My personal standard response to the status of U.S.-Russia relations is always the same: what reset? In fact, relations between the United States and NATO on the one hand and Russia on the other seem to be deteriorating continuously. The Kremlin does not have much leverage over NATO, but it does seem to think that teasing NATO here and there helps to rally the nation around the flag that might otherwise be inclined to ask: what's next? But the fact that the NATO missile defence shield is still being presented as a project directed not against Iran but Russia itself has always been a bit awkward. But now the Russian Chief of Staff, General Nikolai Makarov, insists on going all bonkers, threatening to act pre-emptively against NATO's missile defence system.
Let me put it simply: the very idea that the missile defence system is directed against Russia is nuts. How do we know? Well, for one thing NATO is intent so declare a preliminary operational capability at its Chicago summit without having invested much in the system so far. Which is easy to explain, since most of the system will simply combine the capabilities NATO already had at its disposal. These are systems that are actually quite old, AEGIS destroyers in the Med and a Patriot battery here and there (note for a moment that the more modern and more capable replacement for Patriot—MEADS—is being scrapped). The only thing changing will be command and control and early detection. The site selected for a new radar site is Izmir, Turkey, which clearly indicates that the real reason for the entire project is located in the Middle East. Unless, of course, Russia is volunteering to scrap all its SSBNs. And provided that its missiles can somehow no longer go over the Arctic to reach the US, which I am guessing some guys would fine surprising. But the bottom line is this: Russia initially declared its willingness to cooperate with NATO on missile defence. I wonder what has changed that they moved from cooperation to declaring it such a threat that they would have to act pre-emptively? The answer, rather tellingly, is not be found on NATO's territory.