John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
October 12, 2007
On October 12, 2007, Russia, or rather Vladimir Putin, rejected all American options and opportunities to break a logjam between the two powers on Missile Defense.
I first went to Russia to discuss U.S. missile defense plans and capabilities in 1992. Assisting and supporting a Department of Defense team seeking Russian cooperation on missile defense provided many insights that are still useful today.
Why does the U.S. care about Russia in this process? Because the threat of missiles now looms large from countries like Iran and North Korea. Russia has the potential to be a major player in a system using assets from more than one country to provide a seamless defense.
Saddam Husein’s use of the SCUD missiles during the 1991 Gulf War sent a shock wave through defense establishments.
The U.S. missile defense system, as envisioned since the Gulf War with Iraq in 1991, has not been seen as a system to take out Russian missiles but to destroy less capable systems — with Russian help if possible.
Russia also needs to be concerned about missiles from places such as the Middle East or northwest Asia. In fact, internal Russian chest beating aside, Russia knows it is clearly in the national interest of Russia to cooperate on missile defense.
Russia knows this categorically. Any statement from any Russian saying that our missile defense system will negate their nuclear deterrence is made entirely to be swallowed by western reporters who are not aware of the facts.
Any statement from Russia saying that the Russian people don’t also need the type of protection provided by missile defense is not based upon the truth.
Ambassador John Bolton said today that President Putin was thoroughly briefed on U.S. missile defense capabilities and intentions when the United States withdrew from the Ant-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2001. In fact, Mr. Bolton said President Putin accepted the U.S. logic and did not fight reality the way he is doing today.
But then the national pride and the ego of a world leader got into the way.
Putin’s stock rose with his internal constituency only when he defied the United States.
This is a dangerous state of affairs for the world.
Leaders in NATO and the EU have made appeals to Mr. Putin to leave behind his Cold War ways and to allow Russia to join further with the world community in fighting terror and building missile defenses. But Mr. Putin has fallen in love with the applause he hears at home when he makes moves that look like a return to the majesty of the Soviet Superpower. Resumption of Russian long range bomber patrols is an example of this thoughtless pandering to his people at home.
Those gloating that Putin has taken on the United States and “won” may one day face nuclear armed dictators of an even more unpredictable nature than those we have today. There is no “win” here — just unnecessary time lost as nations like Iran surge ahead.
Today, Vladimir Putin, an arrogant demigod who now is seen in Russia as the savior of a nearly failed system, showed his arrogance, intransigence and pure gall. With the U.S. Secretary of State and the U.S. Secretary of Defense waiting, Putin allowed them to sit idly while he made what diplomats call, an “inexcusable display.”
Mr. Bolton says this conduct by Putin “underlines his dissatisfaction.”
Putin offered no explanation or apology: he just made his guests wait. This is how childish world leaders act. This is not the conduct of a polished world leader.Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Americans had presented “detailed proposals” to Putin on missile defense and arms control and a treaty on reducing conventional forces in Europe.
Then, in good faith, Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates, two of the most senior members of the U.S. government, gave a briefing with many options to their equals in Mr. Putin’s government. All options and opportunities were rejected by the Russians.
One has to believe that this entire meeting was a charade meant only to show Russians and the world that there is another super-power in the world the rival of the U.S.
Mr. Bolton said, for Russia, this entire escapade is “counter-productive from Russia’s own strategic perspective.”
For her part, the U.S. Secretary of State said, “I know that we don’t always see eye-to-eye on every element of the solutions to these issues. Nonetheless, I believe we will do this in a constructive spirit, that we will make progress during these talks as we continue to pursue cooperation.”
From an outsiders view sitting on the fence, the trip was a waste of time for the Americans and an ill-advised choreographed dance by the Russians.
John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
October 12, 2007