Recently, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that there may be no summit between NATO and the Russian Federation if no agreement on missile defense is reached.
This is understandable: Moscow has so far refused all Western entreaties to sign a workable missile defense arrangement and threatened that the NATO–Russia summit may be cancelled. If so, the loss will be all the Kremlin’s.
NATO should not feel under any pressure to finalize a missile defense agreement, as Moscow is only trying to constrain the development of the U.S. missile defense system that could be used for the protection of Europe against Iran or another rogue power.
Russia’s efforts to squeeze unreasonable concessions, such as sharing U.S. missile defense technology for free, are a poke in the eye of President Obama’s “reset” policy. So far, the policy has required large payoffs for small results. Highly significantly, President Obama decided not to talk about the reset policy’s achievements in his State of the Union speech—because there is little to be proud of.
The proposed missile defense pact is flying in the face of political reality between Moscow and Washington. For example, Russia is selling fighter jets and missiles to Syria, so it could easily “share” U.S. missile defense technology and data with China and Iran.
Thus, the reset is in dire need of a reassessment. For example, the Administration agreed to cut U.S. strategic nuclear forces under New START, abandoned the Bush-era missile defense deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic, engaged Russia in missile defense talks, pursued a policy of geopolitical neglect in the former Soviet Union, and toned down criticism of political freedom violations in Russia. Unsurprisingly, concessions were perceived in the Kremlin as expressions of weakness and only emboldened Russia’s bellicose anti-American rhetoric.
The flagging “reset” policy and the tepid U.S. support for human rights, the rule of law, and pro-democracy protests in Moscow following the recent Duma elections may de-legitimize the U.S. role as the international force for freedom. This, however, has not prevented Russian Prime Minister and President to-be Vladimir Putin from accusing the United States of orchestrating these protests.
Just last week, Russian state-controlled TV lashed out at Michael McFaul, the newly appointed U.S. ambassador and the engineer of reset. “The fact is that McFaul is not an expert on Russia. He is a specialist in a particular pure democracy promotion,” read a report published on one of the Russian state-run TV channels.
In December, Putin accused U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of “giving the signal” for mass protests in Moscow—after the ruling United Russia party brazenly stole parliamentary elections.
The putative missile defense agreement presupposes that the foxes will guard the henhouse: Putin recently promoted the loudmouth nationalist Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s former envoy to NATO, to head Russia’s hugely corrupt defense industry as a Vice Premier. This is a big step for Rogozin, which may signal bigger and better things in the future, like a coveted Defense Minister’s job.
Rogozin has been leading the anti-American and anti-missile-defense campaigns in Russia and internationally. Recently, he attempted to link Russia’s opposition to the NATO missile defense in Europe to the future of the NATO supply line to Afghanistan. This complex logistics operation, known as the Northern Distribution Network, is responsible for 60 percent of NATO supplies to Afghanistan; the other 40 percent goes through Pakistan.
Congress and the Administration should not tolerate Russian mischief, such as on missile defense. The U.S. should not shy away from protecting its vital security interests, including keeping vital military technology close to its chest. Washington should articulate its priorities and values to its Russian partners—and play hardball when necessary.
It is clearly time to reset the “reset.”