McKittrick at Closing Velocity said it best: "Moscow Rolls Obama, Euro Missile Defense Apparently Shelved." He refers to Russia's recent announcement that it will not deploy nuclear-capable ballistic missiles to the Kaliningrad region, near the Polish border. In that location, the Russian missiles could have targeted U.S. interceptor missiles, scheduled to be based in Poland.
And what caused Moscow's sudden change of heart? According to the U.K. Telegraph, the Obama Administration has signaled that it "will not prioritize" Bush Administration plans for ballistic missile defenses in eastern Europe. Plans for the shield were accelerated last year, after the conflict between Russia and Georgia.
The proposed defensive system was the culmination of years of careful diplomacy and technological development. Bush Administration officials carefully lobbied their counterparts in Poland and the Czech Republic, winning their approval for a warning radar in Czech territory and the interceptor missiles on Polish soil. The system is aimed at protecting Europe from a missile attack from a rogue state.
Russia viewed the deployment as a military threat--never mind that the interceptors perform a purely defensive function, as compared to the strike mission of the Iskander missiles, which Moscow threatened to station in Kaliningrad.
President Bush steadfastly resisted Russian bluster and arm-twisting. They also stepped up military aid to the Czech Republic and Poland, rewarding those countries for their courageous stand.
Now, leaders in Warsaw and Prague must be shaking their heads. Years of promises and assurances from the U.S. were undone by the Obama Administration in its first week in office. And don't think that Washington's little ploy has gone unnoticed in the other capitals of eastern Europe--nations that looked to the U.S. for security and leadership in countering the latest threat from Moscow.
From the Baltic to the Black Sea, pro-western governments are feeling isolated and apprehensive. If Barack Obama will retreat on missile defense, there's no reason he won't backtrack on other security arrangements. That leaves our European partners wondering: exactly who in Washington can be trusted these days, and what--if anything--can they believe.
Liberals are hailing the "dawn" of better relations with "Old Europe," the same appeasement crowd that is equally anxious to cut a deal with the Kremlin. Never mind that such agreements come at a cost--our ties to the new democracies of eastern Europe, which represent a vital (and in some respects) a more important alliance for the United States.