On the Island of Vardo, just off Norway’s coast, bulldozers are hard at work leveling a rocky plateau, clearing ground for a new state-of-the-artradar to sit alongside the existing Globus II system. To the annoyance of Vlad Putin, the system is used to closely monitor Russian submarines.
Globus III has Moscow furious. The Joint project between U.S. Air Force Space Command and Norway is officially meant to “merely upgrade an earlier American-built radar system and continue its mission.” Local reporter Dan Tore Jorgensen laughs, “Though the current radar system is operated by Norwegians, Vardo’s main hotel is often filled with American technicians and spies masquerading as bird watchers.”
Since 1998, the Globus II system has occupied the site with a primary stated mission of tracking space junk according to Norway’s Chief of Military Intelligence. No matter what the stuffed uniforms with ultra-high security clearances say, practically everyone knows the real reason for the fancy new Globus III system is the Pentagon’s favorite project, the global missile-defense system.
Experts think Russia may have legitimate concerns. “If you have a neighbor walking up and down the fence line with a shotgun, he can tell you it’s not loaded but it raises all kinds of questions about his intentions. It creates the appearance that the United States is doing everything it can to gain intelligence about new Russian missiles and figure out all the measures it can to counter them.”
Globus II was described at the 2016 Space Seek conference as “missile defense capable,” and “ideal for collecting detailed intelligence data on Russia’s long-range ballistic missiles that could be used in Pentagon planning for a first-strike attack.” MIT radar expert Theodore Postol explains, “The fact that the radar is located in Vardo makes it likely, to some extent anyway, the radar’s task will be to gather intelligence about missile testing by Russian submarines from Plesetsk to Kamchatka.”
A 2011 book by a Norwegian reporter also quotes Postol, pointing out that Norway is a terrible place to put the equipment to look for space debris. The location is too far north and cannot see space junk objects. Postol explains “It is very difficult to understand how the Vardo radar will not be used as part of the U.S. missile defense. The reason for this is because it is the only radar that has the capability to tell the difference between a real warhead and a dummy.”
Putin has made the area one of his biggest priorities, promising Russia will dominate the Arctic circle. Russia’s navy houses over 200 submarines in bases along the Kola Peninsula, about 40 miles from Vardo. Six of these are Delta IV class which are armed with ballistic missiles and eight are the new Borei model. Called “a new generation of strategic weaponry,” the Borei class carries at least a dozen ballistic missiles and each missile has many nuclear warheads.
Moscow’s Norway ambassador issued a statement which, in diplomatic terms, is considered a stern warning. “Norway has to understand that after becoming an outpost of NATO, it will have to face head-on Russia and Russian military might. Therefore, there will be no peaceful Arctic anymore.” WikiLeaks released U.S. embassy cables revealing Ambassador Ben Whitley wrote home: “Due to this pressure, Norway will continue to criticize the missile shield in public, while secretly working for missile defense within NATO.”
Russia believes their only choice is to improve and strengthen their forces in a brand new arms race. Moscow fears the missile shield works so well it could tempt Trump, or any sitting President, to think he is invincible and push the button first. With equipment not just on land but on ships and planes, the technology presents “a serious obstacle on the way of consolidation of political stability” according to Moscow, because it would allow the U.S. to launch a successful surprise nuclear attack on them.
Russian policy can be summed up as: the best way to keep the peace is to be ready, willing, and very obviously able to wipe an enemy out if they decide to start a fight. They reserve the right to push the button first if they or any of their friends are under attack, even if the attack is not nuclear. Lieutenant General Poznikhir of the Main Operational Department says, “Anyone who launched a first strike would “literally be wiped off the face of the Earth.” Russian citizens “have nothing to fear, the situation is under control.”
U.S. policy has been very similar. We say the only reason to have nukes in the first place is to make the world think more than just twice about using them against us or our friends. We may decide to push the button first if we are, or think we are, about to be attacked. The policy is up for review under Trump who is expected to back it completely.
Trump and Putin are both thick-skinned men of action who don’t like bureaucracy. Trump wants to put America first and Putin wants to put Russia first. Both men respect each other’s point of view on that and intend to use it as the starting point for improved relations; if the media would get out of the way and let them do the job.
Neither one of them will want to give up the option of launching first but that does not mean either man will use that option. Unstable nuclear powers like North Korea and Iran are the ones we need to watch.
If the option of striking first were taken off the table, through weak leadership or restrictive legislation, Iran or North Korea might very easily be tempted to do something foolish. Keeping the option open makes the most sense. The reason Putin is so upset is that America is good at what we do with technology. The Russians have to match us by spending more and more to defeat our defenses with better technology of their own. The last time that happened, the Soviet Union collapsed trying to keep up with Reagan’s Space Defense Initiative.
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