuclear forces. The treaty was the direct result of Russia's adoption of the principle of common security, an idea captured in the phrase "our common European home." The missile ban was a direct response to the massive public outcry over deployment of missiles in Europe in the 1980s.

Both sides say they want peaceful relations. In 2008, despite the simmering tensions over U.S. plans to deploy the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, the United States and Russia expressed interest in developing a joint ballistic missile defense system in response to shared perceptions of potential nuclear missile threats from Asia. The two countries also expanded their global initiative to prevent nuclear terrorism.

But neither side is prepared to de-escalate first. While Russia and the United States no longer actively prepare for or expect large-scale war with each other, both countries have massive nuclear arsenals that tacitly threaten each other, even if these forces have been de-targeted since the mid-1990s. Influential figures in both countries do not yet trust each other as much as the transition from enemy status during the Cold War implies they should.

Thus, the not-so-distant history of strategic military confrontation between the two countries continues to hamper the transition to a relationship based on trust. The spirit of cooperation between the two countries on strategic military posture is now arguably worse than at any time since 1991. This was the message of the speech made by President Vladimir Putin in Munich in February 2007 and reiterated in numerous ways since -- and things got decidedly worse with current President Dmitry Medvedev's speech after the U.S. election.

The United States is not comfortable with Russian military spending, its military "space denial" policies, and what Washington sees as less than complete concurrence on weapons of mass destruction and other proliferation issues. For its part, Russia is looking for change in U.S. forward-basing policies, especially missile defense, and some renegotiation of what Russia sees as unequal arms control treaties of the 1990s.

Both also want important changes in the geopolitical behavior of the other: Russia wants an end to what it sees as the U.S. impulse to use military force on a unilateral basis (without U.N. Security Council approval), and the United States wants an end to what it sees as Russian hegemonic policies toward its near neighbors, especially its direct military support for the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia.

The two countries are at loggerheads in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in a way that may threaten the organization's very existence.

Russia has proposed a new security treaty for Europe, and NATO has not revised its security concept since 1999. When it comes to discussing mutual military relationships, the mood in Brussels and Moscow is bristling and angry.

(Part 2: The growing hostility between Russia and the United States has many sources.)

(Greg Austin has a 30-year career in international affairs, including senior posts in academia and government, and is the author of several highly reviewed books on international security. He is vice president for policy innovation at the EastWest Institute, which first published a version of this article.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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Marshalls landowners could lose millions in US missile base row
Majuro (AFP) Nov 14, 2008
Traditional landowners at a US missile base in the Marshall Islands stand to lose nearly 21 million dollars if a stalemate over a new lease is not broken by December 17.







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