systems with such different strengths and weaknesses in tandem, you will have a much easier time spotting and tracking missiles.
Working together at Azerbaijan, which borders northwestern Iran, has another advantage. At such short range, the curvature of the Earth has only a small effect on the radar’s line of sight, so we’d get a clearer view and much earlier warning. American radar there could observe the launching of a missile out of Iran and headed toward Washington at least three to four minutes earlier than could the proposed Eastern Europe system. During these precious extra minutes, tracking data can be accumulated, intercept points calculated, and interceptor missiles launched.
There can be few, if any, technical objections to such cooperation. Politics, however, is another story. Those who do not believe that the cold war is over will complain that we cannot trust the Russians to work with us even when it is in our common interests. Another objection — that President Putin’s government is hardly a paragon of democracy and human rights — ignores the fact that technical cooperation between the countries is a good way to encourage Russia to be closer with the West.
President Bush told Mr. Putin last month that “the cold war is over.” Cooperating with Russia on missile defense is the perfect way to put those words into action.
Theodore Postol is a professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.