Nuclear sabre-rattling in Europe

Wow, like, nostalgia for the ’80s, dude. This should be read to the strains of Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Except that now the Russkies are threatening to nuke former Warsaw Pact members—which just indicates how desperate their post-imperial position is, and (contrary to the conventional wisdom) makes them more likely to use their nukes. We can only hope the decrepit things will fail to fire… From RFE/RL, Feb. 20:

Russia Threatens to Target Sites in Poland, Czech Republic
Colonel General Nikolai Solovtsov, who commands the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, told a February 19 Moscow news conference that Russia might target missiles at Poland and the Czech Republic if those countries agree to host U.S. missile-defense sites, Russian media reported. Solovtsov said that “if a political decision [is made by the Kremlin] to withdraw from [the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty] between the United States and Russia, the Strategic Missile Forces will be capable of carrying out the task [of targeting sites in the Czech Republic and Poland].” He added that, under the 1987 pact, “intermediate-range missiles were dismantled as a class, but the [knowledge of how to make them] is still there…. So, if such a decision is made, it won’t be difficult to resume their production.” Solovtsov noted that the United States and its allies are discussing the missile-defense project but have not yet taken any concrete steps. Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov said on February 19 that there will not be any new “Cold War” in Europe, the daily Vedomosti reported on February 20. He added that Russia is nonetheless prepared to defend “its national interests” by making an unspecified “symmetrical response” to the stationing of a missile-defense system near its borders. On February 15, General Yury Baluyevsky, who heads the Russian General Staff, said that Russia has “convincing evidence” that would enable it to abrogate the INF agreement under the terms of that pact, RIA Novosti reported. The state-run news agency described his remarks as “a strong warning” to Washington. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on February 16 that Baluyevsky was “simply stating the facts” and that Russia has made no decision on scrapping the treaty. The International Herald Tribune on February 20 quoted Moscow-based analyst Ivan Safranchuk as saying that Russia is threatening to abrogate the agreement in the hope that unspecified “Europeans” will “put pressure on the United States” not to go ahead with its missile-defense plans. The Economist of February 17 argued that Russia seeks recognition of its own “sphere of influence” in Europe.

Meanwhile, the US maintains (implausibly) that the missiles are needed to protect Europe from Iranian and North Korean missiles. (The Hindu, Feb. 20)

See our last posts on the Russia and nuclear paranoia.

Oh and, by the way, does this sound familiar?