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Monday, September 21, 2009

Missile question 



In last Friday's AP "Analysis" piece on the abandonment of the missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, Mike Eckel wrote in the fifth paragraph:
"Missile defense in Eastern Europe was arguably the most serious thorn in the U.S.-Russian relationship, with Moscow repeatedly and angrily insisting that the system was pointless against an imagined Iranian threat — and was a grave threat to Russian national security."
Now, obviously there are layers of politics involved in this decision, and it is not one that national security hawks are inclined to like. Setting that aside for the moment, my question is purely from the standpoint of the missile hardware that the U.S. had planned to deploy, and now will not.

My understanding had been that an anti-missile missile -- a missile used to shoot down an incoming offensive missile -- has itself very little offensive capability, nor can it easily be reconfigured to have offensive capability. How would such a system pose a "grave threat to Russian national security," as Eckel characterized Moscow's protestations? Did Moscow mean it in the sense of the argument put forward during the Cold War that any weapons system that threatened the concept of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction, that each side would annihilate the other in a nuclear exchange) was inherently destabilizing and indeed provocative? Or is it a grave threat in some other sense? Or is my initial technical assumption incorrect, and the missiles could in fact become offensive? If anyone has knowledge about such weapons systems (Dawnfire?), I am curious.

34 Comments:

By Anonymous tyree, at Mon Sep 21, 02:01:00 AM:

From what I understand about anti-missile systems, they are not useful at all in on the offense.

I will try to get an email out to my cousin, who commanded a Patriot missile battery in Turkey during the Gulf War and ask him.

You would think the Eckel would have thought of the same thing you did and not just automatically parrot the Russian political statement.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 21, 02:12:00 AM:

The missile system is symbolic. The thorn in the side of the Russians was the implicit guarantee of security the US missile system provided the Poles and Czechs. Its the symbolism that's important here. Its the reason the Russians are now happy and both the Polish and Czech governments feel betrayed.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 21, 07:10:00 AM:

While I know nothing about the technical facts, I do know this administration move has been perceived in Europe as unilateral disarmament. Like it or not, the governments most directly affected see it in the worst possible terms. Moreover, they were surprised by the failure to consult with them. Judging from Obama's goals of consultation, cooperative effort vis a vis the Russians and Iranians, and judicious action, this policy is a startling failure.

Obama, though, .thinks he's done spectacularly well. Arrogance knows no bounds with him, none at all. Foreign policy is easy; it's talking to the American people that's proven difficult, because, well, you have to make the message easy to understand. Because they aren't so smart. World leaders, though, are great to deal with- they really get it.  

By Blogger SR, at Mon Sep 21, 09:28:00 AM:

Obama is a flim flam man, and Americans have spotted it finally. Euros are just getting it as well.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 21, 09:46:00 AM:

What difference does it make? Chimpy the Kenyan got a direct order from the head commie and did what he was told. End of story!  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 21, 09:57:00 AM:

An anti air or missile missile, contains a relatively small charge of explosive. The idea is to get it near an incoming missile or air craft and explode into a cloud of shrapnel. The high speed aircraft of missile would than be shredded past the point of flying (accurately anyway).

By contrast, a land attack missile carries hundreds of pounds of high explosive where as an anti aircraft or missile missile carries tens of pounds of high explosive.

So an AAM isn't much of an offensive threat because of its quite small payload, and in most cases it would be impossible to reconfigure to strike a ground target.  

By Anonymous E Hines, at Mon Sep 21, 10:27:00 AM:

Further to what Anonymous said (not the racist one, but the serious one following), it may be possible to fit a nuclear warhead into the anti-missile missile, but the guidance system is all wrong for offensive use. What goes up will come down, but this weapon used in a surface-to-surface role would be no more effective--and probably less so--than a SCUD.

Russia's concern more likely was that it could be used to knock down their own ICBMs/MRBMs launched at Europe. And it was an opportunity to poke a stick in the US' eye, and Mr Obama blinked, thereby surrendering Poland, The Czech Republic, The Ukraine, and Georgia, et al., to resumed Russian slavery.

Eric Hines  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Mon Sep 21, 10:33:00 AM:

The first thing you have to assume with any official statement from Russia is they are lying. It has been that way since long before I was born.

The second thing to think of is “How does this statement promote the long-term Soviet style goals of Russia, regardless of its truth?”

The simple truth is that an effective ABM system in Poland would prevent Russia from carrying out any small-scale, or “Demonstration” missile strikes in Poland or the immediate area, and would complicate any large-scale missile strikes. This would remove/change from the Russian playbook such lovingly crafted scenarios such as “Gee that’s a nice city/port/pipeline you have there, be a shame if something happened to it.” Or “Lets re-enact the liberation of Poland”. There is not a single way that the ABM system planned for deployment could be used in an offensive manner against Russia. But it could stop an attack by Russia, therefore it is a Bad Thing.

In theory, mounting the interceptors in ships at sea is supposed to provide just as good or better coverage, or at least that is what people who do not want to put interceptors inside Poland are saying. In practice, ships hundreds of miles away from the target, who can be sunk by submarines and other ships, or simply withdrawn for no reason, make for lousy ABM platforms. But good ASW targets. (Anti-Surface Warfare)

In practice, Obama has traded our long-term support for Poland for a short-term commitment by Russia to “allow” us to continue logistics support by air to Afghanistan, for a period of time to be determined later (by Russia, of course). If there were an office pool on when the Russians will withdraw that permission, I would bet on 2011, right during the presidential campaign (unless certain other “requests” were met).  

By Blogger Neil Sinhababu, at Mon Sep 21, 10:33:00 AM:

Another issue is just that Russia doesn't want us having tight military relationships with states very close to it. I don't know whether to say this is unreasonable or not, but we'd probably get a bit nervous if China was developing military alliances with Central American governments. With a country like Russia whose national prestige largely is coasting on its past Cold War superpowerhood, it's going to be an especially big issue.  

By Anonymous Edward Lunny, at Mon Sep 21, 10:45:00 AM:

Perhaps the real question should be. Why are we so concerned about what the Russians, or any other foreign power for that matter, thinks about our relationships with our allies ? We know the capabilities and limitations of the preposed system, they have some inteligence regarding the same information. Why we are in the least concerned about the "noise" that the Russians are making is ridiculous. We should recognise, identify, and openly label as bluster and noise the kind of static eminating from the Russians and those of that bent. In the grand scheme of things, that the Russians are unhappy is irrelevent. Our security,that of our allies is infinitely more important.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 21, 10:45:00 AM:

Nuclear missiles are above my pay grade. I suspect that people in Poland etc will focus on the symbolism of Bush proposing a shield but then Obama taking it away -- they're on their own.

What may prove more important than nuclear missiles is nuclear reactors. Merkel is trying to steer Germany away from phasing out the nuclear reactors it has. Many German voters instead want to pursue the chimera of green energy. It won't work -- they'll be left more dependent on Russian gas. A future Putin can always threaten to let them freeze in the dark.

Link, over  

By Anonymous SouthernRoots, at Mon Sep 21, 10:57:00 AM:

I think that missile defense is seen by the Russians as destabilizing in the world of MAD.

If countries have ballistic nuclear weapons, but one country has developed a way to destroy incoming missles, then it gives the impression that a first strike is now possible and "survivable", severely diluting MAD.

So, based on this impression, the anti-ballistic missles defense isn't the primary threat, but they enable the primary threat.

All that said, I'm totally for a anti-missle missle defense system.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Sep 21, 11:23:00 AM:

I think that 2nd Anonymous, Georgfelis, and Neil nailed the salient points.

ABM missiles are totally useless for offensive operations. To make them useful, you have to replace so many things that they will no longer be ABM missiles anymore, and doing so would be a time consuming waste of resources anyway if you already have other, proper offensive weaponry. You may as well build new missiles.

The issue is much more symbolic and political than military; it's indicative of the US's willingness to abandon distant friends for political expediency. For the E. Europeans involved, having US troops stationed in their countries would also have been a form of guarantee against attack even though they were merely ABM guys. It's one thing to seize some land from a weak neighbor (like Georgia), and another to kill or capture soldiers of a powerful enemy while doing so; it complicates everything. (that Poland is a member of NATO is often overlooked; lots of people don't really believe that NATO would bleed for Poland)

This move will ensure: 1) the continued possibility of long range missiles launched by Middle Eastern powers (read: Iran) striking Europe, 2) that US troops will not be living breathing security guarantees for the E. European nations, and 3) that the Russians understand that they will in fact be able to establish their imperial 'sphere of influence.'

