Russian General Nikolai Solovtsov suggested today that US missile shield sites in Poland and the Czech Republic could become targets for Russian ICBMs in the future. The general said Russia “is obliged to take corresponding measures” to ensure the credibility of its nuclear deterrent. The United States has long maintained that the shield is aimed at Iran, but with the range of Iran’s best missile barely extending to the western shore of the Black Sea, it is unclear what if any value a site well outside of this range would have against a hypothetical Iranian attack.
Russia believes, rather, that the shield is aimed at their arsenal and while such a small site is in and of itself unlikely to significantly degrade Russia’s nuclear capabilities, it has provoked a strong negative response from them, a response which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described as “bizarre“.
This is far from the first time Russia has threatened a military response to the contentious shield. Last month General Anatoly Nogovitsyn warned that Poland’s decision to host the interceptor missile base is exposing it to a strike. Gen. Nogovitsyn added that the site would place Poland under the Russian military doctrine which allows the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear powers in the event that they provide aid to a nuclear power. Of the threat, Rice told reporters “the Russians are losing their credibility”.
The Czech government also agreed today to host a radar base related to the shield. The base is quite unpopular among Czech voters, and fears of making themselves a Russian target caused public protests in a village near the future site. General Solovtsov warned last year that the base would be added to the country’s list of targets in the event of a future war with the United States.