Why has the Obama administration decided to toss eastern Europe under the bus in order to make nice with Russia? According to CNN, Joe Biden says that a missile-defense system in Europe isn’t really necessary, because Iran isn’t much of a threat. No, really:
Vice President Joe Biden earlier refused to confirm to CNN that the George W. Bush-era plan was being shelved.
But he did explain the logic of doing so, saying Iran — a key concern for the United States — was not a threat.
“I think we are fully capable and secure dealing with any present or future potential Iranian threat,” he told CNN’s Chris Lawrence in Baghdad, where he is on a brief trip.
“The whole purpose of this exercise we are undertaking is to diminish the prospect of the Iranians destabilizing that region in the world. I am less concerned — much less concerned — about the Iranian potential. They have no potential at this moment, they have no capacity to launch a missile at the United States of America,” he said.
This recalls Obama’s analysis of the Iranian threat from April 2008:
Strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries. That’s what Kennedy did with Khrushchev. That’s what Reagan did with Gorbachev. That’s what Nixon did with Mao. I mean, think about it. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela — these countries are tiny, compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet, we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying, ‘We’re going to wipe you off the planet.’
And ultimately, that direct engagement led to a series of measures that helped prevent nuclear war, and over time, allowed the kind of opening that brought down the Berlin Wall. Now, that has to be the kind of approach that we take. You know, Iran, they spend one-one hundredth of what we spend on the military. If Iran ever tried to pose a serious threat to us, they wouldn’t stand a chance. And we should use that position of strength that we have, to be bold enough to go ahead and listen. That doesn’t mean we agree with them on everything. We might not compromise on any issues, but at least we should find out other areas of potential common interest, and we can reduce some of the tensions that has caused us so many problems around the world.
Nuclear weapons and long-range missiles in the hands of millenial Islamist lunatics in Tehran? No big threat … to us. Why should we risk annoying Russia to protect our allies against it? After all, Russia will use its influence to stop Iran from getting nukes, right? Right? Er …
Imposing swift additional sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme would be a “serious mistake,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.
“Today there is a real chance to conclude talks whose results should be an agreement restoring trust in the purely peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme,” Lavrov said in televised remarks.
“Disrupting this chance by demanding swift imposition of sanctions would be a serious mistake,” he added.
So we threw our allies under the bus to not get Russian cooperation in isolating Iran’s mullahs? This must be that smart power that Obama’s allies like to proclaim.
Don’t worry, the White House assures everyone. We’re not abandoning the allies who took significant geopolitical risks in standing up to Moscow over the missile-defense shield. The US will still provide some form of missile defense, even if it is much less reliable. Michael Goldfarb explains:
The White House has put out a “fact sheet” on their policy of Russian appeasement/missile defense surrender. The fact sheet says that the new approach — focusing on SM-3 and sea-based systems (presumably in Turkey) — will “augment our current protection of the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats.” That is a lie. This system will provide zero, nada, zilch protection to the U.S. homeland, providing only defense against short- and medium-range missiles to Europe.
The fact sheet says this system will protect “our Allies in Europe sooner and more comprehensively than the previous program, and involves more flexible and survivable systems.” That is a lie. The system that was being placed in Poland is already operational in Alaska. These new plans will now take years of negotations to implement and will necessarily be less survivable as they will not be underground.
The fact sheet says that “The Czech Republic and Poland, as close, strategic and steadfast Allies of the United States, will be central to our continued consultations with NATO Allies on our defense against the growing ballistic missile threat.” That is a lie. The Czechs and Poles get a midnight phone call from the president while Tauscher is already in the air. They were not consulted with and have been given no assurances — because the president is selling them out.
The fact sheet says, “We also welcome Russian cooperation to bring its missile defense capabilities into a broader defense of our common strategic interests.” If that’s true, our president is totally clueless about Russian capabilities and intentions — even Bush, who looked into Putin’s soul, was not so delusional as to think U.S. missile defense could be dependent on Russian good will and cooperation. How long til the Russians threaten to throw us out of our “joint” missile defense facilities in order to coerce us into staying out of an attack on Georgia or some other democratic state in their near abroad.
We’ve sold out the Poles and the Czechs, who have seen the West do this before. The Times of London should get the last word here. Smart power, indeed:
By trading the loyalty of Poland and the Czech Republic to satisfy Russia’s security concerns, the United States is signalling that it no longer contests Moscow’s right to assert its interests in Eastern Europe.
Ukraine and Georgia’s chances of entering Nato over Russian objections have diminished further. The timing is disastrous for Ukraine in particular, given the Kremlin’s determination to reverse the pro-Western Orange Revolution and ensure victory for a pro-Russian candidate at presidential elections in January.
The Baltic States, already in Nato, will be feeling a chill as they ponder an even more assertive Russia. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been among the Kremlin’s most vocal critics but Nato’s new Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has declared a “true strategic partnership” with Russia his top priority.
The Bush Administration delighted in emphasising relations with the “new Europe” of former Soviet bloc countries, often at the expense of recalcitrant “old Europe” of Germany and France on foreign policy.
Mr Obama has shown that the US is no longer playing that game. He wants Russian help on Afghanistan and Iran and is leaving Europe to resolve its own relationship with Moscow on everything from energy security to historical grievances.
The Kremlin can barely believe its good fortune. Mr Obama has pressed the “reset” button to improve relations without obtaining anything more than permission for US aircraft to cross Russian airspace on resupply operations for troops in Afghanistan.