MOSCOW – The Kremlin perceives the Obama Administration’s decision to scrap the third site anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic as a radical review of the US global leadership policy and a serious concession to Russia. At the same time, the Kremlin does not think it necessary to meet Washington halfway and is confining itself to verbal promises.
Indeed, Russia in the person of President Dmitry Medvedev and a number of military commanders, announced its decision to reverse its plans to deploy Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad Region. In reality this is no concession to America. Russia does not have any Iskanders to station close to the Polish borders. The Kremlin’s declaration concerning their possible deployment there was more like a bluff designed to intimidate America’s East-European partners and sow a discord within NATO.
The White House expected Moscow’s most genuine reciprocity over the Iran issue, but the Kremlin’s stance remains far removed from a policy of tough deterrence and termination of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Medvedev did hint that more sanctions might be inevitable for Iran under certain circumstances. And later on, during a G20 summit in Pittsburgh he did describe the construction of the second uranium enrichment plant by Iran as “a source of grave concern.”
But there are no grounds to conclude that Moscow has radically revised its policies. Referring to the information about Iran’s new uranium enrichment plant, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made a much softer statement than Medvedev and refrained from direct criticisms of Tehran.
There is every reason to assume that on returning to Moscow, Medvedev will have to adjust the pronouncements he made in the U.S. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is the key player in the Russian national security sphere. The talks between Iran and six world powers scheduled for October 1 will show if Russia has really made headway towards the effective deterrence of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Thus far, it appears that Obama’s review of the U.S. national security strategy points to an amorphous liberal “cooperative security” concept that is hardly encouraging Moscow to meet Washington halfway. The Kremlin perceives scrapping missile defenses in Europe as a U.S. weakness, which solidifies its drive to continue demonstrating that not a single European security issue can be addressed without its consent or to the detriment of its interests. It is clear now that Obama’s missile-shield decision has dealt a serious blow to America’s image and credibility in Europe but has given no tangible advantages on other regional fronts.