I expect a secondary fallout as well. Other countries on the Russian borders see this in basic terms: small countries friendly to American were abandoned to the Russians. America is far away and their guarantees are temporary and unsteady (stupid democracies, with their musical chairs rotational leadership), whereas the Russian threat is ever-present and continuous. Such countries who may well have contemplated aligning with the US over Russia (like in the Balkans, Baltic, Caucasus, and Central Asia) will certainly be having second thoughts.

And all of this in return for a spigot of aid in Afghanistan which, as another commenter pointed out, can be turned off whenever it's politically expedient just like the Russians periodically turn off the gas to Europe in order to extract more concessions.

This is a strategic mistake of the first order, made by idealistic amateurs who actually believe the Cold War horse-shit that the Russians are a gentle, peace-loving people who merely seem bellicose in response to American provocations. And it's another step in the slide towards multi-polarity, the best soil for a World War III.  

By Anonymous Mr. Ed, at Mon Sep 21, 11:27:00 AM:

TH, I think you got your answer here in a number of posts. Remember that Obama plays checkers (with strong opponents I should say--with weak opponents like Honduras he can be really ruthless) and Putin plays chess.

A strategic aim of Russia is to become a great economic power, and to become geographically secure, by becoming vital to other economies in Europe and West Asia. Thus the policy of feeding gas to Europe and controlling the pipelines and preventing alternate pipelines from being built. At some point the threat of military force or not wanting to anger them is useful in setting the terms of trade.

Russia also has a serious demographic problem in that non-ethnically Russian moslems will be the majority group in Russia in less than 50 years. There isn't much Russia can do about that in terms of re-populating, they are just too far behind in the birth rate race.

So at some point Russia is going to have to face the stark choice of becoming a non-Russian country or breaking up and selling off the moslem portions (which may have valuable national resources) or it is going to have to arrange a merger with other East European countries who can give it a chance to grow their demographic base. Mergers can be hostile or friendly but both options are available if you have good board position (militarily).

In chess anything that tends to limit the options of your opponent is offensive. Anything that allows East Europe to be militarily and politically closely aligned with the US is a strategic threat to Russia.

To be fair to Obama, we may have received something of equal value from Russia and it might not be public or become public any time soon. But in my view there is no getting around the fact, despite all the good team player nonsense from Secretary Gates, that the US made a strategic concession to the Russians. Only a fool, or someone that "doesn't have a clue", would do that and not get something of equal value in return.

We have not only made a strategic concession to Russia, we have screwed our friends, again, and this diminishes our respect in the eyes of others, our power, and our ability to further our strategic and benevolent aims in the world at large.

Change we ought to rebel against.

M.E.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Sep 21, 11:48:00 AM:

Since I brought up Cold War horse-shit, I thought I'd share some of it.

Henry Kissinger, on a Soviet KGB agent who served as director of the Moscow Institute of the United States and Canada, an 'academic' institution:

"[Arbatov] (the agent) was especially subtle in playing to the inexhaustible masochism of American intellectuals who took it as an article of faith that every difficulty in US - Soviet relations had to be caused by American stupidity or intransigence. He was endlessly ingenious in demonstrating how American rebuffs were frustrating the peaceful, sensitive leaders of the Kremlin, who were being driven reluctantly by our inflexibility into conflicts that offended their inherently gentle natures." - The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive

That is, American leftists of the day bought hook, line, and sinker Soviet propaganda that was put out by a bona fide KGB operative and his inferiors.

Another fun quotation from the same book, by one Malcolm Muggeridge, a British journalist in Russia in the 1930s:

"Their delighti n all they saw and were told, and the expression they gave to that delight, constitute unquestionably one of the wonders of our age. There were earnest advocates of the humane killing of cattle who looked up at the massive headquarters of the OGPU [later the KGB] with tears of gratitude in their eyes, earnest advocates of proportional representation who eagerly assented when the necessity for a Dictatorship of the Proletariat was explained to them, earnest clergymen who reverently turned the pages of atheistic literature, earnest pacifists who watched delightedly tanks rattle across Red Square and bombing planes darken the sky, earnest town-planning specialists who stood outside overcrowded ramshackle tenements and muttered: "If only we had something like this in England!" The almost unbelievable credulity of these mostly university educated tourists astounded even Soviet officials used to handling foreign visitors..."

