Many believe President Ronald Reagan’s creation and firm support for the Strategic Defense Initiative was critical in the fall of the Soviet Union as the Soviets could not keep up with the pace of American defense spending and basically bankrupted their nation attempting to do so. Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking to a group of military leaders in Moscow, aims to achieve a different outcome in the developing arms race.
Although due to increased defense resources and pressure from Putin, Russian conventional forces have improved dramatically in some areas, the overall force still doesn’t measure up to Western standards of efficiency and readiness in sufficient numbers to counter NATO’s advantages. Russia, therefore relies on nuclear weapons as a deterrent and offensive strike capability.
According to the Russian state news agency, TASS, Putin today said Russia would in time develop its own anti-ballistic missile defense systems, but “at this first stage … we will work on strike systems able to overcome any missile defense system.” Putin believes American declarations of only developing missile defense for one-off attacks from rogue nations is not credible and believes the real intent is to counter Russian nuclear forces. “Their true aim is to neutralize the strategic nuclear potential of other nuclear countries … especially our country.”
I’m sure the Kremlin has been monitoring the Republican presidential debates and their frequent calls for more American defense outlays. Putin frequently warns the West, “Don’t forget Russia is a nuclear power.” It seems that he wants to keep the nuclear arrow in his quiver and will spend precious resources to defeat Western missile defense systems now and in the future.