The Obama administration has decided not to install proposed missile defense systems in either Poland or the Czech Republic. Designed to intercept ballistic missiles targeting Western Europe, the systems were intended to counter the threat of any developing nuclear threat from Iran, but Russia recognized them as defense systems that could also intercept its own ballistic missiles. Russia opposed the plan vigorously as any missile defense system in Central Europe would diminish the strategic threat of its own nuclear arsenal.
Russia made no concessions to the U.S. in this negotiation. However, the speculation is that the Obama administration hopes that Russia will later respond to the decision by softening its opposition to imposing economic sanctions on Iran.
The Obama administration’s move was confirmed by the Czech Republic interim prime minister. “Just after midnight I was informed in a telephone call by President Barack Obama that [his] administration has decided to pull out from the plan missile defense shield installations” in the Czech Republic and Poland, said Jan Fischer said at a news conference Thursday. — WSJ
Poland was notified in the same manner. Ironically, on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland.
Apparently, military analysts are genuinely conflicted over the range of Iran’s ballistic threat; some argue that the long range threat–which the batteries in Poland and the Czech Republic would have countered–is minimal while short and medium range missiles remain the greater threat. Other analysts see a greater threat from Iranian long-range ballistic missiles, either now or in the near future. Even if the administration is correct in its near-term assessment of Iranian long-range ballistic missile capability, this sudden shift in policy only decreases the likelihood that we would be able to renegotiate similar batteries in the future–when strategic assessments change.
Regardless, the complete capitulation of the U.S. administration in this matter (the batteries were planned and the agreements signed) sorely weakens U.S. relations with our two strongest allies in Central Europe and does nothing to improve Eurpoean or American security.
But at least we got no concessions from the Russians.
As to the promise of economic sanctions, that’s a farce. Russia has never shown any interest in honoring international sanctions, even those to which they nominally agreed. Further, economic sanctions are unlikely to deter Iran’s fanatical and xenophobic regime from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. Iranian leadership has made it abundantly clear that they intend to pursue nuclear technology and by some estimates, may be capable of producing weapons grade material early next year.
Israel, naturally, is monitoring the situation closely. Recall that in the face of American dithering, Israel took it upon itself to strike at nascent nuclear facilities in the Sudan and Iraq to forestall the possibility that autocratic regimes bent on the utter destruction of an entire race of people would acquire nuclear weapons.
It has been suggested that Israel may be planning a smilar strike on Iran–and indeed they have been conducting very public military maneuvers in preparation for just such a strike. But any international strike that Israel makes requires American diplomatic and strategic cover. So far, the Obama administration has shown a remarkable unwillingness to confront the Iranian autocracy on any substantive issue, and actions like this–pulling defensive systems before they’ve been installed–cannot bolster the Israeli’s confidence.
The tactical analysis of Iranian missile capabilities is an issue that I cannot intelligently address, however, defensive batteries designed to intercept ballistic nuclear missiles–whether those missiles are housed in Iran, Pakistan, or Russia would bolster both American and European security by diminishing the threat of nuclear first strikes. The proposed batteries posed no threat to Russia, they only diminished the effectiveness of Russia’s first strike capability.
The withdrawl of the proposed batteries will have sever impact on foreign relations in central and eastern Europe.After all, if we’re willing to back out of these plans in the middle of the night, why not other plans?
The decision to scrap the plan will have future consequences for U.S. relations with eastern Europe.
“If the administration approaches us in the future with any request, I would be strongly against it,” said Jan Vidim, a lawmaker with Czech Republic’s conservative Civic Democratic Party, which supported the missile defense plan. — AP
Neil Gardiner, writing for the London Telegraph, had this to say,
This is bad news for all who care about the US commitment to the transatlantic alliance and the defence of Europe as well as the United States. It represents the appalling appeasement of Russian aggression and a willingness to sacrifice American allies on the altar of political expediency. A deal with the Russians to cancel missile defence installations sends a clear message that even Washington can be intimidated by the Russian bear.
What signal does this send to Ukraine, Georgia and a host of other former Soviet satellites who look to America and NATO for protection from their powerful neighbour? The impending cancellation of Third Site is a shameful abandonment of America’s friends in eastern and central Europe, and a slap in the face for those who actually believed a key agreement with Washington was worth the paper it was written on.
Ht to Hot Air, this is the best line yet:
“Unilateral preemptive concession in the hope that your negotiating partners will follow suit? Anyone who believes that will work with Russia hasn’t looked at 70 years of Soviet history and 200 years of Russian history,”
Unilateral preemptive concession.
There’s also this, a report that indicates Iran launched a satellite into space in February, a fact which seems to point to long-range ballistic missile capability.