Despite Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Europe last week, and Secretary of State Clinton’s meeting with the Czech Foreign Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, this week, we still don’t know whether this Administration will honor U.S. agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic to deploy elements of a U.S. missile defense shield in Europe (known as the ‘third site’ deployment).
Obama has successfully–and probably deliberately–provided enough ambiguity to make a decision either way. On the one hand, he has pledged to field defenses against WMD attacks but on the other he has implied that ballistic missile defense programs are either ineffective, too costly, or both.
The international press is now speculating that the U.S. will abandon the third site deal, and do a deal with Russia instead. The Administration has said that it is keen to put relations with Russia on a more positive footing than President Bush.
However, the Administration is making a number of miscalculations if it intends to abandon the third site deal in a rapprochement with Moscow. Firstly, the third site deployment is a win-win for national and global security, as it will defend against ballistic missile attack from rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea. Secondly, it is a win-win for American diplomacy, having been backed by the 26-nation NATO Alliance on two separate occasions. To abandon the deployment now makes no sense politically or strategically.
It is wrong to claim that ground-based missile defenses are unproven or unworkable. On December 5 2008, the Missile Defense Agency performed a successful intercept of an incoming ballistic missile. On September 28, 2007, the U.S. missile defense system also destroyed the mock warhead of a long-range missile. As General Trey Obering, former director of the Missile Defense Agency, states in Heritage’s “33 Minutes” documentary, we are not only now able to hit a bullet with a bullet, but can also hit a spot on a bullet with a bullet.
Finally, it makes no sense to throw away close and proven allies in Europe, in favor of Russia. Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August last year, followed by its illegal annexation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia demonstrates its unpredictability on the world stage. It also willfully turned off Europe’s gas supplies this past winter, leaving millions of Europeans out in the cold.
While the Administration should certainly try to rebuild relations with Russia, it should not abandon its security interests or its long-standing allies in the process.