On Sunday Poland stated that they hoped the current U.S. administration would not abandon plans for a missile defense system on its territory. Poland’s concern came amid speculation that the current Administration may abandon the previously agreed system in favor of a new direction with Russia. Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said that Poland took “something of a political risk” in signing the missile defense agreement with the previous Administration and is hoping that his country won’t regret putting their trust in the United States.
Poland has reason to be concerned, and it is not alone. Last week the Czech Republic postponed its parliamentary vote on missile defense, in part due to the Administration’s continued waffling on the issue. Like Poland, they want the agreement they stood up for and made with the Bush Administration to be honored.
The U.S. cannot afford to damage strong pre-existing alliances with states that share our interests and values in favor of an unsubstantiated ‘grand bargain’ with Russia. By taking this type of approach, the United States is telling its geographically-smaller allies – and NATO partners – that they are less important than Moscow in achieving Washington’s aims. What message does this send to countries like Israel or Taiwan, who also find themselves bullied by regional neighbors?
Poland and the Czech Republic stand as democratic bulwarks in Eastern Europe. Regardless of Russia’s unjustified criticisms of the ‘third site’ deployment, limited missile defense sites in the region would help protect the United States and her allies from missile attacks initiated by Iran and would in no way undermine Russia’s nuclear deterrent. NATO has also twice concurred that a missile site is necessary given the proliferation of ballistic missile capabilities and the unpredictability of the global security environment. The deployment of a missile defense site in Eastern Europe will also enhance the diplomatic options for the U.S. and its allies, while creating a more stable strategic environment. Furthermore, despite ideologically-driven criticism, the missile defense system works. What more does the Administration need?
Poland and the Czech Republic are attempting to live up to their end of the deal, now is the time for the U.S. to do the same.