Upsetting the Reset

Last week, the Federation of American Scientists released “Upsetting the Reset: The Technical Basis of Russian Concern Over NATO Missile Defense” [.pdf]. The introduction includes a recurring theme of the Bush-Obama years:

In September 2009, the Obama administration discarded its predecessor’s European missile defense initiative that called for powerful ground-based interceptors (GBIs) in Poland with a large radar site in the Czech Republic. … Some Russian critics characterized them as threatening because they could potentially be re-engineered to be offensive nuclear-tipped missiles.Remember when Putin seized the North Pole? This bear won't forget.

The Obama administration instead proposed the new European Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA), presented as a more flexible alternative based on the roughly ten times smaller SM-3 interceptors. …

The shelving of the original plan was initially greeted with much optimism as it was seen as the first step in “resetting” bilateral relations with Russia, which had suffered under the George W. Bush administration. It allowed the discussions of New START to get off the ground and cleared the way for greater cooperation on areas of common concern, such as addressing the possible military dimension of the Iranian nuclear program.

Over the last two years – as details and analysis of the PAA plan have emerged – Russian officials have voiced increasing concern about its scope and implications for Russia’s strategic deterrent forces.

How dare they! With popular villain big bad Vlad on his way back to the Kremlin, expect a surge in stories about Russian paranoia and expansionism.

In Delusions Begin Responsibilities

Today’s Viewpoints section featured “The Delusion of Missile Defense” by Yousaf Butt. A sample:

Last week marked the two-year anniversary of President Obama’s announcement of what was to be a radical new approach to missile defense — the Phased Adaptive Approach. According to this plan, the United States, working with NATO, would ramp up the deployment of a mix of increasingly sophisticated sea- and land-based missile interceptors around Europe in an attempt to guard against future Iranian missiles.

If there’s one issue that still enjoys bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress these days, it’s that cooperating with Russia on this defensive system would be a swell idea. Contain Iran and strengthen ties with Russia: surely a win-win. Unfortunately, missile defense will neither contain Iran nor strengthen ties with Russia. To the contrary, it will lead to more nuclear weapons and a more dangerous world. …

Chinese concerns about U.S. missile defense systems are a source of great uncertainty, reducing Chinese support for promoting negotiations on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). China’s leaders may wish to maintain the option of future military plutonium production in response to U.S. missile defense plans.

Today, Dr. Butt sent me this note:

V.P. Biden needs to talk to Senator Biden:

“But nothing could be more damaging to global nonproliferation efforts than to go forward with Star Wars. Russia has enough offensive weapons to overwhelm any system we could devise, so the real issue is what happens in China and throughout Asia.
Remember when the Missile Defense Agency was dhimmified?
“China currently possesses no more than two dozen ICBMs. Our own intelligence services estimate that moving forward with national missile defense could trigger a tenfold increase in China’s expansion of its nuclear capability. And that doesn’t take into account likely Chinese behavior if an arms race ensues, something many experts argue is inevitable when both India and Pakistan respond as expected by ratcheting up their nuclear programs.”

That quotation is from a December 2001 op-ed by then-Sen. Joseph Biden titled, appropriately enough, “Missile Defense Delusion.”

I just hope the administration has finally put Frank Gaffney’s mind at ease.

Medvedev’s ‘Tough Guy Act’

According to CBS, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s first six months in office have contradicted the “liberal” reputation he (apparently) had when he was first elected. Maybe it’s a shock to some that one can be “soft spoken” and never have been a KGB spook and yet still, as president, look out of the interests of one’s country. But the examples given for Medvedev’s alleged illiberalism don’t hold water.

Opposition to missile defense? Nearly everyone with a clue is opposed to the US basing a missile defense system, especially one that does not even work, in Poland and the Czech Republic. Being a liberal in either the contemporary American or the classical sense doesn’t preclude opposing US imperial ambitions, anyhow.

Criticizing the US financial system? Hasn’t everyone all the way up to our own president done so by now? Economists have been warning of a collapse for years and classical liberals have been warning about bubbles since before anyone alive on this planet was born. This is hardly a “continu[ation]” of “Cold War rhetoric” on Medvedev’s part.

Georgia. Please. I think any journalist who would like to remain credible at this point should just recognize that Georgia did indeed begin the August conflict, and not desperately reach for something, anything with which to bludgeon Russia — even for filler in a weak hit piece. Really, if all you have is that Russia “used excessive force against Georgia” — not at all an objectively measurable statement — you simply must shut up.

And then, oh no! Russia sends a warship to Venezuela. Somehow, the completely insignificant country of Venezuela has become the boogeyman not just of the right wing, but of the mainstream as well. You don’t have to be a fan of that Chávez clown to be confused by all the wasted breath over a government with no choice but to sell Bush’s America its oil. That Russia wants to add a little luster to its rusty, crumbled image does not make Medvedev suddenly anti-liberal.

No, it’s not Medvedev’s image as a liberal that is in doubt — if it ever existed. It’s CBS’s as a significant source of original journalism. This frivolous, vacuous bit of tripe doesn’t belong on a news page. For more sophisticated analysis of Russia and its foreign (and domestic) policy, I suggest War Nerd.