US Missile Defense is Diplomatic Message for Russia: President of Geneva University Strategic Studies Group

Politics Materials 16 August 2008 13:52 (UTC +04:00)

By Jean-Marc Rickli, the President of the Geneva University Strategic Studies Group Berrow Scholar, especially for Trend

The origins of the current US national defense missile program dates back to the start of the first Bush Jr. Presidency. At the time the United States' primary concern was the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by so called rogue states notably Irak, Iran and North Korea. Russia was not considered as a primary threat. The deal struck by the United States and Poland does not fundamentally change the original military purpose of the NMD since the establishment of ten interceptors in Poland cannot stop Russian nuclear firepower. For Poland, which has managed to get the Americans to agree on the establishment of a Patriot missile battery on its soil as well as on a mutual assistance agreement, the deal struck nonetheless contributes to enhance its security posture towards Russia. The assistance clause in particular appears to be directly aimed at Moscow which has threatened Poland of retaliation in case it would host the missile defense system.

Diplomatically this agreement cannot be separated from the events in Georgia. Russia's reaction towards Tbilissi has demonstrated that Moscow will no longer remain passive when the West intrudes into Russia's near abroad. Together with the Baltic States, Poland's demonstration of solidarity and support for Georgia was an attempt to re-affirm their independence towards Moscow. The crisis has also probably prompted the Tusk's government to consider the reaching of an agreement with a renewed sense of urgency. For the United States, the handling of the Georgian crisis has been a failure. Not only has Washington lost any prospect of seeing Georgia joining NATO anytime soon but the White House has also let the diplomatic initiative to the Europeans and especially to France. Under these circumstances, the United States could not risk another diplomatic blunder by stalling the negotiations with Poland. This has probably forced the US government to relax its previous reservations on Warsaw's air defense support d requests.

In the end, though the US missile defense project does not threaten Moscow militarily, the diplomatic message that it conveys is however different especially after the Georgian crisis. While Moscow has given a strong warning to the West that it is back into the geopolitical game, Washington's agreement with Poland demonstrates that Russia is not the only player and that the Cold War chessboard' configuration has changed.

Opinion of author maybe not similar with the opinion of editorial staff of Trend Agency