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    Missile Defense

Russian military leaders have expressed concern about US plans for a national missile defense system. Will defense technology be limited by possibilities for a strategic imbalance? Is this just SDI all over again?

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rshowalter - 09:15pm Jul 18, 2001 EST (#7176 of 7185) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

Triangular Diplomacy

"The new treaty of "friendship and cooperation" between Russia and China, signed Monday by Presidents Vladimir Putin and Jiang Zemin, does not signal a return to cold-war tensions with the United States. But it does represent an effort by the Russians and Chinese to strengthen their hands in future diplomatic dealings with Washington. Triangular diplomacy is back, in a new form and with diminished strategic significance.

"In the cold war, America and Russia were the two superpowers, but China was a pivotal factor in their relations. That three-sided strategic geometry explained the informal alliance between Washington and Beijing that began during the Nixon administration. The two countries were drawn together by shared fears over Soviet military strength and the Kremlin's aggressive diplomacy. But even as Washington cultivated Beijing, it pursued improved relations with Moscow.

"Today the United States is the world's only military and economic superpower. Russia and China, both under pressure to deliver greater prosperity to their people through market-based growth, vitally depend on continued access to American trade and development. Neither is in any position to challenge Washington's conventional military power. But both are uneasy about the global sweep of American foreign policy, and with this agreement are establishing at least a symbolic barrier to unhindered American domination.

"The new treaty commits Russia and China to resolve their own disputes peacefully, consult with each other about emerging threats and oppose any attempts by other countries to interfere in the sovereign affairs of any state. Though the treaty text is full of challenges to American policies, neither of its signatories intends to shun further diplomacy with Washington.

"China will continue its efforts to join the World Trade Organization and increase economic ties with the United States. Russia, as Mr. Putin made plain after his first meeting with President Bush in Slovenia last month, will continue to negotiate with Washington about missile defense, nuclear arms reductions and other mutually important issues.

"But Washington's record of military intervention in Iraq and the Balkans, its promotion of NATO expansion toward Russia's borders and its talk of building a missile shield have helped nudge Russia and China closer together.

"Americans see missile defense as a way of protecting themselves against nuclear threats from unpredictable countries like North Korea, Iraq and Iran. Russia and China fear that permitting the development of new defensive technologies could one day undermine their own long-range missile forces. They also worry that with a missile shield in place, Washington might feel freer to intervene militarily in areas where they too have interests, like the Persian Gulf and the Korean Peninsula.

"Moscow and Beijing were unsettled by NATO's 1999 intervention in Kosovo, undertaken to protect ethnic Albanians from persecution by their Serbian rulers. They fear that similar arguments could one day be invoked against Chinese policies in Tibet or Russian actions in Chechnya.

"Though neither Russia nor China is a superpower, both are important. When American policies affect their interests, as is the case with missile defense and, for Russia, NATO expansion, Washington should consult with them carefully and not simply proceed according to its own preferences and timetable. Failure to take Russia and China into account will fan dangerous resentments and drive them away from Washington and toward each other."

Maybe the meetings between the leaders will move things in workable directions.

frankmz - 09:57pm Jul 18, 2001 EST (#7177 of 7185)

The key idea in the workability of a missile defense system is complexity

The more complex any system is, the less likely it is to work. And a missile defense system is enormously complex. A very large interconnected system, which has never been tested in real-time, and cannot be, must work perfectly the first time, and flawlessly destroy one or more incoming missiles, certainly an impossible task

Defense Secretary Runsfeldt has even admitted that it would not be perfect, but insists we go ahead anyway. But this is one case where to work means it must be perfect. "Almost" destroying an incoming missile doesn't count.

rshowalter - 10:32pm Jul 18, 2001 EST (#7178 of 7185) Delete Message
Robert Showalter

My old partner, the late Professor Steve Kline, of Stanford, told me that when he was a grad student at MIT, the Dean made a point of gathering students together, and telling them about a story. The story was Jules Verne's TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA .

In Verne's story, a Captain takes 10,000 tons of steel, glass, wood and other materials

--- he makes careful drawings

-- gets a team of workmen together

-- the team makes the pieces according the drawings and puts them together . . .

and off the Captain and the workmen go -- cruising 20,000 leagues under the surface of the sea.

The Dean made sure that this lesson was very clearly made --

" In the whole history of engineering, NOTHING LIKE THIS HAS EVER HAPPENED."

Things go wrong. Pretty often. For everybody. You have to test.

No MIT engineer was to leave Cambridge without knowing that lesson.

Somehow, D.O.D., when they can get money, can forget the lesson.

They need to learn it.

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