As President Obama and Russian President Medvedev met in Moscow July 6-8, arms control and missile defense were key issues. Both sides agreed to a preliminary framework for a treaty to replace the START Treaty, which expires in December. However, since before Obama arrived in Moscow, President Medvedev has been tying arms control to the U.S.’s abandoning of the third site in Europe. The third site, a missile defense system proposed by President Bush, includes ten interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic to protect our allies in Europe against the growing Iranian missile threat. This missile defense system would also, and very importantly, protect the United States from the Iranian threat.
President Obama, in an effort to “reset” relations with Russia, may compromise on this missile defense system in Europe. Giving in on missile defense is a poor choice for United States national security, not to mention that Obama will get nothing in return if he gives up the European missile shield. For example, Russia has explicitly said it will not agree to tougher sanctions on Iran in return for the nuclear arms deal with Washington. What is also important to note is that President Obama has stated he only wants to deploy missile defenses that are proven and cost-effective. The European missile defense system is both, and therefore the exact kind of program the President should want to deploy.
Not only is this linkage between nuclear arms reductions and missile defense detrimental to our national security, it sends a clear message to Russia that the United States will comply every time Russia makes a demand, even if it is unfounded. As the Senate discusses the Defense Authorization for the 2010fiscal year, it should remember to keep U.S. national security at heart. One way it should do that is to return funding for the third site in Europe to protect our allies abroad and Americans at home.