Monday, September 21, 2009

Missle Defense Aftermath

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Saturday lashed out at critics of a new missile defense plan for Europe and insisted it was not a concession to Russia, as some charge. This is something that Senator John McCain, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, accused the plan to be. Since when is making concessions a crime? Well, we already know for some time how McCain prefers to solve conflicts. Maybe he should take a conflict resolution class to learn that making concessions is neither a taboo nor a capital sin. Anyhow, I digress, let’s get back to business:

Concession or not, shortly after President Obama announced his decision to scrap plans to base the missile defense components in Poland and the Czech Republic, it was reported that Russia will abandon plans to deploy Iskander SRBMs in Kaliningrad. Luckily some people in Russia are not as narrow-minded as certain U.S. senators.

Two days before President Obama made his announcement rumors came up that Russia and the United States might cooperate on the Gabala Radar Station. While this idea has been under discussion for already some time and was only recycled, the rumor mill has also something new to offer. NTI’s Global Security Newswire reported on September 14:

Recent news reports have indicated that the Obama administration is considering Israel as one alternative location if it chooses not to pursue the planned deployment of missile interceptors in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic. Some U.S. systems might remain in Israel after the two nations conduct a joint missile defense exercise scheduled for October, the Jerusalem Post reported last week.
A senior U.S. State Department official hinted that reports of plans to deploy missile defenses in Israel might be incorrect. They might be incorrect? A strong refusal sounds differently.

Even though the original missile defense plans for Europe were scrapped, this does not mean Washington will limit itself to the Vandenberg Air Force Base and Fort Greely. Under Obama's new plan, the United States would initially deploy ships with missile interceptors and in a second phase would field land-based defense systems. To “tip the balance back just slightly towards the wonky”, make sure to read Joshua Pollacks post “Testing European Missile Defense” over at the Arms Control Wonk.

Picture © Reuters

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Game Over Press Start to Continue – Obama Scraps European Missile Defense Plans

I can end the time of silence with a bang. You probably have already heard the big new: US President Barack Obama has shelved plans for controversial bases in Poland and the Czech Republic in a major overhaul of missile defense in Europe.

Make sure to read NTI’s great article on the issue. For those of you who are more visually oriented, you can also watch president Obama’s announcement here.

Barack Obama received much kudos for his decision politicians and from press. Here are some examples from Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Obama’s decision is a promising signal to solve the problems with Russia. Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier lauded the step and stressed that there is a new chance to discuss the issue of missile defense in Europe once again with all partners. The daily Sueddeutsche described the decision to shelve the plans as an act of courage, willingness to take risks and decisiveness. The German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung lauded the style how the U.S. approached his allies.

Take this as a brief appetizer. I will write more on this issue tomorrow.