Teaser: Washington and Moscow are positioning themselves for a drawn out tussle over the United States' missile defense plans, which will impact Central European countries

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Title: Central Europe In The Middle of BMD Bout

Teaser: Washington and Moscow are positioning themselves for a drawn out tussle over the United States' missile defense plans, which will impact Central European countries.

Quote: Central Europeans are caught square in the middle of this mix. In the face of a resurgent Russia, a concrete security commitment from Washington is exactly what these countries need.

In a meeting with military attaches in Moscow on Wednesday, Russian Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of Russian armed forces, said that the Russian armed forces have begun to implement several military measures in response to U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans in Europe. These measures, which Russian President Dmitri Medvedev outlined in a 
televised address just two weeks earlier, include activating an early warning radar in Kaliningrad and strengthening Russia's defensive capabilities for Strategic Nuclear Forces installations. In the same 
speech, Medvedev stressed Russia's desire to cooperate with Washington in a joint BMD framework, and said further measures such as deploying advanced offensive systems -- including such as Iskander mobile short range ballistic missiles -- would only be used enacted if "the aforementioned measures prove to be 

But Russia has wasted no time in beginning to follow through with many of these those harsher OKAY? OR MAYBE "MORE PROVOCATIVE?" measures. On the same day as Makarov's statements, the press service of Russia's Western Military District (ZVO) said that an S-400 surface-to-air missile regiment will be placed on combat duty in Kaliningrad before the end of the year. Meanwhile the chief of the Belarusian Armed Forces' General Staff said that his country expects to receive Tor-M2 surface-to-air missile systems will be delivered by from Russia this month, adding that an Iskander deployment to the country would soon follow. OKAY? not be far behind.

Russian opposition to U.S. BMD plans is nothing new. For Russia, the fundamental issue at hand is not the BMD system itself (which is nominally geared toward deterring the ballistic missile capabilities of 
rogue states like Iran)I WOULD SAY COUNTERING MISSILE CAPABILITIES, OR DETERRING BALLISTIC MISSILE ASPIRATIONS, WHICH IS ACCURATE? but rather with the associated U.S. military presence the system would bring along with it. Given that U.S. BMD plans are focused on Central Europe, which directly abuts Russia and its former Soviet periphery, ARE THERE PLANS THAT DIRECTLY ABUT RUSSIA ITSELF, OR JUST THE FORMER SOVIET PERIPHERY? meaning Moscow can't help but feel threatened by the system and the U.S. military commitment to the Central Europeans it to the region that the system represents.

While Russia had spoken against U.S. BMD plans many times previously on many occasions over the past few years, Wednesday marked a clear escalation by Moscow on the issue -- on the part of Moscow—particularly after since Russia softened its stance on U.S. missile defense after the so-called “reset” in Russo-American relations in 2009. One important reason for this is timing. The timing of this escalation is important. OKAY? On Thursday, a foreign minister-level Russia-NATO Council (RNC) meeting will take place in Brussels -- and Moscow has grown increasingly frustrated with Washington's unwillingness to cooperate or even discuss the BMD issue with Russia in the weeks leading up to the meeting. According to STRATFOR sources, the United States has also been prepping preparing to take BMD off the agenda for Thursday's meeting, and possibly even 
exclude it from the more significant NATO-Russia summit slated to be held in for March in Chicago. Russia continues to press the issue and demand talks, and press the issue, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stating that he plans on elaborating Medvedev's position on the issue at the during Thursday's meeting.

But perhaps more important than the timing of the upcoming meeting is the occurrence MAYBE GROWTH, EVOLUTION, SOMETHING LIKE THAT? of a wider shift that has occurred in between the two main parties that are tussling over the position of U.S. BMD. position. Washington has no shortage of issues to deal with -- on its plate, including these include wrapping up the war in Afghanistan; an increase of Iranian addressing Iran's increased influence in strategic Middle Eastern countries like Iraq and Syria; shifting its focus to the Western Pacific region; and a possible economic 
collapse in Europe that would have global implications. All of These have served to distract Washington and limit its room for maneuver outside of the theaters it is already committed to, so the last thing the United States needs is another crisis on its hands.

Conversely, Russia has seen its position steadily improve over time. Unlike the United States, the Russian military is not drawn into protracted conflicts far away from home. Russia is flush with cash from energy revenues and has been looking to take advantage of the crisis raging in Europe. Most importantly, Russia has increased its leverage vis-à-vis Washington thanks to the United States' increased reliance dependence on the Russian-dominated Northern Distribution Network (NDN) at the expense of the Pakistan-based supply lines into Afghanistan. has subsided in favor of the Russian-dominated Northern Distribution Network (NDN), giving Russia increased leverage over the US due to its reliance on NDN lines of supply. Moscow has already begun threatening to close the NDN if its interests over BMD are 
not taken into account.

Central Europeans are caught square in the middle of this mix. are the Central Europeans. In the face of a resurgent Russia, a concrete security commitment from Washington is exactly what these countries need, just what the doctor ordered, and the BMD system has come to serve as a symbol of that future commitment. But Russia is quite aware of this, Russian knows this and has worked to chip away at this commitment by attempting to force wedge the United States between two bad scenarios: either abandon the BMD system and with it the Central Europeans, or risk a potential disruption to the US current Washington's most pressing commitment, in Afghanistan. Essentially, Russia is 
attempting to force a US the United States to make a decision -- does it want NDN now or BMD later? -- hoping that Washington leaves the Central Europeans out to dry.

But the key words here are attempt and hope. Russia knows that, whatever despite its levers it may hold against the United States, it is not immune to global economic problems and to blowback from Afghanistan. Moscow knows it must be careful in 
not taking these levers not to press its current advantage too far. OKAY? The United States, despite its current relatively poor position, currently, is still the dominant power on which the global system pivots, and can bring a range of forces to bear against Moscow if deemed absolutely necessary. Ultimately, in any it comes down to a sparring match between the United States and Russia, but neither player has a knockout punch. And while however long the match can prove between the two powers may d drags out, for quite some time, it is the Central Europeans that will in the meantime be caught in the middle. OKAY?

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