Russia's Dmitry Medvedev, Poland's Lech Kaczynski, and America's Barack Obama
Russian authorities are happy, Czech and Polish officials feel as if they have been used and abused by the United States, and Republicans are outraged that President Obama has decided to scrap plans to build a missile defense in Eastern Europe. The stated purpose was to guard Europe against intimidation by a nuclear Iran, but Russia professed to feel threatened and encircled. Now, presumably, Russians don't feel threatened and Iranians feel liberated to move ahead with nuclear development.
But here is the real test of this decision: did the U.S. gain anything by it in terms of protection of Europe (and Israel) against Iranian nukes? The next few months will tell.
The USSR and the USA were strangely but truly united in working against nuclear proliferation for a couple of decades--the 70s and 80s. In my time as US ambassador to the UN Organizations in Vienna in the 1980s this was the one field of relations in which mutual cooperation was sincere and real. Indeed, the way in which the United States came closer to the USSR at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Ukraine in 1986 may be cited as a key turning point in the relationship that hastened "perestroika" and the thawing of the Cold War. The Soviets realized that we really didn't want to humiliate them, but only to help them deal with a real crisis. It led to a breakthrough that extended beyond the nuclear realm.
In those days the Soviets were clear that they did not want Iran to develop nuclear arms. Now, with the new Russian regime, oddly, the government's posture is not so sure. If the Russians really do think that Iran--snuggled right up against them--poses no nuclear danger, their leadership surely has lost its sense of long term strategy.
As is, it appears that the Obama Administration has managed to offend our Eastern European allies and to make a unilateral concession to Russian sensibilities. Maybe (as I believe) the missile system was over-rated and presented in a strangely maladroit manner. Still, it hardly makes sense to give it up for nothing in return.
But what if there is a background understanding between the White House and the Kremlin? If there is, and Russia comes around to joining Europe and the US in firmly opposing Iranian nuclear ambitions, it will be a major Obama accomplishment as well as a real "reset" of US-Russian relations.
If nothing is given in return, just more weapons sent from Russia to Iran, well, that will say something, too, won't it?
Think, meanwhile, of that recent, very quiet visit to Moscow by Israeli P.M., Benjamin Netanyahu. No comments were made by any of the participants.
Bruce Chapman, president of Discovery Institute, is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Organizations in Vienna (1985 - 1988) and a former Director of the United States Census Bureau (1981 - 1983).