US plans anti-missile radar bases for Caucasus

Days after a Russian general unsubtly threatened to nuke Poland and the Czech Republic following the announcement that they would host US anti-missile bases, comes the disturbing news that US radar stations related to the missile defense program are slated for the Caucasus. This March 2 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report indicates the Russians are playing it cool. But this has got to be viewed by the Kremlin as a further US encirclement of the Motherland, even if the ostensible enemy is Iran—which is still years away from a nuclear weapon, recall.

Russian General says he’s Not Concerned about Possible U.S. Radar Station in Caucasus

U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Henry Obering, who heads the Missile Defense Agency, said in Brussels on March 1 that the United States wants to set up an antimissile radar station at an unspecified point in the Caucasus, news agencies reported. He reiterated the U.S. position that the projected missile interceptors to be based in Poland are not directed against Russia, although President Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials have argued that they are. Obering said that “what [we] are talking about is 10 interceptors that we would locate in Poland. First of all, from a numbers perspective, there is no way that they can challenge the hundreds of missiles and thousands of warheads that the Russians have. [Secondly,] even if we were trying to target those missiles, we cannot catch those missiles from Poland. In fact, if we were trying to target Russian missiles we would not put the interceptors in Poland—it is too close to Russia. They would be in a different location.” On March 2, Russian Air Force Commander in Chief Colonel General Vladimir Mikhailov said that the possible deployment of a U.S. radar site in the Caucasus is of no real concern to Russia, RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS reported. “We have everything necessary in order to respond appropriately to such deployments. They have lots of money, so let them spend it,” he said. The daily “Kommersant” on March 2 summed up the Russian attitude towards the missile-defense project as “predictably hostile.” The same paper reported on February 28 that First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov told the government’s Military and Industrial Commission recently that Russia needs to set up its own defense system against aircraft, missiles, and space weapons.

And just in case you think there’s no link between Washington’s new Iran obsession and the old rivalry wiith Russia… Another clip from that same day’s RFE/RL Newsline:

Are Arms Sales Helping Drive Russian Policy in Middle East?
The Russian daily “Vedomosti” noted on March 1 that “Russia has become one of the chief problems for U.S. policy in the Middle East,” particularly where Iran is concerned, which “enables Moscow to demonstrate the potential geopolitical benefits of friendship with Russia to other Middle Eastern countries.” The paper stressed that “Moscow and Washington have disagreed in the Middle East before, but matters have not gone this far since the Cold War era…. As recently as 2005, Russia bowed to pressure from the United States and Israel and declined to sell portable surface-to-air missiles to Syria. [Instead, it] signed an agreement with the United States on reciprocal notification about any such arms deals in future.” The daily pointed out that “the Middle East is a key area for Russia’s arms and nuclear technologies exports. Putin is relying on this potential in his efforts to diversify the Russian economy.”

See our last posts on Russia, the struggle for the Caucasus, Iran and nuclear fear.