2008: Sleepless in Moscow
For 18 months, the United States and Poland have been negotiating a treaty to place 10 U.S. interceptor missiles in an array aimed at defending Western Europe from missile attack by Iran. But, after the Russians turned their August 2008 guns on tiny Georgia like the Germans did on tiny Belgium in 1914, the Poles insisted that the deal include some U.S. Patriot missiles positioned to protect Poland from Russian short-range missiles. The U.S. agreed.
In addition, the plucky Polish navy has a frigate in the Black Sea operating in support of three U.S. Navy ships and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter delivering humanitarian aid (blankets, food and infant supplies) to the beleaguered Georgians. Last Friday, three USAF C-130s one C-17 airlifted humanitarian supplies to the Tbilisi International Airport. The U.S.S. McFaul, leading the humanitarian sealift, reached the Georgian port of Batumi last Sunday.
Now, the Russians say they are outraged at and threatened by the recent U.S.-Polish missile arrangements. This Russian reaction (as if the Russians do not already have their own anti-ballistic-missile defense system), rings hollow. If fact, this latest example of Russian hypocrisy prompted this observer to recall a 1990 evening in Moscow when I wrote about praying the “security prayer.” My dispatch went, in part, like this:
“…Now, I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Tonight, I am saying that …prayer as I lay me down to sleep, once again, in Moscow. But the ironic part of all this is that I am safer from nuclear attack here in Moscow than any other place on earth. For you see, gentle reader, Moscow is the only city on earth protected by an anti-ballistic missile system. Only people sleeping in Moscow tonight can rest with the assurance that being nuked by the U.S. or any other nuclear-weapon possessing power is not something to be feared.
“Standing on a roof near the Sovincenter, one’s eyes can encompass the totality of this virtually flat city with only the Kremlin high ground and the Lenin Hills offering any relief from Moscow’s flatness.
“Although a city of almost 9 million [today, over 10.4 million] when the sun goes down they roll up the sidewalks and turn out the lights. Moscow’s gloomy darkness makes the glow of the blood-red stars mounted so high around the Kremlin even more eerie. These red stars do not blink, they do not flicker, and they gleam with a steady, monotonous light like huge markers placed to mark the scene of what has been a horrible, historical disaster.
“But somewhere out there in the darkness is a gigantic, air-defense system circling this monster city. It is the ABM system we agreed not to build to protect our cities while the Soviets forged ahead to erect an air fortress over Moscow.
“The Moscow ABM system is replete with sophisticated radars, anti-ballistic-missiles and an entire array of air-breathing interceptor aircraft…[deployed to defend] against our ICBMs, B-52s, B1-Bs and, perhaps, even against our nascent stealth technology. Red Star Wars, even though a relatively primitive earth-based system, is thought by many experts in the field to be effective….”
That April, 1990, dispatch from Moscow concluded with these words, “Tonight, I am saying the ‘security prayer’ for loved ones back home. They need it more than I do.”
Following the September 11, 2001, attacks, President George W. Bush withdrew the U.S. from the lop-sided ABM Treaty, allowing former President Ronald Reagan’s proposed ABM defense system (Star Wars) to move forward. In August, 2008, the Russian outrage over the recent U.S.-Polish missile-defense agreement suggests that Star Wars must work.
Now, the Russians are losing sleep. And, with religion no longer officially banned, we can even assume more Russians are praying.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today, studied at Harvard’s JFK School of Government. Dr. Hamilton is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.
©2008. William Hamilton.