Thursday, 5 March 2009

Unease on Missile Defence

While the deployment of US missile defences to Poland and the Czech Republic is not part of the official agenda at NATO, the subject is an ever-present worry for some. In the US, advocates of the Bush missile defence agenda are still trying to adapt to the post-Bush world in which some of their cherished programmes (like the deployment of a radar in the Czech Republic and interceptors in Poland as part of the mid-course BMD system). For example, Michael Rubin of the conservative American Enterprise Institute writes in support of the European deployment for Radio Free Europe.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will go from the NATO meeting to meetings with Russian counterparts, where the future of the European BMD sites will be discussed. As the International Herald Tribune reports, both the Czechs and the Poles have some nervousness about this meeting. Bloomberg also reports on this topic today.

The Czechs appear to want to ensure the deployment of US troops on their soil, while the Poles are concerned that the US sticks to a deal about the deployment of Patriot batteries in Poland, even if the interceptor site is never built. This degree of nervousness about the US commitment to the defence of Europe recalls the days of the Cold War, when west Europeans felt much the same way. In this case though the European protagonists have only themselves to blame. They struck a controversial deal with the Bush administration in its dying days, knowing that it would likely be reversed if Barrack Obama became President. They ignored advice to wait, and now feel that they have been let down, when it is rather they who have failed to understand the nature of great power politics.

The Czech and Polish governments are now left lamenting the fate of the BMD programmes with their conservative allies, essentially powerless to affect the outcome. They must now avoid the mistake of assuming that their security interests cannot be met by the Obama administration. After all, friendly relations with Russia, leading to greatly reduced nuclear forces and a more stable Europe is a path to security for all concerned. One that is, in the long run, much better than a return to a Cold War-style stand-off where Poland, in particular, could never feel safe as they would be on the European front line.

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