1991: The USSR loses the Cold War, and collapses.
2007: Russia wants to start it all over again.
And you thought Ali-Frazier II was a titanic rematch.
Here's a story that doesn't get near enough play in the news (doesn't involve one missing American out of a few hundred million, I guess). Let me begin with some background info for the less-informed of you out there.
As many people know, the United States is developing a missile defense system to defend against a potential ICBM attack by a rogue state like Iran or North Korea. Sounds like a plan, right? Well, we had to pull out of the ABM Treaty to put missiles into Alaska to cover the North Korean angle, and that made the Russians kinda irate. Of course, we did pull out of the treaty legally, in accordance with Article XV (that's "fifteen"). The Russians were a little distressed, fearing that a massive ABM system buildup could lead to the United States gaining a first-strike capability. They must have forgotten that the Cold War was over and neglected to realize that the prospects of the USA ever raining an ICBM salvo down on Russia are pretty much nonexistant. They also must have forgotten that they violated the treaty back in the 70's and 80's by developing the S-225 mobile ABM system, but that's another story.
Fast forward to present day. North Korea has demonstrated, through a spectacular launch failure, that their rocket scientists are not exactly world-class. What do we do next with the ABM system? We look for other rogue states that are high on the "potential future problems" list. Number one on that list is Iran. So the next logical step was to defend against an Iranian ICBM. So, we have been discussing with Poland the idea of basing an ABM site with 10 missiles inside of Poland, to counter just that sort of threat from the Middle East. Now the Russians get REALLY testy. Why? Because they claim that the ABM system is really aimed at taking out their ICBM strike capability. And that, people, is where the flawed logic comes into play on an epic scale.
Let me start by stating that I will have an MS in Space Warfare in about three months, and that I have a professional knowledge of some of these concepts outside of that, so I am not another random American orating from his posterior. Oracles like that make ME irate. Moving on.
The system in place in Alaska and proposed for Poland is the GMD, or Ground-based Midcourse Defense system. It uses a hit-to-kill vehicle to intercept ICBMs (meaning it takes a small object and slams it really fast into the missile, leading to a large explosion) during their midcourse flight stage. This is the bulk of the missile's flightpath, where it is arcing towards the target, mostly outside of the Earth's atmosphere. Now, the GMD system is claimed to have a 3500 mile range. This is likely part of the cause of Russia's irateness. There are Russian SS-19 and SS-25 ICBM sites about 500 miles from the Polish border. Looks like they have a case, right?
First off, consider that a Russian ICBM fired at the United States will travel in a northwesterly direction to come in over Canada and strike its target. This means that any GMD vehicle will have to take out the ICBM with a tail-chase shot. Now, ICBMs travel around 15,000 mph. It's pretty much impossible for the GMD system to detect a launch, get a track established to compute an intercept, and successfully take down an ICBM in a tail-chase engagement due to the massive speeds involved. Yes, Mr. Skeptic, it won't be a PURE tail-chase shot, but the GMD interceptor will have to play catch-up the whole way, and that just isn't going to happen. 1. It's not physically possible for GMD to do that. 2. GMD wasn't designed to do that in the first place, it's designed for a head-on kill shot.
Secondly, the Russians and their fanboys like to state that placing GMD in Poland is obviously intended to take out Russian missiles because it is placed so close to Russian ICBM fields, and because it's just so darn far away from Iran. Wrong again. An Iranian ICBM fired from, say, the missile silos outside of Tabriz at 37 58' 18.66" N 46 10' 40.99" E (plug that into Google Earth!) and targeted on Washington, DC, will fly a distance of around 6,000 miles. And, oh wow, will likely pass within fifty miles of the Polish capital of Warsaw if it's a straight shot, give or take a little for the deviation due to the Earth's rotation. The whole GMD in Poland thing now makes a lot more sense! You can detect a launch, set up a track, and engage with the GMD system in a nice, head-on fashion, even if the Iranian weapon takes a path a few thousand miles off to one side or the other. There went that argument. As for why isn't the system placed closer to Iran, well, you want to give yourself enough time to set up an accurate track to make sure you have optimum parameters for the intercept. Putting this thing in Turkey, for example, means you get to probably deal with the whole tail-chase concept again, which we already know isn't going to work.
So, despite the logic that says otherwise, Russia has decided to view the GMD system being placed in Poland as a threat. Their response? Talk about pulling out of treaties, developing new weapons, and whatnot. They even rebuffed Bush's idea of a joint missile defense system. Looks to me like they're determined to find an enemy to justify increased defense expenditures, but that's just me. At any rate, we're likely going to head down the road to another arms race and potentially another Cold War if cooler heads don't prevail.
Now, opponents also claim that this must be directed towards Russia as Iran has no ICBM capability as of yet. The thing is, they view the United States as a threat, and probably rightfully so. They are continuing to develop longer-ranged missiles, as is their right. If they really want to hit the USA, they need an ICBM, and there is no reason to assume they won't keep going until they get one. In this case, the United States is taking a preemptive defensive action. If Poland goes for it, there is nothing wrong with the idea. Just as Iran has the right to develop weapons, we have the right to defend ourselves. And come on people, be serious for a moment. Waiting until your enemy has a new weapon to decide to defend against it is asinine. Sometimes you have no other choice but to act in that manner. This isn't one of those times, and as such, given the preponderance of evidence that the system won't work against Russian ICBMs and the fact that America has no desire to start a nuclear war with Russia, placing GMD in Poland is the right course of action.