Thoughts on the US Missile Shield

Russian PM and celebrity Vladimir Putin

Russian PM and celebrity Vladimir Putin

Aug. 14 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. and Poland signed a preliminary accord today that will allow for 10 U.S. interceptor missiles to be based in the eastern European country, completing a defense system that Russia opposes.

The U.S. has agreed to Polish requests including modernization of its armed forces in exchange for the location of the missiles, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said in an interview with private broadcaster TVN24 this evening.

I almost want to say that I am growing weary of the back and forth “let me find a way to piss you off” relationship between the US and Russia, but when I feel that way I stop myself and realize that the situation is more complex and far less arbitrary than that.

I have been reading Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations, and I find his civilizational paradigm very affective in trying to understand Russia’s return to aggression against the West.

Since Peter the Great, who toured Europe as a youth and who fell in love with Western Civilization, Russia has in some form or another shared bonds with the West culturally. For over seventy years it was ruled according to the principles communism, a Western-born philosophy – Marx after all was German. However, that philosophy, despite its origin, was rejected by Western Civilization for liberal democracy and capitalism. Rather than making up for not being part of the renaissance or other pivotal events in Western Civilization’s path to modernization, Russia chose to circumvent it and adopt the philosophy of the future, being the first to usher in the proletarian revolution. Thus it is safe to say that attempts to westernize Russia have all been relatively unsuccessful.

Peter the Great

The Failed Westernizer: Peter the Great

One of Huntington’s arguments is that nations that see their power and prestige increase experience a surge of cultural pride and an increased interest in the distinct civilizational values that define that state.

Russia at its core is fundamentally different from the West. With the exception of a classical inheritance (via Byzantium and not Rome), Russia shared very little in the events that shaped Western Civilization, including but certainly not limited to the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration, the Scientific Revolution, the Agricultural Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution. With the surge in energy prices and global demand, Russia has seen strong economic growth and is finally, as the core state of a unique Orthodox civilization and slavic culture, beginning to assert itself aggressively.

Distinctly Russian and Completely Non-Western

Ivan the Terrible: Distinctly Russian and Completely Non-Western

This also helps explain why the US refused Russia’s offer to place the shield in Azerbaijan, which is more Russian-oriented. Our policymakers are, consciously or not, thinking in civilizational terms. It is of critical importance to policymakers, whether Russia’s intentions are pure or not, to reject having a Western defensive system in Orthodox soil. Yet if the West is going to have such intense skepticism of Russian intentions, then it should not hold any grudge against equally strong skepticism on the part of the Russians.

The US missile shield in Eastern Europe is clearly an attempt to make a defensive stand on its Eastern border, where it can easily been seen by a western-looking Russia. The US claims that it is taking a stance against Islamic states in the south, which it may. But can one really blame Russia for being upset? Eastern Europe is civilizationally tenuous – it is where Western Civilization ends and Orthodox Civilization begins. If NATO and the US believe that the missile shield is of strategic importance, then they will have to accept the future aggression and diminished chances of cooperation with Russia.

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