Andy GrottoRussia: Its Own Worst Enemy?

Building on James’ post yesterday, Medvedev’s announcement about putting missiles in Kaliningrad shows that the Russians are quickly becoming their own worst enemy. Why Medvedev would revert to clumsy chest thumping at a time when cooler heads are set to retake Washington is just mind-boggling. I get that this move is great red meat for the Russian street. But does Medvedev really think that turning missile defense into a pissing match with the next U.S. administration will convince Washington to back away from the third site? Come on, comrades, let’s get real here…


  1. yousaf (History)

    What would the Bush admin do if Russians set-up a BMD outpost in Cuba? Yes, yes, it would not be effective there, but neither is the USA leaky Euro-shield against a non-existent threat…

    Is Iran about to commit national suicide by launching ICBMs against USA? If they want to nuke the USA there are less obvious delivery methods.

    There is clearly stupidity on both sides, but arguably in this case the US Euro-GBIs started the cycle of stupidity so they ought to be removed.

    Plus, they are waste of our tax $.

  2. FSB

    …and Obama may have to deal with Putin again

    Give up the European BMD fantasy and deal with Iran as the regional power that it is.

    There is not a military-technological solution to every diplomatic failure the US incurs.

  3. FSB (History)

    You ask why the Russians would deploy missiles in Kaliningrad? Well, you actually answer the question yourself when you write that it “is great red meat for the Russian street.” The popular notion that any Russian action is merely a justifiable reaction to ‘aggressive’ US policies is fast becoming a tired old trope. The Kremlin oligarchs are more than happy to use militarism and nationalism to legitimate their crooked rule, and while some Bush policies have unfortunately provided useful cover for Russian actions, they have hardly been the cause of those actions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to see this administration go, but Grotto’s self-referential analysis of Russia will be similarly lacking in plausibility under an Obama foreign policy. Just maybe Russian intentions are not motivated by America. Perish the thought!

  4. russiannavyblog (History)

    Here is a powerpoint presentation (in Russian) detailing the MoDs objections to missile defense, including cool maps. Much of it is, in my relatively uninformed opinion, fantasy since the Russians seem to officially believe that we are on the verge of putting radars and interceptors in Norway too.

    THe one good point I see in the presentation is that there seems to be concern that we could mistake an Iranian launch for a launch out of Tatishchevo and react badly. But that assumes the Iranians launch a non-existant ICBM at the US and in any case, the world would be in a galaxy of hurt anyway.

    In the end, I agree with Daniel Larison that much of our foreign policy vis a vis Russia lacks empathy and refuses to take into account what may or may not be Russia’s legitimate security interests.

    And like Larison says, that’s not caving to the Russians or sympathizing with their positions, its just understanding that they have a position at all and why.

  5. cgb (History)

    Agreed. This was Russian populism 101. They could have pegged any other day to do this speech, but they chose Nov 4 to accomplish two things: 1) counteract the very real effect of so many Russians watching, passively or not, the American election returns and then wondering in their kitchens why this March’s polls were so, um, different, and 2) thump the long-thumped drumbeat of ‘those-who-would-Barbarossa-us-again’.

    All because shorty knows what Kasyanov predicted, that this whole Putin machine rests upon a house of petrodollars, and should a crack appear and begin to let in the light, then there goes the neighborhood.

  6. MT (History)

    Is it just a case of showing one’s effectiveness and reach? It seems to have more than just a military angle. Ofcourse, USA creating the so called shield in Russia’s backyar will rattle the Russians and for a tit for tat, they will try to do the same in Cuba and Venezuela, however it wont probably go to a great level, such policies may reverse with change of gaurd in Mexico or Cuba.
    The other angle is ofcourse the economics, both will try to create this fear and security interests, that will allow them to pump in billions of dollars in new arms research and development, without much public opinion against this.

    On the otherhand, if Russia and US work together, share each ones concerns, the two can easily dismantle many global issues, including nuclear proliferation/arms trafficking to a truly great extent. But if they do, who will they sell arms to? And would they want to loose that lucrative pie?

