The deployment of US Anti-Ballistic Missile systems around Russia’s borders is a make or break issue for the Russians. From Ray McGovern at antiwar.com:
In the style of a President’s Daily Brief for President Trump:
When you meet with President Putin next week, you can count on him asking you why the U.S. is encircling Russia with antiballistic missile systems.
Putin regarded the now-defunct Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty as the key to maintaining the nuclear-weapons balance between the United States and Russia and told filmmaker Oliver Stone that the US withdrawal from the treaty in 2001 and the follow-on US deployment of ABM batteries could “destroy this balance. And that’s a great mistake.”
For decades, the Russians have viewed an invulnerable nuclear-tipped strategic missile force as a deterrent to a US attack though they have never displayed an inclination to commit suicide by actually firing them.
From this perspective, Putin wonders why the US might seek to upset the nuclear balance by deploying ABM systems around Russia’s borders, making Russia’s ICBM force vulnerable.
Putin’s generals, like yours, are required to impute the most provocative intentions to military capabilities; that is what military intelligence is all about. Thus, they cannot avoid seeing the ABM deployments as giving the US the capability for a first strike to decapitate Russia’s ICBM force and, by doing so, protecting the US from Russian nuclear retaliation.
And, as Putin has made clear, the Kremlin sees US claims that the deployments are needed to thwart a strategic strike from Iran as insultingly disingenuous – all the more so in light of the 2015 multilateral agreement handcuffing Iran’s development of a nuclear bomb for the foreseeable future.
Yet, the U.S.-Russia strategic balance becomes more and more precarious with the deployment of each new ABM site or warship, together with rising concerns at the possibility of a US technological breakthrough. With the time window for Russian leaders to evaluate data indicating a possible US nuclear strike closing, launch-on-warning becomes more likely – and so does World War III.
Your visit to Warsaw en route to Hamburg for the G-20 summit will shine the spotlight on the threat Putin sees in the deployment of missile defense systems in Poland – as well as Romania and elsewhere on Russia’s periphery.
It is no secret that Russian leaders feel double-crossed by NATO’s steady creep eastward, but Russia’s strategic planners seemed to believe they could handle that – up to a point. That point was reached with the Feb. 22, 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine, which Moscow viewed as one U.S.-backed regime change too many and one that installed a virulently anti-Russian government along a route historically used by foreign invaders.
To continue reading: What Trump Can Expect From Putin