One of the things that has been bugging me lately is Russia’s vehement opposition to America’s plan to set up a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Their argument seems convincing at first; they claim that the shield is meant to contain Russia, and not rogue states like Iran. They even went as far as offering a radar system in Azerbaijan to prove how the Americans are lying about the intent of the missile defense system. Incidentally, the Azerbaijani base is inadequate geographically. First, it is too close to Iran to effectively shoot down any Iranian missile. Second, Iran is not the sole possible threat. What if Syria, or Gaddafi’s Libya, suddenly follows Iran’s model? How could a base in Azerbaijan counter a strike from Libya?
So are the Americans lying about the true intent behind these military installations? First, I think we should take a look at what the military purpose of these installations is. They would be installed, first and foremost, to defend America’s allies (and NATO member countries) in Eastern Europe from missile attack. Now really, does it matter who the attack is from? Both Poland and the Czech Republic, not to mention other Eastern European nations like Slovakia, Hungary, and the three Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), willingly joined the NATO alliance. All are allies of the United States right now, and as such, the United States is seeking to protect it’s allies. Does it really matter who America would be protecting them from if an attack ever came?
But what of Moscow’s complaints that the execution of this plan tips the balance of power in Europe? I’m sorry to remind Russia that it lost the Cold War, with two decades of post-Communism fast approaching Eastern Europe. The balance of power has already been tipped, and tipped so far that even former Soviet states like the Baltic nations are now NATO members, and others, such as Georgia and Ukraine, aspire to join the alliance. Russia also claims that the USA is seeking to become dominant in this region of the world. Perhaps it is so, but it is only with the willing cooperation of Eastern European states. The few thousand men who are to be stationed in Romania and Bulgaria, combined with the radar bases in the Czech Republic and Poland pose no threat to the national sovereignty of any of the nations.
No, what seems to be really happening right now is that Russia is once again trying to carve out a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, with strength found from Putin’s vigorous rule and vast petroleum reserves. Moscow seems intent on keeping Eastern Europe a ‘buffer zone’ between Russia and the West. Eastern European states are to be effectively neutered if Moscow has its way. The purpose, according to Russia’s current pravda, of former Soviet states like the Ukraine and Georgia is to be vehemently pro-Russian and to never ever even hint that they might have some semblance of independence in foreign affairs. Why? What does Russia have to fear? Is the European Union so terrifying? Is the United States still an archenemy?
The sad part of the whole charade, though, is that Russia has successfully painted itself as the victim in this scenario. After all, America is the arrogant nation, placing radar systems and a handful of mid-range missiles in countries close to Russia, right? Wrong! For starters, neither Poland nor the Czech Republic even border the vast Russian federation (the three Baltic nations, on the other hand do, and theoretically, are more vulnerable to Russian attack; yet the Russians seem to forget that in their claims that the Americans are lying). Second, it is Russia who is seeking to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries at the moment, forcing its own national interests to the front, while virtually ignoring the national interests of its smaller neighbors. And, worst of all, Russia has promised to point its nuclear arsenal at Europe and threatened to use conventional military force to defend its national interests. Talk about fighting back with a sword when tickled with a feather!
One thing is certain, if America’s plan to install a missile shield goes through, and it can only do so with the backing of the host states, Eastern Europe will show, quite definitively, that they have stepped out of the long shadow of Russian dominance. A precedent will be set, the correct precedent that will later allow Eastern European countries more freedom when conducting their foreign affairs. I’m not against Russia or Russians, what I’m against is one nation muscling another into accepting its demands. One of Russia’s top generals, Yuri Baluyevsky, claims that if Russia does not receive a response to its offer of an Azerbaijani radar, it would mean that the actual target of the system would be Russia. Such twisted logic seems to be caused by the Russian predisposition to believe that the US is necessarily an enemy. Perhaps it’s time that the Russians stopped being afraid of specters from the past.