Friday, September 18, 2009

US Missile Defense Withdrawal from Poland and Czech May Activate Russian Hawks

The Obama administration has decided to withdraw the Missile Defense Plan to deploy anti-ballistic missile system in Poland and Czech. It was intended to protect US allies from Iranian nuclear missiles. Russia bitterly has been opposing this plan since the Bush era.

President Obama’s decision spurred vehement criticism among Republicans such as Senator John McCain and Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. Alternatively, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the United States would deploy Aegis-equipped ships to shoot down Iranian missiles (“U.S. replaces Bush plan for Europe missile shield”; Reuters; September 17, 2009).

Russia is likely to regard this decision as a victory to the United States. On the other hand, Poland and Czech raised concerns that the Obama administration is appeasing to Russia. (“U.S. to Shelve Nuclear-Missile Shield”; Wall Street Journal; September 17, 2009)

Thomas Valasek, Director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the Centre for European Reform, says that Obama is right to proceed nuclear disarmament with Russia, but it must be combined with assurance American engagement to Eastern Europe. Also, he points out that Russia is still obsessed with the idea of zero-sum game, which is US gains mean Russian losses, and vice versa (“Missile strategy must not be seen as a retreat”; Financial Times; 9 September 2009).

However, things are quite tough. I have been writing some posts on Russia to explore widespread cult nationalism in the post communist era. In view of this, Republican Senator Jon Kyl condemns President Obama as the following.

Despite the fact that Poland and the Czech Republic have committed their soldiers to fight alongside U.S. forces in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, today the Administration has turned its back on these allies. ….. The message the Administration sends today is clear: the United States will not stand behind its friends and views ‘re-setting’ relations with Russia more important. This is wrong! (“Kyl Blasts Obama Missile Defense Surrender”; Weekly Standard Blog; September 17, 2009)

Gary Schmitt, Director of Advanced Strategic Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, comments “It looks like not only have we hit the reset button when it comes to Russia, but now with our friends in Central Europe—except this time, it’s a big fat “no thank you” for your willingness to stick your neck out to protect allies" (“Are We Dropping Missile Defense in Europe?”; The Enterprise Blog; September 16, 2009).

More importantly, hawks are invigorated to hear this deal in an increasingly rightist Russia. I have mentioned that Russians are more and more infatuated with Joseph Stalin these days, and the Medvedev-Putin administration make use of this patriotic passion for their authoritarian rule.

Russian diplomacy is based on zero-sum ideas, and Moscow foreign policymakers do not understand Western concepts of “win-win” deals which Obama has in mind. The rise of hardliners will pose negative impacts on Ukraine, Georgia, and trans-Caucasia as well (“Demise of U.S. shield may embolden Russia hawks”; Reuters; September 17, 2009).

I strongly argue that the Obama administration needs to understand the nature of the counterpart regime. As shown in the Prague and the Cairo Speeches, Barack Obama is too hesitant to trumpet American power and ideals. Nile Gardiner, Ex-Foreign Policy Staff to Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, said it was too apologetic. The world never needs soft and sweet America. President Obama, please don’t discourage Poles and Czechs, whose real HOPE lies in close ties with the West.

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