ROAR: New bargaining looms as US scraps missile shield plan

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
The US has decided to shelve the missile defense shield in Europe, but Russia will have to pay a price for this, analysts say.

Many observers believe that the US decision is a victory for Russian foreign policy. Moscow had insisted from the beginning that the radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland were aimed against Russia, rather than the so-called “rogue states”.

Aleksey Makarkin, vice president of the Center for Political Technologies, believes this “might not be a victory, but it is a success.” “They will connect the success with the name of Medvedev, because he is negotiating with Obama,” Makarkin said.

At the same time, “if there are victors, then there will be losers,” he was quoted by Gazeta daily as saying. “But in this case one cannot talk about someone’s defeat.”

Aleksandr Konovalov, president of the Russian Institute of Strategic Assessments, also believes that the overhaul of the US plans was not “someone’s victory, but a concession to common sense.”

“It seems that the US administration has recognized the obvious thing,” Konovalov told Komsomolskaya Pravda radio. The decision was based on good judgment, he added. “It had been proposed to deploy a very ineffective, badly tested system, the effectiveness of which so far is questionable and which was directed against a threat that does not exist,” he said.

The US plans for missile defense in Europe were the main obstacle in achieving agreements on many issues. Russia had said that it would be ready to reduce strategic offensive arms only if the missile defense shield was not deployed in Europe, Konovalov said. “These are decisions that we want to be linked to each other,” he added. Now the possibility of the new agreement on strategic arms has increased, he said.

“The news about the overhaul of the US plans has been received with cautious optimism in Moscow,” Kommersant daily wrote. This may be explained by the fact that it is still unclear what will replace the missile system, the paper added.

“Now, Russia should make the next step,” Kommersant said. “Moreover, Washington has already made it clear what it wants in exchange for abandoning missile defense [in Europe],” the daily wrote.

“Americans insist on our stopping deliveries of S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Iran and supporting a tough UN Security Council resolution on sanctions against Tehran, which is being prepared,” the paper quoted an anonymous source at the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying.

The US administration’s decision was caused by a number of reasons, Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine, believes. One reason is that the US is taking into consideration Moscow’s stance, he said.

“In this sense, the approach of the Obama administration considerably differs from that of the Bush administration, which did not even take notice of Russia’s objections,” Lukyanov wrote on website.

“There is also an economic reason, connected with the crisis and the need to economize funds and not to spend them on expensive programs that do not have a clear perspective,” he said.

Aleksey Mukhin, general director of the Center for Political Information, also thinks the Americans had to make this decision because of a lack of funds. “They put a good face on things in this case,” Mukhin told RT.

He believes that the problem has not been solved yet. “Certain procedures are needed for the denunciation of agreements between Washington and its East European allies,” Mukhin said. “Even the statement of the US president is not enough,” he added.

At the same time, the US administration is testing public opinion on this issue, especially in Poland and the Czech Republic, Mukhin said. “In fact, shelving the missile defense shield on territories of these countries damages their images,” the analyst said. The governments in Warsaw and Prague have failed to put their peoples “under the protection of US arms,” Mukhin explained.

The governments of these countries urged the US to not only deploy elements of missile defense and other infrastructure, but also to help upgrade their military systems, Mukhin said. The refusal to shelve the missile defense shield entails reducing the level of security in these countries, he added. “The decision may also damage the US’s image in Central Europe too,” Mukhin said. “In fact, Washington has betrayed their allies,” he added.

Americans have an interesting tactic, Mukhin continued. They create a problem, and then by “solving it”, they force other countries to make concessions, he said.

“Now Obama has announced the new US strategic aim – to postpone the deployment of missile defense until better times,” Mukhin said. This may help Americans in their attempts to make Russia yield in a number of other issues, Mukhin agreed with other analysts. They may include the Iran nuclear dossier, and several projects in the oil and gas sphere, he added.

Lukyanov, in turn, also believes the US will now wait for Russia’s steps regarding the Iran issue, which may become “a point of tension” in bilateral relations. This overhaul may have a positive effect on Russian-US relations, “but scrapping plans for deploying elements of missile defense in Europe does not mean scrapping the whole project,” Lukyanov said. “This alone is a strong reason for disagreements.”

The change of the US administration’s stance has not come as a surprise – “there have been increasing signals in last months,” the analyst said. But one should not wait “for revolutionary moves regarding the change of Russia’s position in the Iran issue,” Lukyanov added. “As a result, the US may feel itself deceived and disappointed.”

Many analysts believe that it is premature to say that the disagreement between Russia and the US over missile defense is over. “Now Americans may start using the permanent threat of deploying elements of missile defense in Europe,” Mukhin said.

However, it no longer seems that the Kremlin considers this problem “a priority,” Mukhin believes. That means that the Russian authorities will not act as Americans want, he said.

“Russia should solve this problem with the European Union, not the US, because the missile defense was to be deployed on the territory of EU countries,” he stressed. The Russian leadership seems to have turned this direction, he added.

The change in US stance opens up ways of solving other problems of Russian-US relations: “The US will wait for Russia’s concessions on the strategic arms reduction,” said Aleksey Arbatov, head of the Center of International Security at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations.