This week President Obama reversed the decision of the Bush administration to build a Ballistic Missile Defense system (“BMD”) in Poland. His right wing critics, especially the Neocons, have blasted this decision. We think it is a very smart decision and a timely one.
Russia is an emotional issue for the Neocons and for the old timers on the right. The defeat of the Soviet Union was their greatest triumph and they insist on reliving that battle. Politically, a strong stand against Russia is always a plus for many sections of American society. The face, the demeanor and behavior of Putin only hardens the resolve of the anti-Russia crowd. They would like to see a feeble, irrelevant Russia that becomes a satellite of Western Europe.
This is why the Cheney cabal took every opportunity to belittle Russia and to get in Russia’s face as Patrick Buchanan called it. The Bush Administration went into the Ukraine, Russia’s backyard and emotional trigger. Cheney encouraged Georgia and its crazy leader. Then, the Bush Administration came up with their plan to put a Ballistic Missile Defense System in Poland, ostensibly to protect Eastern Europe against Iran. This fooled no one. This was an anti-Russian move and a needless one.
The reality is that America has no strategic interests in the Ukraine, Belarus or Georgia. Secondly, America has no capability to do anything in that region. This was demonstrated to the world when Russia attacked Georgia and “liberated” the two breakaway states from Georgia.
The Cheney anti-Russia posture was stupid because we cannot do much damage to Russia but Russia can do a great deal of harm to American interests. First you have Afghanistan. Russia demonstrated its leverage a few months ago by forcing Krygystan to close the Manas air base that America uses to supply coalition troops in Afghanistan. Then you have Iran. Russia can immeasurably hurt America by supplying sophisticated air defense systems to Iran. Russia can support Iran militarily, politically and strategically. Russia is also crucial to America’s goals in Central Asia. This is the region in which the next great game will be played between America, China & Russia. In addition, Russia has real leverage against America in Germany because Germany needs Russian natural gas.
The Neocons focus on the fact that the Russian economy is a basket case. Russia does not care. The Russian economy has always been a basket case, but the Russian people are stoic. Russia has huge currency reserves and it is one of the biggest exporters of Oil. Today, Russian aims are narrow and focused. That makes Russia a major player. Unlike China, Russia does not need America’s markets and or American help.
There are signs that the Obama Administration is at least conscious of this fact and is beginning to take some steps. Russia gave America a Fourth of July gift when it agreed to let American troops and weapons fly to Afghanistan over Russian territory. It has tolerated the reopening of the Manas airbase by Krygystan.
America has now taken a major step by canceling the utterly dumb decision to place BMD system in Poland. This is good for America, Western Europe if not for Poland. Russia in turn has announced that it will not deploy missiles in its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad. This is good news for Poland.
We hope the Obama Administration will work with Medvedev to build a mutually beneficial relationship with Russia based on respect for each other’s strategic interests.
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