Black Sea, Caucasus: U.S. Moves Missile Shield South And East
Since the surprise news from the White House and the Pentagon on September 17 that the United States was relinquishing plans to deploy ground-based interceptor missiles to Poland and a missile radar installation to the Czech Republic speculation has been rife on two scores.
First, was this move a sincere effort to "reset" relations with Russia, possibly part of a trade-off for Russian transit and logistical support for the American and NATO war in South Asia and for Moscow agreeing to tougher measures - sanctions at any rate - against Iran?
Deutsche Welle ran a feature shortly after U.S. President Barack Obama's and Defense Secretary Robert Gates' announcements on Thursday which included an interview with Dr. Karl-Heinz Kamp, the research director at the NATO Defense College in Rome, in which he described the seeming U.S. about-face as follows:
"This is not a withdrawal from the idea of missile defense...as the US
even has a law that obliges each president to pursue missile defense as long as the technical capabilities exist and the US can absorb the bearable costs." 
In expressing a suspicion that many of his readers must have shared concerning simultaneous American claims that Iranian missile capabilities were less and not more developed than reported earlier and that the nation yet represented a growing threat, Kamp added:
"This decision will be very hard for some to understand. On the one hand, you have the Obama administration saying that Iran is not as much of a threat as before, and therefore there is no need for the defense shield. On the other, the official White House line is that Iran is still actively pursuing its nuclear program and is not willing to abandon this....[T]he US hopes that by removing the shield, it can persuade Russia to take a stronger anti-Iran stance. But there are risks here. No one is sure that Russia will respond by supporting US pressure on Iran and secondly, whether Iran would take any notice even if it did." 
The conclusion one has to draw is the simple truth - that Iran never presented a threat of launching long-range missiles at the United States, Washington's rationale for the Polish and Czech deployments.
Yet President Obama began his statement on Thursday by endorsing George W. Bush's characterization of Iran as the very danger that supposedly necessitated the third position missile shield deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic negotiated by the Bush administration while he, Obama, went on to abrogate those very agreements.
The second question that began to surface after Obama's and Gates' comments was one to the effect of "And now what trick does Washington have up its sleeve?"
The first issue is the easier to contend with: Either the U.S. was compelled to - backhandedly - admit the falsity of its Iranian threat claim or it still intends to escalate pressure against Iran, including direct military measures.
The latter is closer to the truth and leads quickly to the second issue. What is Washington planning to do with the western flank of its global interceptor missile system?
Pentagon chief Gates immediately revealed part of the new picture in prefacing his comments with "Those who say we are scrapping missile defense in Europe are either misinformed or misrepresenting the reality of what we are doing." He then laid out a three-phase strategy which included:
1. Deploying advanced sensors and interceptor missiles in both northern and southern Europe. Gates didn't specify which nations would host them, but Scandinavian and Balkans states seem likely candidates. The stationing of missile surveillance facilities and interceptor missiles on both ends of the European continent would represent a qualitative escalation of his earlier plans for ten missiles in Poland and one X-band radar in the Czech Republic even if the missiles in question are of shorter range.
2. Enhanced use of Aegis class warships with SM-3 [Standard Missile-3] interceptor missiles which the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has in recent months advanced considerably. Next month the MDA plans the first test of an SM-3 against a ballistic missile.
Reports are that the Pentagon is to begin the deployment of missile-killing warships in the Mediterranean and North Seas. The Norwegian, Barents, Baltic and Black Seas may not be far behind.