A 'Ballistic Missile Triad'; China, Iran and Russia Pose Dire Global Threat

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Byline: Fred Stakelbeck, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A slew of incendiary statements coming out of Moscow over the past few weeks have many Western observers concerned that a new Cold War between Russia and the United Sates is rapidly taking shape. Bolstered by an ambitious military modernization program, energy and arms revenues and a growing global distaste for perceived U.S. hegemony, Russian President Vladimir Putin has used his growing influence both at home and abroad to confront what he sees as Washington's growing "imperialist" actions.

Mr. Putin has clearly gone on the offensive. Speaking with a group of reporters recently, he said actions by the United States to place a missile-defense shield in Europe would cause Russia to "acquire new targets in Europe" which could "unleash a nuclear conflict." The successful test two weeks ago of two separate ballistic missiles, coupled with Russia's plan to spend upward of $200 billion by 2017 on bombers, air-defense systems and tanks, points to the formulation of a revised Russian military doctrine. In addition, Mr. Putin has also threatened to withdraw from a number of important arms treaties, such as the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

But as alarming as Mr. Putin's statements and related actions have been, they are even more menacing when viewed in the context of ongoing international ballistic-missile development and deployment by two of Moscow's closest allies - China and Iran. Russia, China and Iran, the new Axis of Evil, present a dire "ballistic missile triad" that has become difficult for the West to ignore. Working closely together, all three countries continue to improve their ballistic missile technology demonstrating an increased willingness to replace constructive dialogue with outright confrontation.

The recently released 2007 Defense Department annual report to Congress on China's military power catalogs in great detail the country's continued efforts to establish not only a defensive ballistic missile capability, but an offensive "first strike" capability as well. The expected deployment of additional mobile, land and sea-based ballistic nuclear missiles that can reach the U.S. mainland have raised serious questions in Washington about the county's regional and global intentions.

Beijing's communist leaders have reacted to U.S. criticism of its military build-up by strongly denouncing calls for greater transparency, stating Washington is now treating the country as a "Cold War-style" enemy. But China's recent moves to expand its ballistic missile force capabilities are undeniable, as its build-up of missiles across the Taiwan Strait confirms. Michael Green, a former Asia adviser to President Bush, has voiced his concerns regarding China's ballistic missile program. "The Chinese have maintained that they have no first use policy and that they have a minimal deterrent policy. …