PARTY LIKE IT'S 1983. In response to U.S. plans to base anti-ballistic missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic, a Russian general yesterday hinted that Russia might withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Force Treaty, and even start building SS-20s again. General Solovtsov also said that Poland and the Czech Republic will find themselves targeted by additional Russian missiles.

The interceptors and the radar system are intended to counter a missile launch from a Middle Eastern country (Iran, one must presume), but Russia is concerned that they can be upgraded to threaten Russian missiles. Poland and the Czech Republic are going along with this in order to cement their relationships with the United States, although it's hard to see how preventing an Iranian attack (startlingly unlikely; aren't the Iranians going to fire all their missiles at Israel?) is worth increasing Russian hostility. On the other hand, the Poles and Czechs may simply assume that Russia is going to be hostile anyway, a position that's hardly unreasonable.

Still, it's fascinating to see that we're almost back to the 1980s, with Russia threatening to ramp up production of SS-20s. The SS-20 was a particularly scary mobile intermediate range ballistic missile the development of which helped catalyze the arms control agreements of the second half of the 1980s. The INF Treaty demonstrated that the Soviet Union and the United States could work together, and contributed in an important way to the disintegration of the Soviet Union's national security state.

--Robert Farley

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