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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stated on Friday that Poland’s agreement to accept a US missile defense system target his country. Washington claims the defense shield is aimed at blocking attacks by rogue nations. These developments follow the recent conflict between Russia, and Georgia.

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ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stated on Friday that Poland’s agreement to accept a US missile defense system [targeting] his country. Washington claims the defense shield is aimed at blocking attacks by rogue nations. These developments follow the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia. To further analyze the situation, the Real News senior news editor Paul Jay spoke to Eric Margolis.

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Welcome back to the next part of our interview with Eric Margolis. Eric, just when we thought there would be perpetual war against Islamic fundamentalism and an endless war against terrorism and clash of cultures, all of a sudden we’re back in the 20th century. What exactly is happening in Poland? And let me, just to lead us into this, read you a quote. It’s a quote from an AP story. The headline is “Russia: Poland risks attack because of US missiles.” According to Russian general Anatoly Nogovitsyn, Russia is ready to attack Poland, even with nuclear weapons. The quote goes, “Poland, by deploying this system, is exposing itself to a strike 100 percent,” the general says. The general spoke at a news conference on Friday, where he reiterated Russia’s frequently stated warning that placing missile-defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic would bring about an unspecified military response. So, Eric, just what is this deal with Poland? And what do you make of the Russian response?

ERIC MARGOLIS, THE REAL NEWS ANALYST: The Bush administration has been trying to close this deal for a long time, to put anti-ballistic missile radars in the Czech Republic and ten interceptor missiles in Poland. It claims this system is only designed against rogue states.

JAY: And they say it’s defensive.

MARGOLIS: Defensive, meaning it’s designed against Iranian long-range missiles. Well, first of all, Iran has no long-range missiles, has no nuclear warheads; poses zero threat to the United States now or for the foreseeable future. The Russians are up in arms, literally, over this system that’s right on their borders. It will be able to look deep into Russian territory. The Russians say it’s designed against Russia.

JAY: Now, exactly what is it? Because the impression one gets from reading American media is that this is somehow interceptors, that they knock missiles out of the sky. They’re not themselves missiles armed with nuclear warheads that can then be used as a first strike. So what is the truth of this?

MARGOLIS: That’s correct. It is a purely defensive system. But a defense has its offensive capability, because the US is then allowed—it can look into Russia, can see what it’s doing, maybe able to confound or confuse some Russian missiles if they’re fired. We don’t know all the technical details—they’ve not been revealed. But the Russians are extremely concerned. They offered to let the Americans use a Russian anti-ballistic missile radar in Azerbaijan to look south towards Iran. The US said no. They turned it down. So the Russians regard this as an enormously provocative act. It is a clear and egregious violation of the agreements made by presidents Bush Sr. and Clinton not to move NATO forces into Eastern Europe or parts of the former Soviet Union.

JAY: So how seriously should we take these threats about Poland being the subject of a potential attack because of this deal?

MARGOLIS: Well, the Russians are taking it very seriously, and I do too, because if there were a major crisis, this missile system would be a primary target for sure. It’s obviously Russia’s trying to cow the Poles. But the most disturbing thing is that the Bush administration would go out of its way to provoke Russia by this unnecessary, foolish system. The primary goal of US foreign policy has got to be to maintain stable and good relations with Russia, which has thousands of nuclear warheads pointed at the United States. The Bush administration is building this thing supposedly against a threat from Iran, which has no nuclear warheads. And to do this, it’s going to antagonize Russia and bring them to the point of what looks like the Cold War is very frightening, is the height of irresponsibility [sic].

JAY: Both the situation in Georgia, which, if one understands the situation correctly, was more or less instigated by many of the neocon hawks advising Georgia to provoke the Russians, and now the missiles to Poland. But one could have said this was something coming out of the Bush administration, not necessarily out of this sort of security establishment, which includes many Democrats. But that’s not what we’re seeing. We’re seeing the whole foreign policy establishment in the US on board with Bush on Georgia, and it seems in missiles in Poland too. And here I’m speaking of Obama and his advisors.

MARGOLIS: You’re right, Paul. There’s been a depressing uniformity of opinion in the United States on this, and by the US media, which is beating the war drums over this issue too, in the Western media. I mean, you hear Bush accusing Putin of bullying poor little Georgia and Mr. Bush is—.

JAY: Well, perhaps there’s nothing like a war to compete with the Olympics [inaudible]

MARGOLIS: Well, that’s true, but Mr. Bush, the pot who’s invaded Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia, is calling Mr. Putin’s kettle black. It’s really exaggeration. In fact, there is a theory that the attack was launched by the Georgians against South Ossetia while Putin was at the Olympics. And somebody in Washington—a theory is maybe Mr. Cheney—said and gave them a green light through his neocon network to go and do it.

JAY: He doesn’t seem to have informed President Bush, who stayed there watching swimming during most of the event.

MARGOLIS: Well, exactly.

JAY: But John Stewart, I think, maybe did the best report on all of this, where he quoted the American ambassador at the United Nations who said how outrageous it is to have regime change in Europe. And Stewart made quite a joke out of the fact that it seems to be only a problem in Europe. In the next segment of our interview, let’s drill further into what’s taking place in Georgia, why it happened, and where it’s likely to lead. Please join us for the next segment of our interview with Eric Margolis.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Eric Margolis is an internationally syndicated columnist and renowned book author. He’s a veteran Korea-watcher who specializes in north Asian military/strategic affairs. He’s been all over the DMZ and produced his documentary there last year featuring a segment from Panmunjom on the DMZ. Two special areas of focus:  1. What would a war actually look like if one erupted?  2. The geopolitics of the region – the Koreas, Japan, China, Russia, the US.  Eric was a regular columnist for Japan's Mainichi Shimbun and is a long-time member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.