For context, this quotation was explaining how the power of the Soviet myth as an idea peasant-worker paradise was so firmly entrenched in academia that witnessing the truth first hand utterly failed to change their minds.  

By Anonymous Polichinello, at Mon Sep 21, 12:02:00 PM:

Defensive weapons can protect offensive weapons. If the U.S. decided to deploy fighter-bombers to Poland to threaten the Russians, the ABM's would--theoretically--protect them. The Russians are further worried that this process will repeat if Ukraine and Georgia are allowed to join NATO. They could be looking at U.S. forces based on what used to be Soviet territory. Indeed, a good portion of Ukraine used to be Russian until the 1950s.

Now we like to think of NATO as purely defensive, but the Russians look at the first war NATO fought as an organization--the Kosovo bombing campaign--and see something entirely different. There you had a country that had not attacked any NATO nation bombed into submission over an affair entirely within its recognized borders. It then had its territory wrenched away and made into another country.

Well, if NATO gets an effective missile defense in place in E.Europe, Russia could become just as vulnerable as Serbia. They could be threatened over just about anything: the Chechens, the Georgians or not having gay day parades in Moscow (laugh, if you will, but with liberals satire is impossible!). So Moscow wants to keep any kind of capability as far away from their borders as possible. Otherwise, they're going to have to threaten global nuclear war over every little border incident, as all they'll have are their ICBM's.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Sep 21, 12:32:00 PM:

While you're correct about the Russian view of NATO, "If the U.S. decided to deploy fighter-bombers to Poland to threaten the Russians, the ABM's would--theoretically--protect them" isn't right. More precisely, it isn't applicable.

ABM means anti-ballistic missile. Specifically, nuclear. Why would Russia launch nuclear ballistic missiles at Poland to destroy some fighters? That's like using a sledge hammer to kill ants, a sledge hammer than then brands you with the mark of Cain and has immeasurable fallout. (political and otherwise) And if they were going to fight a nuclear war, why would a handful of ABM units in Poland be of greater concern than actual, strategic missile defenses in place to protect the continental United States?

The Russians aren't dumb. They know damn well that the ABM missiles aren't a military threat to them. They were political, if anything. And they know damn well that the US isn't going to surrender its own strategic defenses. They performed the same song and dance routine to President Bush, who told them to go to hell, and then dropped it to avoid looking impotent. They didn't start to bring Europe up again until the 2008 Presidential race (I wonder why). And by convincing Obama and co. that they THINK it's a threat and acting all huffy, and maybe playing on Obama's apparent hatred of all things nuclear (supposedly he's planning large scale unilateral cuts in US nuclear weapons stocks because, get this, they're 'his' [the president's] weapons) they got them removed in return for a 'favor' in Central Asia that 1) can be turned off whenever they want, and 2) might not amount to anything anyway because it looks like the US is going to blow it in Afghanistan. Score.

This idea that the Russians are nervous and scared and therefore justified sounds a lot like Arbatov's propaganda that I mentioned earlier. The Russians are ruthless, expansionist, and calculating, with a collectivist identity and a complete willingness to bow to authoritarian rule in return for glory. Moreover, they view the world as a zero-sum game. They are concerned with power, not peaceful co-existence. Forgetting that is a mistake.  

By Anonymous Perry The Cynic, at Mon Sep 21, 01:48:00 PM:

By their technical nature, ABM defenses must be able to "reach" towards the threat axis (so they can intercept before impact). Let's just say that ABM missiles are no respecters of national borders. This means that an operational missile shield system could be used to extend some cover to some of Russia's satellite nations, making a Russian threat of ballistic nuclear attack against them substantially weaker. Russia considers this a serious threat to their imperial ambition.

