President Obama has decided to scrap plans for a US missile defence shield system in Eastern Europe. Proposed by the Bush government as a land version of Reagan’s space-based ‘star wars’ scheme, they planned 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and radar in Czechoslovakia. NATO had already been expanded to include these two former Warsaw Pact members.
None of this of course had anything to do with surrounding Russia with potentially hostile weaponery and US allies, but strangely President Putin found Bush’s scheme very provocative in a supposedly post Cold War environment. Use of the term ‘defence shield’ did not reassure him.
No, it was aimed at protecting the U.S. and allies from long-range missile attacks from Iran or elsewhere in the Middle East! Basic geography suggests a Persian missile would have to fly across Turkey, Western Europe, Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean before sighting Manhattan. Apparently the defence shield was best located next to Russia rather than in any of these locations, including aircraft carriers or nuclear submarines.
Clearly Putin was just excessively paranoid and those inclusive Americans were worried about European allies being struck by hardline Islamist rockets. Israelis are a tad closer to Iran than everybody else, but are not worried. Defence Minister Barak sees no existential threat to Israel from Iran or any other country.
Diplomatic pundits reckon that Obama’s decision clears the way to get Russia’s help with putting more pressure on Iran’s nuclear weapons plans, and also upcoming talks on international nuclear disarmament.
Geo-politics and strategy is sometimes a mesmerising business, but at least in this case, hope springs eternal for common sense to prevail. See START.