On March 12th, the U.S launched a long-anticipated 800 million dollar missile defense system in Romania, sparking international controversy. An additional system is currently being built in Poland, which is expected to become operational in 2018. The missile defense system, also known as the “Aegis ashore system”, will be operated by NATO, historically a coalition against the Soviet Union, and has already been certified for operations by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. In the same address, the Secretary General also insisted that the system is purely for defense purposes. U.S officials say that is intended for defense specifically against “rogue states”, such as Iran.
The fortuitous timing of the defense system’s completion coincides with recent controversy over Russian aggression in Ukraine and Georgia, among other threatened bordering nations. In spite of these recent imbroglios, Russian officials have shifted the blame to the U.S, claiming that the missile defense system violates the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which was a bilateral agreement between the U.S and the USSR. In fact, there is no evidence that the Obama administration has any plans to challenge Russia in the immediate future; back in 2009, Obama canceled a similar Bush-era plan to station land-based interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic. At the time, many members of NATO were concerned that the U.S had totally abandoned the missile defense project. It is speculated by experts that the Obama administration was in the process of trying to repair relations with Russia by signing an arms reduction treaty, also known as the “New START” treaty, thus signalling that the missile defense system truly was not directed towards it.
It seems that Russia was not convinced by Obama’s gesture of good faith, and has already responded by implementing a railroad-based missile system. Russia has also drawn support from Belarus, which pledges to aid Russia in countering NATO’s missile defense program. Belarus and Russia have already established a “union state” and continue to strengthen military ties. The Belarusian foreign minister simply recited concerns similar to those posed by the Russians, saying that NATO actions have only increased tensions.