  7. FSB

    Well, it appears that Georgia Claims on Russia War are Called Into Question

    btw, the “FSB” who posted at 5:03pm is not me, the one and true FSB! What was that about smth being the sincerest form of flattery…

  8. anon (History)

    All that Medvedev has accomplished is to assure that the Obama Administration will not abandon the 3rd site in its first few budget cycles. It simply cannot appear to be caving to Russian threats. It could have altered U.S. policy based on budget or technical considerations. Now it cannot. Continued Russian saber rattling will also limit the Obama Administration’s (gosh, I like writing that) flexibility on nuclear reductions and arms control. There is far less room for unilateral reductions in this environment.

  9. The other FSB (History)

    Huh! The FSB who posted at 4.18pm and 07.52am is conceited when he/she thinks that they are the only person in the world to have the initials FSB. No flattery was ever intended. Harumph! This all said, it is apparent that 4.18pm and 07.52am FSB is a regular contributor to discussion on this blog, and in order to avoid needless confusion and inflation of 4.18pm and 07.52am FSB’s ego, I am happy to use a modified monicker.

  10. FSB

    anon — perhaps an easy out for the Obama Admin (gosh, I love writing that too!) is to say that BMD is a stupid concept and that they are dissolving all of MDA and investing the money in DTRA and Threat Reduction programmes, eg. port security, addressing loose nukes and CW and BW worldwide and that they realize that Russia nor Iran are nuclear ICBM threats.

    Just maybe Obama’s admin will not be as pig-headed as 8 years of Bush have led us to think an admin ought to be.

  11. FSB

    Of course, our ‘allies’ will not make things easy for President Obama

  12. Jim Oberg (History)

    The Russian claims that the Czecho-Polish sites can somehow degrade their own attacks on North America, by hitting their ICBMs in flight, have always seemed geographical delusions to me, except when you invent illusory super-anti-missiles fuelled with unobtainium dioxide. But the last year or two of Moscow official outrage may stem more from their classic ‘encirclement’ complaint, without (again) ever asking why it is that countries along its border are wary of Moscow’s intentions. Maybe a fresh start can reset entrenched positions — but I hope that if Obama’s team decides to eliminate the E-Eur ABM sites, it does so as a trade for something else rather than a generous gesture to earn Moscow good will. This is going to be another of those early tests Biden warned about.

  13. FSB

    No, Jim-O, Obama should not eliminate the leaky-Euro-pseudo-shield GBIs as a gesture of goodwill towards the Russians. Obama should do it as a gesture of goodwill towards the American taxpayers.

    Bill Perry put it nicely at a conference at University of Maryland last month — he said Euro-GBIs are “an ineffective defense against a non-existent threat”

    Iran will not commit national suicide by launching an ICBM at USA. If it wants to nuke USA there are simpler methods.

    Please people, there’s a reason we elected Obama — he has brains enough to see the fallacy of missile defense[sic].

    Want to learn more on the Euro-GBI-leaky-shield? Read this

    And, anyway, what’s wrong with a little goodwill towards Russia? Maybe you didn’t realise, but they aren’t communists any more. We are more communist than they are — what with our nationalized banking industry!

  14. scud

    I think a lot of goodwill has been shown towards Russia in the past two years on this European GBI site issue, but to no avail. Even yesterday John Rood was having his umptieth meeting with the Russians to propose new CBMs (including Russian visits/inspections of the site), but what Putin and the neo-KGB crowd can’t admit is that Poland is a free country and that some in Europe are happy to welcome US bases and forces, because it reassures them.

    Iran would never launch an ICBM towards the United States? Indeed, probably not (though but some would not want to bet their life on it). But the argument misses the point: the European GBI site will reassure the US public that it is not vulnerable to Iranian blackmail if and when Tehran gets a nuclear-tipped ICBM. This does not sound stupid to me.

    And for those who make the comparison with the unacceptable nature of a hypothetical Russian GBI site in Cuba: I think the US would not have any problem with it if Venezuela had an active ballistic missile program, had been calling Russia the great Satan for 30 years, and kept chanting “Death to Russia”.

    Oh, by the way – even though that’s partially unrelated – why doesn’t anyone complain about the fact that Russia still maintains an operational nuclear defense site around Moscow?

