Missile Defense Spat: A New Arms Race Looms between Russia and US
The US and Russia intended to “reset” their relations under US President Barack Obama. Instead, however, the two countries continue to squabble over the planned missile shield, which Washington insists is to protect against attack from Iran. The debate shows signs of turning into a new arms race.
Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, wanted to push his American negotiating partner into a corner. “If space aliens were to completely disarm Iran,” he asked, “would Washington continue with its plans to build a missile defense system in Poland?”
The defense shield is designed to intercept missiles from rogue states like Iran, the United States has repeatedly insisted. The conversation between the Russian ambassador and his US counterpart, which Rogozin told SPIEGEL about last week, took place in Washington behind closed doors on July 22. And the answer, given by President Barack Obama’s undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, Ellen Tauscher, was reportedly unambiguous: Yes, she said. The plan has been decided upon and will be carried out.
Rogozin sees the response as conclusive evidence that the defense shield is effectively bulwark against Russia. “America is shifting the strategic balance to its advantage in that it wants to neutralize Russia’s nuclear deterrence potential,” the top-level diplomat said. “The Kremlin is fed up with being taken for fools by the Americans.”
The battle over missile shields is an old one. But it has now rendered the planned “reset” of US-Russian relations, pursued by the young and weak leaders Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, a failure. Instead, a new arms race is looming.