It took only three weeks in August, but here we are in the foothills of a new new cold war, bouncing son of the "new cold war" fired up by Carter and Brzezinski and the US defense industry in the late 1970s and grandson of the old cold war with the Soviet Union launched in the Truman era.
It has shaped up along familiar lines. In the first crucial hours the US press tactfully passed over the fact that it was John McCain’s pal Mikheil Saakashvili who set the ball rolling with Georgia’s initial lethal bombardment in South Ossetia. Amid howls about Russian imperialism, McCain hopes to notch ahead of Obama in the polls by phoning the nutty Saakashvili and sending his wife, Cindy, on a supportive excursion to Tbilisi. I’m sure Cindy is thrilled to be among those hot Georgians and away from John and his towering, violent rages. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rushes to Warsaw for a photo op with Polish leaders, signing a deal to install missile defense early-warning radar systems.
Vladimir Putin duly plays his allotted role by denouncing the scheduled deployment of these systems in Poland and the Czech Republic as unacceptable threats to Russian security. Last year Putin declared in a press conference that "once the missile defense system is put in place it will work automatically with the entire nuclear capability of the United States. It will be an integral part of the US nuclear capability…. And, for the first time in history–and I want to emphasize this–there will be elements of the US nuclear capability on the European continent. It simply changes the whole configuration of international security…. Of course, we have to respond to that."
Thus, with much bluster, both sides continue to shovel billions to their respective military-industrial sectors. Missile defense has been a Pentagon boondoggle for more than half a century. Since Ronald Reagan repackaged it in 1983 as the Strategic Defense Initiative, the United States has spent as much as $100 billion, with another $100 billion already pledged for research, operating expenses, etc. between now and 2015.
Why Putin and the Russians don’t simply split their sides with merriment at America’s folly is beyond me. US missile defense systems are not and will never be unacceptable challenges to Russian security, for the same reason that all antimissile systems offer no peril except to the taxpayers financing them. They don’t work because they fail to remove the uncertainty that is the essential ingredient of nuclear deterrence. Despite hundreds of faked tests, the antimissile missiles can in no way be guaranteed to hit their targets. There have been plenty of well-researched exposés attesting to this. But missile defense is now invulnerably lodged in the Pentagon budget. The more the Russians trumpet their supposed fears, the easier it is for Congress to vote the billions.