As has been widely reported, the White House has decided to abandon the planned radar/interceptor installations in Poland and the Czech Republic and replace them with mobile land and sea based missile interception systems.Â The reaction to the decision shows that different people were seeing vastly different things in what the original proposal represented.Â
Writing in the Wall Street Journal Europe, Jack David and Melanie Kirkpatrick seem to believe that New York City faces a significant threat from an intercontinental ballistic missile attack originating in Iran.Â Â It’s impossible to see the calculation on the Iranian side that would make such an attack a good idea even if it was technically feasible.Â Perhaps aware of this problem, other US conservatives downplay the Iranian angle and emphasize instead that politically if not technically, the system was aimed at Russia.Â Â Offered as supporting evidence is this summer’s open letter from the great and the good of the eastern European transition warning that the missile defence system “is a symbol of America’s credibility and commitment to the region”, with consequent adverse effects if it was abandoned.Â
Maybe AFOE readers closer to the action have better insights, but this seems bewildering.Â Â Poland and the Czech Republic already have the NATO common defence guarantee.Â Â As every one seems to agree, the missile defence system is irrelevant to Russian offensive capabilities.Â And “symbols” of support don’t amount to a whole lot when relations with Russia get really out of hand,Â as Georgia found out.Â
So one suspects that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are a bit confused about the uproar and will be even keener to emphasize that its foreign policy towards eastern Europe is not subject to alleged pouting by Russia until it gets its way.Â Â This had all come in the wake of a somewhat conciliatory Vladimir Putin in Gdansk aÂ couple of weeks ago — and one now wonders what behind the scenes negotiations went on during the World War II commemoration there.Â
Anyway, the point is that somehow, the Iran situation triggeredÂ a significant headache in transatlantic relations and it’s not clear that the different sidesÂ in the controversy are really talking to each other.Â Perhaps no surprise then that the new NATO Secretary General, former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, devoted his first speech to NATO-Russia relations.Â It’s worth a read.