Such an ABM system poses a "grave threat to Russian national security" because Russia's national security doctrine relies on control of its satellites for its national security, and any attempt (however fancied) to loosen their hold over their satellites is considered an immediate, grave strategic threat.

Yes, that's paranoid, but it's how the Russians seem to see it...

Cheers
-- perry  

By Anonymous davod, at Mon Sep 21, 01:49:00 PM:

The Obamite advisors include some of the same people who objected to Reagan's move to put the missiles in Europe to combat the USSR offensive missiles.  

By Anonymous feeblemind, at Mon Sep 21, 02:13:00 PM:

Isn't Obama's attitude towards Poland, the Czechs, and Israel for that matter, at odds with what he preached on his apology tour? That happy horsesh*t about how the USA would no longer be arrogant and uncaring and everything would just be hunky-dory after all the reset buttons were pushed?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 21, 02:26:00 PM:

true face of obama out soon
, I do not believe  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 21, 05:36:00 PM:

Score one for the russians. The missile defense shield held 0 offensive threat to the ruskies. But it did limit their bullying ability in parts of europe. It appears that we sold out allies for zero return. Is isolationism making a return? Hope not! (see FDR remains "neutral" as hitler rapes europe)  

By Anonymous Polichinello, at Mon Sep 21, 06:21:00 PM:

ABM means anti-ballistic missile. Specifically, nuclear. Why would Russia launch nuclear ballistic missiles at Poland to destroy some fighters?

Ballistic missiles are not necessarily nuclear. The Scuds were ballistic. But even so, there's still a gradation between smaller tactical nukes and strategic nukes. If there is an ABM network in Europe defending threatening offensive forces, then Russians will have to up the ante. Instead of trying to take out an airbase, they'll have to look at taking out a number of American cities with MIRV's.

As for the "mark of Cain", well, if you want to rely on the Russians valuing our opinion of them over their sense of security, fine. It's not the bet I would take, though. I don't think you would either, given your last paragraph.

The Russians are ruthless, expansionist, and calculating, with a collectivist identity and a complete willingness to bow to authoritarian rule in return for glory.

Okay, let's say the Russians are the horrid creatures you allege. So what? They're a nation of 140 million and dropping. They're split internally between a number of ethnic, religious and linguistic groups. They lag us in every technological department.

Even if they wanted to, Russia probably couldn't take Ukraine, let alone hold it. The idea that they'd be able to march to Poland and beyond is laughable. So exactly why should this be our problem, and not that of Germany, France, Poland, Britain and the others, who can more than afford the cost? All of these countries alone have bigger economies than Russia.  

By Anonymous Patrick Armstrong, at Mon Sep 21, 08:00:00 PM:

Check this out
http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/2009/09/unguided-missiles.html#more
and then this
http://cstsp.aaas.org/content.html?contentid=1175  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue Sep 22, 12:13:00 AM:

"Ballistic missiles are not necessarily nuclear. The Scuds were ballistic."

I realize that. But building strategic ABM systems was not a response to SCUDS, and the Russkies did not not oppose them on those grounds.

"As for the "mark of Cain..."

My point was that one does not casually use nuclear arms. If they are going to be used, they are going to be used on a combatant nation in order to destroy it. Nuking Poland with strategic weapons makes no sense because of its proximity to Russia. A tactical nuke would be much more plausible (our own Cold War European defense plan incorporated those) but they don't have to be on big ass missiles vulnerable to ABM systems. Cruise missiles are perfectly adequate.

A point I wish I'd thought of before. An ABM site in Poland wouldn't be useful against the Russians anyway. Poland is a coastal nation, and is therefore vulnerable to submarine launched missiles which can be fired, peak, and land before a defense system can be activated or even before the national leadership is notified of the threat. These Russian submarines mostly live in the Baltic. This is why the USSR/US signed a treaty during the Cold War that forbade boomers from coming too close to coastlines; one side might decide that the other was attempting a decapitation strike and jump the gun, and it's part of the reason why submarine cat and mouse games weer such a big deal.

"horrid creatures you allege..."

I make no moral judgments on Russian foreign policy.

"They're a nation of 140 million and dropping... Even if they wanted to, Russia probably couldn't take Ukraine, let alone hold it."

