Unilateralism: Not just for Republican presidents

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.

16 comments Add your comment

David Axelfraud

September 17th, 2009
1:11 pm

Its a matter of months before Russia invades Europe. China will probably end up attacking our satellites very soon. Obama has just shown the world how stupid and cowardly he really is.


Denise Duffy

September 17th, 2009
1:52 pm

Let me preface my remarks by saying: I was no fan of Bush, I consider myself a liberal in many ways, and I have agreed with Mr. Obama on a number of things in the past. However, this move is a huge mistake! We may choose to forego empire building. However, we should not create a situation making it inordinately easy for others to build their own, either.


September 17th, 2009
2:19 pm

Those anti-missile missiles don’t work anyway. They didn’t work in the First Gulf War either.


September 17th, 2009
2:25 pm

The missile defense scheme that Bush came up with was a bad idea at the time & is a bad idea today. The Pentagon was opposed to it then & they are opposed to it today. And the missiles to put on the ground in Poland and the Czech Republic DO NOT EXIST. Still being developed.

The “new” plan, proposed in 2002 by the Pentagon, would deploy missiles against potential Iranian short & medium range missiles. The old plan would have only defended against Iranian long range missiles. A second phase deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic should be in place by 2015 IF the missiles are developed.

At present, neither the Bush Plan missiles nor the Pentagon 2nd Phase missiles are developed. They DO NOT EXIST.

Bush had 8 years to deploy his missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic. He did not do so because THEY DO NOT EXIST.


September 17th, 2009
2:33 pm

A Democrat or Republican congressman that has no regard for our constitution,,,,,,,
with a stroke of the pen,,,,,
does more damage than anything lobbed out of Iran.


September 17th, 2009
2:55 pm

“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.”

Kyle, I do not want to reopen an old discussion but that statement is not fully correct. Georgia invaded South Ossetia after an agreement between Georgia, Russia & South Ossetia that South Ossetia would be “independent”. Russia went in to kick Georgia out of South Ossetia.
The Georgia president made another of his numerous bad decisions.

But going forward that is a tender part of the world because of the oil pipeline running through Georgia. This is one part of the world where “it ain’t over”.

Kyle Wingfield

September 17th, 2009
3:21 pm

I’m sorry, jconservative, but that’s simply not correct. Neither South Ossetia nor Abkhazia was “independent.” Both contained separatist movements that wished (and occasionally fought) for independence from Georgia. But both were considered regions of Georgia, with the goal of eventual normalization –and still are, by every country in the world except for Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Saakashvili acted brashly and stupidly in responding to provocations, I’ll give you that. But the narrative that everything would have been fine if Misha hadn’t lost it is pure Russian propaganda. Fostering and then exploiting an ethnic conflict within a neighboring country is a play straight out of Stalin’s book.

Michael Honohan

September 17th, 2009
3:27 pm

Perhaps some of you should get your news from sources other than Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. Any informed person will tell you that the “missle shield” was intended to deflect missles from Iran or other middle/near eastern countries. It was never intended to even have the scope for an attack from a giant like Russia. However, any type of military action is taken seriously from Russia; they are a paranoid nation. Image if they tried to put weapons in Cuba. Oh, yes, they did once and that was the closest we ever came to the Cold War being a real one.

China is going to attack our satellites? And you wonder why Republicans have a reputation for stupidity! We are China’s cash cow, you don’t attack your supply of milk.

I am old enough to remember living in nation where the majority was certain the Soviets where armed to the teeth and were just waiting for the opportunity to attack us. I never believed it. The Cold War was the ultimate propaganda machine for both sides. It kept our populaces scared enough to allow our respective governments to spend huge amounts on our military-industrial complexes. After the fall of the Soviets, it was reveal that as many as 4 of 5 Soviet nuclear war-heads were dummies.

Sure Putin is a thug, and his goverment is like a mafia, but that is all. He will continue to bully his neighbors, but with Russia’s vast gas and oil reserves, they will wage a largely economic war, not military. You don’t get to sell much gas and oil if you are waging war with customers.

So I was the fool in the Cold War telling people Russia was never going to start a nuclear war. Well, this same “fool” will tell you that Iran will never nuke Israel. Surely, like America, they will use nukes as a threat to prevent attacks on their nation, and that makes them dangerous, but a missle shield is a joke for missle that will never fire. Down right foolish horsehockey. Sort of like rednecks believing that if they can keep their guns, they can keep the government at bay. Like Special Forces are afraid of you!

Its real simple. If you want to keep Iran at bay, you need to stop it at the source, you need to go in and dismantle their nuclear program. As I said, if they get the bomb, they will not use it, only leverage it. Then is too late. If you attack them, they might use it (I know I said never, but that was in the context of an offensive move). So that leaves them free to attack Israel with conventionsl means and get away with it. And your “shield” will stand useless.

I am sorry, this stuff is obviously to complicated for too many of you to understand, just like it was in the Cold War. Think of it this way. The robber wants your stuff, he has not intention of killing you, but the gun is the tool to keep you at bay – and the gun may not even have bullets. That how government use nukes. In those years since Hiroshima, how many nuclear attacks? Even with Pakistan and North Korea? None. I rest my case.

Hillbilly Deluxe

September 17th, 2009
4:13 pm

If I were a Czech or a Pole, I wouldn’t trust Russia either.

David Axelfraud

September 17th, 2009
4:40 pm

Michael Honohan, do you work for the Pentagon? If not then shut up! We are not Chinas milk. They own every part of us and will soon have a military twice the size of ours. I got my info straight from the United States Air Force website.

Michael Honohan

September 17th, 2009
11:23 pm

David Axelfraud: Please, if you want me to take you seriously, refrain from citing a website as your source of information. I love America and trust our military as much as any libertarian possibly could, but believe me when I tell you those websites are propaganda largely for consumption by foreign entities, not for real information for our citizens. If you want that, you need to connect with people on the inside. I have and that is all I EVER going to say about that. And that doesn’t mean I know anything of any real value, just that I know people who do and all they will say is that most of the information you or I will ever see is not of any real consequence. Do you understand what I mean? And no I have never worked for the Pentagon, but I have worked with people from our national security appartus and I have been inside the NSA. I can say that much as it is listed in unclassified documents.

I any event, if China, our number one trading partner, represents the “Red Menance” for you, and that somehow gives some substance to your world view, have at it. The real threats today are terrorism and economic warfare. And terrorism would be the least of it if we left that part of the world alone. It has been like that since Jefferson.

AIG, and others sitting on 38 TRILLION dollars of unsecured credit-default-swaps has a far greater potential for world catastrophie than any of this crap. And you are a little wrong. China does not “own” us. China owns a huge part of our national debt. As long as we keep paying them the interest, they have absolutely no incentive to attack us. Now if our economy fails completely and we default on those loans, then we may want to check our supply of warheads. Until then, all this saber rattleing crap is a distraction from the real threat. Goldman Sachs is more dangerous to our survival than al-Queda.

One last thing, you may want to learn a little about logic. If you believe China owns us, then we are indeed it’s milk. Does the dairy farmer not own the cow?

Michael Honohan

September 18th, 2009
12:31 am

Here is the crux of the arguent. If Iran is lucky in a few years they may end up with 2 or 3 nukes. Now here is a country that despite being run as an Islamist regime if FAR more free than Saudi Arabia or any other middle eastern nation. The are industrious, modern, educated and they even have public dissent within the ranks of the Mullahs, in fact, Rafsanjani a leading dissenter, is the leader of the Council of Experts, the very group than appoints and can remove the Supreme Leader. They may be warped religionists, but they are not mad-men like Kim Jong Il and unlike N Korea, there is a body headed by a rational person who can remove the Supreme Leader if he got stupid.

Now put it into perspective. Israel has has as least 400 nuclear warheads. What rational person concludes that Iran is going to fire 2 or 3 nukes at Israel only to be destroyed by a barrage of a hundred or so in retaliation?

No, as I stated earlier, the nukes are a hedge. They say “We can support Hamas and Hezbollah because with our nukes, we will not get attacked. Quick, name one nuclear armed nation that has been invaded. And border skirmishes like between Paksistan and India do not count.

Bush’s missile shield, like so much of his ideas is just nonsense. For one, there is no “missle shield” currently in existance that works. We cannot even get consistant results while testing against one missle that we shoot ourselves, let alone an enemies.

Kyle Wingfield

September 18th, 2009
9:55 am

Of course the missile shield was always intended to defend against an Iranian nuclear missile — shot toward Europe or the U.S., not toward Israel. The Russians were the only ones who acted like it was about them, which was silly considering that their nuclear arsenal is so large and nearby (i.e. defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic could do virtually nothing about a missile launched from Russia). That’s why it’s even more egregious that we gave in to their false outrage at the expense of our real allies. I just hope that we did get some real cooperation on Iran, and that the Poles and the Czechs are more reassured than people like Lech Walesa sound. Time will tell.

As for what Iran would do with nukes, the most interesting theory I’ve heard is that Tehran would use them to threaten not Israel but Saudi Arabia and the other oil-rich Gulf States. Of course, Israel can’t count on that being the case. In any case, the most likely result of an Iranian nuke is at the very least a Saudi nuke, an Egyptian nuke and a Turkish nuke. That’s an arms race we really don’t need.


September 19th, 2009
1:58 pm

This is weird, guys. Everyone keeps saying the shield was against Iran, not Russia. Now that it is cancelled, everyone mentions Russia, not Iran, as THE consequense of this decision.
The shield is built against Iran, not Russia, but it should not be cancelled because Russia might… (up to your fantasy, add anything you want). What kind of logic is this?
At least be honest and say: the shield is a gesture to Eastern Europe against Russia. Then talk.
More than one million of local lives were taken in Iraq, and the reason for the war was thumbsucked by the think tank George Bush, Brain of the Universe. How come it is only “a mistake”? There are better words for this, aren’t they? But the discussion is about a would-be Russian attack on Poland.
If you are looking into a mirror, and get scared – do not blame Russia.
As for this – “Its a matter of months before Russia invades Europe” – well, keep giving us those jewels.


September 29th, 2009
4:17 am

Just wanted to tell you, 99% of Russian just don’t care about Poland and Europe. Have you ever see the map where Iran and where Poland, you place missile 200 miles from our borders and you want us to believe that it’s against Iran? Maybe the rest of the world want to think that you bring democracy for Iraq, we think that you steal oil there. From Russia with love)))


September 29th, 2009
5:46 am

Kyle Wingfield: “Of course the missile shield was always intended to defend against an Iranian nuclear missile”

Kyle, may I give you some info about missile shield?
Read this: http://cstsp.aaas.org/files/BriefOnEastEuropeMissileDefense.PDF