Dispatch: Moscow Gets Ahead on Missile Defense

MIN READJun 15, 2011 | 20:02 GMT

Analyst Marko Papic explains two separate statements made Wednesday that give Russia momentum against U.S. plans for ballistic missile defense in Europe.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Two events that took place on Wednesday will please the Kremlin very much. Both had to do with the ballistic missile defense plans by the U.S. in central Europe. And both give Moscow more diplomatic fuel in its competition with the United States over the future of ballistic missile defense in Europe. First, the Shanghai Corporation Organization, the SCO, issued a joint statement during its meeting in Kazakhstan regarding the Western plans for a missile defense system saying that any system that would threaten international security is opposed by the organization. Second, the Czech government also announced today that it would oppose any sort of a U.S. plan that was of minimal nature, essentially pulling Prague out of the U.S. plans for a ballistic missile defense system in central Europe. The negative statement about the ballistic missile defense from the SCO is not surprising. Since it is essentially led by Russia, and Russia has in the past attempted to portray the SCO as some sort of a counter weight to NATO, although it is nothing of the sort at this moment. But what is somewhat interesting about the statement is that it is the first time that Beijing has really publicly weighed in on the issue. As a member of the SCO, the statement does have China's signature on it, which means that Russia did manage to get China to publicly comment on an issue that thus far has pitted Moscow and Washington against one another over an issue of European security. A far more important statement came from Prague, where the Czech government decided to back out of supporting and hosting part of the U.S. BMD system in Europe. Prague has always had a little more room to maneuver when it came to the BMD system. It is not positioned on the borders with a resurgent Russia nor would any of its buffer states such as Ukraine and Belarus. Furthermore geographically it is behind the Tatra and Carpathian Mountains and has historically been able to play different empires off of one another. As such there was never unity within the Czech population behind the BMD efforts. What really irked Prague was the minimal role that the revamped BMD system had for the Czech Republic. Unlike Poland and Romania, which had missile components of the new BMD system, Prague was left with an early warning system, which really constituted nothing more than a room full of computers. As such the Czech government didn't really see any reason why to put political capital behind a project that was A, unpopular and B, didn't really have any large significance. At the end of the day, the BMD system from the perspective of the central Europeans is really about bringing the United States into the region, to offer greater security against Russian resurgence. The fact that Czech Republic said it doesn't really need any such reassurance will be fuel for Moscow when it negotiates both with western Europe and with other central European countries. It will also be able to use the Czech decision as a sign that there are central European countries that feel really no threat from either some sort of Middle East intercontinental ballistic strike or, more importantly, from a resurgent Russia. Furthermore Moscow will be able to use the SCO statement to show that it's not just Russia that has problems with the U.S. plans for BMD in Europe but also for another very important security player in the world - China.
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