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Georgia Conflict Gives Boost to European Missile Defense Talks

A poll by Opinion Research Corporation finds a strong majority of Americans support missile defense, as reported by Market Watch:
A national poll released today revealed that 87 percent of the American Public believes that the United States should have a missile defense system. The public survey showed that 58% of the American Public thinks that there is a real threat from missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction and that missile defense is the preferred option over pre-emptive military action or diplomatic efforts for dealing with the proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction by nation states.
This is an astonishingly high number considering the broad opposition to missile defense in Europe, and the reluctance to embrace it by several leading Democrats, including Barack Obama.

It will be interesting to see if Russia’s intervention into Georgia will increase or decrease European support for US systems.  Initial reports suggest Russia’s actions have provoked a renewed sense of urgency into recently stagnant negotiations between Poland and the United States.  According to the Financial Times:
Talks on building part of a US missile defence shield on Polish soil restarted on Wednesday, with Polish officials sending much more positive signals than recently, in part because of fears awakened by the Russian attack on Georgia.

The fighting between Russia and Georgia appears to have made the benefits of having a permanent US troop presence on Polish soil more apparent to Warsaw. US negotiators are also interested in strengthening security ties with Poland.
Talks stalled over Polish demands that the US beef up Polish domestic defenses, including with expensive Patriot interceptors, in order to place US missile defense systems on Polish territory.  However, Polish political leaders argue that Russia’s intervention against Georgia has provided substance to its demands, as reported by the Associated Press:
Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Tuesday the attacks in Georgia justified Poland's demand for additional security guarantees if it accepts a U.S. installation.

"The increase in international tension that we are dealing with now, but which we had not expected, makes the security guarantees ... an issue even more important than before," [Polish Foreign Minister] Sikorski said.
Russia has strongly opposed US missile defense systems based in Poland and the Czech Republic, which it sees as a security threat.  It is interesting that Russia's incursion into Georgia has emboldened Poland and the United States to push forward with missile defense plans, rather than making them “think twice” before moving ahead with the controversial project. 


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SC on :

87% favor it? Quite large but this has been building for some time now. Together with continued technological advances, the follow on sentence explains it mostly (people never liked MAD as a doctrine) but leaves out the most important part: most discussions in the US don't present missile defense as a panacea to shield against an assault by a full-on nuclear strike by Russia or China but rather accidental launches or actions by a country like North Korea, for example, the range of whose missiles continues to increase and whose leadership seems a bit unattractive and unpredictable. There may also another sobering possible factor in this: the US public may be making a market-like judgment and just might be discounting the future of nonproliferation. Not much positive has been said about this in recent years particularly with Pakistan already nuclear and unstable, and Iran straining for the golden ring.

Kyle on :

"most discussions in the US don't present missile defense as a panacea to shield against an assault by a full-on nuclear strike by Russia or China..." Agreed. Another article I considered citing was titled "Missile Defense is Necessary" by VOA. It quoted: "At a recent Pentagon briefing, U.S. Lieutenant General Henry Obering, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, said the ballistic missile threat continues to proliferate around the world. "Access to these weapons," General Obering said, "has increased over the past many years and, in fact, two countries that we're very much concerned about – [include] specifically North Korea and Iran and the developments that they are continuing to make in their missiles."" With the understanding that 10 interceptors cannot stop a Russian nuclear strike, I have had trouble justifying Russia's accusations that it is a threat to their security. I have heard two arguments that do not fully pursuade me: 1) Russia is looking forward to a world with less nukes, and as the numbers get smaller the US will be able to simultaneously take out the bulk of Russia's strike capability, and use a small number of intereceptors to stop wahtever else Russia has left to shoot. 2) The US could easily use these ten interceptors to expand to more in the future.

SC on :

Russia's concerns a valid regarding the scaling up issue - in theory. But, realistically, the engineering to construct a missile defense shield against the kind of strike that Russia or potentially China could mount assumes technology not in existence or likely to exist any time soon. The irony in the arithmetic you cite is that limited missile defense ought to _strengthen_ not weaken nonproliferation efforts by reducing the value of small ballistic missile programs, like those that a North Korea or Iran might develop: Why bear the expense and hassle with sanctions and counter proliferation programs when the end result will be a system with no credibility?

E.J on :

I think the Missile Defence System is really a good thing for Europe if it is not aiming at initiate a new round of military competition. I understand why US advocate TMD and NMD, He desperate for US superiority in militray sphere. US want to woo EU to provide gigantic money for the said Missile Defence System. Missile Defence System is useful for EU to face conventional and no-conventional security issues. But it is far from strategic tool for EU to deal with Russia. a psychal weapon at best! I'am glad to see Russia had punish Georgia and restrain from escalation. Since Georgia agree to retreat from south Ossetie and respect their former commitments. There is no need go on with such military operation there. I do hope Russia can carry out an independent investigation on Georgia army and Georgia governor's atrocity in South Ossetie and bring justice to Caucasia people. I appeal all the western people to respect south Ossetie and Abkhaz people's self-determination. We should not sacrifice justice and conscience for West's geopolitic interests. Deterrence against Russia is not(should not be) the only goal for us . We once made blunders in Zimbabwe. For decades We tolerate atrocity (by colonial British and white racists) there to flatter Britain's egotism. Should we ask ourselves why Mugabee was widely respected in Africa for decades. Maybe we should confess our sins and make necessary compensation ,before export our beliefs (like democracy & freedom) to Africa. As far as i know , Western powers hypocritical play earns no appluse in Africa.

