In a move sure to further provoke Moscow, “Ukraine has said it is prepared to open its missile defence network to cooperation with European and other foreign powers. . . . Washington says the system is intended to protect itself and Europe against missile attacks from ‘rogue states’.”
Then-Russian President Vladimir Putin at one point had suggested that Russia and the U.S. could jointly implement a system in Azerbaijan to protect “all of Europe,” but Russia has believed that it is the real object of the U.S. system. And the U.S. ultimately decided the Russian proposal was insufficient, in effect labeling Russia a “rogue state.”
Great circle route calculations make the Bush administration position seem plausible. The great circle route is the shortest route between any two points on a sphere, the route a long-range missile would follow. The real difficulty, as illustrated in a New Scientist article (written when Iraq was of greater concern than Iran) is that disabled missiles from Iran would likely fall on NATO allies. New Scientist speculates about laser interceptions from air or sea; these can disable the booster, but not destroy a warhead designed to survive the heat of re-entry. “To destroy the warhead itself during the boost phase would need a larger and more manoeuvrable interceptor than anything the US is currently developing.”
Intercepting a missile during its ascent requires something faster than the missile itself–hence the New Scientist‘s speculation about a laser weapon–or something placed in between the launch site and the target. Interception is easier in the early stages of the ascent while the ICBM is still moving relatively slowly; it accelerates under thrust as it ascends and as it passes through progressively thinner reaches of the atmosphere. So anti-missile missile batteries need to be placed as close as possible to the launch site and along a projected trajectory.
Azerbaijan, a small country on the western shore of the Caspian Sea, is much closer to any Iranian launch sites than the Czech Republic. If the object of the Bush’s missile defense system is truly Iran, it makes much more sense. But the “Kremlin offer to share a radar site in Azerbaijan could not replace US plans to site a missile shield in eastern Europe.” And Dinshaw Mistry raises considerable doubt that Iran can rapidly deploy any substantial ICBM capability, while Russia already has ICBMs.
There can be little doubt that Russia’s invasion of Georgia provokes angst among its neighbors who have long lived under the shadow of Russian might, but it also sends a message about NATO’s eastward expansion. Georgia and Ukraine both want to join NATO, and while the United States supports their bids, NATO has deferred action on their requests.
Georgia now pays a price for serving as a U.S. proxy, while NATO fails to ride to its rescue, even after sending troops (who were recalled to meet the Russian invasion) to Iraq. “‘We encouraged [the Georgians] to think they were a critical American ally,’ agreed Daniel Nelson, a former European expert at the State Department,” but the head-butt style of Bush administration “diplomacy” has at least one of my professors looking for a “green light” to Georgia’s assault on the separatist provinces Russia has now defended. It is a shame to see Ukraine wanting to pay this price as well. For the only winners in a renewed cold war are the military industrial complex.