The president’s courtesy to Putin during his recent visit has been repayed in the traditional Russian way – with a kick in the teeth. Now the US knows the nature of the beast, it’s time to update its Cold War target list.
The president treated Putin as an equal, even though he’s running a kleptocracy with an economy and military 14 times smaller than the US, with a fast-declining population in which abortions outnumber births, and which is totally dependent on oil reserves that will be either worthless or in Chinese hands within 20 years.
Russia threatened to deploy rockets in the European Union’s backyard yesterday in retaliation for American plans to install a missile defence shield.
Sergei Ivanov, the First Deputy Prime Minister, said that Russia could place missiles in the exclave of Kaliningrad if the West rejected an offer to cooperate on the defence programme.
Kaliningrad is Russia’s outpost in the EU and is surrounded by Poland and Lithuania. The threat to turn it into a missile base against the EU signalled a fresh surge in tensions between Russia and the West a day after President Putin put new proposals to US President Bush to resolve the dispute.
Until the end of WW2, Kaliningrad was Königsberg, the capital of German East Prussia. The victorious Russian army ethnically cleansed the entire province, killing the men, raping the women, and deporting the survivors. Russia then gave the bulk of East Prussia to Poland in compensation for annexing a slab of its territory, but retained Kaliningrad as a Soviet defense base. Since the collapse of the USSR, Kaliningrad has been trying to build a tourist industry.
Putin’s latest threat is to launch supersonic cruise missiles from Kaliningrad to take out the US BMD in Poland, presumably in synch with an Iranian missile launch.
It’s not a bad plan tactically, since cruise launches are hard to spot and track.
But, like the battle plans of the old USSR, strategically it’s nuts. The Russian cruise missiles are slower than the Iranian ICBMs they’re seeking to protect, so Putin would have to launch his weapons first.
Any cruise tracks coming out of Kaliningrad would alert the US to counter-strike the Iranian missile fields. And of course to counter-attack Russia, which would have committed an act of war.
Alternatively it would be easy for the US to preempt a Russian/Iranian assault if it saw one coming.
Kaliningrad is only about 200 sq kilometers, so a low altitude airburst pattern of the eight 500 kiloton warheads from a single Trident II on a 5 kilometer grid would easily do the job.
That would really mess up their tourist industry.