By Stan Crooke
Russia’s President Putin has threatened to target Russian nuclear missiles at European countries in response to American plans to deploy interceptor rockets in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic.
According to the US authorities, the bases in Poland and the Czech Republic are not aimed at Russia. Instead, they claim, the purpose of the bases is to provide protection against ballistic missiles which might, in future years, be fired by Iran or North Korea.
According to Putin, the real target of the bases is Russia. In an interview in the run-up to the G8 summit in Germany, Putin pointed out that neither Iran nor North Korea has the weapons against which the bases were meant to provide a defence, and warned that if America’s nuclear capacity in Europe grew, then Russia would have to have new targets in Europe.
The US plans to establish bases in Poland and the Czech Republic are part of the general neo-con commitment to withdrawing from international arms control agreements — such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the US withdrew from in 2001 — and to setting up a new “son of Star Wars” missile defence system (the National Missiles Defence programme).
The Russian response appears to arise out of a combination of factors.
Threatening to target European countries (presumably Poland and the Czech Republic) is likely to add to the pressure on the Polish and Czech governments not to agree to the American proposals. In both countries there are already broad popular movements against the American plans.
Taking a strong line in response to the US proposals enhances Putin’s credentials as a Russian nationalist committed to restoring Russia’s position as a world power. This year’s parliamentary elections and next year’s presidential elections provide an additional reason for Putin to want to boost his nationalist credentials.
Attacking the US for its hostile intentions also justifies Russia’s own expansion of its nuclear missile capabilities. In December of last year Russia announced that it would be deploying a mobile version of its main long-range nuclear missile, the SS-27. And last month Russia successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-24, which can carry ten warheads.
Nothing in the allegations and counter-allegations to date indicates that this is the start of a new full-scale “Cold War”.
Bus, as with the Cold War, the threat of external aggression can be used by governments on either side to justify their domestic policies.
For socialists it is not a matter of coming down on one side or the other — condemning the US and portraying Russia as the victim, or defending the US proposals as purely defensive and condemning Russia for targeting European countries.
The traditional socialist slogan of “not one man, not one penny for this system” applies as much to Russia as it does to the US.