This book is devoted to one of the central issues in U.S.-Russian and NATO-Russian relations—ballistic missile defense. Drawing on more than 2,000 primary sources, interviews with Russian and NATO officials, and a variety of Russian and Western publications, this book offers an unparalleled, in-depth analysis of the reasons behind Russia’s policy towards the construction of a U.S ballistic missile defense in Europe. It provides a critical assessment of the decision-making mechanisms that shape Russia’s position on ballistic missile defense, as well as Russia’s strategic relations with the United States and Russia’s interaction with European and non-European powers.
Lilly argues that contrary to Moscow’s official claims during the Putin era, Russian objections to the construction of ballistic missile defense in Europe have not been wholly dictated by security concerns. To Russia, missile defense is not purely an issue in and of itself, but rather a symbol and instrument of broader political considerations. At the international level, the factors that have shaped Russia’s response include Moscow’s perception of the overall state of U.S.-Russian relations, the Kremlin’s capacity to project influence and power abroad, and NATO’s behavior in the post-Soviet space. Domestically, the issue of missile defense has been a facilitating instrument for strengthening Putin’s regime and justifying military modernization. Taken together, these instrumental considerations and their fluctuating intensity in different periods prompt the Russian leadership to pursue contradictory policy approaches simultaneously. On the one hand, the Kremlin seeks U.S. cooperation, while on the other hand, it threatens retaliation and reinforces Russian offensive capabilities. The result is Moscow’s incoherence, inconsistency, and double-speak over the issue of missile defense.