by U.S. Missile Defense System
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on the placement of a US Missile Defense system in Eastern Europe: "This is a system that is being created against Russia"
The Bush Administration has been pushing for the installation of a missile defense system close to Russia's borders with radars in the Czech Republic and ten ground based interceptor missiles in Poland. President Putin has offered President Bush the use of bases in Azerbaijan and southern Russia that could host a joint missile defense system to counter the threat of Iranian missiles targeted at Europe. Yet the Bush Administration continues to insist on placing ground based interceptors 2,000 miles away from Iran. The system is said to target the potential threat from the Islamic Republic regime in Iran, however, the actions of the White House don't seem to match these words. Mikhail Gorbachev, 76, who is admired in the West for hastening the end Communism in the Soviet Union and its satellites said: "Milos Zeman, the former Czech prime minister, said, 'What kind of Iran threat do you see? This is a system that is being created against Russia,' I don't think Zeman is alone in seeing this. We see this as well as he sees it."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently said that Washington continues to insist that its missile shield plans in Europe were linked to the potential missile threat from Iran. "They still say that," he said according to Russia's RIA Novosti news agency. "But there must be some lack of coordination here because the Czech premier has repeatedly said that they need components of the U.S. missile defense on their territory to protect themselves from Russia." Lavrov added that Polish leaders had previously made identical statements. He said that the written U.S. proposal on missile defense constituted a material rollback from verbal agreements that had been reached in Moscow in October. "We have top class experts, military planners, who can see how it will affect our security and who will have to take retaliatory measures," the Russian Foreign Minister declared upon his return from a U.S.-hosted Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland.
A map of the worldwide system from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency
"There is nothing constructive in the U.S. written proposals on missile defense," said the Chief of the Russian General Staff, Army General Yury Baluevsky. "The dog is barking but the caravan is moving. It appears we haven't been understood in the end. What definite proposals are you talking about if we have got from the U.S. written proposals on missile defense that the United States was arranging, is arranging and will be arranging a positional missile defense area in Europe, while Russia is taken as a free supplement to it," said the general. Baluevsky didn't elaborate about the exact content of the American proposals but said there was nothing new in them.
With most Americans and the U.S. media focused on the state of the economy and the upcoming 2008 presidential elections, the American proposal on missile defense has not been a big news story in America. However, Washington's dismissive response to an unprecedented gesture offering cooperation from Moscow has been big news in Russia. Politicians and ordinary Russians alike are not mad at the United States, but saddened by the fact that American government would rather do business and make friends with Chinese Communists, authoritarian leaders in Kazahkstan, and Arab oil sheiks who practice strict Islamic law, than to try and find common ground with the new capitalist Russia. The rhetoric of the Russian politicians and feelings of common Russians suggest that there will be more cooling in the relationships between our respective nations, especially during the upcoming election year in Russia.
Mr. Gorbachev, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for ending the Cold War in 1990, criticized the high level of military spending by the United States. "Does America intend to fight the rest of the world, does America need to build a new empire?" asked Gorbachev at the close of a meeting of the World Political Forum, a group he founded in 2003 that includes many former world leaders and high-ranking retired officials.
Isn't it ironic that a man who worked with President Ronald Reagan to end the Cold War and dismantle the Evil Empire is trying to warn America about the dangerous path the United States may be taking today? It was, after all, no less a foe of Soviet Communism than Reagan who first proposed sharing American missile defense technology with Russia. Perhaps those who claim the mantle of being Reagan's ideological heirs would do well to consider this fact.
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