I have an op-ed up at Comment is Free:
Were Obama serious about exchanging missile defence for Russia’s assistance to Iran, he wouldn’t have been hinting at the elimination of the programme for the last several months. Rather, he’d be trying to convince the Russians that he actually valued missile defence.
Part of the Bush administration’s strategy for “locking in” missile defense in case of a Democratic presidential victory was to conclude agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic that would be difficult for the Democratic victor to break. The thinking went that while Obama might be skeptical of missile defense, he probably wouldn’t jeopardize the US relationship with Poland in order to kill it. This, along with the War over South Ossetia, was why negotiations over missile defense seemed so frantic over the last six months of Bush’s term.
Part of Bush’s problem, however, was that Poland and the Czech Republic are, by and large, utterly indifferent to the threat of Iranian missiles. This indifference is part of the altogether sensible European belief that the Iran isn’t crazy enough to launch missiles at Europe. What Poland and the Czech Republic really wanted, especially in the wake of the South Ossetia War, was a concrete indication that the US is committed to their security. The Poles have some concern that NATO, dependent as it is on the West Europeans, will not suffice to protect them from Russian belligerence. A separate bilateral commitment from the US, in the form of missile defense installations, was a goal of Polish foreign policy, and the desire for such a commitment in some sense guided the Polish decision to deploy troops to Iraq.
Now that President Obama is actively considering dumping missile defense (possibly as part of a larger agreement with Russia), the Poles are making their interests clear:
Poland is looking beyond a missile- defense system that President Barack Obama might scrap and is focused on other elements of a security deal with the U.S. while mending ties with Russia, the top Polish diplomat said.
Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorskisaid his country is most interested in U.S. pledges in the agreement he signed last year in the face of Russian opposition, including an American garrison with Patriot interceptor missiles. The two sides also agreed to act jointly on military and non-military threats.
In other words, the Bush administration’s strategy, which was largely based on the idea that our European allies would desert us if we displayed weakness in front of the Russians (an oldie but a goody) has essentially failed; Poland knows what it wants, and will probably get what it wants even if the US forgoes the missile defense system. Whether or not Russia decides to play ball on Iran, I consider this last eventuality extremely likely.
H/t Josh Keating.
Cross-posted to TAPPED.
I’m not sure this is what Sergey Georgyevich Gorshkov had in mind when he green-lit the Kirov class battlecruiser:
A Russian nuclear-powered cruiser has captured 10 Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean armed with grenade launchers, automatic rifles and landmines, a navy spokesman said Friday.
“The nuclear cruiser Pyotr Veliky has detained three small pirate boats,” said Igor Dygalo, adding that 10 armed men of Somali citizenship were seized in the operation Thursday.
The pirates had been spotted by the cruiser’s helicopter southeast of the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean, the spokesman told AFP.
“It was visually established how weapons were being dumped from the boats into the sea,” Dygalo said in a separate statement.
Via Galrahn. It appears that the Russians are planning to take the apprehended pirates back to Russia for prosecution. Cold, in every sense of the word.
My hopes for sanity between Russia and the US may have been premature:
The United States will pursue a missile defense plan that has angered the Kremlin, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Saturday, in a signal that the post-cold-war tensions that have flared recently between Washington and Moscow could continue into the new Obama administration…
But any chance for a rapprochement between the United States and Russia at this conference all but evaporated, foreign policy experts said, after the announcement on the Kyrgyz base. Mr. Obama plans to send as many as 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan over the next two years; shaky overland supply routes through Pakistan would make it difficult for the United States to adjust to the loss of the base, in Manas, Kyrgyzstan.
This is entirely unsurprising, given the circumstances of the loss of the base. What bothers me isn’t that the game is being played, but that the players seem to be approaching it incoherently. On the upside, Biden left plenty of rhetorical space for compromise on the Polish-Czech missile defense system; it’s unclear whether the Russians will prove receptive.
It appears that the Bush administration’s effort to diplomatically “lock in” a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic has failed:
Russia has dropped plans to install missiles near Poland after the Obama administration signalled a change in US attitude to the region, a Moscow military official has reportedly said. The official suggested that Mr Obama’s White House had made clear it would not prioritise executing the Bush administration’s plan to install a missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.
An unnamed official in the Russian military’s general staff said: “The implementation of these plans has been halted in connection with the fact that the new US administration is not rushing through plans to deploy” elements of its missile defence shield in eastern Europe, according to the Interfax news agency.
Congratulations to Obama and Medvedev; Russia will save money, the United States will save money, and Poland won’t have Russian missiles parked on its border. It’s a win for everyone who’s not a missile defense zealot.
Cross-posted to TAPPED.
Russian submarine launched ballistic missile tests not going well:
“After its firing from the submarine Dmitry Donskoy, the Bulava missile self-liquidated and exploded into the air” – Russian MoD spokesman to Interfax 23 Dec 08
That’s three successful launches out of eight tries. Three out of eight actually works in terms of nuclear deterrence, but you’d still like to see the success rate a bit higher. But more importantly, I’m going to try to work the term “self-liquidated” into as many conversations as possible over the next few days; it’ll be my Christmas-Hannukah theme for 2008.
The government of India has more important things on its plate right now, but if you’re interested in how the Admiral Gorshkov negotiations might play out, take a look at Galrahn’s discussion. He partially translates a Russian article on the subject, which points out that if the carrier doesn’t go to India, it’s not likely to go anywhere. The Russian Navy doesn’t want Gorshkov (and is apparently deeply ambivalent about the idea of building a carrier fleet in the short term), and the Chinese probably wouldn’t want it, either. Accordingly, the Russians should probably be careful about antagonizing their only potential customer.
Peter the Great has arrived in Venezuela:
The flag of Venezuela already flies on the mast. It is naval tradition to fly the flag of the countries in whose port you are conducting a friendly visit. Today the sailors checked out the missile tubes. The Peter the Great’s armament will be shown to the presidents of both countries.
What is there to show? The Peter the Great is the largest non-aircraft carrier warship in the world. Two hundred and fifty meters of steel with dozens of missile tubes. And beneath each of these three ton hatches lays the main battery – the Granit nuclear anti-ship cruise missile (RNB comment – Huh! Well how about that!). As opposed to American cruise missiles, the Granit flies to its target at supersonic speed like a fighter jet. There is no ship as powerful as the Peter the Great in the world.
After finishing exercises with Venezuela, Peter the Great and his task force will head to India. After that, Galrahn speculates they might be on their way to Somalia.
Nick Kristof and Anne Applebaum are being way too even-handed; perhaps David Greenberg needs to write another article about how liberals are bad for trying to actually understand a war before adopting a rooting interest…
I have an article on Russia, Obama, and missile defense up at Guardian Comment is Free.
In an official lunch with foreign diplomats, Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson shocked neighboring Nordic countries with inviting Russia to take use of the strategically important airbase.
Foreign diplomats hardly believed what they heard when the Icelandic president said that his country needs “new friends” and that Russia should be invited to take use of the old U.S. airbase of Keflavik.
In the lunch which took place in Reykjavik last Friday, Mr. Grimsson accused neighboring countries of failing to support the crisis-ridden Iceland, newspaper Dagbladet reports with reference to Klassekampen.
An internal memo from the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, obtained by the newspaper, describes the diplomats present in the event as “shocked” by the speech.
In retrospect, it probably wasn’t a great idea to declare Iceland a terrorist state.