The Bear Still Has Teeth – The Atlantic

closeup_RussianBearPosterTwoDISPATCH SEPTEMBER 28, 2009

As the Obama administration’s recent scrapping of plans for an Eastern European missile defense system makes clear, while Poland and the Czech Republic may be our allies, it is mighty Russia to whom we are wise to defer

by Robert D. Kaplan

The Bear Still Has Teeth

From a strategic perspective, the Obama Administration’s decision, earlier this month, to scrap America’s Poland- and Czech Republic -based missile defense plans in favor of a sea-based approach makes eminent sense. The new system will better protect America’s allies against Iranian missiles. Moreover, we need Russia’s cooperation on matters of geopolitical importance right now, and can’t afford to antagonize the country with new military bases in the midst of its perceived sphere of influence. But announcing our decision on the 70th anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Poland was a strategic communications failure—suggesting to Eastern Europe that it is once again being deserted by its allies and left to the mercies of the Russian bear.

Understandably, some Poles and Czechs reacted to Obama’s announcement with outrage. They’ve backed the United States in most of the wars and deployments of the past decade. Now their reward turns out to be continued exposure to the designs of Russia. Such a rebuke to trusted allies is bound to make not just the Baltic states, but other allies – like Israel—feel more lonely and isolated, thus increasing the chances of precipitate action, like an Israeli strike on Iran (which could be disastrous).

The Poles and Czechs were eager to host the missile defense system not so much because of concerns about a potential missile threat from Iran, but because U.S. military bases on their soil would give them diplomatic and psychological protection from Russia. For while it may be NATO’s mandate to provide such protection, the Poles and Czechs have little faith in NATO—composed as it is of pacifist-trending European nations. And in any case, Europe is compromised vis-à-vis Russia by its dependence on Russian natural gas.

via The Bear Still Has Teeth – The Atlantic (September 28, 2009) .

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Read the original story at Snow Report Blog.

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