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Did Obama Avert a 2nd Cold War?

September 19, 2009

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.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas (WHEC 716) and the guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul (DDG 74) transit through the Black Sea en route to the Republic of Georgia to deliver humanitarian relief supplies.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas (WHEC 716) and the guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul (DDG 74) transit through the Black Sea en route to the Republic of Georgia to deliver humanitarian relief supplies.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 22, 2009 2:06 pm

    Spleet-whatever it takes to avert an arms race neither of us can afford. And I’ll believe in the Mistral sale when I see it. Just like the Chinese supercarriers!

  2. Spleet permalink
    September 22, 2009 9:13 am

    I find the title very amusing. What will Russia fight the 2nd Cold War with? All I can see is falling oil prices and the gradual collapse of Russia’s arms industry. The Mistral is only the beginning of a trend. And if Russia’s neighbours are eager to join the West, what can Russia do about it?

  3. Mrs. Davis permalink
    September 20, 2009 8:49 pm

    Anon is me. Sorry.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    September 20, 2009 7:59 pm

    Russia remains an extra regional power,

    Only because of nukes. The same will be true for Venezuela, North Korea and Iran. If Russia tried to project power beyond the periphery of its land mass, it would be Tsushima II.

  5. Joe permalink
    September 20, 2009 7:52 pm

    BMD in Europe was most recently begat by the Prague 2002 NATO summit that decreed a NATO Missile Defense feasibility study be undertaken to examine options for protecting NATO Alliance forces, territory and populations against the full range of missile threats.

    Whatever one thought of GWB, discussions about & plans to install BMD in Europe were hardly unilateral actions on his part. The governments involved there might have been more keen on it than the populace was, but that bears some similarity to the early 1980’s with the discussions surrounding installation of Pershing II’s and nuclear-tipped cruise missiles to counter Soviet SS-20’s.

    It is factually based to say Russia is a nation in demographic decline. They would have to reform the old Soviet Union in order to maintain the manpower needed to field anything approaching the military they used to have. And given how they’ve allowed their economy to “develop”, their fortunes rise or fall along with the prices for oil and natural gas, respectively.

  6. September 20, 2009 7:44 pm

    There are 200 million Chinese living within a hundred miles of the Russian border regions currently containing 7 million Russians. China has already begun the process of recovery by the same means Mexico would recover the SW if America were to seriously unravel. Russia certainly is a world power simply by virtue of its nuclear forces but you will note it is unable to suppress an Islamic rising in the Caucusus despite unbridled brutality. Possibly it will recover its balance but there is little evidence of this. It collapsed in 1989 by being bankrupted by us, at a huge cost to us which has finally come home. We are not a failed state yet, but could get there. However we have the talent to revive ourselves when our dreadful government finally tanks.

  7. Martyn permalink
    September 20, 2009 6:04 pm

    Mike is terribly optimistic if he thinks Russia will ever go back to western style democracy, which from a Russian perspective was completely disastrous. That will never happen, and any policy designed to encourage this will be doomed to failure.

    Equally, Mrs Davis is wrong to describe Russia as an oil state in terminal decline. Russia remains an extra regional power, and although beset with strategic problems, a it’s a state which Obama needs playing ball if he’s going to have any success with Iran. Moreover, if it can solve its population decline, Russia can remain a military power able to punch well above its economic weight.

