Back in November 2008, then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev made a stark warning to NATO: “Russia will deploy Iskander missile systems in its enclave in Kaliningrad to neutralize, if necessary, the anti-ballistic missile system in Europe.”
Several years we followed up with a report that as Europe was ramping up NATO expansion, Russia may have followed through on its warning when as Bild then reported, Russia stationed missiles with a range of about 500 kilometers in its Kaliningrad enclave and along its border with the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
There was not official confirmation at the time however we expect the European ICBM theater will get hot in the coming days because as Reuters reports, the United States’ European missile defense shield goes live on Thursday almost a decade after Washington proposed protecting NATO from Iranian rockets and despite repeated Russian warnings that the West is threatening the peace in central Europe.
Amid high Russia-West tension, U.S. and NATO officials will declare operational the shield at a remote air base in Deveselu, Romania, after years of planning, billions of dollars in investment and failed attempts to assuage Russian concerns that the shield could be used against Moscow.
As Robert Bell, a NATO-based envoy of U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter explained “we now have the capability to protect NATO in Europe. The Iranians are increasing their capabilities and we have to be ahead of that. The system is not aimed against Russia,” he told reporters, adding that the system will soon be handed over to NATO command.
First agreed by the U.S. government 2007 and then canceled and relaunched by the newly-elected U.S. President Barack Obama in 2009, the missile defense shield’s stated aim is to protect North America and Europe from so-called rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. That is part of a U.S. strategy that includes missile interceptors in California and Alaska.
To be sure the Kremlin was not content with this explanation, which is a clear defection from the carefully established Game Theory equilibrium in the aftermath of the nuclear arms race, and one which potentially removes a Russian first strike threat, thereby pressuring Russia.
As a result, Reuters notes that “Russia is incensed at such of show of force by its Cold War rival in formerly communist-ruled eastern Europe where it once held sway. Moscow says the U.S.-led alliance is trying to encircle it close to the strategically important Black Sea, home to a Russian naval fleet and where NATO is also considering increasing patrols.”
Worse, the precarious nuclear balance of power in Europe has suddenly shifted, and quite dramatically: despite U.S. assurances, the Kremlin says the missile shield’s real aim is to neutralize Moscow’s nuclear arsenal long enough for the United States to make a first strike on Russia in the event of war.
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