Poland: uncertainty


From a poll published today by an excellent Polish foreign-relations think tank. It says 77% believe Russia will eventually pose a military threat to Poland, up significantly from before the Georgia unpleasantness. So this is not an ethereal, hypothetical threat to Poles. But how do they like the U.S. missile-defence agreement that the Poles and Americans signed as soon as that conflict broke out? Mixed feelings:


Poland: uncertainty

  1. You still on The Leadership Plane? If yes, shouldn’t you be 100% focused on Harper?

  2. Glad you’re still talking about things beyond who’s pooing on whom.

    But more on point, I’ve always thought that peace-through-vulnerability was specious. Missile defense, even if it works, is just that — defensive. The only people it can possibly irritate is potential aggressors. So Russia’s bellicose reaction is more of a reason to accept missile defense than to reject it for the sake of peace, as any peace so purchased is bound to be temporary.

  3. Andrew E, I think the Russians perceive missile defense as potentially part of a first-strike system.

  4. Andrew E: Jack here’s correct. Since no first strike system is instant, missile defense essentially says “We can hit you but you won’t be able to hit us back, so bend over”, in the world of nuclear diplomacy, it’s a very aggressive move.

  5. For missile defense to be a first-strike threat, it would have to be nearly 100% effective; otherwise, no leader in their right mind would make such a strike. It’s not now, nor will it be in the forseeable future.

    The fact that Russia is nervous is also not an argument for the status quo. Mutual vulnerability is not a defense against accidents or mistakes.

  6. Andrew E, an accident or mistake would only obliterate a couple of cities. A war would obliterate the planet.

    Yeah, well, I agree that missile defense is hopelessly ineffective; so why bother with it?

    You can’t simultaneously tout it as an effective shield and tell the Russians it won’t work so they need not worry.

  7. If missle defense appears to be part of a first strike system, then having a military at all can be viewed as part of a first strike system.

  8. RR, let’s just say the Russians are more afraid of nukes than they are of you in camouflage pants.

  9. True diplomacy will always triumph over such things as “missile defense shields” because thinking otherwise would bring us that much closer to a nuclear “incident” that would harm the entire planet for countless generations.

  10. Claude,

    What is the track record of diplomacy so far?

    – Since the nuclear non-proliferation treaty was signed (1968), the number of nuclear powers doubled (adding Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and South Africa). Only one of those nations has irrevocably given up its weapons (South Africa), which was more due to the internal political situation rather than diplomatic pressure.

    – Diplomacy failed to prevent a viable weapons program in North Korea. It has also failed to prevent a determined program in Iran, as well as one (apparently) in Syria.

    – In spite of two decades of unprecedented peace and cooperation among the original five nuclear powers (USA, Russia, China, France, and UK), all of the above retain sizable nuclear arsenals. The UK recently announced that it would renew its aging arsenal, the US has commissioned new weapons designs, and Russia continues to manufacture new weapons.

    To me, it seems like nuclear diplomacy has been largely a failure.

  11. Andrew E, it’s true that diplomacy hasn’t been great. But at least nukes aren’t, like, universal. As to specific countries:

    * South Africa gave up its nukes because they were part & parcel of their international pariah status (along with apartheid etc.);

    * You forgot to mention Libya, which also gave up nukes in exchange for non-pariah-hood;

    * Israel is undeclared. Also, it’s the only country in the world that potentially could face annihilation if it were defeated with conventional forces;

    * The India/Pakistan build-up is very troubling, but regional: neither threatens any other country but the other;

    * There’s been a huge draw-down in US and Russian stockpiles since 1991: 22,000 to 10,000 in the US and 40,000 to 14,000 in Russia. That’s a big, big success story. I agree more could be done, but at least the Soviet nukes weren’t handed out to every new CIS state.

    Anyway, the original point was that the Russians perceive the (non-functional) missile defense shield as a threat, so that’s what it signifies on the East European chessboard. Why one would want to gratuitously piss off the Russians beats me. Transferring a couple of divisions from Germany would have sent both a more serious and a less apocalyptic signal.

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