This week, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski accused the Obama Administration of betrayal, saying, “Our mistake was that by accepting the American offer of a [missile defense] shield we failed to take into account the political risk associated with a change of president.… We paid a high political price. We do not want to make the same mistake again. We must have a missile system as an element of our defences.”
In 2009, President Obama cancelled the deal the U.S. had with Poland and the Czech Republic to build an interceptor site and radar that would provide protection of the U.S. homeland and allies from rogue ballistic missiles. Polish and Czech leaders took on the task of educating their populations of the necessity of defending their populations from Iranian missiles, of collaborating with the U.S. to do this, of having American soldiers on their territory, and—the hardest of all—that the blowback from Russia over the sites was worth it.
It is an American tradition—and not a uniquely Republican or Democratic one—to resolutely stand with America’s friends and confront, if necessary, those who threaten them. It was President John F. Kennedy who said, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
The last several years, starting with the abandonment of the missile defense site, President Obama has taken the U.S. down a path that takes a sudden departure from this policy.
Russia claims that U.S. missile defense sites in Eastern Europe undermine its security. It is a fact that it does not. The Obama Administration is not giving the U.S. missile defense systems to be fielded in the European theater the ability to counter long-range Russian missiles. But even if it were, Russia should not be put out by the thought that a U.S. system meant to intercept Iranian missiles might also have the capability of intercepting Russian missiles—unless it wanted to have the ability to launch missiles at European cities.
If this is the case, the U.S. government has a responsibility to take away this ability, and failure to do so would be an abrogation of its security guarantees with its allies. Indeed, the New START resolution of ratification contains a clause—which the Administration accepted—that specifically states that the U.S., as a matter of policy, will not leave itself or its allies vulnerable to nuclear attacks from any source, including Russia.
It isn’t enough to call a country an ally. What America’s allies require of the U.S. is that it keeps its word and sides with them in practical and predictable ways over common enemies that seek to diminish both our security and theirs.