Austin Bay

In an interview broadcast last week on a Kremlin-bankrolled television channel, Russian President Vladimir Putin re-introduced high-tech and high-stakes defense policy to the U.S. presidential election.

After assuring the audience that Russia will work "with whichever president is elected by the American people," Putin turned to the issue of missile defense and declared that if Mitt Romney became president, "the (U.S. and NATO) missile defense system will definitely be directed against Russia."

Putin then slipped in a plug for President Barack Obama's re-election, saying that "in principle" he and Obama could resolve U.S.-Russian missile defense (MD) disagreements. However, he opined that American militarists and "State Department" conservatives would limit Obama's ability to strike a deal.

Yes, Romney is a conservative warmonger and liberal Obama is an oh-so-sensible soul. Fits right into an old and slanderous frame tale. See, Ike was a golf-playing dummy and Adlai Stevenson, so eloquent and polished! Hack blarney. And for that matter, Cold War blarney repackaged.

Putin's plug may be the "space" (or quid pro quo) Obama requested last March in Seoul when an open mike inadvertently captured Obama telling then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that if Putin would give him (Obama) "space," he would have "more flexibility" on issues like MD "after my election."

However, the plug and re-introduction of MD as an issue comes at an awkward time. This Tuesday, Sept. 11, the 11th anniversary of 9-11, the highly respected National Research Council (of the National Academy of Sciences) released a detailed study of U.S. missile defense technology and plans.

The report is extensive (a pdf of the 239-page document is at, but the NRC believes the U.S. needs to upgrade and expand its force of Ground Based Mid-Course Defense interceptor missiles (GMDs, also know as GBIs, ground based interceptors). GMDs intercept in space, mid-course in a missile's flight. The Obama administration disdains GMDs and in September 2009 nixed their deployment in Poland as part of its "reset" of U.S.-Russia relations.

Obama's nix chagrined Poland. The NRC study recommends deploying GMDs on the U.S. East Coast. This would enhance North American defense against a North Korean and an Iranian missile attack but also provide some coverage for Europe -- in other words, truly sensible souls understand European MD must include long-range interceptors and sensors. That's buried in Chapter 3, where it says, "The engagements needed for regional (Europe) defense will in virtually all cases be in midcourse ... ."

Austin Bay

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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