Why Does Europe Need Missile Defense?
RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov, May 31
None of the European leaders has so far given a clear answer to this question.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, thinks the answer must come from
Russia, a country that is going to have, right on its borders, the U.S. radar and
missile interceptors, and the United States, the architect of the system. The two
nations need to reach an agreement before explaining the "Euro-ABM" idea to the
Each of the two nations certainly has an answer ready. What they lack is agreement,
because their answers are mutually exclusive.
Official Moscow and its General Staff are convinced that the U.S. antimissile bases
to be built in Europe will be targeted at Russia, and the alleged protection of the
U.S. against a North Korean or Iranian missile attack is just a pretext used by the
In fact, Iranian and North Korean missiles, if ever made, won't have to cross Europe
on their way to the U.S., but will fly over the North Pole. Therefore, the ten
antimissiles deployed in Poland will stand idle, because interceptors can only hit
their targets head-on. The X-band tracking radar in the Czech Republic, on the other
hand, would come in handy for spying on the European part of Russia up to the Urals.
It means that the antimissile base will be built in Poland as a cover for the radar.
The U.S. had insisted from the very beginning that it was building the "Euro-ABM" to
protect its European allies from North Korean and Iranian missiles. Its argument
sounded quite logical, since North Korean missiles have the potential of reaching
Europe today, while Iranian ones will probably have it tomorrow.
But Moscow has counterarguments. Why would North Korea want to attack Europe? Iran
has no reason to attack it either, because its relations with Europe are far less
strained than with the U.S.
The Guardian has even quoted an official source in Warsaw as saying that Poland was
not afraid of Iranian missiles; it was sooner fearful of Russia's missiles.
It is easy to trace Warsaw's logic here. Thirty-five years ago, the U.S.S.R. and the
United States came to the conclusion that if one of them boosted strategic defense,
the other's defense potential substantially decreased. Therefore, they signed the
ABM Treaty, which restricted the development of their strategic defenses as well as
Certainly a new "Euro-ABM" installed by the U.S. will trigger an "adequate" response
The word "adequate" does not necessarily mean Russia will take similar moves. Moscow
has decided on an "asymmetrical" response instead.
Russia's General Staff at first mulled the option of Russia's withdrawal from the
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, but the decision seemed a little too
asymmetrical. Medium range missiles cannot reach the key "Euro-ABM" architect
anyway, whereas denouncing one of the few nuclear restriction treaties still in
force could have unpredictable consequences.
INF is a big problem for Russia now. Having destroyed its shorter and
intermediate-range missiles in compliance with the treaty, Russia has ended up
surrounded by countries producing such missiles without a second thought: North and
South Korea, China, India, Pakistan, and possibly Iran. But Russian officials are
fully aware that this problem should by no means be linked to the Euro-ABM issue.
All the more so since Washington signed the 1987 INF treaty with the U.S.S.R. under
pressure from its NATO allies.
NATO and Western Europe had a reason to be worried then, as Soviet and U.S. ground
based shorter and intermediate range missiles were deployed there in excess:
Pershings and SS-20 missiles with independently targeted warheads. The INF Treaty
called for the destruction of 1,836 Soviet missiles and 859 U.S. ones.
Experts have found a solution after a short discussion. Russia's intercontinental
ballistic missiles, the famous Topol-M's with maneuvering warheads are the only
missiles in the world capable of accelerating to supersonic speed while at the same
time changing direction twice a minute to fool warning radars. They are invulnerable
to ABM systems. Many of them can also be fired to shorter ranges compensating for
the shortage of medium-range missiles.
The French Le Figaro published an article in May, "Can Paris Bring Peace to
Russian-American Relations?" The author reflected on what could be done to attract
Russia to the U.S. missile defense project.
We can only dream of a France that could mediate between Washington and Moscow, the
author laments. Why, the dream can come true one day.
A joint missile defense project can still be implemented in the long run. The U.S.
attempt to invite Russia to participate in its plan hasn't worked; it would hardly
work the other way around, either. But it would, if both Russia and the U.S. were
invited to build a joint missile shield, with Europe included.
Europe dreams of mediating between Russia and the U.S., while it might just as well
dream of participating in a joint Russia-U.S.-Europe missile defense project.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily
represent those of RIA Novosti.