1. Theodore Postol / James Goodby: Old thinking about a new threat:
2. Nikolas K. Gvosdev: The Gabala Gambit:
President Vladimir Putin's compromise proposal to President George W. Bush concerning the U.S. ballistic missile defense system currently slated to be installed in Poland and the Czech Republic makes very good sense.
By using a Russian early warning radar in Azerbaijan, the United States would have the ability to track and engage all Iranian long-range missiles launched against both the East and West Coasts of the United States, thus turning the barrel of the U.S. missile defense away from Russia and directly and unambiguously onto Iran.
In addition, if the Russians let the United States place the radar it now intends for the Czech Republic in Azerbaijian, the U.S. and Russian radars could work together to provide an extremely potent radar tracking capability for a U.S. missile defense aimed exclusively at Iran.
The bottom line is that America and Russia have not yet escaped from the trap of mutual nuclear deterrence built during the decades of the Cold War. Until they do, irrational and sometimes dangerous reactions will continue to occur.
Leaders on both sides would be well advised to focus on the roots of the problem, not its superficial manifestations.
"[...]3. Pjotr Gontscharow: Putin's proposal alters the ABM debate.
The Gabala radar installation covers precisely the areas of the world where the threat from rogue states (or accidental launches) is most acute - the Middle East and Indian Ocean basin. It is a bit more difficult to argue that a system based in the Czech Republic and Poland is somehow more effective at covering Iran than one located in the southern Caucasus. (Interestingly, the Gabala station was once offered by Azerbaijan, in the late 1990s, to NATO for use as a possible base.)
Sentiment in Europe about deploying the system is quite divided. No one wants to completely discount a possible threat from Iran, but many were concerned about the resurgence of tensions between Russia and the West if an East European deployment went forward. Putin’s proposal now gives such critics - including those in the Czech Republic, where support for the U.S. proposal hovers at only about 30 percent - a way out. They can cite, as Putin did, that an Azerbaijan based system will cover all of Europe and that debris would not pose a risk to populated areas.
If Washington demurs from the Putin proposal, it then calls into question whether or not the United States had other "hidden" motives behind its desire to site the system in Poland and the Czech Republic - the so-called "beachhead" argument; that a small system directed against Iran could then be expanded, over time, to be directed against what is a shrinking and less effective Russian nuclear arsenal.
Putin may also be wanting to demonstrate to the government of Ilham Aliyev in Baku the "fair-weather" nature of the Americans. For years, the Azeris were quite interested in forging closer strategic ties with Washington. Putin, who claims to have discussed the Gabala proposal with Aliyev and said he received Aliyev’s approval to make the offer, may also want to remind the United States that the easy distinction between "free" nations supporting the U.S. and "unfree" ones being satellites of Moscow doesn’t quite work when it comes to the Caucasus.