US Antagonism: Russia, Iran and the EU

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Exclusive to The Daily Banter

By Daniel Ritchie

It is no secret that the United States views the emergence of a powerful vengeful Russia and a nuclear armed Iran as significant threats to its national security interests. However, the steps taken by the United States to secure its national security relative to these states could in fact be creating the threats themselves by reciprocity. The United States’ insistence that Iran is determined to develop nuclear warheads, and the subsequent measures taken to defend against that possibility, has inflamed tensions with Russia, Iran, and the European Union, and will do more harm than good.

Most notably in recent developments is the plan to construct a ‘missile defense shield’ in Poland and the Czech Republic.

This defense system would allow the United States to intercept and
destroy incoming ballistic missiles potentially coming from North Korea
or Iran (though this feat is quite challenging on the technical side of
things). The development of such a system however could be
multi-purposeful. Russia says that the missiles in Poland and the radar
in the Czech Republic could threaten its own defenses and that the
radar could be used the spy within Russian territory. In an overzealous
moment before the G8 meeting in Germany in 2007, and one indicative of
the rising tensions between Russia and the United States, Putin
threatened to target Europe with nuclear ballistic or cruise missiles
again, something not done since the Cold War, if the proposed defense
system went ahead. Russia does have credibility that such a system is
not entirely intended for Iran or North Korea. A US think tank, The
Nuclear Threat Initiative stated that: "Iran currently possesses the
capability to employ ballistic missiles and/or long-range artillery
rockets against its regional neighbors, Israel, and US forces deployed
in the region… Given favorable conditions, Iran is currently on track
to be able to extend its ballistic missile capabilities to include
Southern Europe, North Africa and South Asia by 2005-2010 and possibly
the continental United States by 2015."

However, Iran, despite being quite the antagonist itself, has much
to loose if it does in fact intend to develop nuclear warheads and the
program is uncovered, for it would most likely not be allowed to finish
developing them. Namely it would challenge Israel’s nuclear preeminence
in the region (and eo ipso the United States’), something Israel would
not permit, and one could easily predict hostile intervention given the
preemptive 2007 air-strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear site and the
1981 attack on the Osirak nuclear facility near Baghdad, not to mention
US and Israeli rhetoric on the issue. Furthermore, the development of
an Iranian nuclear weapons program would further isolate Iran in the
world community and dissuade any advocates of Iran’s right to self
determination through peaceful nuclear technological development.
However, United States foreign policy is forcing Iran into a corner and
is aimed at provoking Iran into a radical and defensive posture. This
type of policy hurts the moderates in Iranian civil society and fuels
the fear driven anti-American/Israeli sentiments which support the
hard-liners in power. The preparation for a nuclear armed Iran, or at
least an attempted nuclear armed Iran, could be a self-fulfilling
prophecy if the dynamics are set up in such as way as to force Iran
into trying to acquire nuclear arms as a deterrent to US and Israeli
hostility.

This type of engagement by the United States has accelerated its
drive to develop the missile defense system in Europe, something not
going over well with the EU. The willingness of Poland to accept the
deployment of interceptor missiles on its territory is splintering EU
homogeneity in defense and foreign policy, which usually works to check
US militarization within its territory, especially if it antagonizes
Russia as this is doing. No EU state wants to see nuclear warheads
pointed at its cities again. However the Heritage Foundation stated
that: “The supranational European Union is a bureaucratic, statist,
cumbersome, anti-American entity that has attempted to frustrate
American policy on multiple occasions. The involvement of the EU is
unnecessary and would effectively kill any hope of a deal. Poland, the
Czech Republic, and the United States must give zero consideration to
involving the EU at any level.” This approach is appalling at worst and
comical at best, because a strong and unified EU could become a major
US ally in curtailing Russia’s thirst for former glory and deterring an
Iranian nuclear weapons program, just perhaps with a less militaristic
approach than the United States’, which would be a good thing, and in
addition a strong EU poses no threat to US national security, so why
work against the EU?

The Heritage Foundation also stated that: “The placement of
interceptors in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic would bolster
transatlantic security, protecting both the United States and Europe
from the growing threat of long-range ballistic missiles and the
unconventional payloads they may carry.” However it could very well
create the threat it is aimed to protect against in regards to Russia,
and serve little good for Iranian nuclear arms that will probably never
be, and hurt any chances at a less militaristic solution to the
problems at hand.