Were Poland and the Czech Republic "Sold" to Russia? – expert of World Association of International Studies
Leading expert Tomoyuki Hashimoto, who is affiliated with World Association of International Studies at Stanford, especially for Trend
President Obama's decision to drop the missile shield plan in Eastern Europe was received by many Europeans in dismay. In Poland where the intercepting missiles were planned to be installed, the daily newspaper Fakt called this move as a "betrayal" and claimed that the US has "sold" Poland to Russia. Polish President Kaczynski, who was a key negotiator of the plan, released the statement of disbelief and disappointment shortly after the call from Washington. While Obama assured the value of US-Polish relations in his call to Kaczynski, the Polish official has expressed his concerns on uncertain future of the strategic relationship with the US and NATO. Many Polish political figures have began questioning Kaczynski's capability to conclude any strategic deals with the US. The rivalry of President and Prime Minister may resurface depending on the development of Warsaw-Washington talks.
In the Czech Republic where the defensive radar was planned to be installed, Foreign Minister Kohout has began a rather constructive talk with Washington for alternative strategic initiatives. At the same time, many Czechs have been relatively less supportive to the missile shield plan from the beginning as they were worried that the Czech Republic would become a new target of terrorism. Fragile domestic political scene has infamously interrupted the Czech Presidency of the European Union. The cancellation of the missile shield plan would fuel further political rivalry in Prague, which is no longer isolated from the rest of Europe.
That said, according to the statements previously issued by the Bush administration, the missile shield was intended to intercept long range missiles from the Middle East, particularly from Iran: in other words, Washington has insisted that the plan was not intended against Russia. In the recent statements, the Department of Defense has analyzed that the threat from Iran would not cease while the threat would mainly be from short- and medium-range missiles rather than long-rage missiles. Washington has concluded, according to Obama, that the expensive missile defense system in Eastern Europe was unnecessary for the moment. Therefore, while Polish and Czech reactions to Obama's decision are understandable, Washington cannot reply to such messages of "betrayal" in association with Russia. Furthermore, although Obama's decision is likely to cause a political turbulence in the two countries, the decision has smoothened US-Russian relations.
Obama's decision to drop the plan was welcomed by Prime Minister Putin as a "correct and brave move."
While Moscow envisions Washington's support for Russia's membership bit in the World Trade Organization, Washington can reasonably expect Moscow's support on variety of common issues, such as nuclear proliferation in Iran.
As a week has passed since the announcement from Washington, Moscow has already announced that Russia will not deliver missiles near its border with Poland.
Such reductionist move in conventional weaponry may advance a dormant CFE (Conventional Forces in Europe) negotiation. This positive development between the US and Russia further serves as a point of reference for possible Russo-Polish rapprochement.
Of course, the US would not and cannot ignore the strategic values of Poland and the Czech Republic not only vis-a-vis Russia, but also vis-a-vis Europe and the Middle East. Both militarily and politically, the two countries have been the most outspoken supporters for the deeper and broader transatlantic relationship. Feeling of being abandoned must be cured while the wounds are fresh.
Otherwise, the trauma would deeply remain in their trust towards the US and would reduce the overall transatlantic capacity. The US, therefore, needs to adapt the "medicine and syrup" strategy by providing alternative strategic cooperation in the near future. Listing some of the possibilities, their participation in US-led space technology programs, renewal and enhancement of Polish ports in the Baltic Sea, and broader cooperation of intelligence agencies between the two countries and the US.
Obama's decision was certainly courageous as the extent of future strategic cooperation from Russia was uncertain while strong disappointment from Europe was easily expected. Both in academia and the professional sphere, Russian vision (read ambition) of foreign policy towards its western neighbors is a hot topic of discussion. What we do know is the fact that Moscow values its prestige in the world affairs while it has been experiencing difficulty to set and implement Russian-made agendas in various international organizations.
In other words, Russia prefers bi-lateral negotiation with influential actors such as Germany, the UK, and the US, in order to gradually influence the world politics. The tension between Russia and Europe, therefore, can be cured not through NATO-Russian or EU-Russian negotiations, but through US-Russian negotiations. In this view, Washington must continue to strengthen its ties with Moscow, envisioning increasing joint-efforts towards common goals in the world.