Russia has threatened Denmark with nuclear consequences if it participates in NATO’s missile shield program. The program is designed to shield the NATO alliance area from missiles from any region, not just Russia. It has been made a defense priority in Europe, primarily because of the missile program under development in Iran. European intelligence sources believe that Iran now has a missile capable of reaching Europe, but that it is not accurate enough to be reliably targeted. A pattern of purchasing efforts over the past few years, however, indicates that the Islamic Republic is working quickly to change this, and it can be expected that target acquisition capabilities are increasing steadily.

The Netherlands, also a NATO member and Russia’s second largest trading partner, would seem a more viable target for the Kremlin to threaten. However, the Danish ships involved would be providing radar coverage specifically aimed at detecting incoming missiles from Russia.

This is the first time that Russia has issued a direct nuclear threat in relation to NATO’s deployment of its missile shield, which is proceeding rapidly. With 30 countries around the world engaged in missile development, the shield is viewed as not only a safety measure, but also as a means of preventing the NATO countries from being forced into a reactive and defensive posture regarding foreign policy. Russia’s direct threat is a significant escalation in the war of words that it has been conducting as NATO continues to build its shield, and, in fact, is being viewed in Brussels as more evidence that the shield is essential to European safety.