Which is still triple the population of Ukraine. Also, 7.8 million of the 46 million people in Ukraine are actually Russian and are the dominant ethnicity in much of the eastern half of the country. Ukraine has an army of a whopping 75,000. The Russian Army probably has roughly 500,000 soldiers (they're cagey about the precise size, especially since its been in flux lately with a leadership reorganization) with many more reservists. That's a size difference of >6x.

The leading presidential candidate in the Ukraine is openly pro-Russian, and his strings go back to Moscow. Russia absolutely controls the country's gas supply and can starve it of heat and power. They don't HAVE to march into Ukraine any more than they have to march into Belarus. But if they did, they could enter from two directions; they have a large contingent of Army troops in Moldova.

"The idea that they'd be able to march to Poland and beyond is laughable."

Likewise, they have a couple of divisions of troops in Kaliningrad, on the border of Poland. Poland also has an army of about 75,000, so the Russians outstrip them by 6x as well. (Poland is mostly coal-powered, however, so a Russian monopoly on gas isn't crushing)

But this is all near term, and military force is only one part of strategic estimates. Russia is a highly centralized country, and its industries bow to Moscow. A Russian company moved to buy Repsol this year. Repsol is responsible more much of the LNG importation into Europe. Gazprom (also Russian) is an eager monopolist and has been buying up and sabotaging rival companies in E. Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Balkans for the last ten years. (ever since Putin strong-armed them into obedience in about 2002)

"So exactly why should this be our problem, and not that of Germany, France, Poland, Britain and the others, who can more than afford the cost? All of these countries alone have bigger economies than Russia."

Poland's GDP is somewhat less than 1/3 of Russia's. And there is a lot more to warfare than money. Willingness to fight, for one.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue Sep 22, 12:13:00 AM:

Stupid character limits... Continued:

Given their histories, would you trust Britain, France, and Germany to protect Poland? I wouldn't. The Germans have repeatedly invaded Poland throughout the last thousand years or so, and the British and French have never lifted a finger to help them in the past even when they had a direct incentive. (opening days of WWII) Why would they do so now? You seem to think it's not our problem... well why would it be France or Britain's problem? France and Britain tend to get along swimmingly with the Russians. France and Russia are actually natural allies, due to their respective positions on opposite ends of the Northern European Plain.

Concerning economics, the Russians deliberately purged their economy of foreign assets last year when the global finance system started to tank, then propped up their own markets with an expertly coordinated stimulus surge. They have stepped up gold production in Siberia and the steppes and started buying more on the international markets. They opted to negotiate for foreign loans rather then spend up their currency reserves. So with a stable local economy, large accumulated gold reserves + gold production, and a chunk of foreign spending cash, they are quietly waiting for our finances to collapse under the weight of our own government's abject stupidity while we bloody our hands against a rock in Afghanistan (since we're apparently unwilling to move up to a jackhammer) using a supply pipeline that they can shut off whenever they want. And they just demonstrated to the E. Europeans that the Americans won't protect them, even nominally. Things are looking good in Moscow.

Don't underestimate the Russians. They are a LOT better than we are at international affairs.

(I worked a Russian desk for a little while... can you tell?)  

By Anonymous josef, at Tue Sep 22, 04:28:00 AM:

The leading presidential candidate in the Ukraine is openly pro-Russian, and his strings go back to Moscow. Russia absolutely controls the country's gas supply and can starve it of heat and power. They don't HAVE to march into Ukraine any more than they have to march into Belarus. But if they did, they could enter from two directions; they have a large contingent of Army troops in Moldova.  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Tue Sep 22, 10:12:00 AM:

Minor correction to previous post: The only offensive role a ABM system could take would be a long-range attack on an AWACS style target (large aircraft crusing at high altitude with powerful radar, used for battlefield management. Russians use an IL-76 variant.) AWACS aircraft are horribly expensive and rare, and provide a Forward Edge of Battlefield Area view, making them an important asset, and worthwile to expend a horribly expensive ABM missile on. (since they cruise beyond the range of a normal Anti-aircraft missile system)  

By Blogger Escort81, at Tue Sep 22, 12:22:00 PM:

Many excellent points, Dawnfire82. The only thing that I am puzzled by is your use of the term "collectivist" at the bottom of your 12:32 comment. It's probably a connotation thing, but Russia is more of a oligarchy than some sort of idealized Soviet collectivist state, and the attitude of the people is more "get what you can for yourself" than in any other large European country. There is still a Slavic cultural identity, I suppose, but I am not sure that is what you meant.  

