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Why Central Europe Needs Atlanticism Now

A Must Read article in The American Interest by A. Wess Mitchell, President of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington DC and Jan Havranek, Director of the Defense Policy and Strategy Division at the Czech Ministry of Defense, who writes in his personal capacity.

Although the piece is specifically addressed to US readers and calls for more American leadership, European students of history (of all ages) should read it, including those government officials and politicians in Germany and elsewhere who claim to think beyond the next four years.

"In short, it isn't just Atlanticism that is in crisis; it is the entire paradigm of post-Cold War Europe. The fact that Central European countries are less Atlanticist has not necessarily made them more Europeanist. On the new European map, economic power resides in the east-central core of the continent, in the nexus of overlapping geopolitical and economic interests between Germany and the states of the Baltic-to-Black Sea corridor. This configuration resembles the Mitteleuropa of Bismarck, stripped of its Prussian military overtones, more than it does the federative European vision of Monnet and Schuman, or the Atlanticist vision of Asmus and Vondra. (...)

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Sarkozy pilots Middle East cease-fire talks, fills US power vacuum

Israel’s land invasion continues with the Jewish state showing little sign it is ready to negotiate a truce.  While Hamas has indicated it is prepared to begin negotiations, Israel does not intend to sit at the table with Hamas in any future negotiations, reports Haaretz:
Israel will instead seek separate agreements with moderate Arab states, with the Palestinian Authority and with the international community.

"The international community will initiate the agreements and will impose it on Hamas," [a Haaretz] source said. "The agreements will be with both the PA and Egypt and then if Hamas will not agree it will pay the price, mostly by even greater [diplomatic] isolation."
Despite disallowing signals from Israel about the prospects of their short-term success, the ever-ambitious Sarkozy is taking advantage of the US power vacuum to assume diplomatic leadership in the talks, hoping to capitalize on France’s controversially reinvigorated ties with Syria, Time reports:   
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NATO foreign ministers meeting press round-up

NATO foreign ministers gathered in Brussels on December 2 for a two-day meeting.  The full final communiqué released by NATO can be found here

The ministerial focused primarily on the future of NATO enlargement (particularly Ukraine and Georgia), US plans for missile defense in Europe, relations with Russia (strongly related to the previous two issues), and ongoing operations (mostly on Afghanistan and to a lesser degree Kosovo). Here is a roundup of articles that address the key outcomes of the ministerial:

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Obama and Missile Defense

A week after declaring his intentions to position Iskander tactical missiles in Kaliningrad region in response to US missile defense plans for Europe, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev lays out his terms (Reuters):
But we are ready to abandon this decision to deploy the missiles in Kaliningrad if the new American administration, after analyzing the real usefulness of a system to respond to 'rogue states', decides to abandon its anti-missile system.

We are ready to negotiate a 'zero option'. We are ready to reflect on a system of global security with the United States, the countries of the European Union and the Russian Federation.
Obama can expect pull in the other direction by the US Missile Defense Agency, whose outgoing Director Lt. Gen. Trey Obering argues missile defense technology may be farther along than the President-Elect believes (CNNPolitics.com):
Our testing has shown not only can we hit a bullet with a bullet, we can hit a spot on the bullet with a bullet. The technology has caught up.  What we have discovered is, a lot of those folks that have not been in this administration seem to be dated in terms of the program. They are kind of calibrated back in the 2000 timeframe.
Jeff Lindemyer links to two articles that offer a view of what Obama’s stance on missile defense was during the campaign at Nukes of Hazard.

See also from Atlantic Review:
* Is Russia a Superpower?  Cold War II?
* United States and Poland Agree on Missile Defense Deal
* Georgia Conflict Gives Boost to European Missile Defense Talks

Is Russia a Superpower? Cold War II?

Ronald Steel, professor of international relations at the University of Southern California, argues that Russia's strong hand against Georgia signals that, “A Superpower Is Reborn” (NYT):
THE psychodrama playing out in the Caucasus is not the first act of World War III, as some hyperventilating politicians and commentators would like to portray it. Rather, it is the delayed final act of the cold war. And while the Soviet Union lost that epic conflict, Russia won this curtain call in a way that ensures Washington will have to take it far more seriously in the future.