SC on :

Well Kyle, looks like your article is on point, but apparently more than missiles are in play. AP has a story announcing the future placement of Patriot batteries in Poland: But the really interesting thing to note is this part of the story: --------------------------------------------------- Speaking in an interview televised on news channel TVN24, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the United States had agreed to help augment Poland's defenses with Patriot missiles in exchange for placing 10 missile defense interceptors in the eastern European country. "We have crossed the Rubicon," he said, referring to U.S. consent to meet Poland's demands. Tusk said the agreement was initialed by negotiators late Thursday in Warsaw and includes a "mutual commitment" between the two nations — beyond that of NATO — to come to each other's assistance in case of danger. "Poland and the Poles do not want to be in alliances in which assistance comes at some point later — it is no good when assistance comes to dead people. Poland wants to be in alliances where assistance comes in the very first hours of — knock on wood — any possible conflict," Tusk said. --------------------------------------------------- The devil is in the details, of course, but a bilateral security agreement like this is a potentially big shoe to drop. The ABM system under consideration was no threat to Russia as you've skeptically noted. However, you do realize what these agreements could mean, right? I'm sure the Russian Federation's general staff does. Putin growled at the mere prospect of just an ABM system in Poland. What now?

Kyle on :

I think this is big. I just put another brief post up about it, but did not cover the details. I think you hit the nail on the head, identifying one of the biggest issues (at least most contentious within the Alliance) is going to be a bilateral security agreement between Poland and the US. This is going to piss of other countries in Eastern Europe who will want such agreements, and potentially relegates NATO to a second-class act if we see more of these kinds of agreements pursued. Of course there is a big difference between a bilateral agreement not regulated by institutions, and NATO where diplomats meet everyday to hammer out joint political statements (and occasionally, even joint actions).

SC on :

Exactly right! This is a shot across a couple bows - including NATO, should anyone miss it. The US has been hinting at, and thinking about this for sometime now, and most thought it a distant possibility. Well, it sure looks a decision has been made. History might show that Tusk did not exaggerate in his reference to the Rubicon. (Quiz time, everyone. Q: What is the minimum distance between the Russian and Polish border? A: 0 miles) Again, depending on the details, redeployment out Iraq and Germany may bear watching. I don't know how pissed off other eastern countries will be, maybe less than one might think. Just the fact that the US is willing to go this far, might be reassuring. Besides, Poland really, really seems to have wanted it, and I'm not sure that others in that eastern European grouping are as committed. I'll bet the Russians didn't really think that this would happen in response to Georgia. Looks like Georgia is ushering a "new world". Thank you Mr. Putin. I sure hope everyone likes what they see.

John in Michigan, USA on :

This is interesting. One of the commenters over at National Review's "The Corner" blog [url=]proposed a much more modest penalty for Russian misconduct in Georgia[/url]. The idea was that the US would fully support the Ukrainian position that Russia should loose their Black Sea naval base in Sevastopol in 2017 when the lease expires, if not sooner. But if this announcement by Tusk turns out to be real (remember the agreement has only been "initialed"), a bi-lateral security agreement with Poland would go much further in punishing Russia (and they might loose Sevastopol anyway). Look, Russia needs to understand that the world is in a post-Imperial period. When the British lease on Hong Kong ended in 1997, they gave it up voluntarily, even though it was very painful for them. Another point of comparison is the US and the Philippines, compared to Russia and Georgia. When the People Power Revolution brought democracy to the Philippines, the question of the US bases on the Philippines was raised. After negotiations, it become clear they wanted us to leave. [i]We did, and it ended up strengthening the relationship between the US and the Philippines[/i], so that now they are comfortable inviting US Special Forces back into the Philippines to help them battle groups like Abu Sayyaf. To my Russian friends: this is how responsible great powers should behave. Show the smaller, democratic countries the respect they deserve, and they will respect the mutual interests that you and they have in common.

SC on :

That's correct, the agreement was initialed (wasn't Kyoto initialed by the US?) and is subject to the ratification at least in Poland. Nothing yet in stone with those "niggling" details yet to be made public. But Tusk's description of it is remarkable. The very fact that this has occurred shows the willingness of Washington to play diplomatic hardball, and serves to underscore - to everyone - their somewhat indistinct, if not muted, threats of further diplomatic consequences. Looks like some diplomats will have to put any summer vacation plans on hold.

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