  15. user_hostile (History)

    I just got back from Baikonur yesterday. Watching the election via non-American media was quite enlighten. At our hotel (the Sputnik) we have the choice of watching RTL (Italian—no news just a bunch of music videos—not much different from the satire on SNL), DW (German), BBC, and Russia (POCCIAH ?). The more western oriented news agencies were covering the election with glee. It seemed to be a really big deal around the rest of world. Not the Russian channel—they would mention the election results and replay the Medvedev speech over and over again. I was not the only one annoyed at the chip-on-the-shoulder speech; our Russian counterparts were embarrassed by it. They see Obama as a positive figure for Russia—one called Medvedev “a real asshole“ for making the speech. Another joked sardonically, “Your president is not the only one who is out of touch.”

  16. Allen Thomson (History)

    A bit of detail:

    Russia to equip 5 brigades with Iskander missile systems by 2015
    17:08 | 07/ 11/ 2008

    MOSCOW, November 7 (RIA Novosti) – At least five missile brigades[*] deployed on Russia’s western border will be equipped with new Iskander-M short-range missile systems by 2015, a Defense Ministry source said on Friday.

    “By 2015, the Iskander system will be put in service with five missile brigades, primarily near Russia’s western border and in the Kaliningrad Region,” the source said.


    The deployment of mobile Iskander-M missile systems with a range of 500 km (310 miles) in the Kaliningrad region would allow Russia to target almost anywhere in Poland and also parts of Germany and the Czech Republic.


    The source also said Russia will supply Iskander missile systems to Belarus as part of an “asymmetric” response to the U.S. European missile shield.

    “Belarus is our ally and we … will deliver these systems to that country on a priority and most favorable basis,” the official said.

    Russia and Belarus, which have maintained close political and economic ties since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, have been in talks for several years on the delivery of Iskander-E systems to equip at least one Belarus missile brigade by 2015.

    With its maximum range of 280 km (about 180 miles), Iskander-E is likely to target U.S. missile defense facilities in Poland, which shares a border with Belarus.

    [*] I haven’t found how many missiles are in an Iskandr brigade, but the Wikipedia entry for the precursor missile, Tochka, says “[Tochka] units are usually managed in a brigade structure. There are 18 launchers in a brigade; each launcher is provided with 2 or 3 missiles.”

  17. J House (History)

    The Russians are testing the resolve of the new admin.Why wouldn’t they? Some posters here seem to believe that Russian interests are those of the EU and U.S. They are sadly mistaken, and forget their history.
    The state actor to watch is Iran. They fear no U.S. attack or invasion now, and therefore, have no reason to deter the U.S. by publicly announcing their coming nuclear power status.
    They’ve been given a green light to move further to control Gulf oil directly and via their proxies, courtesey of the U.S. electorate. They want superpower status, and little stands in their way.
    What will be the Russian or Iranian litmus test for the Obama admin? We shall see.

  18. Brian (History)

    Obama ‘to honour’ missile plans

  19. russiannavyblog (History)

    <i>why doesn’t anyone complain about the fact that Russia still maintains an operational nuclear defense site around Moscow?</i>

    Because they are allowed to, even under the terms of the now defunct ABM treaty.

    And anyway, they are nuclear tipped. Although I guess given the choice of making Tverskaya glow from radiation or knocking out the gaudy neon glow of Tverskaya through EMP isn’t really a choice.

  20. Careysub

    I suggest the best way for the incoming administration to deal with the European GBI program is to have a review of its effectiveness and justification by a distinguished and credible independent review panel, lead perhaps by the JASONs.

    If fails to pass muster as an effective remedy to a genuine problem, then it can be dismantled on the basis of cost-effectiveness and the very real fact that unlimited funds are not available for defense, even if the outgoing administration has been behaving as if there were.

    There is no point, I think, in trying to “negotiate away” the GBI sites. Their presence is not a real threat to Russia (and the Russian government knows this), it is instead a public relations bonanza for them. Thus they will not sacrifice anything at all to get rid of the sites, and a failed attempt to extract concessions will leave the U.S. with the combined embarrassment of a failed initiative, a white elephant defense site, and possibly an annoyed ally.

    Basing the sites fate on simple practicality helps shift us back to reality-based defense policies.

  21. FSB

    Let us start from the top, people: what is the Leaky-Euro-GBI-“shield” supposed to protect us from?

