Bush: Missile Shield Is about Iran, Not Russia

October 25, 2007 10:10 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Washington offers concessions to a Kremlin administration angered by U.S. plans for a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe; questions about the purpose of the project persist.

30-Second Summary

Oct. 23—Speaking at the National Defense University, Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush outlined the need for protection against rogue states in the Middle East.

He claimed that Iran could have a missile capable of hitting European targets by 2015.

Much of the speech was aimed at placating Russia. The Kremlin has been unhappy with U.S. plans to build a radar station and missile base in Poland and the Czech Republic ever since they were announced in January 2007.

Bush declared, “The Cold War is over. Russia is not our enemy.”

His recent address followed closely on a new deal that State Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered the Kremlin on a recent visit to Moscow. Gates and Rice suggested that Russia could be involved in the operation of the missile shield, which could work in tandem with a version on Russian territory.

The extent of the Kremlin’s ire is not as easily explained as it might at first seem. Even analysts who disapprove of the White House plan have still, by and large, failed to detect a serious threat to Russia’s strategic position.
Brookings Institute fellow Michael O’Hanlon, for example, compared the use of the shield to stop a Russian nuclear attack to using a “fly-swatter to stop a bazooka.”

President Bush’s speech would appear to confirm that Russia is not the threat being countered by the shield.

That still leaves observers with plenty of opportunity for conjecture: the sense of urgency at the White House and the strength of Russian objections remain hard to explain. 

Headline Links: Iranian threat and Russian ire

Reactions: China and Russia

Background: The U.S. delegation in Moscow and nuclear arms in the post-Cold War world

Opinion & Analysis: Purpose and efficacy of the shield and Russia's response

Russia's response to plans for the missile shield
The purpose of the shield
The efficacy of the shield

Reference Material: Missile defense and the president's speech

Missile Defense

In January 2007, the United States declared that it was considering a missile base in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic as part of a new missile defense network. Ostensibly, the purely defensive missile program is intended to protect the West from the Middle East. Russia, however, is not convinced and has accused America of starting a new arms race.

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