Putin’s return to the centre of power in Russia has led many analysts to speculate that a major change in Russo-American relations is on the cards. The speculations are beginning to gain currency with Russia's growing unhappiness over the American ballistic missile defence (BMD). Moscow feels that Washington’s plans to go ahead with its BMD is likely to upset the global security applecart. The Americans on the other hand are complaining that the Russians are making an attempt to knit together a “coalition of the willing” to raise questions about the legitimacy about the U.S. BMD.
According Wolfgang Ischinger, former Foreign Minister of Germany, “For the Russian elite, a missile defense system protecting the Euro-Atlantic area from Iranian threats would in reality be aimed at Russia. Consequently, they resist any development that might some day affect Russia’s nuclear deterrent. Equally, some US leaders still consider Russia an opponent and a possible enemy although today’s Russia is – despite many reasonable Western concerns – totally different from the former Soviet Union. Thus, speculations about sharing sensitive data with Russia have raised protest among Republican senators. In sum, the room for maneuvering on each side is limited by domestic politics.”
BMD has long been a problem area in the U.S.-Russian relationship. The Russian position is based on the fact that BMD could neutralise the credibility of its strategic nuclear deterrent, leaving gaping holes in its security matrix. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says, “The European missile defense system comprises four stages. After the fourth stage has been completed, and if completed in its current form, it will pose a threat to Russia’s strategic deterrent, military experts warn. Moreover, there can be a fifth and a sixth stage, and nobody knows what they will come up to.” Since Russia enjoys only very limited leverages to halt the American march, therefore it is now trying to build a global opinion by making an attempt to involve China.
The American predominance in the field of BMD is likely to render many nuclear weapons in the hands of China and Russia redundant. The two countries will have to make more nuclear weapons in order to beat the missile defences. Once the nuclear equation totally tilts in the favour of America, the strategic equation may alter to an extent where the American supremacy and hegemony would be complete. This could put both Russia and China in a tight spot vis-a-vis America. According to Dmitry Medvedev, “No one can explain why Russia should be convinced that the European missile defense system will not be oriented against it. Those behind it tell us to use it. But using it would mean breaking a nuclear parity. But whatever the case, the dialogue is going on.”