Sunday, September 20, 2009

No Boom For You

There have been plenty of responses to Obama’s decision to change the 2006 Missile Defense plans in Eastern Europe. The Russians are happy, the Poles and Czechs aren’t (the rest of the Euros are), and the NeoCons are well… On Thursday Gates and Obama announced their decision to cancel building both the radar system in the Czech Republic and the long-range interceptors in Poland. Putin and Medvedev want to take credit for a win, renigging on their own plans for short range missiles pointed west. Of course Obama and Gates are quick to explain Russian posturing had nothing to do with the changes in policy. For them the changes come from both a mixture of new intelligence and, what Obama might view as, another fixing of leftovers from Bush.

According to the new intelligence, Iranian development is still far off potential ICBM capabilities but increasingly developing middle and short range technologies. In response the new plan will downgrade the land-based radar and (untested) long-range interceptors to off-shore detectors and proven middle-to-short range interceptor technology, with phased plans for expansion to land-based defenses through, potentially, 2020.

Rasmussen, NATO’s newly appointed Secretary General, wants to take these moves to the next level, bringing Russia, NATO, and the US into a united front of missile defense against potential threats. Good luck. This is an interesting move for Gates though, and given the upcoming P5+1 talks with Iran this could possibly help water the withered relationships between the US and Russia, but it’s not likely.

The criticism from the NeoCons was weak and only helped support the fear-mongering persona that they are known for. The Poles, wounded and feeling abandoned, will be compensated, and the Czechs will probably just be in the wind.

Overall, it was a good call from Obama and Gates, compensating for asymmetrical plans of defense based on interceptor technology that has not even been tested; PLUS maintaining commitment to Eastern Europeans (even if somewhat disgruntled), keeping a defense against potential threats in Iran and beyond, and opening potential for some multilateral diplomacy.

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