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Russia is no longer worried about U.S. missile defense systems

If Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin is to be believed, Russia has stopped worrying about U.S. missile defense systems in Eastern Europe. In a speech delivered Tuesday at the Russian embassy in London, Rogozin claimed that the American missile shield no longer poses a threat to his country -- a statement that contradicts years of Russian officials howling about the presence of U.S. missiles near the Russian border.

"We have solved the issue of penetrating the missile shield," Rogozin said, according to RIA Novosti. "We regret that the United States waste their money on missile defense and compel us to do the same. The missile shield is nothing for us, it's a bluff. It poses no military threat, but remains a political and economic problem."

American officials have repeatedly tried to assure the Russians that the missile defense system is intended to counter the missile threat from Iran, but this has done little to assuage the Russians. In his remarks Tuesday, Rogozin called the system "excessive" and "provocative by nature" -- attributes that made Russia feel "compelled to search for a wise and asymmetric response."

Could it be that Russia has found a way to circumvent the missile defense system?

If so, Rogozin would certainly be in a position to know. Prior to his elevation to deputy prime minister, Rogozin served as the Russian envoy to NATO and as President Vladimir Putin's special envoy to the alliance on missile defense issues. In his current role, Rogozin oversees the Russian defense industry, a position that would certainly give him the insight to comment on innovations in Russian missile technology.

While Rogozin's comments may amount to nothing more than bluster, he has previously alluded to Russia's desire to create an effective military counterweight to U.S. missile defense systems. In February, he replied to comments by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen defending the alliance's missile shield by writing on Twitter that "we also feel responsibility for protecting our population from your missile threat and will create a reliable air and space defense." In June, 2011, Rogozin wrote in the International Herald Tribune that for "Russia it is a matter of principle to remove any threat to its strategic capabilities, which guarantee our sovereignty and independence."

But until now, there has been no indication from Russia that it has found a way to counter U.S. missile defense systems through technical means.

Interestingly, when in March the United States chose to bolster its missile defense systems in the Pacific region in response to threats issued by North Korea, it effectively canceled the final phase of the missile system the Russians opposed. That development led to hopes that Russia and the United States might reach a rapprochement on the issue -- one that did not appear.

Perhaps that was because Russia has been waiting to unveil a military breakthrough to render the issue irrelevant.

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How influential was that Reinhart-Rogoff paper, exactly?

The world of anti-austerians is abuzz (and maybe somewhat gleeful?) this afternoon about news that a paper by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff -- the paper for those policymakers looking for serious academic work to back up their proposals for debt-slashing cutbacks -- has some serious issues (Josh Keating summarizes those problems on his War of Ideas blog here)

Why is this causing such a stir? One of the conclusions of the paper is that when countries hit a debt-to-GDP ratio of 90 percent, they reach a tipping point after which they'll start experiencing serious growth slowdowns. It's a conclusion that many have found either important or useful, depending on your level of cynicism.

Take a look at some of the ways Reinhart and Rogoff -- and their conclusions -- have been marshaled in the austerity vs. Keynesianism debate that has dominated much of the post-financial crisis discussion about fiscal policy:

This House Budget Committee response to President Obama's budget proposal from just a few days ago cites R&R by name before going on:

Instead of taking steps to reduce the excessive burden of debt, the President's budget, even if fully implemented, never reduces gross federal debt below the important 90 percent threshold.

Olli Rehn, European Commission vice president  on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro (and noted austerity champion) pulls out the R&R 90-percent rule in this February call for continued "fiscal consolidation":

It is widely acknowledged, based on serious academic research, that when public debt levels rise above 90% they tend to have a negative impact on economic dynamism, which translates into low growth for many years.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), in this excerpt from his book, rhapsodizes about a briefing Reinhart and Rogoff gave before a group of forty senators:

"Reinhart echoed Conrad's point and explained that countries rarely pass the 90 percent debt-to-GDP tipping point precisely because it is dangerous to let that much debt accumulate. She said, "If it was not risky to hit the 90 percent threshold, we would expect a higher incidence."

"Thank you for your depressing presentation," Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in closing, to self-conscious laughter around the room."

These are just a few examples that turned up from a quick search in English -- who knows what a search in Italian, Greek, or German would yield.

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