By Anonymous Polichinello, at Tue Sep 22, 02:11:00 PM:

Given their histories, would you trust Britain, France, and Germany to protect Poland? I wouldn't.

I don't see how it's an American concern in the first place, beyond Clinton's foolish commitment to extend NATO. Having the Russians on their border, however, is a German problem, and it's one they're more than capable of dealing with.  

By Anonymous Polichinello, at Tue Sep 22, 02:22:00 PM:

I realize that. But building strategic ABM systems was not a response to SCUDS, and the Russkies did not not oppose them on those grounds.

But it is still a weapon they can use.

My point was that one does not casually use nuclear arms. If they are going to be used, they are going to be used on a combatant nation in order to destroy it.

Yes, and they want to retain their credibility in that department to keep American conventional forces a safe distance away.

You're right about the subs, but again, that forces to them to breach other treaties to use it as a diplomatic lever.

That's a size difference of >6x.

Once you subtract the troops that probably aren't ready for combat, the troops that need to be maintained in other areas, like Caucasus and the disadvantage of being on attack on foreign ground, the advantage disappears. The Russians could get in, but they could not hold on.

As for the government being another Belorussia, that's not really accurate. A friendly government is not necessarily one that would allow cross transit on the way to invade a neighbor and important trading partner.

Likewise, they have a couple of divisions of troops in Kaliningrad, on the border of Poland. Poland also has an army of about 75,000, so the Russians outstrip them by 6x as well.

But now Russia is at the end of a long supply line and dealing with territory full of extremely hostile natives, who will most likely be backed by the Germans, Hungarians, Czechs and even the French. This sort of invasion would be monumentally stupid.

So with a stable local economy, large accumulated gold reserves + gold production, and a chunk of foreign spending cash, they are quietly waiting for our finances to collapse under the weight of our own government's abject stupidity while we bloody our hands against a rock in Afghanistan (since we're apparently unwilling to move up to a jackhammer) using a supply pipeline that they can shut off whenever they want.

So why should we extend ourselves in E. Europe, then, if things are this bad? If we can't defend them, why make the promise? Why not let them know where they stand so they can make their own arrangement with neighbors whose own interest coincide with theirs and have the resources to underwrite this sort of defense.  

By Anonymous Paul in BarneyFrankistan, at Tue Sep 22, 06:05:00 PM:

Some excellent points on the geopolitics, particularly from Dawnfire, but, as someone who has worked on NMD, I'd like to offer some technical corrections:

The Ground Based Interceptors (GBIs) planned for Europe are the same vehicles currently installed at Fort Greeley, Alaska. They are an adjunct to a tested, proven system.

- The small number of GBI's to be based in Europe would have absolutely no effect on Russia's offensive nuclear forces. Even if equipped with the MKV (cancelled by Obama) they would be quickly overwhelmed.

- GBIs have ZERO capability against ground targets or aircraft. They are dedicated to defense against ICBMs and IRBMs. If we want to shoot down an aircraft (IL-76 AEW, as suggested above) we have lots of SAM systems - Patriot, SM-2, THAAD - designed to do the job.

- GBI's carry a Kinetic Kill Vehicle that conducts the actual intercept. The KKV contains no explosives of any kind. It maneuvers during the intercept endgame using onboard sensors to "hit a bullet with a bullet".

The primary purpose of the third site was the defense of the Eastern CONUS from an Iranian threat. Defense of Europe was a happy side effect.

Obama's notional replacement system using THAAD and SM-3 has no ability to provide this protection.  

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By Anonymous acıgöl fm, at Sat Feb 27, 04:11:00 PM:

has been perceived in Europe as unilateral disarmament. Like it or not, the governments most directly affected see it in the worst possible terms. Moreover, they were surprised by acıgöl fm the failure to consult with them. Judging from Obama's goals of consultation, cooperative effort vis a vis the Russians and Iranians, and judicious action, this policy is a startling failure.  

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