I worked in propaganda in the heyday of the anti-Pershing II campaigns, SALT/START negotiations and the “Star Wars” scare. I recognize much of the same logic in the Russian response nowadays.
Tip of the iceberg
First of all, whatever NATO does, it always finds both staunch opponents and gleeful challengers (“oh yeah, let’s beat these Yankees in their own game!”) among our generals and heavyweights in the military-industrial complex. The policy-makers always voice whatever gives them most leverage, or complaint points, at the negotiation table. Which means, the objections may disappear the moment we get something in return for our grievances.
Second, strategic anti-missile systems have never been the field where our side was eager to compete. It was considered a high-tech stuff where the West seemed to have an unfair advantage because of the sheer size of resources they could throw at it. This is why the range of suggested reactions to President Reagans “Strategic Defense Initiative” among the Soviet decision-makers varied wildly between panicked red-level strategic deployment around the time of KAL-007 shoot-down to the “let’s sit down and talk” moves that came to fruition during Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika.
We always found most reassurance in the brute force of MAD counterbalancing. Since the defeat of Tatars, no one could ever beat us when brute force decided the outcome. Anything that circumvents brute force is therefore in our books a trickery, a ruse, a threat.
The level of distress caused by the US Strategic defense initiative spawned an entire sub-genre of visual propaganda. anti-anti-missile posters. The space shuttle program was believed to be a crucial part of the anti-missile system. Therefore: “No!” to space shuttles.
“Strategic defense initiative – life danger!”
“Stop the militarization of the outer space!”
“Peace to the outer space! SDI is dangerous insanity”
“SDI: the final rain of gold!”