Much is happening today in Georgia and other states formerly under the thumb of Russia. President Saakashvili has signed a cease-fire agreement; Russian troops have nevertheless advanced within 35 miles of Tbilisi; President Bush denounced Russia for “bullying and intimidation” and said that “Moscow must honor its commitment to withdraw its invading forces from all Georgian territory,” something Russia plainly has no intention of doing.
Yesterday, in what may or may not have been a coincidence of timing, the U.S and Poland announced that after 18 months of negotiations, they have reached on an agreement whereby the U.S. will furnish Patriot missiles to Poland and will locate a missile interceptor base in that country.
This outraged Russia, which believes that it has the right to point missiles at its neighbors, but its neighbors have no right to defend themselves against those missiles. The Associated Press reported that Russia responded today by threatening to attack Poland:
A top Russian general said Friday that Poland’s agreement to accept a U.S. missile interceptor base exposes the ex-communist nation to attack, possibly by nuclear weapons, the Interfax news agency reported.
The AP’s report is correct; if anything, it understates the bluntness of Russia’s threat, which very specifically warned of a nuclear attack. For a more detailed account, check out this item in today’s Pravda:
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia warns Poland that it may become a priority target for Russia in the event the USA deploys elements of its missile defense system on the territory of this East European nation. To put it in a nutshell, Russia may strike a nuclear blow on Poland, which is possible after the recent change of the Russian Federation defense doctrine.
“The USA is busy with its own missile defense system; it does not intend to defend Poland at this point. Poland lays itself open to attack giving the USA a permission to deploy the system. The country may become an object of Russia’s reaction. Such targets are destroyed in the first instance,” Anatoly Nogovitsin, Russia’s Deputy Chief of Staff said commenting the recent agreement regarding the deployment of the US missile defense system in Poland.
Nogovitsin stated that Russia may use nuclear weapons in cases as stipulated by the defense doctrine.
“It clearly states that we can use nuclear weapons against the countries possessing nuclear weapons, against allies of such countries, if they somehow support them, and against those countries, which deploy other countries’ nuclear weapons on their territories. Poland is aware of it,” the general said.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk says that the agreement includes a “mutual commitment” between the two nations to come to each other’s assistance “in case of trouble.” Tusk clearly linked that part of the deal, from Poland’s perspective, with recent events in Georgia:
Talking about the “mutual commitment” part of the agreement, Tusk said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would be too slow in coming to Poland’s defense if threatened and that the bloc would take “days, weeks to start that machinery.”
“Poland and the Poles do not want to be in alliances in which assistance comes at some point later — it is no good when assistance comes to dead people. Poland wants to be in alliances where assistance comes in the very first hours of — knock on wood — any possible conflict,” Tusk said.
Note the very different assessments of the U.S.’s willingness to come to Poland’s assistance that were voiced by Tusk and by General Nogovitsin.
For a while there, it looked as though history might indeed be ending, more or less. Now, it looks a lot more as though history could be repeating itself. Those Germans who cheered Barack Obama may want to rethink the lessons to be drawn from the Berlin airlift.
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