After a year and a half of negotiations the U.S. Government and Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski of Poland signed an agreement allowing the United States to place a missile defense system in Poland.
Since the U.S. successfully tested (9/2007) its missile system, designed to counter a nuclear first strike capability, Russia has issued threats against its neighbors who might contemplate hosting this technology.
Last week Russia directly threatened Poland saying because it had accepted the missile defense shield its response would “go beyond diplomacy.” General Anatoly Nogovitsyn issued a statement that the former Soviet satellite nation was inviting the possibility of attack, including the possible use of nuclear weapons.
Condoleezza Rice dismissed blustery comments from Russian leaders who says Warsaw's hosting of 10 U.S. interceptor missiles just 115 miles from Russia's westernmost frontier opens the country up to attack.
Such comments "border on the bizarre frankly," Rice said, speaking to reporters traveling with her in Warsaw.
"When you threaten Poland, you perhaps forget that it is not 1988," Rice said. "It's 2008 and the United States has a ... firm treaty guarantee to defend Poland's territory as if it was the territory of the United States. So it's probably not wise to throw these threats around."
Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, former Soviet states, joined NATO in 2004. In the same year they all joined the European Union as well. Several former Soviet countries are interested in hosting a U.S. missile defense system. The Czech Republic and Ukraine are close to deals with the U.S. to host similar weapons.
The Russian war machine steamed over the tiny Georgian army last week. Yet the seemingly Blitzkrieg-esque success was overshadowed by numerous reports of broken down armored personnel carriers, tanks towing tanks, and inept coordination and communication. Since the end of the Cold War Russia has had little ability to maintain its capability to make conventional war. Yet, the same philosophy of --we have enough weapons to kill everything down to bacteria 60 times over-- that kept M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction) doctrine working for decades still exists today. Russia’s 16,000 + stockpile of nuclear weapons is the largest in the world (U.S. stockpiles of 5800+).
Truly, it is not 1988, as Rice observes. Russia is not the military power it once was. But the conflict oddly smacks of 1962, (Cuban missile crisis) and the distance between the weapons and border not 90 miles but 115.
Russia may not be able to compete with the technological weapons and conventional might of the West, but it can, and will, defend its interests even with such a blunt tool as a nuclear weapon.
How long will it be before the West’s tactical maneuvering around the Russian border invites a blunt response from which return may not be possible?