Putin Warns US Over Missile Shield, Threatens To Target Europe With Nukes
Bush Panics, Says Missile Shield Is No Threat To Russia
As world leaders gather for in Germany for a G8 gathering, a remarkably explosive, and extremely public, feud has broken out between the United States and Russia over American plans to deploy missile batteries in Eastern Europe, close to Russia's borders :
President Vladimir Putin has sent a chilling message to world leaders...with a threat to aim Russian nuclear missiles at European cities for the first time since the Cold War.
In comments that seemed calculated to cause consternation and division at tomorrow's meeting in Germany, the Russian leader said that American plans to erect a missile defence shield in eastern Europe had left him with no choice but to retaliate.
"If the US nuclear potential extends across the European territory, we will get new targets in Europe," he said...
"It will then be up to our military experts to identify which targets will be aimed by ballistic missiles and which ones will be aimed by cruise missiles," he said.
It's not that the US 'missile shield' plan is extensive, or even poses a major military threat to Russia, being little more than a move to position 10 interceptor missiles in Poland, and covert a Cold War era bunker in the Czech Republic into a radar station, it is that Russia has warned the US extensively in the past 12 months that it will not tolerate American missiles close to its borders, and the United States is still pushing ahead with its plans.
Russia says the United States is trying to covertly position and then aim missiles at Russia, from just over the border, and this insolence will not stand. China nods quietly in agreement, and Iran grins happily, knowing it is safe for now, with Russia's barely reported promise of protection from attacks by the United States or Israel.
President Bush made a special effort, as he arrived in Europe, to address Putin's concerns ahead of the G8 meetings :
"My message will be: 'Vladimir - I call him Vladimir - you shouldn't fear a missile defence system. As a matter of fact, why don't you cooperate with us on a missile defence system?'" Mr Bush said.
"Russia is not the enemy...we can work together on common threats".
"The cold war is over, it has ended. The people of the Czech Republic don't have to choose between being a friend of Russia or a friend of the US. You can be both. I don't believe in a zero-sum world, I don't believe a country should be forced to choose."
In his remarks, Mr Bush reiterated that a missile defence system was designed for an attack from "rogue states".
"It is purely a defensive measure, not aimed at Russia but at true threats," said Mr Bush..
True threats? Yes, Iran and North Korea, and those mysterious 'rogue states'.
Bush won't say who the 'rogue states' are, or might turn out to be, and claiming that Iran and North Korea pose a strategic threat to the United States, or its allies, just makes the Russians laugh.
Russia grows in power and wealth by the day, locking up a huge percentage of natural gas supply and pipelines to European countries, cutting oil and nuclear energy deals with Iran, quietly expanding its military ties and military technology-sharing with China. All the while, the United States declines internationally, off the back of the Iraq War failure, and spreading dissent in the homeland.
Putin has made it very clear that it is not Russia who is making the kinds of moves that could lead to further destabilisation in Europe, or across the former Soviet states. It is the United States who has "started altering the strategic balance."The United States has refused to abandon its 'missile shield' plans, and is expanding its vision of another shield array across south, and north, East Asia, including development deals with Japan and Australia.
Following are some examples of the recent Putin rhetoric on the American missile shield, as he clearly sees no need to be polite as President Bush has tried to be.
From The Australian :
"It is obvious that if part of the strategic nuclear potential of the US is located in Europe and will be threatening us, we will have to respond.
"This system of missile defence on one side and the absence of this system on the other... increases the possibility of unleashing a nuclear conflict."He speculated that the US's real motive was to provoke Russia's retaliation and so "to avoid further closeness of Russia and Europe".
He called on "our American friends to rethink their decision" and warned that "we cannot be responsible for our reciprocal steps because it is not us who are initiating an arms race in Europe".
"We will need to establish such systems, which would be able to penetrate the (US) missile defence systems ... What kind of means will be used to hit the targets that our military believe are potential threats - ballistic missiles, or cruise missiles, or some kind of new weapons system?"
