Foreign Policy Blogs

Missile Shields Forging International Relations

Soviet/Russian Missile Development Catalogue – Designed to Shoot Down US and NATO aircraft and missiles going back as far as the 1950s.

A historical overview of the development of anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems comes from the belief that the United States and its allies might have attempted to repeat the terror of German forces on the Soviet people during the Second World War and launch a strike on Moscow and the Soviet Union. The Cold War development by the Soviets of various missile systems was seen as the best deterrent against a NATO strike. A coordinated ground radar, missile and fighter/interceptor concept was developed and put in action in Vietnam, where the SA-2 missiles and radars, called the S-75 by the Soviets, shot down many American strike aircraft. While the SA-2 was a fixed installation, the 1970s era SA-6 was mobile and determined the strategy for several conflicts in the Middle East.

Much of the idea behind defending a city or military target during the Cold War focused on not only shooting down aircraft, but other missiles as well. Concepts like the SA-4, SA-5 and the ABM Galosh and other systems focused on stopping warheads before they met their targets. While the Reagan Administration was keen on a Star Wars type system and using directed energy weapons, the anti-ballistic missile concept was more feasible at the time and came from a design heritage that went back as far as the 1950s development of the SA-1 missile. The SA-1 and other variants of missiles were given the responsibility of surrounding Moscow with a missile shield, one that was often the most advanced for its time and was used only for the most important heritage centres of the Soviet Union.

The advancement of the Anti-Ballistic Missile technology was further developed within tactical missiles at the end of the Cold War. The use of smaller and mobile systems like the SA-6 Kub and SA-8 Osa developed into systems like the SA-11 Buk and SA-15 TOR that could now target other missile systems and drones. While these systems often were used only by former Soviet states and their close allies, the latter years after the end of the Soviet Union saw Russia re-asserting itself in challenging Western policy approaches. After the more recent fall of Libya’s government and the legacy of failures in Iraq, Russia saw itself as a necessary counterbalance to the US and its allies and what was seen as a flawed Western policy. Russian hegemony in Syria allowed Cold War systems to be used actively in the fight to maintain Syria’s government in power. More advanced systems were purchased by Venezuela since 2003 that are likely more sophisticated than most of Syria’s systems save the most recent acquisitions of the S-300 missiles.

Recent US policy on Venezuela and Iran need to take into consideration the spread of the S-300 type systems in any coercive actions in those regions. With the likelihood of an air conflict being greater than an invasion by troops in Venezuela and Iran, Russian missile systems will determine the strategy in addressing US concerns in Venezuela and Iran. Mid-level S-300 missiles could counter most aircraft, cruise missiles, many ballistic missiles and possible some stealth aircraft. The tradition of having ground based missile systems to counter US air power is long and has been very successful over the Cold War years. The effectiveness of those systems will be a strong factor in developing future strategies in international relations.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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