Moscow plays coy

So, Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama talk on the phone and agree that the U.S. and Russia need to do something about “stopping the drift in U.S.-Russian relations.”  According to the White House, “”The presidents agreed that, as they were both new leaders from a post-Cold War generation they have a unique opportunity to establish a fundamentally different kind of relationship between the two countries.”   Well, that’s nice, but age isn’t everything, and the suggestion that Obama and Medvedev — Putin’s appointed successor and Mini-Me — are two of a kind is a little iffy.  Still, the rhetoric is predictable.

Now, what about the practice?  Let’s see.  First, a leading Russian news agency reports that Russia is halting deployment of the Iskander missiles that were Medvedev’s post-election-day welcoming gift to Obama, as an “olive branch” in response to the Unew administration “not pushing ahead” with missile shield installation in Poland and the Czech Republic.  Then, the Kremlin doesn’t confirm the report and one anonymous official says it’s “pure fiction.”  And all this means… what?  Diplomacy á la Russe?

Of course, Russia’s “we’ll deploy short-range missiles on the Polish border if you go ahead with your missile interceptor systems” move was a blatantly stupid one in the first place, unless Russia wants the U.S. to go ahead with the missile shield deployment.  There was a widespread perception, even before the election, that Obama would not be as gung-ho about missile defense as Bush.  (Who’s right is another matter; while the bien pensant set often dismisses the idea of interceptors to defend against possible Iranian missiles as typical Bushian lunacy, NATO foreign ministers unanimously approved it last December.)  But after Medvedev’s threat, going back on the missile defense plan will make Obama look like he’s caving in to Russian missile-rattling.  The explicit linkage of the missile defense installations (which, even if directed at Russia, could at most neutralize 0.01% of Russia’s nuclear arsenal) and the Russian Iskanders will obviously make meaningful missile defense negotiations more difficult.  Whether Russia actually wants continued antagonism is anyone’s guess.

The amusing thing about the missile-rattling is that, so far, the Russians are rattling non-existent missiles.   Most experts believe they won’t have the industrial capacity to actually build and install them for years.  On, analyst Vladimir Tyomny notes (link in Russian) that “if it weren’t for Obama giving Russia a pretext for a supposedly peaceful initiative, the Ministry of Defense would have had to rack its brains trying to figure out how to deploy in front of the enemy something that we don’t have.”  Is the peace initiative on or off?  Will they deploy the phantom missiles or not?  Stay tuned!

(Cross-posted at


Filed under Barack Obama, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia

4 responses to “Moscow plays coy

  1. So, the Russians not having missiles justifies the United States being belligerent? When will idiots like you realize that American arrogance toward every country on the planet put you in the position you are in politically and economically? The United States cannot dig itself out alone. Either you cooperate with the rest of the world or you are going to be in over your head.

  2. THD

    The French and the italics are obnoxious; I read this on RCP and thought you would be 24 years old.

    As for the ad hominem of the previous commenter, Grant, I’d like to say in return and in defense of Ms. Young that his facial profile is one of the most hideous I’ve ever seen and is quite unknown to our species. Perhaps he is of a lesser order.

  3. Revenant

    The United States cannot dig itself out alone.

    I take it you missed the part where the missile shield deployment was unanimously approved by NATO? Could you explain how doing something with the agreement of twenty-five allied nations amounts to unilateral American action?

    Also, could you explain how a missile shield in Poland to protect against medium-range nuclear missiles is “belligerent”? All it does is (theoretically) prevent people from nuking western Europe. It doesn’t protect the United States; it doesn’t unbalance the MAD nuclear standoff in the sad event of such a thing once again being necessary. Preventing medium-range missile strikes against Europe is only “belligerence” if you assume that the ability to nuke western Europe is a good thing that should be encouraged. Which Russia quite possibly does, but sensible non-Russians certainly shouldn’t!

    Either you cooperate with the rest of the world or you are going to be in over your head.

    Cooperating with the rest of the world is not the same thing as cooperating with Russia. Russia is neither a democracy nor — aside from its nuclear arsenal — militarily, economically, or culturally significant to the rest of the world. It is widely hated by its neighboring states, largely because they’ve all been invaded by it in living memory. So it is simple, you see: the industrialized democracies of the world almost unanimously WANT missile-shield technology. The fact that this would limit Russia’s capacity for nuclear blackmail doesn’t make it a bad idea. In fact, it makes it a very good idea, so far as those countries are concerned.

    Anyway, one other quibble about the White House release:

    The presidents agreed that, as they were both new leaders from a post-Cold War generation they have a unique opportunity to establish a fundamentally different kind of relationship between the two countries.

    How does Obama qualify as being from “a post-Cold War generation”? When the Soviet Union collapsed he was thiry years old with a doctorate from Harvard. His entire childhood and education took during the Cold War. If he’s post-Cold War generation then Kennedy was post-WW2 generation, and he FOUGHT in the dang thing. 🙂

  4. Sorry to get here late — I’ve been traveling and unexpectedly offline (Internet not working at the hotel — back up now).

    Grant: I’m not in the habit of responding to insults and name-calling. Do that again on my blog, and you’re banned from posting here again. Incidentally, nowhere did I say that the U.S. should be “belligerent,” whether Russia has these missiles or not.

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