    The Iranians will not fire ICBMs at the U.S. as they are well aware of the massive retaliatory consequences of that.

    Why should the U.S. government spend tax money on non-existent threats, and meanwhile create real enemies?

  22. scud


    I know very well that this site is “allowed” (an expression which does not make sense, since indeed the ABMT is defunct), in the sense that no provision of international law forbids it.

    Same for the planned European GBI site – no legal provision precludes its deployment.

    My point was – apologies for not making it clearer – that it’s funnny (and sad) to see or hear so many people complaining about the alleged “destabilizing” character of the European GBI site. (I guess this means that anything 40+-year old is “stabilizing”? And if nuclear, all the better?)

    Plus, would those (in DC, in Moscow, in Berlin or in this blog) who sarcastically claim that the Iranian threat is non-existent consider that there is a real US nuclear threat to Russia, which would then warrant the continued existence of the Moscow site? I’m just asking for a little consistency and logic.

  23. FSB

    Like I was saying, the real threat is from the sea

    Obama, por favor, eliminate MDA, and boost DTRA.

  24. Brian (History)

    Update on my last post:

    “U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has made “no commitment” to plans for a missile defense program in eastern Europe, despite a report on the Polish president’s Web site, an Obama adviser said Saturday.”

    We can only hope that reason will prevail, but Obama remains a politician and the military-industrial complex and political allies remain a powerful force.

  25. Yossi


    I wondered for a long time why Russia is concerned so much about the American missile defense sites. The US maintained their sites pose no threat to Russia and they did everything possible to persuade Russia on this point. Knowing that post-Stalin Russian leadership was always rational and didn’t seek war and the US shaky integrity I guessed there is some crucial info we are not being told.

    Thanks to the link you provided to the Russian MoD slides I now understand what is going on. The Russians got info the current sites are just forerunners of a larger deployment in Norway and Britain. This missile defense array seems to be situated exactly between the US and Russia and will certainly degrade Russian deterrence against the US. It’s well known that degrading nuclear deterrence is equivalent to developing a first-strike capability, the most aggressive step imaginable. Combined with other US aggressive steps it creates a frightening picture indeed. I understand now Russia concern and it’s decision to deploy the Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad to maintain the world saving MAD policy.

    Concerning the Iranian nuclear ICBM threat, I guess the US is afraid Iran will acquire the hardware from North Korea. Of course US can deter Iran under normal circumstances but neocon mind works differently, they want to keep the option of a large scale attack on Iran and are worried Iran could deter them by threatening New-York. They are always striving for absolute deterrence, not ordinary deterrence.

  26. Allen Thomson (History)

    > The Russians got info the current sites are just forerunners of a larger deployment in Norway and Britain.

    “Got info” may be going too far, though it’s possible they did. The slide showing those deployments used the word “vozmozhnosti”, which can be translated as “possibilities” or “opportunities”. So they may just be pointing out the obvious, that NO and UK, close allies of the US and current sites of ABM-capable radars, are possible sites for additional antimissile deployments.

    I concede that Globus-II/Have Stare probably has heightened Russian suspicions about such things.

  27. Jim Oberg (History)

    russiannavyblog: “THe one good point I see in the presentation is that there seems to be concern that we could mistake an Iranian launch for a launch out of Tatishchevo and react badly. But that assumes the Iranians launch a non-existant ICBM at the US and in any case, the world would be in a galaxy of hurt anyway. “

    I do not think chart 7 means what you think it means.

    Is it possible that it means that a genuine Iranian ICBM launch would be countered with a US ABM launch from Poland that the Russians perceived as a US nuclear attack on Russia?

    If so, the map (showing the Iranian target in the US) shows why that ‘excuse’ is as phony as a 7-ruble note.

    Phony, but apparently effective — sort of like some of Dan Rather’s last CBS work….

    Unless I badly, BADLY misread the Russian text… also conceivable, please help straighten me out, if so.

    “Возможность ложной классификации пуска
    противоракеты как атаки МБР”..

    I read this as the launch of the противорака that is misperceived, as an ICBM attack — and since it is the US that owns the anti-missile, the misperceiver is Russia. Maybe?

