Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

Russia threatens U.S. because of antimissile system The Times: Russia threatens military response to US missile defence deal

Iran's Missile Threat  

Talk about timing, perhaps fortuitous. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Prague signing an agreement that's a first step toward protecting Europe from ballistic missile attack. As if on cue, Tehran yesterday tested nine missiles, including several capable of reaching southern Europe, as well as Israel and U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East. Remind us. Who says Iran isn't a threat?

The chief naysayer is Moscow, which continues to insist that the planned U.S.-led missile defense for Europe is aimed at defeating Russian missiles, not Iranian ones. This was Vladimir Putin's line, and the new Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, picked it up yesterday, saying that the antimissile system "deeply distresses" Russia and is a threat to its national security. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement warning that if the system is deployed, "we will be forced to react not with diplomatic, but with military-technical methods." Good to see the Russians haven't lost their subtle touch.

No one in that neighborhood – least of all the Russians – actually believes Iran's missile program is anything but dangerous. Russians talk privately about the Iranian threat, and it's not hard to imagine a scenario whereby Tehran shares a missile – and perhaps a nuclear warhead – with its brother Muslims in Chechnya.

In any case, Washington's proposed antimissile system for Europe is designed to defend against one or two missiles launched from Iran, not against the thousands of missiles in the Russian arsenal. It would include a tracking radar in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptors in Poland (or perhaps Lithuania, if the Poles can't get their act together). Russia's claim that this highly limited defense poses a threat to its nuclear deterrence is absurd.

Yesterday's tests offered no big surprises about Iran's missile technology, but they are a useful reminder of just how real the Iranian threat is – and how rapidly it is growing. One of the missiles tested was the latest update of the Shahab-3, which has a range of about 1,250 miles.

Replace the payload with a lighter one – say, a nuclear warhead – and the range gains 1,000 miles. Add a booster and the range can be extended even farther. North Korea did just that with its Taepodong missile – technology that it passed along to Iran. U.S. intelligence estimates that Iran will have a ballistic missile capable of reaching New York or Washington by about 2015.

Iran may already have the capability to target the U.S. with a short-range missile by launching it from a freighter off the East Coast. A few years ago it was observed practicing the launch of Scuds from a barge in the Caspian Sea.

This would be especially troubling if Tehran is developing EMP – electromagnetic pulse – technology. A nuclear weapon detonated a hundred miles over U.S. territory would create an electromagnetic pulse that would virtually shut down the U.S. economy by destroying electronic circuits on the ground. William Graham, head of a Congressional commission to assess the EMP threat, testifies before the House Armed Services Committee this morning. We hope someone asks him about Iran.

The proposed "third site" in Europe is part of a rudimentary missile-defense system that the U.S. already has in place for the homeland. It's one of the unsung successes of the Bush Presidency, and the U.S. and its allies are safer for it. Yet few Democrats are willing to acknowledge it. That apparently includes Barack Obama, whose response to Iran's missile tests yesterday was to call for more direct diplomacy with Tehran, tougher threats of economic sanctions and bigger incentives to behave – all of which Tehran has sneered at numerous times.

Some 30 nations, including North Korea and Syria, have ballistic missiles and their proliferation is sure to continue. The European site is part of the Bush Administration's vision of missile defense with a global reach. Iran's latest missile tests show that Europe needs an antimissile system more than ever.

From The Times: Russia threatens military response to US missile defence deal

Russia threatened to retaliate by military means after a deal with the Czech Republic brought the US missile defence system in Europe a step closer.

The threat followed quickly on from the announcement that Condoleezza Rice signed a formal agreement with the Czech Republic to host the radar for the controversial project.

Moscow argues that the missile shield would severely undermine the balance of European security and regards the proposed missile shield based in two former Communist countries as a hostile move.

“We will be forced to react not with diplomatic, but with military-technical methods,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry did not detail what its response might entail.

Dr Rice, the US Secretary of State, hailed the agreement as a step forward for international security.

After 14 months of negotiations, the US is struggling to clinch agreement with its other proposed partner - Poland - where it hopes to locate the interceptor missiles designed to shoot down any incoming rockets.

Washington insists that the system will not be targeted at Russia, but will act as a safeguard for Europe against regimes such as Iran. The plan was endorsed by Nato in April.

"This missile defence agreement is significant as a building block not just for the security of the United States and the Czech Republic, but also for the security of Nato and the security of the international community as a whole," Dr Rice said. "Ballistic missile proliferation is not an imaginary threat."

A change of government in Poland last November saw the country introduce a range of demands including US investment in its air defences in return for siting the missiles.

Poland's tough negotiating position has even led to a threat from the Pentagon to find an alternative site in the Baltic state of Lithuania.

"There are remaining issues, but the United States has made a very generous offer [to the Poles]," said Dr Rice.

A year ago at the G8 in Germany, President Vladimir Putin of Russia surprised the US by suggesting that the radar could be hosted in Azerbaijan so that the technology could be shared.

The signing ceremony seemed to bury that idea. Addressing Russian anxiety about the anti-missile system in what used to be its backyard, Ms Rice added: "We want the system to be transparent to the Russians."

Mirek Topolanek, the Czech Prime Minister, said that the deal was an example of "our joint desire to protect the free world" and said his country could not afford to miss out as it had done after the Second World War, when it fell under Soviet influence.

"We were in the past in a similar situation and then we failed. We did not accept the Marshall Plan...we should not allow a second error of this kind," he said.

In Prague, where polls consistently show a majority of Czechs opposed to hosting the US radar, protestors from Greenpeace unrolled a large banner proclaiming "Do not make a target of us."

After Prague, Dr Rice will visit Bulgaria and Georgia where she will stress US support for Tblisi's application for Nato membership, another annoyance for Russia.

She will also appeal for calm between Moscow and Tblisi over the separatist Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"We have said both Georgia and Russia need to avoid provocative behaviour but frankly some of the things the Russians did over the last couple of months added to tension in the region," Dr Rice said.

"Georgia is an independent state. It has to be treated like one. I want to make very clear that the US commitment to Georgia's territorial integrity is strong."

The radar agreement still has to pass through the Czech parliament where the government only has a slim majority.


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