Fear of missile defense traces back to World War II for Russia

Austin Long has a thorough account of the Soviet and Russian fear of Western missile defense capabilities in War on the Rocks under the title “Red Glare: The Origin and Implications of Russia’s ‘New’ Nuclear Weapons”.

He explains Putin’s revelation of new nuclear weapons in his March 1st speech as grounded in an old Russian concern with Western missile defense technology. The experience of being unable to respond to the German air campaign during World War II caused Stalin to focus intensely on the ability to retaliate in case of a nuclear attack. Already at that time there was talk about the dangers of an American missile defense which would leave Russia vulnerable to a first strike.

So when the Russian leadership is determined not to let an American missile defense threaten the retaliatory power of Russia, it is in line with a long history of military thinking.

So what does this mean for the nuclear relationship? First, U.S. leaders should recognize that no amount of explaining of the technical limitations of present or even potential U.S. missile defense capability is likely to change long and deeply held Russian views about missile defense competition.

Second, and more importantly, there is probably no future for formal, treaty-based U.S.-Russian arms control if the negotiations do not cover missile defense. The Russians sought unsuccessfully to include missile defense in the last round of strategic arms control negotiations (2009-2010). Today, with their “new” systems, they have a stronger bargaining position.




One response

  1. UUFH Avatar

    Imagine throwing a rock through a tree blowing in the wind. What is the probability of the rock flying through without touching the tree? There is a claim by the manufacturers that the trajectory of a detected missile is known but fighter jets are harder because they can respond with course corrections. I take issue with the first claim here. Predicting the course of a missile with a large time variance between detection and “interception is fraught. Why? Angle measurements. The greater the distance, the greater the error. A lot can happen in the seconds between detection and interception. The missile might have travelled 5KM and a cloud of shrapnel with an effective working radius of a few metres (the “tree) is supposed to have a strike rate of 99/100 according to some claims. Even the final location of the intercepting missile could easily be metres out. The chaotic nature of air currents and the sensitivity upon initial conditions means that Patriot missiles have only been effective as propaganda. Also, unless an ICBM is blown into small pieces, you still have a serious amount of debris momentum with a great deal of momentum. ICBMs don”t even need a warhead to do serious damage. That”s what the formula for energy 1/2mv2 tells us. You might as well be throwing a bag of popcorn in the way of an oncoming car to match the effectiveness of a Patriot missile. custom essay writing

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