If there was any real doubt about where the Obama Administration’s foreign policy is heading, then Thursday’s events provided an important clue.  The Administration’s decision to cancel a long planned and heavily negotiated missile defense shield for both Poland and the Czech Republic pounded home a message that American allies can no longer rely on prior U.S. commitments and  that the hard necessities of confronting  aggression from rogue states will from now on give way to diplomatic expediency.

“Shameful” is a word which has been flung at the Administration by many on the right and it may be true that the cancellation of the early warning stations was a moral disgrace.  But the real damage done is not to our sense of pride, but the impact it has had on Russian and Iranian perceptions of American resolve.

The Russians knew perfectly well that they had nothing to seriously fear from an American presence in either Poland or the Czech Republic.  The anti- missile defense shield could only interdict incoming missiles and would  be incapable of  creating a  base  for the launch of  ballistic missiles of its own.   

The problem now appears to be that a major concession has been made to the Russians  without securing anything in return.  On Saturday the Los Angeles Times quoted Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as describing the cancellation of the program as “ a step in the right direction, with the hope that more would follow”  Translation:  “We have secured a victory at no cost to ourselves  and we will now press our advantage in other areas.”  That expectation will be fulfilled when Russia invades or intimidates one of the former Soviet satellites (Latvia, Estonia Lithuania, the Ukraine or Georgia) and demands U.S. acquiescence.   We shouldn’t forget that Russian diplomacy is largely a zero sum game which relies on projecting hard power in order to force diplomatic gains.  This was most clearly seen in operation last year in the invasion of Georgia and the gas dispute with the Ukraine. No doubt it will be employed again.

The Administration’s explanation for the cancellation of the program is similarly weak.  Claiming that Iran’s long range ballistic missile program is still years away from completion, the Administration has decided that  a more muscular ( and less expensive) short  and medium range  missile defense system in Europe   would help facilitate the defense of Europe.  But as many commentators have asked over the past few days – that might take care of the defense of Europe but what about the defense of  the United States?

It is no secret that the  anti-missile battery planned for  the Czech Republic and Poland would not only help defend those countries but would also impede the trajectory of a ballistic missile  launched into space from Iran and aimed at the United States.  Yet the protection of the  continental United States has already been significantly weakened by the cancellation of Kinetic Energy Inceptors ( designed to eliminate an enemy missile at an earlier stage of its trajectory ) which were to be located in Germany and Turkey. They were canceled as part of the $1.4 billion cuts in the missile defense budget. 

What does it all mean?    It means that the United States is wide open to a ballistic missile attack with only the continental anti- ballistic missile system in Fort Greely, Alaska and another at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for use in preventing a catastrophic nuclear attack upon the United States.  Without the German, Turkish, or Eastern European inceptors, the entire U.S Eastern seaboard is exposed to an Iranian ballistic missile attack, something that should worry any Administration and any American.

The argument that the Iranians are nowhere near the construction of an ICBM that could reach North America also falls flat.  Iran has already become the first Muslim country to launch a missile into space – which it achieved in 2005.   The capacity to launch a  rocket into space is not so dissimilar to the technology needed to launch an ICBM and it is therefore foolish for anyone to suggest that Iran could not achieve the latter capacity soon – particularly with Russian support.    

The Iranians themselves will view U.S. deference  to Russian demands with no small amount of satisfaction.    The attempt to mollify an aggrieved Russia will be read in Tehran as weakness and a further indication that the Obama Administration does not have the will to confront Iranian aggression. The laughable pursuit by the Administration of the Iranians for ‘dialogue’ has turned into a tragic-comedy  wherein, with each passing day, it becomes clear that the Iranians  have no intention whatsoever of negotiating away their potential nuclear arsenal.  The U.S retreat  over a missile defense shield  aimed at protecting Eastern Europe from that very same  Iranian threat, will not be lost on the mullahs who recognize cowardice when they see it.

Other nations who have a bone to pick with the United States should also be smirking.  North Korea, a country which has flouted all of its previous agreements on nuclear disarmament, will take heart from the Administration’s volte face and will recognize that such timidity  gives them an opening to move aggressively ahead with their own program.  Venezuela, the Latin American thorn in America’s side will use the episode to continue to stir Latin American antipathy to the United States, characterizing it as a toothless lion. 

Seventy years ago, another toothless lion failed to confront a nation with regional ambitions – resulting in catastrophe for the West.   The important lesson then, as now, is that nations often act like human beings and that they can be frightened or intimidated into taking actions which are clearly at  odds with their own and their friends’ best interests.  That era of appeasement, with the leader of the West firmly fixed in his belief that the German leader was adamantly opposed to the needless waste of innocent life, was the precursor to a conflagration.  Chamberlain came back from Munich with nothing but a piece of paper, having traded away the sovereignty of a fellow democratic nation in exchange for empty promises.  In this case, Obama did not even receive the promises.

Russia may not be a mirror of 1930s Germany but no one can doubt for a minute that it  has been itching for nearly two decades  to regain the superpower status it lost after the collapse of the Soviet Union.   It should also be clear that the humiliation of the United States is an important step upon that particular road to recovery.  How sad it is that the U.S. has now unwittingly opened up that road for a Russian advance.

The Obama Administration, in its naivety, may well believe that it is winning the hearts of the Russian leaders, but in fact it has achieved just the opposite.  Its policy of appeasement will make the Russian bear hungry for another morsel of Western flesh.  What a true disgrace it would be, that rather than having American troops stationed in Poland or the Czech Republic manning defensive weapons, they will end up, by necessity, on the Georgian, Latvian or Ukranian borders defending those countries from an aggression their government could have once deterred.

As we remember the capitulation at Munich the words of Neville Chamberlain should echo down  to us with an eerie resonance:  “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.”

The same people of whom we once knew nothing  – the Czech and the Poles – could have once been the guarantors of own security.   In betraying them, we may have also betrayed ourselves.



  1. Frish says:

    Perhaps you failed to notice that Czech republic did not ratified the treaty about NMD missiles on OUR teritory… ?

    Petr Frish Czech republic

    for more debate see:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: