Depending upon who you ask, Iran's recent missile launches were either a demonstration of military might or a botched propaganda campaign. Once it was reported that Iran doctored a photograph of the launches, experts began to question whether the tests revealed any enhanced missile capability.
However, two consecutive days of missile tests caught the attention of commodity traders. Oil futures rose more than $5 on renewed concern of a possible military confrontation over Iran's nuclear program.
The missile tests clearly demonstrate the need for a strong missile defense system, which would theoretically protect Eastern Europe from missiles launched from Iran. Placing radar interceptors in the Czech Republic and missiles in Poland would "make it more difficult for Iran to threaten and be bellicose and say terrible things, because their missiles won't work," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.
Russia says the system is uncomfortably close. During the G-8 Summit in Rusutsu, Japan, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the United States' plans to place missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic is a threat to Russia because it weakens its missile force. "The situation deeply distresses us," Medvedev said at a news conference after the summit, promising unspecified "retaliatory steps."
The missile defense system acknowledges tremendous change in the international front. The Czech Republic, for instance, is a former Soviet satellite. Moscow is uncomfortable with it negotiating treaties as an independent state. Yet, the missile defense system is needed for a far different type of threat rogue nations such as Iran.
At the end of the day, Russia could easily overwhelm the planned missile defense system, if it elected to launch an attack. Surely, the Russian government knows this.
This isn't the time to threaten retaliation. It's time for U.S. and Russian leaders to pause and determine the best means to move forward in a world that is, in some respects, more dangerous than during the Cold War, and for Russia to acknowledge that the Czech Republic has full authority to act on its own accord.