Did Obama Avert a 2nd Cold War?
There is something which always bothered me about the plan to place US anti-ballistic missiles in former Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe as a defense against Iranian aggression. Aside from the fact that here was a very costly missile system used to deter a low tech enemy, there was also the inconvenient truth that it was right up against the Russian Border, well within range of that country’s own force of nuclear rockets. Considering all the shock and horror emanating from these small and newly liberated nations (though apparently Poland likes the idea), plus that from many here at home, over President Obama’s cancellation of this plan, are we still to believe that this was all about Iran? Sure.
The Kremlin never believed it either and sought to rearm themselves accordingly. The planned missiles which wouldn’t be ready for another decade or so gave wings to Putin’s plan to restore the old Soviet Empire, and while oil ruples were hot the funds flowed freely to the military. Strengthened by having found a new/old enemy and a purpose, the missiles did little to aid our ongoing conflict against the terrorists, and more likely hindered our efforts diplomatically.
I am glad for these words now coming from the NATO Secretary General, who seem to echo Condi Rice’s original plan that we should reach out, not alienate Russia. She was famous for saying “Punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia.” In other words, we have a mutual enemy and its not each other. From Nicholas Fiorenza at the Ares blog:
The NATO Secretary-General called for greater realism, by Russia in recognizing that the alliance “is here to stay” and will continue to enlarge, and by NATO in understanding and taking into account Russia’s security interests as a great European power. He identified a common interest in fighting terrorism, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile technology, Afghanistan, and maritime security (countering piracy).
Rasmussen said, “we should use the NATO-Russia Council again in the way it was originally intended – not as a fair-weather forum, but as a forum where we can all air our differences openly and transparently, and where all our security concerns are discussed – including Russia’s. We should use the NATO-Russia Council to identify those areas where our interests converge and where further cooperation would be beneficial.”
If Russia decided to retake the formerly enslaved Baltic states along its border, can we expect a defense shield meant to shoot down ballistic missiles to stop their tank armies? And would a NATO weakened by decades of peace and fighting in low tech counter-insurgencies be in any shape to protect them? In reality the most effective way to protect these justifiably fearful and far-off new democracies is to get Moscow on our side and back to creating its own Western style capitalist democracy, instead of reinforcing the old tyranny by intimidation and rearming the border. Recall how upset we were in the early 1960’s when the communists placed missiles on our own door step in Cuba, and you might see their point.
Still if that’s what it takes, it doesn’t hurt to send the occasional gunboat or two either.