A top Russian general said Friday that Poland's agreement to accept a U.S. missile interceptor base exposes the ex-communist nation to attack, possibly by nuclear weapons, the Interfax news agency reported.
The AP's report is correct; if anything, it understates the bluntness of Russia's threat, which very specifically warned of a nuclear attack. For a more detailed account, check out this item in today's Pravda:

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia warns Poland that it may become a priority target for Russia in the event the USA deploys elements of its missile defense system on the territory of this East European nation. To put it in a nutshell, Russia may strike a nuclear blow on Poland, which is possible after the recent change of the Russian Federation defense doctrine.
"The USA is busy with its own missile defense system; it does not intend to defend Poland at this point. Poland lays itself open to attack giving the USA a permission to deploy the system. The country may become an object of Russia's reaction. Such targets are destroyed in the first instance," Anatoly Nogovitsin, Russia's Deputy Chief of Staff said commenting the recent agreement regarding the deployment of the US missile defense system in Poland.

Nogovitsin stated that Russia may use nuclear weapons in cases as stipulated by the defense doctrine.

"It clearly states that we can use nuclear weapons against the countries possessing nuclear weapons, against allies of such countries, if they somehow support them, and against those countries, which deploy other countries' nuclear weapons on their territories. Poland is aware of it," the general said.

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Comment by Jim Werbaneth on August 18, 2008 at 7:54am
If I were Yuschenko, I'd be opting in to anything that strengthens Ukraine's defenses against Russia. Relief from hundreds of years of Russian domination is not something to be thrown away at the first harsh words from Moscow.
Comment by Gerard Snitselaar on August 18, 2008 at 5:00am
Sounds like the Ukraine wants in on the missile defense fun.

Comment by Jim Werbaneth on August 17, 2008 at 6:44pm
I don't believe that Russia's blustering is aimed at the domestic audience and the Near Abroad; it's aimed right at the Poles and those allied with them. In short, they're saying what they mean, and meaning exactly what they say. Missile defense was a major Soviet itchy spot going back to President Reagan's SDI, and I think there are few things that scare them worse. They do not want to invest huge amounts of rubles and energy into the Strategic Rocket Forces, and then have America render them obsolete through its own R&D.

When I was in grad school, my Eastern Europe professor used to say that SDI was Gorbachev's worst nightmare. According him (Bob Beranek for Duquesne U. alumni). there was a deep-seated fear among the Soviets that what starts as an essentially defensive system could easily morph into a space-based deathray, due to American ingenuity and adaptability could open new offensive opportunities for the West, and make a shambles of the most careful Soviet planning.

I see Russia's reactions as evidence that the old Soviet fears are resurfacing.

I'm not sure if arms control was the worst joke of the seventies, but when we had an arms race, America won. Also, the weapons that America was most determined not to bargain away -- precision guided munitions and cruise missiles -- proved to be revolutionary developments that benefited the West enormously, peace (as deterrents) and in war (as precise means of breaking things and hurting bad guys).

Given more of a chance, the arms control process probably would have claimed these assets through diplomacy, well-meaning but ultimately destructive to Western interests.

So I don't see the problem as there being ten, a hundred or a thousand interceptors in Poland. The problem for the Russians is that the things exist.

Now what to do about it?

If we abandon the plans for a missile shield, we embolden the Russians. Most worrisome to me, Putin's is the most patently aggressive Russian regime since Khrushchev's days as a high-stakes Havana gambler. Russian foreign policy has an essentially cautious streak to it, even Stalin could hedge his bets, but caution seems an increasingly weak characteristic in Putin's outlook.

You don't appease that sort of thing, as concessions tend to validate past threats, and make future ones more probable. As a wise man once said, when you pay for something, what you get is more of it.

So this is all the more reason to proceed with the Eastern European component of the missile shield. What Putin and Friends threaten to do, is exactly what it is intended to stop.
Comment by Smitty on August 17, 2008 at 6:26pm
Arms control treaties were one of the great jokes of the 70's. Why should it matter the number of interceptors. As long as there is one, that is provocation enough for the Bear.
Comment by Gerard Snitselaar on August 17, 2008 at 5:43pm
I think they should offer a means of verification on the number of interceptors stationed there along the lines of other things done in the past for arms control and reduction treaties. As long as there are only 10 missiles being stationed there it is no threat to the Russian strategic rocket forces, and Russia is just posturing for the near abroad and home consumption.
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on August 16, 2008 at 8:58pm
There are some who'd argue that the way for Poland and the West to address Russia's "legitimate" concerns is to abandon the missile defense plan. If we accede to their threats, then perhaps the threats will dissipate.

Actually, I think it would just embolden Russia. As shown by recent events in Georgia, this is a nasty, aggressive, bullying power that will throw its weight around anywhere in the former Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe, or the former Soviet "near abroad," where it can get away with it. The Bear is back, and it's hungry.

Actually, I see Russia's threats as all the more reason to augment NATO's defenses, and those of the United States, against the full spectrum of Russian threats.

Right now, I'd say too that the one thing that is protecting Poland is its NATO membership. I'm not sure that Russia is ready to go to the wall militarily against the West. But if the trend continues, it will, and we'd better be ready.

And the best preparation doesn't include appeasement.

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