"We have brought all our heavy weapons beyond the Urals and reduced our military forces by 300,000. But what do we have in return?" he asked.
"We see that Eastern Europe is being filled with new equipment ... Unilateral disarmament of Russia is happening."
From the New York Times :
''We are being told the anti-missile defense system is targeted against something that does not exist. Doesn't it seem funny to you, to say the least?'' a clearly irritated Putin said.
''If a part of the strategic nuclear potential of the United States appears in Europe and, in the opinion of our military specialists will threaten us, then we will have to take appropriate steps in response,'' Putin said. ''What kind of steps? We will have to have new targets in Europe.''
These could be targeted with ''ballistic or cruise missiles or maybe a completely new system.''
US Secretary Of State, Condoleezza Rice has warned Russia that the US-EU partnership cannot, and will not, be divided by Russia :
"The security of the United States and the security of European allies is indivisible," Dr Rice said on the margins of the Organisation of American States gathering here. "It doesn't really help anybody to start threatening Europeans."
Dr Rice said US officials "don't consider Russia an adversary and I hope they don't consider the United States an adversary".
"This is 2007 and not 1987," Dr Rice said. "This isn't the Soviet Union and we need to drop the rhetoric that sounds like what the United States and the Soviet Union used to say about each other, and realise that the United States and Russia are in a very different period."
Jason Burke, writing in the UK Observer, discusses the changing face of the former Soviet states, as they grow closer to America and Europe, much to the alleged chagrin of Russia, who would prefer to keep them close, and under the thumb :
The storm is large and potentially very dangerous. Locally, Russia is blamed for stoking riots in Tallinn last month in which one died and 153 were injured, for the roughing up of Estonian diplomats in Moscow and for a massive 'cyber-attack' on the infrastructure of the small Baltic state.
According to Andres Kasekamp, director of Tallinn's Foreign Policy Institute, the Russian government is mounting a deliberate attempt to destabilise former Soviet republics. 'This strategy is intensifying as Moscow's attitude to the US, the UK and the EU becomes more aggressive and assertive,' Kasekamp said.
'They are seeing how far they can push us, the European Union, Nato, the Americans, everybody.'
Some Estonians even fear Moscow may be searching for a casus belli. At the international level the Russian testing last week of an inter-continental ballistic missile led to an extraordinary diplomatic spat between the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice - who deplored Moscow's 'missile diplomacy' - and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who attacked American 'imperialism'.
For the UK, already strained relations were put under new stress when the dispute with Moscow over the poisoning in London of Russian dissident and British citizen Alexander Litvinenko six months ago took another turn for the worse. Last week the prime suspect, whose extradition has been demanded by Britain and refused by Russia, surfaced on Wednesday in Moscow. Andrei Lugovoi told TV cameras that the British secret services were behind Litvinenko's murder.
Then there are profound disagreements over the future of Kosovo and policy on Iran, a row over the rights of major British commercial investors to parts of the massive Siberian gasfields, harassment of British officials and diplomats in Moscow, and a series of apparently state-encouraged propaganda pieces in the Russian media against the West. Analysts are talking of relations between Moscow and London being at a 25-year low.
'This is a delayed confrontation between the Soviet past and the European future,' Igor Grazin, an Estonian MP, told The Observer. And his country, home to 1.3 million, is in the middle.
For James Nixey, of Chatham House - the Royal Institute of International Affairs, based in London - Russia's recent broadside against Estonia is part of a wider vision of the region. 'It seems that Russia feels that those countries around it which are democratic and have liberal attitudes are a threat and those that are illiberal and autocratic are not,' he said last week.
Analysts and diplomats are working to decipher the logic behind Russia's hardening stance. The missile test last week was partly provoked by American plans to install an anti-missile defence system in Eastern Europe. 'The most explicit message from Moscow was that Russia is the main strategic partner for America,' said Thomas Gomart, of the French Institute of International Relations in Paris. 'It's a way of marginalising the Europeans and other emerging powers.'
Son Of 'Star Wars' No Threat To Russia's Nuclear Arsenal