A Shadow of Its Former Self?

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates believes that Russia’s incursion into Georgia has prompted Europe, Central Asia, and the Far East to view Russia “through a different set of lenses” and will prove to be a “costly strategic overreach.” Speaking Sept. 19 at the Oxford Analytica in Great Britain, after visits to Iraq and Afghanistan and a NATO meeting in London, Gates said of on Russia’s antagonism toward placement of a missile defense system in Europe: It is true that even authoritarian regimes have legitimate security interests. But Russian claims that 10 ballistic missile interceptors in Central Europe undermine their strategic nuclear arsenal, or that NATO democracies on their borders represent a cordon sanitaire, strain credulity and smack of old Soviet agitprop.” However, Gates said that Russia’s “current actions—however egregious—do not represent the existential and global threat that the Soviet Union represented.” He reminded the audience that he used to prepare Soviet military estimates and declared: “I can attest that despite all of the recent improvements and ongoing modernization programs, Russia’s conventional military remains a shadow of its Soviet predecessor in size and capability.” However, Gates believes NATO allies may have gone too far toward demilitarization, which he said “has gone from a blessing into a potential impediment to achieving real and lasting peace, as real or perceived weakness is always a temptation to miscalculation and aggression.” (Oxford Analytica remarks)