  28. Vic (History)

    This move by Medvedev is very interesting, as the United States has long held that its European missile defenses were not in any way shape or form capable of interfering with Russian missiles. Now, if the United States claims that we need to have missile defense in Europe because of these missiles, then either we were lying before or we’re lying now.

    There’s one aspect of this that is largely forgotten: we’re not the only ones with a say in this. Poland seems to have flip-flopped in its antipathy toward hosting the interceptors, but the debate has been highly contentious in the Czech parliament.

  29. scud

    1) No serious analyst can believe that the European GBI site could pose a threat to the Russian deterrent (assuming it is a good thing that Russia needs to be able to destroy the United States; why would MAD be good today?; but I digress). The Polish site could at best intercept a couple of ICBMs launched from some very particular spots.

    2) About the “inefficient system about a non-existent threat”:

    – Critics can’t have it both ways: if the GBI site is inefficient, it poses no threat to a Russian launch anyway.

    – Of course there is no Iranian ICBM today! But given the pace of their program (including with help from Russian technicians – though they were private citizens), it is reasonable to assume that they could reach ICBM capability in 2015. So if one wants to be able to negate that threat, one has to start working on the system now.

    3) The Russians have been claiming since 1996 (the beginning of the NMD debate) that there is a massive US plan involving the Vardo radar in Norway to neutralize the Russian deterrent. They will continue to make that claim for the next 10 years. The Russians did not “get info” about that. (Or if that is the case, I’d love to know what the source was.) It’s a mixture of paranoia (a great Russian tradition) and bad faith (Putin can’t stand that Poland is in NATO).

  30. Allen Thomson (History)

    >I read this as the launch of the противорака that is misperceived, as an ICBM attack — and since it is the US that owns the anti-missile, the misperceiver is Russia.

    Right. The Russian is directly parallel to the way you’d say it in English and means the same thing.

    “Возможность ложной классификации пуска противоракеты как атаки МБР”


    “The possibility of false classification of the launch of an antimissile as an attack (by) ICBM.”

  31. faraway

    ‘“The possibility of false classification of the launch of an antimissile as an attack (by) ICBM.”

    First strike with one (1) ICBM? The Russians went to the launch posture once already, on 25 January 1995, having misinterpreted a Black Brant XII sounding rocket launch from Norway as a Trident ICBM launch.

    Can it just be that the Russians lack confidence in their EW technology, and worry their command-and-control system might not be able to distinguish between a US-Iran event and a real attack on Russia?

  32. Jim Oberg (History)

    Vic: “Now, if the United States claims that we need to have missile defense in Europe because of these [Russian] missiles, then either we were lying before or we’re lying now.”

    Such a claim would indeed also startle and discombobulate me nearly to the point of self-defenestration. But perhaps the dire dilemma of either-or is itself false — and a third option, confusion and misunderstanding, is behind the accusation of Bush (I read “we” as a euphemism) lying. Can anybody provide citations where the US has claimed that Russian missiles provide justifications for the E-Eur BMD sites?

    Thanks, Scud and Allen and others, for helpful anti-obfuscation contributions.

  33. FSB

    So presumably the U.S. would sit idly by if Russia was to build a BMD pseudo-“shield” in Cuba against a non-existent threat from the possible future Colombian ICBMs?

    Love it when the obfuscationists pat each other on the back!

    Obama is not buying the idocy of BMD thank God.

  34. Yossi (History)

    Dear scud.

    The Russians may suffer from “paranoia and bad faith” but you admit that The Polish site could intercept a couple of Russian ICBMs launched from some very particular spots.

    Is it possible that more interceptors will be deployed in the future, the ranges of the radars extended etc? These are all natural developments and after setting this very dangerous precedent it would be very difficult to fight them.

    MAD is certainly still relevant today. Both the US and Russia can destroy our world and both are fighting for resources and status. MAD is what keeps us alive unless you think that Russia should yield to every US whim and caprice.

    I’m not a “serious analyst”, not concerning ABM programs, but I think that the degradation of Russian deterrence by the US global ABM program should be studied carefully and not just dismissed with “hand waving”.

  35. FSB

    Thanks Yossi!
    don’t worry about the “serious analyst” rhetoric.

    You are exactly right: the Russians see this as a foothold in Europe that could be ramped up as desired.

