In the latest exercise in fact-twisting, General Nikolai Makarov, Russian Chief of the General Staff, said that Russia is being pushed toward an arms race because of U.S. plans to deploy missile defenses in Europe.
Markarov continued, “We are prepared to cooperate, to build a missile defense together. Why don’t they meet us halfway?” In fact, the United States has gone more than half way, and similar accusations are nothing but an exercise in bellicose rhetoric.
These and similar threats are an attempt to restrain the U.S. missile defense capability. Moscow is interested in keeping the U.S. and its allies’ populations vulnerable to a ballistic missile attack. Any limitations—be it shared command and control or a sectorial approach to missile defense—would have negative implications for the U.S.’s ability to protect itself and its allies.
After all, missile defenses target a missile en route toward its victims. There is no reason why the U.S. should not engage a missile just because the launch location happens to be in Russia. It is up to Russia to move toward a more defensive posture and increase the level of transparency regarding its missile defense and military plans.
Judging by its actions, one can see that Russia is far from moving toward a more defensive posture. While the U.S. is cutting its defense budget and is the only country in the world without a substantial nuclear weapons modernization program, Russia is engaged in the largest nuclear build-up since the end of the Cold War.
Moscow is planning on modernizing its intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs) so that fifth-generation ICBMs would make up at least 80 percent of its arsenals by the beginning of 2018. The Kremlin is also planning on deploying as many as eight nuclear-capable submarines available in the 2025–2030 timeframe and is developing a new strategic bomber. In addition, while Russian officials are regularly updated on U.S. missile defense plans, there is very little reciprocal effort on the Russian side.
Ballistic missile proliferation trends are growing worse. Iran might be able to hit anywhere in the United States by 2015. The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in its November 2011 report that Iran has a nuclear weapons program underway. North Korea is already capable of hitting Hawaii and Alaska. Clearly, this is not the time to limit U.S. missile defenses.