Shall Russians Praise or Curse 'Those Treacherous Yankees'?
said, 'Let the Americans give up their missile defense program first'. And so
it has happened - they have given it up. … This major diplomatic 'victory' denies
Moscow what it had considered its most important foreign policy trump card."
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev: Will Russia help President Obama deal with Iran's nuclear program? It is on this basis that his decision to scrap the East European anti-missile shield will be measured.
Fear to dream, because dreams
sometimes come true. The disgraced are those who for the past few years have
asserted that Moscow has had no foreign policy successes, but rather an
increasing number of failures. Just recently, Russia did indeed have a great
diplomatic victory. Judging by press reports, the American administration will declare
the indefinite freeze (and even abandonment) of plans to install elements of a
global anti-missile shield in Poland and Czech Republic. For the past few
years, the prospects of a so-called "third missile defense site" in
the immediate proximity of Russia has been the main splinter in Moscow-Washington
All these years, Russian
leaders have shrieked from every street corner that the appearance of ten
American interceptor missiles present a dire threat to our country. Attempts by
the U.S. to explain that ten interceptors would hardly threaten the strategic
balance, since at the moment Moscow has about 3,000 nuclear warheads (and will
have no less than 1,500) smashed into a wall of demonstrative misunderstanding.
Moscow claims that this third missile site could become the harbinger of an
aggressive program as a result of which Russia would be surrounded by hundreds
of anti-missiles. Moreover, in the course of the debate over this, another exotic
argument was also attempted: that those cunning Americans could surreptitiously
equip the interceptors with nuclear warheads, turning them into medium-range
missiles aimed at Moscow. Attempts by experts to explain the impossibility of doing
this in secret and that testing would be needed were dispensed with.
And now, let the happiness
commence. The Americans have decided to abandon the type of missile defense deployment
that so irritated Moscow. But it would be interesting to know whether they are
drinking champagne in the offices on Smolenskaya Square and
Arbat Street. [near the Russian Foreign Ministry]. Or, perhaps, they are quietly
cursing those treacherous Yankees who have once and for all managed to get the
ball on our side of the court.
After all, with little effort
and at the right time - the ABM bugbear could always be taken out to demonstrate
to the Russian people how we're about to be surrounded. It allowed us to set
aside contemplating a constructive program of strategic cooperation. We said,
"Let the Americans give up their missile defense program first." And so
it has happened - they have given it up.
What happens in the upcoming
weeks and months will reveal, one way or another, the true purpose of our
policy. Obama’s decision opens the way for rapid progress on several fronts
simultaneously - first of all, in the clearly stalled negotiations on a new Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty.
Russia can now, saving face, make concessions on the so-called return potential
(the United States wants to count only nuclear warheads that are already installed
on missiles, and remove from the overall count those which are still in storage).
More flexible rules on counting missiles could be agreed to.
In addition, Moscow could
support possible sanctions against Iran, which has thusfar been unwilling to
give up its nuclear program. However in this case, it's not clear how to such
a policy change would match up with recent statements by Vladimir Putin that such
sanctions are counterproductive and that Russia doesn't support them.
However, another option is
possible: we can invent a new reason to be offended by the United States. It's clear
that in principle, the U.S. won’t abandon its anti-ballistic missile program (and
that it will continue with two sites - in Alaska and California). All that will
change is its structure. There is, for example, talk of making the main element
of the program AEGIS-equipped ships with "Standard-3"
missile interceptors. Why not announce that the inevitable concentration of U.S.
naval power “near our borders” is a threat? We could demand the complete dismantlement
of the U.S. ABM program. We could demand the closure of American bases in
Bulgaria and Romania. Many things could be invented if there is a desire to do
Be that as it may, this major
diplomatic "victory" denies Moscow what it had considered its most important
foreign policy trump card.