Saturday, September 27, 2008

Seriously, a Russian Missile Shield?

A recent article in The Times declared that Russian president Dmitry Medvedev announced that Russia is going to build a new space and missile defense shield as part of a plan to upgrade its nuclear arsenal. In addition to his desire to build this missile shield, the Russian president put his country’s armed forces on permanent combat alert status. This follows a series of events in the previous week where Russia sent a battle cruiser and submarine to participate in joint exercises with Venezuela, agreed to sell nuclear technology to Venezuela, and announced that it is going to build closer ties to Latin American countries. This should get some people’s attention in Washington, but should hardly cause anyone to think that Russia is going to challenge the U.S. anytime soon.

The question that must be asked is how much of a threat do Russia’s actions pose to the United States? Are they going to challenge the U.S. for supremacy in the Caribbean or just be a thorn in our side that won’t go away?

As the world’s sole superpower, the United States has done as it sees fit in the world for the past 15-20 years while Russia struggled after the fall of the Soviet Union and only began to recover once oil prices started to rise after 2001. As we saw when Russia invaded Georgia, they are still using tactics from the Cold War era involving large formations of men and tanks that cannot be moved swiftly in addition to using outdated T-72 tanks. If one reads the Times article further it states that Medvedev’s plans are not going to fully implemented until 2020. By that time, the U.S. will have plenty of F-22 and F-35 planes in addition to new aircraft carriers and DDG-51, and maybe a few DDG-1000, destroyers to blow anything off the face of the earth that Russia throws at it.

Russia is not much of a threat to the United States. Most likely they are playing all of this up for their domestic constituency so that they will feel good about themselves and take pride in their country again. Putin pulled Russia out of the turmoil of the 1990s and reasserted his country on the world stage and Mevdedev is merely continuing Putin’s policies of making Russia seem as strong as possible for the citizens of the motherland. However, if any opportunities present themselves for Russia to stick it to the U.S., like we did to them by placing a missile defense system in Poland, then they will do it. The U.S. should take notice of Russia’s actions but should hardly lose any sleep over it. It will take much longer than 10 years for Russia to truly challenge the United States militarily. Taking action against Venezuela if they were to begin a civilian nuclear program is a whole different discussion for another day.

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