A ‘technical problem’ motivating Russian opposition to NATO on its border
The following text has been inserted as a footnote to our 27 February article on the current Russian incursion into Ukraine: Russia Reacts to Imperialist Encroachment
* In a 3 March discussion featuring John Mearsheimer and Ray McGovern posted on YouTube, Theodore (Ted) Postol pointed out a “technical problem which is of major importance” that helps explain Russian concern about NATO’s presence on its borders. Postol is a recognized expert in the field of ballistic missile technology:
“Theodore A. Postol (born 1946) is a professor emeritus of Science, Technology, and International Security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to his work at MIT, he worked at Argonne National Laboratory, the Pentagon, and Stanford University.
“He also criticized the US government’s analysis of the 2013 Ghouta chemical attack in Syria, analysis by the US and other western governments of the April 4, 2017 Khan Shaykhun chemical attack, and accused the OPCW of “deception” concerning the Douma chemical attack. Earlier, he criticised US government statements about the reported success rates of Patriot missiles during the first Gulf War, also known as Operation Desert Storm”
The following is a transcript of Postol’s remarks (emphasis added):
“…the Russian early warning system is nothing like the American early warning system. In the United States we know when a ballistic missile has been launched from any point in the world at any given time. The Russians cannot do this and because of that, more than 20 years ago now, there was a false alert that occurred at a time of extreme peacefulness between both countries, and we know that the Russian military officers involved made decisions also based on their judgement that there was nothing going on between our countries. If that same accident had occurred in the last few days a different outcome might have occurred. I think the Russians are very careful about nuclear weapons, in fact, in my judgement they are much more so than we are, we Americans. Nevertheless, the fact that the Russian early warning system does not give them comprehensive understanding of what is going on throughout the world when missiles are launched is extremely dangerous when you have a period like this.
“Now, to the benefit, one of the few things I just want to make one more comment on is that just a few hours ago there was a little news item saying that the United States has decided not to have a ballistic missile test that was scheduled sometime in the next few days or hours. I think that is an extremely good decision, because the Russians only have a very piecemeal idea of what is happening with nuclear forces around the world. And anything that happens in one place cannot be confirmed by observations of other places, and because they don’t have what I would call global situational awareness, that could put their forces onto a higher level of alert, and possibly even lead to actions associated with pre-delegated authority which we know for sure the Russians have to be doing because their warning system does not give them adequate time for the kinds of consultations that we plan to have if we ever have to make a decision about our nuclear forces.
“So this is kind of a technical observation. It’s peripheral to the main political issues which I basically agree with here. But I think it’s a real problem. I have been talking about it for well over 20 years. I get laughed at when I talk to people from the Pentagon about trying to do something constructive that would be between both countries. I point out to them that if the Russians attack us because they think they are under attack when they are not, it’s not in the interests of the United States to let that remain as a condition. But there is no interest at all in cooperation on this matter. In some ways, although it is politically extremely different from what we are now talking about, it is another example of how there is a kind of underlying unacceptance of Russians having a legitimate set of concerns for their own security. And on that matter I strongly agree with Ray [McGovern] and of course I strongly agree with John Mearsheimer as well.”
His commentary begins at 1:06:50 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppD_bhWODDc).