The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the world ever came to nuclear war. It seems history may rhyme after all if current news reports are to be believed. According to the AFP, there was discussion in the Russian news of Moscow flying long range bombers to Cuba again.
Russia would cross “a red line for the United States of America” if it were to base nuclear capable bombers in Cuba, a top US air force officer warned on Tuesday.”If they did I think we should stand strong and indicate that is something that crosses a threshold, crosses a red line for the United States of America,” said General Norton Schwartz, nominated to be the air force’s chief of staff. He was referring to a Russian news report that said the military is thinking of flying long-range bombers to Cuba on a regular basis.
It was unclear from the report whether that would involve permanent basing of nuclear bombers in Cuba, or just use of the island as a refueling stop. In his confirmation hearing to become the air force’s chief of staff, Schwartz was asked what he would recommend if Russia were to base nuclear capable bombers in Cuba. “I would certainly offer the best military advice that we engage the Russians not to pursue that approach,” he said.
The newspaper Iszvestia on Monday cited an unnamed senior Russian air force official in Moscow as saying that Russia may start regular flights by long-range bombers to Cuba in response to US plans to install a missile defense system in eastern Europe. A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on the Russian report because there had been no “official response from the Russian government.”
I’ve written about the missle shield here and here but in short, my position is that Russia’s rhetoric merely masks its continued role of trying to play the spoiler for US policies and is using it as an excuse to ‘misbehave’ elsewhere under the cover of so-called US aggression. Do readers more knowledgeable on missile defense and nuclear affairs have a more detailed take?
As things stand, the missile shield wouldn’t pose any real threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrent for some time and could at most destroy a few of thousands of missiles, making it essentially useless. However, as time goes on, so does technology and the shield could one day pose an actual threat. On top of that, where is the line between defense and offensive missiles? Not being an expert, I’m not sure how valid of a point this is. Wouldn’t the agreements with the Czech Republic and Poland prohibit stationing offensive or nuclear weapons at these sites?
Lastly, my understanding is that the only real threat the missile shield presents now is that of almost giving the US first strike capability. Given the poor state of Russia’s military, nuclear weapons and radar system, a 2006 Foreign Affairs article argued that the US could soon have the ability to strike first and take out most of Russia’s first and second strike sites. The few missed, should the missiles even launch (due to poor maintenance, command and control etc.) the new shield could protect against them.
Readers, what are your thoughts on the US missile shield? What legitimate points does Russia have? And what could the stationing of Russian bombers in Cuba lead to, assuming it is even a real possiblitiy?