"We have crossed the Rubicon," the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, said today, turning a phrase associated Julius Caesar, a great builder of the Roman slave empire, whose name through the millennia was used for both salads and Tsars. The Bush administration will get its "missile defense" interceptor stations into Poland, if the deal goes through.
Although the Bush administration hailed the agreement as a strengthening of NAT0 and no "danger" to Russia, the associated press quoted Tusk as saying that the agreement goes beyond NAT0 in establishing a "mutual commitment" to come to each other's assistance. That is a bilateral agreement of the kind that has often led to war (Germany, Japan, and Italy for example signed such agreements as they developed their alliance before WWII). It in effect undermines NATO, which was and is an alliance in which all members are pledged to act collectively under a an integrated command(the alliance functioned as an anti-Soviet military alliance in which the U.S. essentially called the shots for many decades, but was also bound by the alliance, that is, the U.S. could not make a side deal with a NAT0 state like West Germany for example to support it militarily in a particular conflict with anyone else outside NATO channels.
Why is this bad and dangerous news? Because it means that the U.S. is bypassing Europe, whose need for Russian oil and natural gas makes it less belligerent toward Russia, to put in a stars war derived missile shield interceptor system into Poland on Russia's border, and pay the Polish government off with a bilateral "commitment" to come to its "defense" against Russia. What do the Russians have to worry about? A lot.
First they, like many others since the Reagan Star Wars program was announced, see "missile defense" shields as essentially a first strike weapon, that is, you create a defense so their missiles can't hit you and then you are in position to either hit them or get what you want by threatening to do so – a little bit like the military planners in the early cold war era who thought that they could maintain first a nuclear monopoly for at least ten years and then when that failed to sustain a huge lead in both the numbers and also the strategic placement of nuclear weapons so that they could achieve what they wanted globally, which was to suppress revolutionary movements, form bilateral and multilateral alliance systems through the world, and create both the largest military spending and greatest number of military bases globally of any society in history.
Russia today is not the Soviet Union. It is a state capitalist country which, as Joel Wendland noted in his PA article, Georgia on My Mind, has ultranationalist parties talking about the use of "tactical nuclear weapons" in the present Georgia conflict (the Goldwater Republicans used to advocate that in the U.S. in the 1960s).
Poland of course has been a corridor for the invasion of Russia for centuries. Even though the development of nuclear missile systems, leads most military pundits to pooh pooh that as having no relevance for our time, it certainly had relevance for the Soviet Union through much of the cold war era. A Polish state allowing the U.S. to put missile interceptor stations on its soil in exchange for a U.S. commitment to support it against Russia can only lead any Russian government to see that system and that commitment as a direct military threat to it – because that essentially is what it is. This can only lead to an escalation of conflicts in Eastern Europe with war not completely out of the question.
A former Conservative British Defense Minister who had the nerve or courage to oppose the Star Wars in the Thatcher cabinet in the 1980s called it a "Maginot line in the sky" meaning that it would only encourage those threatened by it to develop weapons to get around it and increase rather than decrease the possibility of nuclear war.
For the Bush administration, the conflict in Georgia represents an opportunity to push its anti-Russian military policy in Eastern Europe and tell its NAT0 allies that it will work with them when they follow its lead and do what it wants when they don't.
Taken together with the Bush administration's attempt to turn the like-minded government of former Soviet Georgia into a strategy ally and front line state against Russia, it is a reckless and stupid act which can only intensify conflict with a nation that, despite all of its decline since the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, still possesses the second greatest nuclear arsenal on earth.