    If I was Russia — I would be pissed. As would the US if Russia setup shop in Cuba.

    Again, to the so-called self-appointed “serious analysts”, why would Iran invite nuclear annihilation by launching an ICBM at the US when it can deliver weapons more stealthily without a return address?

    Why have GBIs in Europe? What is the real threat?

  36. Jim Oberg (History)

    “If I was Russia — I would be pissed.”

    And if Russia’s NOT pissed, you’ll do your best to GET them pissed? Enjoy throwing rocks at junkyard watchdogs, for fun, too?

    This ‘freak-the-Rooskies’ game seems to be done deliberately by overstating the technical capabilities of ABMs in E-Eur. How helpful!

    Looking at the trajectories of Russian missiles headed toward the US, the requirement for Poland-based missiles to reach ANY of them at all with realistic reaction times and effective closing rates and targeting, is extremely challenging, if not impossible in practical terms unless you invent super rockets — which then, if EVER created, don’t even NEED to be based in E-Eur for ANY potential threat.

    It’s this geographical nonsense that I criticized the Russian chart for — it postulated an Iranian missile launched against the MOST distant US target, on the west coast, rather than the much likelier far closer targets on the east coast — targets whose trajectories pass far, far to the west of Russia and could NEVER be mistaken for a sneak attack on Russia. So the chart was bogus in its complaint that a US E-Eur-based ABM launched against an Iranian missile might be seen by Moscow to be flying INTO Russian airspace to attack an Iranian missile aimed at the hardest imaginable US target, one that ALREADY is getting ABM protection from California sites.

    The number of high-ranking Russian military officials who have made preposterous geographical boners is frightening if they really believe their claims and haven’t heard about Earth being round — although maybe, if they aimed THEIR missiles as stupidly, it might be good for our potential target areas in THEIR missile sights [grin].

  37. FSB

    what is a geographical “boner”?

    My point was that the Russian objections are legitimate because the US can at any point in the future increase the foothold in Poland and Czech Republic — even if it has nothing to do with BMD.

    Why don’t you please answer these 2 questions before launching into your (now fast approaching trademark status) obfuscations:

    -What is the threat that GBIs purport to address?

    -What would the US do if Russia fielded a BMD site in Cuba even if it had no military significance downside to US ICBMs?

    oh, and also about that boner(??) huh?

  38. Yossi (History)

    FSB thanks! I think Iran is not a significant threat to the US but the neocons are trying to achieve what I call absolute deterrence and dominance over it because its leadership must push to raise oil prices. These two concepts may be equivalent to the well known concept of “compellence”.

    And Jim, are you sure you are so much smarter and knowledgeable than the Russian generals? You know, they learn their trade in the academy for many years. I accept your being a space expert but are you also a prophet and knows what will happen in the future? Things can become very complicated and these Russian generals are probably better equipped to evaluate long term strategic threats. I guess they also care more for Russia than you do.

  39. FSB

    Let’s talk it over with Russia instead of pig-headedly maintaining that BMD is actually a net plus for US security.

  40. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    Talking about an omen.

    rom The Times
    November 11, 2008
    Russian nuclear death sub ‘was due for delivery to India’

  41. faraway

    Yossi – What is a ‘ US whim and caprice’ to you, can be a question of national sovereignty to others. There is quite a gulf of difference between Russia’s legitimate wish to be as secure from a first strike as technologically possible, and the geostrategic concept of ‘near abroad’, which presupposes an inalienable right to all states on Russia’s borders being Russian allies or vassals, and preferably both. Historically speaking, Russians have always frothed at the mouth at any thought of their neighbours being neither. I do not think that concept of a New Yalta (ie. the US and Russia allocating various lesser peoples to each other, to do with as they please, as a price of peace), would get very much traction in E-Eur.

  42. FSB


    how about first addressing the US concept of “near abroad” which extends to the entire globe apparently?

  43. FSB
  44. Jim Oberg (History)

    Yossi: “And Jim, are you sure you are so much smarter and knowledgeable than the Russian generals?”

