People in Europe, Russia and some in America are resting easier after the Kremlin's announcement, Wednesday, January 28 that they are withdrawing their threat against Poland and the United States. That threat was about placing their missiles on the northern border of Poland in response to any further building of the U.S. Missile Defense System in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russia felt threatened by the placement of 10 Interceptor Missiles in Poland, only a few hundred miles from Russian territory to the East.
"In response they want a decision not to deploy the missile system shield in eastern Europe," said Yevgeny Volk, an analyst in Moscow with the Heritage Foundation think tank, according to Reuters. Too, The row over the shield has helped drive diplomatic ties between Moscow and Washington to their lowest level since the end of the Cold War.
On the day after the announcement by Russia the U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said "we'll support missile defense, if it's proven to work." This position reiterates that of President Obama, who supports missile defense but wants to ensure that it is proven to be a reliable system and does not detract from other security priorities, according to the AP.
The U.S. maintained that the missiles in Poland would help protect Europe in case of an attack from Iranian missiles (Iran, a "rogue state") under former President Bush's definition. Fortunately, Obama chose not to decide yet on proceeding with the missile plans and spent some time on the phone with Russian President Dimitri Medvedev recently, thus softening the tension between the two countries-the two largest superpowers in the world with nuclear weapons and arsenals. A possible major confrontation has therefore been averted, for the time being.
The future may be less peaceful if the U.S. does not decide to abandon the missile program and pull out of Poland and the Czech Republic, leaving the open fields there untouched by missile silos and radar installations. Activists in Eastern Europe, Europe and the U.S. have been crusading against the missile system while their governments have had mixed feelings about wanting it there.
On Saturday, January 31, 2009 there was a conference in London by many of anti-missile peace activists along with members of the British parliament who want Eastern Europe to be more peaceful and cooperative rather than a possible battleground. Another meeting has also been proposed in Europe by the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, former head of the European Union and outspoken critic of the missile system.
One of the last things the European Union of 27 countries wants is a confrontation with Russia and the U.S. on its very doorstep (or anywhere else for that matter). In the U.S. a diligent group of people; think tank researchers, activists, congressional representatives, reporters, scientists and others have done their homework and found the whole missile defense program an expensive and unproven development over the last 20 plus years, costing about $10 billion yearly.
Hearings have been held in both the US House and Senate with much testimony deriding the missile program. The committees decided to withhold the funding for fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2009. What all of this research and investigation comes down to, it would seem, is that the missile defense program is far too costly and remains unproven in its ability to actually defend and prevent an attack of incoming missiles, anywhere in the world.
It is strange that after 10-20 years plus (going back to former President Reagan's Star Wars) and over $160 billion that the U.S. Dept. of Defense, Missile Defense Agency and Defense contractors have not been able to build a reliable system. Perhaps it just isn't possible to defend against an incoming missile attack, and if that is the case, why go on with further developments at all?
This is the question now being asked in the U.S. and Europe and it is a crucial one. It may come down to a choice of continued escalation of an arms race, likened to the cold war and now in process, or taking the path of diplomacy and negotiations, where needed, and gain a victory for peace.
Since the systems planned for Poland and the Czech Republic have not yet been built and other U.S. missile systems have not proven reliable or cost effective then there is much evidence to warrant the halting of the plans, pulling out of Eastern Europe and re-establishing decent relations with Russia again.
President Obama and his administration and government as well as people and governments in Europe and the Russian Federation have that choice to make. The world is watching, and most of us want to rest peacefully for yet another night.
Photo from Indymedia