The news that the Obama administration today will inform Poland and the Czech Republic that it’s backing out of a deal to build a missile-defense shield based in their countries isn’t all that surprising. But it does matter.
There is a sense in the West that post-Soviet Russia can be cajoled into being a constructive partner if we just respect its sensibilities. That sense dissipates the closer you get to the Russian border — i.e., among those countries that lived under Moscow’s thumb for the better part of the 20th century. They don’t trust the Russia of Vladimir Putin, because the Russia of Vladimir Putin continues to treat its old dominion as its current dominion. Putin’s Russia cuts off natural-gas supplies to Europe in the dead of winter on an almost annual basis. Putin’s Russia launches cyber attacks against other countries, including the U.S. Putin’s Russia interferes in the elections of its neighbors — or just goes ahead and invades them, as in the case of Georgia last year.
These countries celebrate the end of communism, the Soviet Union and its oppression of them. Putin’s Russia considers the Soviet break-up the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century.”
You have to understand this context to understand the courage of the Polish and Czech governments in agreeing to host parts of a U.S. missile-defense shield that Russia found objectionable. Some Poles are old enough to remember another betrayal on Sept. 17 — Russia’s 1939 invasion of their country under the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact between the Soviets and Germany. Now the Obama administration is appeasing Russia by reneging on the missile-shield deal with the Poles and the Czechs — on the 70th anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Poland, no less. Another master stroke from our diplomacy-focused leaders.
Ten years ago, when Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary joined NATO, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright declared, “Never again will your fates be tossed around like poker chips on a bargaining table.” But that’s most likely what’s happening here, in a bid to enlist Russia’s help in stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Yes, a potentially nuclear Iran is the greatest security threat the world faces today. Yes, we need allies to deal with the mullahs. But we just dispensed with two reliable allies in an effort to gain one decidedly unreliable one. That’s a bad trade.