In an article in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Pavel Podvig gives us the following explanation for Russia's opposition to the American plan to install a missile defense system in Europe.
Judging by the intensity of Russia's constant opposition to US missile defenses in Europe, one might think that the very survival of the nation is in danger. In reality, though, the opposite is true: The battle over missile defense is so fierce because the stakes are so low. In terms of an actual impact on Russia's security, US defense is largely irrelevant. The intensity of Russia's opposition to the missile defense plans owes more to its internal political circumstances than to anything else -- which is why the current controversy is so persistent despite efforts to resolve it. It is time to acknowledge this and to recognize that, as far as US-Russian relations are concerned, disagreement over missile defense is just an overblown distraction.Podvig, a physicist trained at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, and now an an independent analyst based in Geneva, where he runs his research project, "Russian Nuclear Forces, " might be on to something. Relations between the United States and Russia are somewhat reminiscent of the Cold War, although the level of distrust is not as outwardly great as then. But the rhetoric of opposition remains strong.
Of course, the missile-defense program has been, and will continue to be, used on both sides of the Atlantic as a means to score political points with proponents of hardened security measures. These include leaders of both Russia and the United States. It is entirely possible that things will get worse before they get better.
[Read the rest of the article at Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists]