Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nuclear blackmailing and frustrated foreign ministers

General Campbell, the Commander of the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville, Alabama said there is “a sprint to longer range missiles” by U.S. adversaries, particularly Iran, Syria and North Korea. This sprint made it imperative that an interceptor site in Europe be quickly constructed. Campbell continued by describing ballistic missiles in Iranian hands as leverage for blackmail. This reminded me of the board game “Risk”: your mission is to liberate X countries of your choice, the words "occupy" or "invade" are not used. The bad guys use their missiles for blackmailing, the own arsenal serves purely defensive purposes. Why bother trying to see the problem from the other's perspective?

House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt take a completely different position. He said that the threat emanating for the United States from ballistic missiles from “rogue states” has been decreasing during the last 20 years. He explained furhter that

[…] today, the world has fewer missiles than 20 years ago; fewer states are carrying out missile programs, and there are fewer enemy missiles targeted at the United States. He emphasized that fewer countries are developing long-range ballistic missiles than 20 years ago, and they are technically inferior. This fully applies to Iran.
A RIA Novosti report on the difficulties connected to the establishment of the European GMD bases concludes that it is becoming obvious that the United States will not start the deployment of its missile defense system under President Bush. Indicatively, this issue was not on the agenda of his farewell trip to Europe.

Meanwhile the Czech Foreign Karel Schwarzenberg connected his political future with the ratification of the deployment agreement. He said in an interview with Reuters, that if the deal does not go ahead, "I would have to go to the prime minister and hand in my resignation." Schwarzenberg seems also to be disappointed that the negotiations with Poland are bogged down. On June 11 he said that the interceptors could be installed elsewhere, for example “on a ship in the Baltic or the Northern Sea. They could be in one of the Baltic countries.” It is highly unlikely that the United States are in a position to not only start from scratch but rather conclude negotiations with a Baltic country during the lame duck phase. It will be interesting to see if Schwarzenberg sticks to his word and resigns if there will be no progress until the end of the year.

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