Continuing its longstanding opposition to U.S. missile defense,Russia has demanded to know the parameters of the proposed missile defense shield in Europe and ways to verify that the system will not target Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
According to Russia’s acting envoy to NATO, Nikolai Korchunov, creating a joint partnership between the U.S. and Russia for any missile defense system placed in Europe could most easily accomplish this; for the U.S., to comply with this demand would be lunacy.
For years, the Russian Federation has opposed many of the foreign policy goals of the U.S. with respect to Iran, including helping Iran build its ballistic missile force and blocking new sanctions designed to get the Iranian regime to give up its nuclear ambitions. This has allowed Iran to continue to develop its program and harden key assets in underground bunkers.
Russia even helped build Iran’s first nuclear power reactor and is considering building a second unit. If not for Russian help, the deployment of missile defenses in Europe to counter an Iranian threat may not be such an urgent matter. Yesterday, the Fars News Agency reported that the Russian central bank is preparing to make due payments and issue letters of credit to circumvent sanctions placed on the Iranian regime.
Why, then, would the U.S. grant what is effectively veto power to the Russians when it comes to protecting our allies in Europe by allowing Russia to co-manage the system? Further, is it much of a stretch to believe the Russians would provide our missile defense technology to rogue states such as Iran and North Korea?
Russian opposition to missile defense has existed since President Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), and it has been so strong that Mikhail Gorbachev was willing to give up all strategic offensive nuclear weapons at the Reykjavik summit in exchange for Reagan killing SDI.
However, an irrational Russian fear is hardly a reason to open our allies up to the very real possibility of attack by Iran or other rogue state. If anything, threats of the use of nuclear force against missile sites by Russian generals only proves the need for missile defense and should steel the resolve of the United States.
According to a report by the Department of Defense in April,Iran is continuing to develop ballistic missiles that can reach into Europe and increasing their lethality through accuracy improvements and new submunition payloads. Estimates also project that Iran will be technically capable of launching an ICBM within three years.
With high-ranking Iranian officials having repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel and its allies, the U.S. should continue the deployment of missile defense systems in Europe, the opinion of Russia notwithstanding. To cede this defensive capability for an ephemeral relations boost with a country that does not have our best interests at heart is madness.
Chris Gardner is a former writer for the Homeland Security NewsWire and freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He is currently on staff at The Heritage Foundation.