HONOLULU — U.S. plans to deploy an antiballistic missile defense system in Europe have raised fears of a new Cold War. Russian responses to the proposal have been fierce: Moscow has warned countries that hosting interceptors would make them targets in the event of conflict. In fact, the planned deployments pose no threat to Russia’s strategic arsenal. Russia’s real concern is the prospect of integration of former Soviet bloc countries in Europe into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Moscow wants to maintain as much influence over Europe — eastern and western — as possible. Japan should expect similar tactics to be employed against it as it deploys a missile defense system of its own.
Fears of “rogue states” with nuclear weapons or the accidental launch of a ballistic missile prompted the United States to withdraw from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty in 2002. Washington seeks to deploy a “shield” of interceptor missiles that would block an attack consisting of a small number of ballistic missiles; the technology can’t stop more than that. The prospect of North Korea putting a nuclear warhead on one of its missiles was foremost in the minds of U.S. security planners. Japanese strategists were equally alarmed and that prompted Tokyo to join the U.S. in developing and deploying a missile defense system, dropping legal barriers to Japan’s export of weapons systems in the process.
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