Jewish World Review April 25, 2012/ 3 Iyar, 5772
Safeguarding us all in the nuclear age
By Martin Schram
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | While the world fixates on the latest gasbagging and saber-rattling from globally sanctioned but ever-defiant North Korea and Iran, we are focusing today on another escalating nuclear-age crisis -- one that never had to be.
Make no mistake. We don't underestimate the potential for evildoing by the world's self-actualizing bad guys: Pyongyang's Kim Jong Un, who this week vowed "special actions" against South Korea; or Tehran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose government just announced it is building a copy of a captured U.S. spy drone.
But we are looking behind the scenes at a less strident, but potentially more probable crisis: Russia's vow to answer NATO's planned Europe-based missile shield with new rockets on its European borders.
After years of on-again, off-again diplomatic dealings with Moscow, NATO plans to announce its first missile-defense deployment steps in its May 20-21 summit in Chicago. The first step will reportedly include stationing radar facilities in Turkey and on U.S. Navy vessels in Spain.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has warned that if that happens, Russia will station missiles near the borders of Lithuania and Poland unless it receives legal and binding guarantees that the missile shield won't be directed against Russia.
NATO officials have said a formal, legally binding assurance can't be provided to Russia because NATO nations' legislatures were unlikely to approve such an internationally binding measure. NATO has emphasized that its shield is a defense against missiles that might someday be launched by Iran or others in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, U.S. experts analyzing the latest plans for NATO's shield have sounded at least two warning calls. The first came in a study done last year by a Pentagon advisory panel. The U.S. Defense Science Board warned that the radar planned for the new NATO system needed to have greater range to be effective. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency rejected that analysis.
Perhaps more importantly, a report by the Government Accountability Office, a respected nonpartisan analysis arm of Congress, warned in 2011 that in the rush to deploy the project, the interceptor missiles had not been properly tested. "DOD is at risk of incurring schedule slips, decreased performance and increased cost," the GAO reported. Defense officials said they generally concurred and were working to remedy the testing problem.
Russia's concerns about the Europe-based missile shield were as predictable as an eastern sunrise. Yet U.S. administrations failed to lay the groundwork for handling the missile-defense project in a way that could have made it a win-win for all participants.
Experts, including former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., have long warned that Russia's radar facilities were in need of major improvement. Nunn made a compelling case that improving Russia's ability to properly detect an incoming threat -- and avoid false warnings -- was of the highest interests to Europe and the United States, as well as Russia.
A classic reminder of this occurred after the fall of the Soviet Union. On Jan. 25, 1995, during the regime of President Boris Yeltsin, Russian radar officials detected what they believed was a missile launch from off the coast of Norway, where U.S. submarines were known to be. It seemed to be headed toward Russia. Kremlin officials had just 15 minutes to decide whether this was an incoming attack and whether to launch missiles to retaliate. They didn't believe the U.S. would launch a one-rocket attack, so they didn't push the button. The threatening "rocket" turned out to be a launch of a Norwegian weather balloon.
That is why the planned NATO missile shield needed to be approached from the outset as a combined NATO-Russian effort. It represented, and still represents, an opportunity to help Russia improve its radar capabilities, an effort that can help safeguard us all.
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