    Yossi, when somebody in an argument falsifies a claim offered by another party, it’s a glaring indicator of bad faith. And for neutral observers it’s a prima facie case for concluding the falsifier knows he doesn’t have logic and facts on the side of his point of view. To sooth the rhetoric, I’ll refrain from sarcasm for the moment.

    I’ll go dig out a few of these geographical absurdities made in public pronouncements (“boner” is an old east coast slang word for embarrassing mistake – and yes, it has other very different slang meanings as well), so you can then comment on the implications of official propagation of bogus claims. In the meantime, please note the unanswered request for documentation of Vic’s earlier claim, viz.:

    Vic: “Now, if the United States claims that we need to have missile defense in Europe because of these missiles, then either we were lying before or we’re lying now.”

    JimO: “Can anybody provide citations where the US has claimed that Russian missiles provide justifications for the E-Eur BMD sites?”

    So far, the answer to my question appears to be “NO”, nobody can provide any citation. So Vic’s throwing around accusations of “liars” is also unjustified by citations… so far.

    I checked some on-line dictionaries – their definition of ‘boner’ is consistent with mine. or

    The Russian ppt cited above was first presented on Dec 17, 2007, by Chief of the general staff Yuriy Baluyevskiy, and Dep Min of Foreign Affairs Sergey Kislyak. In the presentation, Baluyevskiy stated: “If one assumes hat at some time Iran will attempt a missile strike against the USA, the anti-missiles that are launched from Poland to intercept them will fly in a northerly direction, meaning toward Russia. In form and dimensions an anti-missile differs little from an ICBM and will very likely be detected by the RF’s missile attack warning system as an attacking ICBM, in other words an act of aggression..” [I have the entire text of that presser — email me % my home page www dot jamesoberg dot com if you want it].

    I’ve already criticized that chart — and a contributor’s misunderstanding of the Russian text — above. Baluyevskiy’s claim is bogus, too. Pavel Felgengauer wrote the same criticism in ‘Novaya Gazeta’ a few days later.

    More to follow…

  45. The other FSB (History)

    FSB – whatever the inequities of the Bush administration, they cannot excuse your intemperate defense of the cynical Russian oligarchy. In your role as useful idiot, I am sure that Lenin would be very proud of you. Well done, Comrade!

  46. scud

    Ah… what would ACW be without FSB’s rhetorical outbursts?

    The answer to your question – though I believe you know it already – is that Russian leaders have been saying since 1993 that they have a natural sphere of influence around their territory, and that they should have a say in who does what in neighboring countries.

    Putin said publicly that the dissolution of the USSR was the “biggest catastrophe of the 20th century”. Lavrov said publicly that Russia was in danger of being “surrounded by democracies”.

    Georgia’s move was stupid – but don’t you forget that the Russian armed forces were waiting for such a provocation. See the Russian exercise Caucasus-08, and the movement of Russian forces during the Summer.

    Of course, there are facts, not rhetoric, so I may sound boring to you.


  47. Yossi (History)

    I think some people here have forgotten this is a technical forum and we must refrain from personal insults. It’s ok to be emotional, but personal insults should be considered just like first-strike nuclear attacks!

  48. FSB

    no — not at all boring, thank you, in fact.

    But unsurprising: of course, Russia desires malleability from its immediate region, being that it is the 800 pound gorilla there.

    Just as the US does: do you think we would have the ridiculous sanctions on Cuba if it were not the US wanting to have dominance over its near abroad?

    The point is we cannot act surprised that Russia is pissed at us placing a foothold in Eastern Europe. Just as we would rightly be pissed if Russia were to do the same in our region. Let’s see what the US response will be to a Russian missile “shield” in Venezuela.

    My prediction for 2009 — unless Obama changes the course of Bush’s Foreign Policy “Titanic”: Russian missile defenses or IRBMs in Venezuela.

    That will have the neocons come our of the woodwork.

    Anyone seen hass? Is he on the transition team? 😉

  49. scud

    Hey FSB – your prediction is fun. The thing is: would Russian ships manage to reach Venezuela if loaded with IRBMs? I mean, ‘twas hard enough for them to reach South America last month when they made that much-publicized trip to Chavezland.

    And I agree with you on at least two things: one is that sanctions on Cuba should be lifted (though the real reason why they are still in force, I suspect, has a lot to do with a certain Florida constituency); the other is that I miss hass too.

