Nato missile shield prompts Russian retaliation

Russian missile testing program gains leverage on the back of Nato's ballistic missile defence shield.

On the 20th May, 2012, Nato leaders met at the North Atlantic Council in Chicago, Illinois, and were informed that their anticipated missile defence shield had reached 'interim operational capability', i.e., it was up-and-running for the first time. The shield is designed to protect Nato territory from external missile attacks, largely from Iran, by way of a series of sophisticated, early-warning satellites based in the US; an X-Band radar based in Turkey; and at least one US, aegis-equipped warship patrolling the Mediterranean sea.

Less than a week later however, on the Kura range on Kamchatka, representatives from the Russian ministry of defence have boasted successful testing of a missile, which they say is capable of penetrating the Nato shield.

Whilst the Russian's have historically attacked Nato defence strategies whenever they have had an impact on Russian offensive strategies - and this latest missile test is in keeping with that tradition - Nato are being seen as short-sighted by some, who know that ostracising Russia on global defence issues is a serious mistake. Iran, it is widely reported, are not equipped in nuclear terms to pose an acute threat to Nato territory. The Russians on the other hand, as a result of what is perceived to be a lingering cold-war suspicion of their defence policy, are likely to pose a reactionary threat if they feel shunned by the West.

Vital talks will need to take place between the Russians and Nato on defence strategy that includes a clear assessment of who, among their neighbours, poses the greatest threat to them both.

As the director of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, Dmitri Trenin, pointed out in a BBC interview this week, \"even when they [missile defence systems] don't work, potential adversaries will treat them as if they do. Thus, producing the worst of both worlds - no defence but build-ups of offensive weapons to deal with those defences.\"

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