Russia has maintained that these missile-defense systems threaten to upset the nuclear balance by negating its strategic deterrent. The United States correctly points out that its missile-defense systems could never contend with a missile arsenal the size of Russia’s. However, this view assumes that Russia would be launching the first strike against the United States or its allies. Moscow’s fear is that the missile-defense system will give the United States greater confidence in its ability to conduct a surprise first strike to eliminate Russia’s nuclear arsenal, with missile-defense systems able to handle any missiles that aren’t destroyed in the initial attack. Moreover, today’s systems could be expanded in the future.
5. U.S. Allies
While not a “weapon” in the traditional sense, the U.S. global alliance network would greatly enhance America’s ability to wage war against Russia. In this sense, it is telling that Russia lists NATO (rather than the United States) as its greatest security threat.
For one thing, allies provide forward deployed bases for the U.S. military, many of them along Russia’s perimeter. From NATO in Europe, to the GCC in the Middle East and Japan, South Korea and the Philippines in Asia, the United States has encircled Russia (as Truman ably demonstrated to the Soviet Union with conspicuous air exercises during the 1948 Berlin blockade). These bases would not only enhance the potency of America’s military capabilities by reducing their range, they would allow the United States to attack Russia from all sides.
The allies’ own military capabilities also pose a threat to Russia. With some exceptions like China, India and Brazil, most of the top military spenders in the world are U.S. allies. Although the United States frequently (and justifiably) chides NATO members for not spending enough on defense, even without the United States, NATO still spends about three times as much on defense each year as Russia does. Indeed, any combination of Germany, France and the UK greatly outspends Russia on defense. And this doesn’t factor in other countries like Japan, which itself has a military budget that is over half that of Russia’s. No Russian allies come anywhere close in terms of the contribution they could make to any war effort.
Zachary Keck is the former Managing Editor of The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @ZacharyKeck.