The Blog

Moscow Better than Obama on Missile Defense?

9:53 AM, Aug 27, 2009 • By JAMIE FLY
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Despite the fantasy propagated by the left that missile defense does not work and that it creates instability by undermining deterrence, even countries critical of some aspects of the U.S. missile defense system, such as Russia, see the utility in deploying their own missile defense systems. As Reuters reports, "Russia has deployed a missile defence system near its border with North Korea and is studying other measures to protect its population from stray missiles."

The Russian Far East is within striking distance of Pyongyang's missiles, and given the North Korean missile program's less than stellar record of success, Moscow's concern about North Korean missiles raining down on Russian territory is understandable.

Despite Russian belligerence about U.S. plans to place a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic and ten interceptors in Poland, since the mid-90s, it has used a missile defense system to defend Moscow. Russian leaders understand that missile defenses are necessary, they just don't like the extension of the U.S. system to its doorstep.

The Bush administration made repeated attempts to pursue U.S.-Russian cooperation on missile defense to counter the threat from Iran. But the Obama administration now seems to believe that it will have more success than President Bush did because relations have been "reset" with Moscow. This is the audacity of hope; Moscow has shown no indication it shares the U.S. concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

That said, perhaps cooperation in Asia, through a jointly manned radar and increased information sharing on North Korea's missile program, offers a more rational start to a cooperative U.S.-Russian relationship on missile defense. This doesn't mean giving up on the proposed European missile defense sites; rather, the administration should proceed with European missile defense but attempt to build confidence with Moscow by attempting to cooperate elsewhere, where there is more consensus regarding the threat.

This would require President Obama to rethink his proposed cuts to the missile defense budget and put some distance between himself and his cohorts on the left who continue to insist that missile defense is a colossal waste of money. The likelihood that the president will follow this path is admittedly small, but so are the odds that the administration's chosen approach to Russia on missile defense will succeed.