by Kingston Reif
Published in the Washington Post on March 18, 2008
In the March 13 op-ed “Moscow’s Missile Gambit,” Robert Joseph and J.D. Crouch II said the United States should proceed with plans to place missile interceptors and their supporting radar systems in Europe regardless of Russian opposition. A fundamental assumption underlying their argument is that Russia’s strategic objections to the U.S. proposal have little objective merit.
But Russia’s perception that a U.S. missile defense system might compromise its credible minimum deterrent can’t be attributed to paranoia or political posturing alone. U.S. interceptors in Poland could be effective in intercepting Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles. Moreover, Russian defense analysts are undoubtedly questioning the purpose of a system that would be in a position to target Russian ICBMs but would not be able to protect a large swath of Europe from an Iranian missile attack.
Russia may see U.S. missile defense efforts in Europe as the threatening tip of the iceberg. The initiative may be directed at Iran, but that is not the only country it could affect in the long run.