Little mystery surrounds Russian policy toward US proposals to revise the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in order to develop a national missile defense (NMD). Moscow views the ABM treaty as the foundation of strategic stability and a necessary condition for maintaining the broad array of agreements on controlling weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the means for their delivery, including existing and potential START treaties, the 1991 agreements on tactical nuclear weapons, the Nonproliferation Treaty, and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
Furthermore, Russia views the American premise for NMD–that the US is threatened by the acquisition of WMD and missile technology by certain states–as implausible. Of the threats named by the US, Russian analysts consider only one–North Korea–somewhat plausible, and they argue that the US can rely upon existing Theater Missile Defense (TMD) systems and developing technologies such as Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to deal with North Korea, especially given the extensive regional cooperation with its allies in the Asia Pacific.
The key to understanding Russian policies, the potential for agreement on ABM modification, and likely Russian countermeasures in the event of non-agreement is more complex than Russia's familiar public posture. It requires understanding Russia's new security and military doctrines, the significant and complex role nuclear weapons play in defense policy, the relation between Russian conventional and nuclear capabilities, and the Putin administration's priorities for economic reform. […]