22 September 2009

The Eastern European ABMs viewed as OFFENSIVE weapons

This week President Obama cancelled plans to establish anti-ballistic missiles sites in the Czech Republic and in Poland. Der Spiegel offered this assessment:
The decision by Washington not to install a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic has prompted Russians to breathe a little easier on Thursday... With his decision, Obama has removed a significant barrier to relations between Washington and Moscow, where the missile defense shield had always been seen as a slap in the face.
And from the BBC:

The bases are to be scrapped after a review of the threat from Iran. Mr Obama said there would be a "proven, cost-effective" system using land- and sea-based interceptors against Iran's short- and medium-range missile threat.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has welcomed the US decision, calling it a "responsible move". Russia had always seen the shield as a threat.

What is often not explained in these reports is why Russia viewed these weapons as offensive threats. How does an ANTI-ballistic DEFENSE shield serve an offensive strategy? This was explained over a year ago as an aside during a discussion of the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict:

In spite of the way it is portrayed, an ABM is not a defensive system and is certainly not aimed at “rogue states,” since none of them have missiles than can threaten the U.S. or Europe. An ABM is designed to absorb a retaliatory attack following a first strike. U.S. nuclear doctrine is based on this first strike, or “counterforce,” strategy.

Russia and China—currently the only two nations that can seriously challenge the idea of an American century—find themselves surrounded by U.S. bases from northern Europe, through the Middle East and Central Asia, to the north Pacific. At least in theory, the U.S. ABM system pretty much cancels out China’s modest nuclear capability, and, fully deployed, a European system could neutralize much of Russia’s.

The Bush Administration says that its ABM system is not large enough to stop Russia’s thousands of nuclear warheads, but it fails to mention that a first strike would destroy all but about five percent of those weapons. All an ABM would have to do is handle the handful of warheads that survived a counterforce strike.

The Russians and the Chinese have made it quite clear that they consider the ABM system a threat to their nuclear deterrence ability.


  1. There's an even simpler reason ABM could have been an offensive system: its powerful radar had a 360 degree view from the Czech Republic, including deep into the Caucuses. Not only could it have tracked Russian launches (including any missile tests), it could potentially view a good amount of air traffic in the area.


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