It was something I was hoping against hope for – that upon his accession to power, Obama would pull back from Bush’s ridiculous US missile defence shield. At the very least he’s put it under immediate review, and now Russia in return is rightly pulling back from its front line of what had been a looming second Cold War:
Russia today announced it was abandoning plans to deploy nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in its European Kaliningrad outpost – a sign that Moscow wants improved relations with the new US administration.
Defence officials said the Kremlin’s proposals to station short-range missiles in the small Baltic territory next to Poland had been “suspended”.
The move followed Barack Obama’s decision to review the Pentagon’s controversial missile defence shield in central Europe.
The Kremlin has been incensed by the Bush administration’s plans to site missile interceptors and radar bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Moscow believes the plan upsets Europe’s strategic nuclear balance and targets Russia, but the Bush administration insisted it was intended to defend against a threat from Iran.
Obama has not yet decided whether to press ahead with the scheme or to abandon it, although indications suggest he is sceptical about its value.
Today’s Russian move can be interpreted as a Kremlin olive branch to the new US team and a tactic to put pressure on Obama to scrap the shield.
We can only hope that they are successful. It was always preposterious that the ‘shield’ should be located on the edge of the former Soviet Union’s territory, if it were supposed to be a bulwark against Iranian or Middle Eastern aggression. I mean if Iraq is a de facto colonial outpost why not stage the infrastructure there? It also presumed that Ahmadinejad is a fool, which he may be in his rhetoric, but not in his strategic behaviour. Any country in that area which shoots a missile at European territory (or further) would be met with a chilling military response. The fear isn’t an Iranian nuke on a ballistic missile – it’s that it would be contained in a suitcase, which is why Obama’s immediate diplomatic moves towards Iran are so smart.