President Obama’s decision not to proceed with the Eastern European missile shield was, I assume, intended to increase the likelihood of Russian cooperation in dealing with Iran’s impending nuclear threat or, perhaps more plausibly, to facilitate the renegotiation of the START treaty. But today we learn that it may not even bring about a far more modest result – the shelving of Russian plans to deploy missiles in an enclave next to Poland.
The Kremlin has always said that Russia would only deploy these missiles as a counter-measure if the U.S. went ahead with its Eastern European missile shield. Thus, shortly after Obama announced his decision not to proceed with that shield, Russian deputy defense minister Vladimir Popovkin stated that “naturally we will scrap the measures that Russia planned to take” in response.
But when asked about the matter today, the chief of Russia’s general staff, Nikolai Makarov, said: “There has been no such decision. It should be a political decision. It should be made by the president.” Makarov noted that U.S. has “not given up the anti-missile shield; [but rather] replaced it with a sea-based component.”
I still expect Russian not to deploy missiles near Poland. But it may well abandon that project only after couching it as a concession on a par with our decision not to proceed with the missile shield. Obama shouldn’t hold his breath until he receives any affirmative help or concessions from the Kremlin.
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