  50. faraway

    scud: Alas, the Cuban crisis missiles were not air transportable, but the technology has marched on. It could be an interesting shell game: shuttle Tu-160 Blackjacks bombers and an ocacsional Il-76 Candid support transport in and out of Venezuela “on exercises”, and leave others to guess whether the 40-tonnes bomb bay on a Tu-160 or 50-tonnes hold on an Il-76 is full or empty. Both could transport IRBMs to Venezuela, one at a time, without midair refuelling. Please also note that without a warhead, a SS-27 (Topol-M) solid fuelled ICBM is 18 m long, weighs in the order of 45 tonnes, and is airliftable by Il-76.

  51. Andy (History)

    While an interesting discourse, it seems clear to me that Russian objections are largely based on two things:

    1. Russia is tired of turning over and playing dead when it feels its interests are threatened. Bill Clinton and then GWB both did a fine job of marginalizing Russia’s interests at almost every opportunity. Pushback was only a matter of time and this is one issue Russia has decided to take a stand on.

    2. Russia is worried about the future, not the planned capabilities or purpose for this particular system. Russia doesn’t want the technology perfected allowing for an expanded or more comprehensive system that could present a future fait accompli. They want to stop it before creeping normalcy sets in.

    Finally, this announcement by Russia is completely political. Speculation about these missile’s capability to destroy the launchers is kinda pointless because construction on the silos hasn’t even begun yet. Announcing that you are deploying an operational system to counter a non-yet-constructed system will probably result in measures taken during the construction process to mitigate the announced threat. So if Russia really intended to use these missiles to destroy the launchers, it seems pretty unlikely they’d conveniently tell us now. Russia understands this as well as anyone and so this announcement was about making a point and not much else.

  52. Jim Oberg (History)

    While I’m not hesitent in pontificating my own conclusions, I also find it useful on occasion to challenge and respond to challenges over factual bases of views. This forum has been useful in that regard. I’d like it to continue to be useful, like, to resume being useful. There are numerous questions — posed politely and helpfully — in messages over the past few days, that have requested responses. Please see if anyone can contribute constructively to these solutions — and remind me where I owe it to do so, likewise..

  53. Jon (History)

    Reuters quoted Medvedev yesterday as follows, “But we are ready to abandon this decision to deploy the missiles in Kaliningrad if the new American administration, after analyzing the real usefulness of a system to respond to ‘rogue states’, decides to abandon its anti-missile system.”

    “We are ready to negotiate a ‘zero option’. We are ready to reflect on a system of global security with the United States, the countries of the European Union and the Russian Federation.”

    Obama has 100 days to begin a reversal of the dangerous and unproductive foreign policy course followed by the outgoing administration. He could do worse than to frame a positve response to this invitation to dialog by the Russian President.

  54. FSB

    as you say “Russia understands this as well as anyone and so this announcement was about making a point and not much else.”

    Indeed, and it is good and valid point for Russia to make.

    The easy-out for the US? Obama to declare that US has come to its senses and has realized that BMD is idiotic, especially in the European context.

  55. scud

    Andy, your points are well taken, and I do agree with you on the SS-26 thing – purely political. The real joke was yesterday when Moscow floated a “zero option” (no SS26 if no GBI). That was pathetic.

    But you have to see things the other way round too. Many Europeans feel that their own security interests are not being taken into account by Russia. They’re sick and tired of Russia’s bullying – and they remember their history.

    As per the alleged “Russian concerns about the future” – you also have to see it the other way round – hell, what guarantees do the US and Europe have about what Russia will do in 10 years? (For instance, expanding the nuclear defense site around Moscow to cover other regions?)

    And why has Russia constantly refused all US offers of observers/monitoring at the Polish site?

    What Russia has yet to accept is that the Cold war is over, the Warsaw Pact is gone and the Soviet Union no longer exists. But given that Putin considers that the disappearance of the USSR is “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”, he can’t accept that some of its neighbors would rather be allied with the US than be neutral.

    This is all about politics. Some Russian generals and analysts may genuinely worry about future US actions (who would not, given what happened in the last 8 years), but the Kremlin is not afraid of the US GBI site. It is afraid, very afraid of losing its influence in Europe.

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