Losing the Cold War stung Russian pride. Putin portrays himself as the man who revived respect for Russia. As part of the act, he consistently stokes Cold War embers, to include Soviet-era anti-Americanism. The militant theater panders to hardline nationalists and distracts critics of his corruption and cronyism. Thus Obama's quid for Putin's quo is as obvious as it is geo-strategically foolish, for the U.S., U.S. allies and, ultimately, for Russia, as well. Barack will give Vladimir an international diplomatic triumph; its domestic political dividends will strengthen Putin's personal power.
Missile defense is Putin's favorite Cold War ember. In the last decade, the U.S. and NATO have built the diplomatic and technological framework to deploy an anti-missile defense designed to stop an Iranian missile volley. Turkey agreed to host a key radar site. The multilayered shield is actually rather robust, though Obama weakened it in September 2009 when he eliminated ground-based interceptors (GBI) deployment. GBIs have anti-ICBM capabilities but were no counter-force to Russian strategic missiles.
Still, Russia objected. Obama dumped the GBIs, despite howls from U.S. ally Poland.
Would Khomeinist Iran try to politically blackmail Europe with a nuclear-armed ballistic missile? Japan and South Korea decided missile defense was a sane response to North Korea's nuclear extortion racket. Exposing London and Paris to the nuclear whims of millenarian religious nuts is utterly stupid diplomacy. Countering NATO's shield thus puts Iran's ayatollahs in political debt to Russia. Putin's Moscow prefers sphere of influence to a sphere of shared security.
Obama appears to have decided his re-election, with the aid of Putin, is more important than supporting U.S. allies and pursuing responsible collective security measures against rogue regimes. Hope and change? No. A self-centered politician's political security first. American security? Not so much.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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