Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Obama's "secret" proposal to Russia

The New York Times reports that
President Obama sent a secret letter to Russia’s president last month suggesting that he would back off deploying a new missile defense system in Eastern Europe if Moscow would help stop Iran from developing long-range weapons

It's hard to know exactly what to think about this situation. Was this just a type of trial balloon? What exactly does the Obama administration think the Russians can do about Iran? Who leaked the letter and why?

Taking this story at face value, I don't think using our missile defense system as a bargaining chip is a good idea, especially since it doesn't appear that Russia can actually deliver anything of equal value in exchange. As I have written before, unless a drastic change occurs within Iran, it is not going to give up its nuclear ambitions. Let's stop pretending that diplomacy is going to magically alter its committed national aspirations and start facing reality. Iran will eventually have nuclear weapons, and it already has various delivery systems. Our only option other than war -- which is simply not a realistic possibility -- is deterrence. Missile defense will be a particularly useful part of that deterrent effort. It's one thing to calculate a nuclear strike based on the threat of retaliation, but a defense system adds the possibility that your strike will also be ineffective -- i.e. you could face the consequences of launching an attack without even hitting a target.

I have no problem with the U.S. making deals with Russia, if necessary to improve our strategic position, or our position with regard to Iran in particular. But I do object to any attempt to sacrifice our missile defense. We should have had missile defense systems working and deployed years ago. That gaping hole in our defenses has been there far too long, and we shouldn't delay deployment based on something as minor as  some sort of nebulous "help" from Russia, regarding something they have no more control over than we do.

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