US drops plans for anti-missile shield in Europe
Dropping the anti-ballistic missile shield (ABM) in itself would qualify as a stupid thing to do. Although Russia severely protested against the idea and threatened to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, the initiative was never targeted against Russia.
The reason is simple – because it never covered all Europe from all possible launching points Russia can use (including operating nuclear submarines and strategic aircraft) and because there were only 10 planned interceptors for the installation in Poland. Critics said that once you have the radar and all equipment at place, it is easy to bring more interceptors. This however was not the case, as the rockets are extremely expensive and the US is struggling to deploy enough of them even to cover the sites in California on the West Coast.
I have always looked at Bush’s ABM project as one of the anti-terrorism measures and also a way to show a tough stance against resurgent Russia’s military ambitions. What Russia is doing in the last decade is constant provocations against its neighbours and the EU’s eastern members with bombing radars “by accident” or stopping imports from targeted EU countries. And while the rift with the West was growing, the ABM popped up as a project with very high diplomatic, economic and political (not so much military) stakes. Now the US is about to drop it and fall victim to Russian manipulations – this would indeed be stupid.
But if neglecting the ABM will go together with agreeing on common actions against the Iranian Nuclear Program or a deal about North Korean and Myanmar trade regimes, it may be quite a positive move. Still the shadow of doubt is still over me as for whether the EU and US diplomacy is capable of effectively keep its authoritarian neighbour’s ambitions at bay.