This is not just because, as some foreign-policy “realists” have argued, Moscow has enough troops and oil to force us to take into consideration its supposedly irrational fears. Rather, the conflict in Georgia showed how rational Russia’s concerns over American meddling in its traditional sphere of influence are, and that Washington had better start treating it like the great power it still is.
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United States and Poland Agree on Missile Defense Deal

From the New York Times:
The United States and Poland reached a long-stalled deal on Thursday to place an American missile defense base on Polish territory, in the strongest reaction so far to Russia’s military operation in Georgia.

Russia reacted angrily, saying that the move would worsen relations with the United States that have already been strained severely in the week since Russian troops entered separatist enclaves in Georgia, a close American ally.
I wonder how far Russia-West relations will spiral?  We may continue to see a tit-for-tat exchange that has real consequences on the institutions and defense postures that govern these delicate relations.  From EU Observer:
The US missile deal had an instant impact on already fragile Polish-Russian relations, with Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, cancelling a scheduled trip to Warsaw in September as soon as media reported the initialling ceremony would take place.

"It is this kind of agreement, not the differences between the US and Russia over South Ossetia, which could lead to a real rise in the tension in Russian-American relations," the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee chairman, Konstantin Kosachev, told Interfax.

The US-Russia deal "cannot go unpunished" Russian general, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, said. "Poland, by deploying [the missiles] is exposing itself to a strike - 100 percent."
See also from Atlantic Review:
* Georgia Conflict Gives Boost to European Missile Defense Talks
*
Euro-Missile Talks Are Back, Leaving "New Europe" Behind

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. 

Euro-Missile Talks Are Back, Leaving "New Europe" Behind

After months of pitfalls and procrastination, talks have picked up again on the placement of US missile defense sites in the Czech Republic and Poland – and negotiations are not getting any easier for the United States. The NYT reports:

The new [Polish] government apparently intends to press the United States to pay for creating, maintaining and protecting the system and to modernize Poland’s air defense capacities by providing Patriot missiles. “The new Polish government is prepared to drive a hard bargain because much is at stake if this system goes ahead,” said Tomas Valasek, director of defense at the Center for European Reform, an independent research agency in London . “Poland wants security guarantees from the U.S. since it is not convinced NATO would provide that guarantee. This means the U.S. putting boots on the ground in Poland but also helping Poland to upgrade its air defenses.”

What I find interesting is that Europe is supposed to benefit from the missile shield, and yet is now demanding more money and goodies from the US to secure European support.

The harder line by the new Polish government is not a surprise, but nonetheless will increase uncertainty for a project that is already facing domestic opposition in Europe, official opposition from Russia, and is not too popular among Democrats in Congress either – all this during a US election year. Congress is wary about expanding missile defense systems based in large part on high costs and frequent let-downs in the technology. According to a recent report by the reputable non-partisan Congressional Budget Office:

Carrying out current plans would cause total investment costs for missile defenses to peak in 2016 at about $15 billion [per year] (excluding cost risk), CBO projects, and then decrease, as systems finished the procurement phase and became operational. This peak occurs about three years later than that projected by CBO in October 2005 because of delays in several major programs, as discussed below. If cost risk is taken into account, DoD’s projected investment needs for missile defenses might be about $3 billion higher each year.

The new Euro-missile sites in the Czech and Poland are alone estimated to cost roughly $18 billion between 2007-2017.

I wonder if Poland's harder line signals the death of Rumsfeld’s unequivocally pro-American "New Europe"?  The US appears willing to entertain Polish demands for now, with a Pentagon spokesman stating, "Because of [Poland's special relationship with the U.S.], we believe that we can overcome whatever differences may exist on this issue very quickly."   However, there is definitely a notable reticence to back US missile defense plans from the new Polish government that was not found in its predecessor.