U.S. anti-missile plans: A concession to Moscow?
President Obama’s decision to abandon plans to deploy elements of missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic may have a plethora of reasons, but it seems that in Europe it is primarily perceived as a concession to the Russians. After all, Moscow has always opposed these plans, which it considered a threat to its nuclear deterrence capability.
If Obama’s decision is, indeed, a concession to Moscow, the U.S., in response, would definitely like to receive Russia’s support in exercising pressure on Iran. Should this be the case, this calculation is unjustified.
Essentially, Moscow is not interested in a tough approach toward Iran, with whom it has lucrative commercial contacts. Moreover, Moscow does not have serious influence on Tehran in the bilateral relations, like the distribution of the Caspian energy resources, let alone Iranian uranium enrichment program.
The utmost it can do in response, would most likely be a symbolic gesture. Something ostentatious and preferably verbal, like the Russian Foreign Ministry’s recent condemnation of the Iranian president’s denial of the Holocaust.
Notably, U.S. position on missile defense per se has not fundamentally changed. With the changing architecture of the missile defense system, American commitment to the idea of technological shield against ballistic missiles remains basically unshakable. This can not but be understood in Moscow that is now appears to be deprived of the argument, but not of the problem.
As for the Iranians, they will undoubtedly proceed with their nuclear program. Moreover, with US missile defense details revealed, Iran might be even tempted to accelerate their work on long-range missiles. Anyway, from the Iranian standpoint, Obama’s decision should mean that U.S. strategists de facto concede to the inevitability of nuclear-armed Iran.
Therefore, strategically – neither with respect to the Iranian plans, nor with regard to Moscow’s willingness to work more closely with the U.S. on Iran – Washington’s decision is hardly relevant. Most certainly, as a gesture of public policy, Obama’s decision is not likely to remain without any consequences. At least, it puts the politicians in Russia in a difficult position. Hypothetical US anti-missiles in Eastern Europe were portrayed by the Kremlin as a looming threat to Russian security.
Now Moscow will have to replace this ostensible threat with something equally conducive for the propaganda purposes of domestic consumption. Maybe this time it will even be a real security problem. Yet, whatever it might be, the odds are it will not be Iranian nukes