US weighs the benefits of aligning with Russia to defend against Iran

President Obama recently cancelled the ballistic missile defense (BMD) plan set by President George W. Bush, which would create BMD sites in Poland and the Czech Republic to protect the West from missile threats from Iran. US intelligence reports that threats from Iran would be in the form of short-range missiles, not long-range. So instead of 10 intercontinental missiles, Obama plans to place at least twice as many (and eventually maybe hundreds) smaller missile interceptors launched from sea and land based closer to Iran. These systems will perhaps be upgraded later to have the capability of intercepting intercontinental missiles.

The March 2009 issue of the World Savvy Monitor explored why Iran is seen as a threat to other nations. Iranian leaders are very protective against outside threats to their sovereignty, especially from the US, and the country is also believed to support and fund terror groups in the Middle East. Iran has violated the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that it signed in 1968 by building new nuclear weapons, and an ambassador from Iran recently told the NY Times that Iran would not negotiate further with the major powers about its nuclear program. The question of whether the world can live with a nuclear Iran is up for debate, but Russia is supportive of the new US defense plan.

Russia objects to the BMD positions in Poland and the Czech Republic in part because it violates the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which restricted the US and Russia to one BMD position each, but from which the US withdrew in 2001, as discussed in the November 2008 issue of the WS Monitor. The US also declined Russian offers in 1999 for a joint offensive against Muslim terrorist groups following international attacks, including the first World Trade Center attack. In part, the US agreed to cancel the BMD plans and align with Russia on this issue, which some support, since Russia has the power to either support or veto increased sanctions on Iran as part of the United Nations Security Council. And although Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov has said, “Iran is a partner that has never harmed Russia in any way,” the country is not opposed to these defense systems and recently set up an anti-missile defense unit of its own near North Korea. NATO’s new secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen believes this an opportunity for a “genuine new beginning of our relationship with Russia.” It seems the two countries may be able to come to a consensus on defense strategy against Iran, even though accusations of hypocrisy flew in August 2008 as US objected to Russian intervention in Georgia while intervening in Iraq.

Yet some politicians in the US, Poland, and the Czech Republic as well as groups like the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance disagree with Obama’s new plan, fearing lack of protection from Russia, and that Russia is controlling the security policy of the West. Others question whether anti-ballistic missile systems will work as planned in the event of a real threat from Iran or North Korea, especially if the missile is nuclear. It remains to be seen whether aligning with Russia, a notoriously autonomous country, with the end goal of multinational security against Iran will be a successful strategy.

One Response

  1. The Obama administration announced intelligence on Friday that Iran is building a secret nuclear facility that may be capable of producing one bomb a year. Obama said the plant “represents a direct challenge to the basic foundation of the nonproliferation regime.” This comes soon before October 1 when Iran is set discuss its nuclear program with the five permanent Security Council members (the US, the UK, China, France, Russia) and Germany.
    New York Times article:

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