July 6, 2011 | Investors Business Daily

Is Russian ‘Reset’ Worth Kicking Allies To Curb?

July 6, 2011 | Investors Business Daily

Is Russian ‘Reset’ Worth Kicking Allies To Curb?

The Obama administration continues to burn America's allies in its pursuit to please our foes. The most recently burned is the Czech Republic.

In 2009 the Obama administration pulled the rug out from under the Poles and the Czechs when it canceled the missile defense plan begun by the previous administration and failed to notify the countries' leaders until right before the public announcement.

President Obama assured the countries they would have roles in the new plan. Then earlier this month, Czech Defense Minister Alexander Vondra told the Associated Press that his country withdrew “in frustration” at a minor role in the Obama plan.

The previous plan would have placed radar in the Czech Republic, and 10 long-range interceptors in Poland. Both countries' leaders braved political heat, especially from Russia, for agreeing to host those defensive assets.

In 2008, Czech President Vaclav Klaus told the Washington Times that “having experienced decades of Soviet domination during the Cold War,” Czechs are “extremely sensitive to any patronizing from that part of the world.”

The assets would have defended much of Europe and the U.S. from Iranian long-range missiles. They also had the benefit of strengthening ties between America and the former Soviet satellite countries. This second benefit is, in part, what caused Russia to balk at the plan.

Russia's strong objection to the cooperative agreement prompted the Obama administration to cancel the plan in favor of an incremental and hopefully more agreeable (to the Russians) missile defense plan for Europe, although the administration contends the plan was scrapped for other reasons.

What has leaving the Czechs and Poles high and dry gotten anyone? Besides leaving two strong countries whose leaders have demonstrated the foresight and political courage to set their countries up for a future on the side of free and prosperous Western democracies in a state of abandonment and embarrassment, it has done nothing but embolden and temporarily appease Russia.

Last November at the NATO-Russia summit, the Obama administration was optimistic about coming to an agreement with the Russians on its new plan. Surely, to the disappointment of many of those optimistic Obama staffers, earlier this month the NATO-Russia Council failed to come to an agreement.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has even threatened to revive an arms race around 2020, when the last phase of the four-phase plan is supposed to be deployed. This phase would include a couple of dozen next generation SM-3 missiles to intercept Iranian long- range missiles.

Russian officials refuse to be convinced that this will not threaten its own nuclear arsenal even though Russia's offensive weapons could easily overwhelm the U.S. system. Even Russia's lead designer of ballistic missiles, Yuri Solomonov, has admitted that U.S. missile defense in Europe is not a threat to Russia's strategic nuclear forces.

In addition to Moscow's “this will threaten our arsenal” objection to the Obama missile defense plan, Russian officials are insisting that Iran doesn't pose a threat anyway. The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that the current Iranian missile fleet has the ability to reach targets in Europe and could have the ability to hit the U.S. homeland by 2015.

According to former secretary of the Russian Security Council, Andrei Kokoshin, Iran's existing intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) program makes “military strategic sense” only if these missiles are outfitted with warheads carrying weapons of mass destruction, primarily nuclear weapons.

“Underscoring this point, Tehran recently test-fired 14 long-range nuclear capable missiles,” he said.

Combine this capability with the Iranian government's anti-Western sentiment and sponsorship of terrorism, and it makes one wonder that if this isn't a threat, what in the eyes of the Russians is?

Both Russian arguments beg crucial questions about the U.S.-Russian relationship.

One, although U.S. missile defense cannot neutralize Russian offensive weapons, why is Russia, no longer a Cold War enemy, so afraid it might? Two, why are the Russians determined to maintain the ability to successfully nuke the U.S. and why is the administration still willing to accommodate this demand?

Last, why are Russian officials so certain that Iran, an international pariah and the world's leading sponsor of terrorism, poses no threat worth defending against when the Free World is convinced that it does?

U.S. diplomats should consider these questions, and one of their conclusions should be that the Obama administration's pursuit of “resetting” relations with Russia is futile and its methods in doing so are contrary to U.S. interests and come at the priceless cost of harming good relationships with true allies.

• Woolsey is chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former CIA director. Heinrichs is an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former manager of the Congressional Missile Defense Caucus.

Read in Investors Business Daily

Issues:

Iran Russia