Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Obama Gets Rolled

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.


RPB said...


You cannot be serious in not understanding why the Russians are "spooked." They have a greatly declining second strike capability coupled with deteriorating detection and tracking systems. No one would argue that 10-20 interceptors could seriously jepordize their nuclear deterrence. That is obviously not their problem.

However, their fear is two-fold. With withering nuclear strike capabilities, the defense system is the foundation for building a greater, all encompassing defense system. With the radar capabilities in place, what is to stop the US from constantly upgrading them and coupling the radar with a few hundred more interceptors? The US does not need to have enough interceptors to take down all the Russian missiles - just enough to take out those few missiles that would survive a US first strike. Given their poor bomber showings and their self-destructing nuclear fleet, this could reaffirm a US first strike advantage. It could even mean a near perfect exchange where the US could obliterate Russia in a first strike sans retaliation. While no one would argue that any US government would risk the moral outrage and the possible "slippage" of a first strike, the Russians psyche is quite suspicious. Even if the technology to accomplish this is far off, the Russian questions remains: what is there to prevent the US from expanding the system to counter all our missiles? And: how do we keep up in this new arms race with an economy now in shambles and how are we to maintain world relevance defeigned?

Furthermore, creating these permenant inteceptor bases at their doorstep might bring with them significant conventional forces for protection. What if these bases are built and Russia responds by quartering four mechanized divisions across the border? Would the US not respond in kind? Russians are very sensitive to having foriegn troops so close to its soil.

I do mean to say that the US would engage in the above policies, but the Russians have no reason that we would abstain from them.

That is their problem with the shield.

Mrs. Davis said...

It is unfair and inaccurate to sy the Russians rolled The One. He would only have been rolled if they were going in opposite directions.

Corky Boyd said...

"The system is aimed at protecting Europe from a missile attack from a rogue state."

While it may have that capability, it isn't optimized for it. It appears designed to protect the US and give limited capability to protect the UK, northern France and areas north of that. The track (great circle) of a missile launched from the Semnan area of Iran to Washington DC (about the westernmost track possible) takes it near the Polish base, but about 360 miles off axis for London or Rotterdam. A second site would still be needed to protect southern Europe.

The Have Stare radar in Norway fits well with the Polish site in providing target discrimination and tracking for US bound Iranian missiles, but doesn't fit well for most of Europe. But it's main job isn't missile defense anyway, just an added capability.

While the X band radar planned for the Czech Republic isn't considered mobile, I have trouble differentiating between mobile and "deployable" which it is classified. It can be carried in a C-5 and moved in a tractor trailer configuration to the site and made operational in a short period of time. Sounds mobile to me.

If things hot up with Iran, and the radar can be in place in days.

I still think this is a move by the US to exert pressure on Putin to withhold delivery of nuclear fuel for Iran's reactor. Massive amounts of plutonium in the hands of Iran is a scary scenario.

I think Putin is a madman for encouraging Iran go nuclear. He wants to destabilize the region to the detriment of the US. But he is blind to dangers of having a religous fanatic with nukes on his border. The Russians have serious issues with Islamists in Chechnya, and it would take much to make an ally an enemy.

Derek said...

Saying he was rolled is pretty ridiculous--it's much more accurate to say he's being baited. I certainly hope we'll find out more at the Munich Security Conference next month. If the US then decides to back-peddle on the Eastern European missile defense plan, it would probably still not be a case of being rolled, as stepping back from the agreements was the likely course of action from the Obama Administration regardless of what the Russians said or did.

Speaking of the agreements, it's also important to note that while all of the heads of state have signed off on the systems, neither the Czech nor Polish legislatures have ratified them...and both countries show strong public opinion against the agreements. Needless to say, the results of these votes are very much in doubt.

TinkersDam said...

To my surprise no one has jumped in and pointed this out to you, so here you go: The proposed European ABMs pose no threat to Russian ICBMs bound for North America. Such shots would go over the North Pole, not Europe. Claims that the Poland/Czech missiles give the U.S. some sort of first-strike advantage are, IMO, ill-informed.