  8. michael Mac permalink
    September 20, 2009 1:34 pm

    Avoided a 2nd cold war 0r preemptively surrendered our allies? Unless we got some (secret) concessions- this is a very dangerous move. The Black sea is a very poor choice for THE only missile screen- but it would be great in tandem with the eastern european shield. It is way too easy for Russia to close the Black sea off & we have pulled the rug out from under the Poles. We are fools if we trust on our intelligence services to correctly estimate when Iran has a nuc & an ICBM, we need to be ready well before the current estimates. The only way the CIA has noticed the Indians, Paks or Norks have a nuc is by seeing the mushroom cloud. The shield was NOT provocative to the Russians- everyone knows it did not threaten their retaliatory capacity- it only worries the Russians b/c it extends further protection to Poland & the Czech republic against Russian threats. Poland is eager for a US base on its soil as assurance against Russia- plus the O chooses to surrender on the 70th anniv of the last Russias invasion! We have vastly undercut the Ukrainians- we clearly are not going to help them vs Russian if we won’t extend protection to Poland. Georgia is small potatoes- ukraine is the big banana.
    We will not get russia on “our side” by this- they are arming the Iranians & helping them build nuclear reactors- as well as shielding them in the UN. This is only worthwhile IF Russia halts arms shipments & suspend the reactor construction- do you want to bet?

  9. Anonymous permalink
    September 20, 2009 12:42 pm

    “I’ll be glad when the boomers are out of power and adults return.”

    I thought I was only the only person who thought this. I heard it said a lot last year that 1968 was the year the idiots started to take over the asylum; this was the year when baby boomers started to graduate and enter the professions.

  10. September 19, 2009 10:22 pm

    Her comments were exceptional, even for her, the worst of a very bad lot. Do you expect these adults to arise from the ashes we are in the process of creating in the next several years? Do you have some thoughts on their ETA? I’ve been waiting for decades and it just gets worse. I was born in ’39 so I precede the boomers. Their children seem even worse. Read the other day that something like 40% of Harvard class of ’06 went into finance. We have been producing parasites in larger and larger numbers, I include vast cadres of useless lawyers along with them. Do you see change coming? Optimism does not cost more than pessimism.

  11. Mrs. Davis permalink
    September 19, 2009 10:06 pm

    Normally I’m pretty optimistic and in the long run, we’ll be OK, but I’m starting to wonder if that time will come before I go. I have never considered Albright to be an asteroid in the celestial firmament of foreign policy, but her statement of America’s place in the world has shaken me. Not so much because a light weight would say something so stupid, but to do so publicly in a foreign country must mean the thought is far more widely accepted in her circle than I would have imagined or she was drunk.

    A lot of our problem is that since 1992 the baby boomers (including me) have been in charge (not including me) and at some level they have continually refought the Vietnam war in all foreign policy debates. Now we have our little Church committee running wild, gumming up the works for another couple of decades. I’ll be glad when the boomers are out of power and adults return.

  12. September 19, 2009 9:47 pm

    Do you see no hope for American diplomacy? Will we continue to drift as we have since 1989, squandering first our strategic advantages and now our immense technical edge. The group assembled by Bush actually had some promise at the outset and look what they did. Can we possibly hope for the opposite from the collection of 2d rankers Obama has put in?

  13. Mrs. Davis permalink
    September 19, 2009 9:41 pm

    Spot on, Jonathan, except that we should (though never would) formally withdraw from NATO rather than let it languish with the Article 5 commitment continuing to weigh on us. This is particularly true as EU states face internal difficulties as their Muslim populations reach critical mass.

  14. September 19, 2009 9:20 pm

    Mrs. Davis is correct. The invasion of Iraq exposed our overcommitment in the Baltics and especially Georgia. Will Germany sell out Poland and Hungary again? Why? Russia is not going to give them better terms on gas and oil. The real question is will the Europeans defend Ukraine from Russian control. Personally, I think NATO should be allowed to languish, allow the Europeans to fund their own defense and create bilateral agreements with those who will carry their weight.

  15. Mrs. Davis permalink
    September 19, 2009 7:34 pm

    Russia is now little more than a failed oil state with nuclear weapons, soon to be joined by Iran and Venezuela. It has geographic advantages, but is in a demographic death spiral. A renewed cold war was never in the cards.

    Bush’s initial installation of BMD was unnecessarily provocative, but I sure hope Obama got more for it than appears at this time. Only time will tell

  16. Anonymous permalink
    September 19, 2009 5:28 pm

    I think the potency of AEGIS BDM system made the fixed land system redundant. BO has done a Kennedy, swapped strategic gain for an impotent weapon system.

    The Black Sea is the key to all this……..

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