On a Friday in mid-November of 2010, President Obama announced finalized plans from NATO for a 21st Century version of a Strategic Defense Initiative program to protect Europe and the United States from potential missile attack. The final plan represents a year of discussion by experts searching for a system to protect the members of the NATO alliance, and the people of Europe in general. Russian representation in NATO comes as the 28 Allies of NATO and the country of Russia work together as equal partners in the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), which was established in 2002. This NATO missile defense plan takes into account particularly and specifically the threat from hostile Iran, and associated Arab nations.
Readers at this point may take note, the National Missile Defense, intended for central and eastern Europe, while narrow in scope, and designed to defend against relatively unsophisticated attack, nevertheless to include anti-ballistic missiles, and high altitude missile systems, is neither offensive, not intended to have the capacity to repel an attack from a sophisticated adversary.
Recently, there have been threats and challenges from Russia, and from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Speaking from Moscow, the Russian President has warned the United States, and Washington, that the government of Russia is considering non-compliance with the newly formed and closely related START accord treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which was laboriously hammered out with the Obama administration. Medvedev places the United States on alert, saying that Russia views the current version of the Missile Defense Shield as being, in effect, aimed at Russia, and as being a threat to Russia. As substantiation, President Medvedev makes the point, rightly or wrongly, that no nation other than Russia has or will have the nuclear capacity that “The Shield” is designed to counter. The Russian President indicates that in the absence of assurances and cooperation, the START accord may be “suspended or terminated.” These words came as the Russian President addressed Russian reporters for the first time in several years, and as those reporters were wondering as to Medvedev’s ambition to seek another term as President of Russia. Medvedev’s statements appear to indicate that Russia requires at the very least that any European defense shield “comply with clear rules.”
The Russians are actually seeking more cooperation with the United States, in an ongoing effort to build, in conjunction with the United States and NATO, a missile defense system to counter clear threats from hostile Arab nations. Although a system to protect both Russia and the West has been sought by Russia since November, no positive results have developed, and Russia see’s the United States as ignoring the Russian position, and striking out on its own.
President Medvedev isn’t taking all this lightly; he warns specifically of a new “cold war” in the absence of cooperation with the United States and NATO. He says Russia will build up its nuclear stockpile; he says Russia could take “retaliatory measures.” Russia, Medvedev says, will be forced to further develop a nuclear strike potential.
In spite of hard rhetoric, Medvedev praised newly improved overall relations with NATO, calling the members allies, and describing relations as “not bad” and “developing normally.”
On Wednesday, May 18, United States Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen responded to the Russian remarks, saying that “The missile defense system planned by the US and NATO for Europe will not be directed against Russia.” The system, Mullen re-states will be used “solely to defend U.S. partners against potential missile threats from dangerous regimes — such as Iran.” Mullen, like Medvedev, doesn’t take these matters lightly. He met on Friday, in St. Petersburg, Florida, with the chief of the Russian General Staff, General Nikolay Makarov, and said his statement reflects the position of the United States Government.