The equation was simple to start with: The US considers Iran’s (and North Korea’s) missile and nuclear programme as a growing threat that can only be offset by deploying an anti-missile system in central Europe. Poland and the Czech Republic have been extra forthcoming to the US – not only because the two regard the US as an ally. Prague and Warsaw shared a deeper – reaching aim: to strengthen ties with Washington by not only ensuring a common security against the emerging Iranian threat, but, also by doubling the alliance’s security net against another threat – against one that still lives inside the public memory and relies on methods used by Moscow to spread its influence in central and eastern Europe.
Orbs, missiles and drums
No one said it out loud, but the strategic transaction was meant to go like this: We help you out with the Iranian threat and you send over a few dozen army officers and tell anyone who’d like to attack the Czech Republic or Poland that they’ll have to deal with you, too.
After Obama’s revision of the anti-missile defence programme, it’s obvious that this mutually beneficial deal will not go through. The Americans are saying that they can face any potential threat from Iran through other means. In other words, they are still keeping to their strategic aim, concerned about their side of the equation. Nonetheless, they can’t ignore the other side that the Czech Republic and Poland care about. In opposition to the radar orb and tens of anti-missile projectiles, Moscow came out with a drum roll last heard during the missile crisis 30 years ago. With Bush’s plans being redacted, will Kremlin’s growling die down? And, will Russia help out the US in pressuring Iran? And if not, won’t it be high time for another revision?
Although no one from those in Washington who explained the missile turn-around yesterday mentioned it, it hovered in the air: Won’t aficionados of Putin’s scenario regard Obama’s revision as prove that the hawk style pays off? Why should Moscow seal political deals with Washington when it can compel the latter into getting whatever it pleases? Once upon a time, Kremlin housed a ruler who, after meeting with John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Vienna, said that it will be easy to mould this whipster. Nikita Krushchev then went on to send missiles to Cuba. The Putin-Medvedev duo doesn’t have to be this radical, but Ukraine and Georgia’s worries are justified – maybe even the Baltics’, despite the fact that the trio is a NATO and EU member.
During his ascension, Barack Obama intentionally made many references to Kennedy’s legend. Although it’s been 20 years since the end of the Cold War, hopefully, we won’t need an version of the Cuban missile crisis when the current US president tries to prove to Moscow that they are wrong to judge him as weak following the missile-system turn-around. This sort of worry marks reactions in Europe, even in places where plans for building a radar didn’t sit well.
Those in Prague and Warsaw are most let down since they have invested in Bush’s plans. In turn, those who criticised them would make the biggest mistake to rejoice about their countries’ security.
Too small to barter
It’s been said more than often, but it’s necessary to repeat it: Czech politics suffer because its key players can’t agree on the national or state interest and cooperate to defend it. General talks about anchoring in Europe and about the transatlantic bond don’t mean anything unless they’re visible in every-day policies.
The former coalition endorsed the radar in Brdy without the ČSSD’s support, and, in return, the ČSSD traded backing for the mission in Afghanistan for doctors’ fees. A country like the Czech Republic can’t afford the luxury of treating the ensuring of security like a horse barter. Not even much larger countries can afford that. Hopefully, a repeat of the Cuban Missile Crisis won’t be needed for the US president to prove to Moscow that Russia is wrong to see him as weak.