Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Heritage Foundation 33 Minutes

U.S.- Ukraine Missile Defense Talks Concern Russia

Last week, the Russians once again expressed concerns about U.S. missile defense plans. This time, their objection came over U.S. plans to use a Ukranian radar station as part of the Obama Administration's revised plan for a missile defense shield to protect against the Iranian missile threat. Russia said it is worried about U.S.-Ukraine discussions and thinks continued talks about the proposal could jeopardize efforts by the Obama Administration to improve diplomatic ties between Russia and the U.S., according to Reuters.

Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oleh Shamshur confirmed talks about using the radar station have already begun, according to Reuters. The plans are opposed by Moscow because they claim the Ukranian radar station would supply the U.S. with a missile defense installation that could be used against the Kremlin, despite U.S. assurances that none of the proposed defenses were aimed at Russia and are intended to protect the U.S. and its allies from the Iranian missile threat, Reuters reports.

This is not the first time Russia had concerns over U.S. missile defense proposals. The Kremlin opposed U.S. plans to put ground-based missile defense interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic. These installations, known more commonly as Third Site, were two key components to protect America and its allies from an Iranian long-range ballistic missile attack. Russia opposed these measures and last month, after continued diplomatic efforts by the Obama Administration to hit the "reset button" with the former Cold War foe, the plans to put missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic were abandoned. This decision was entirely political and designed to appease Russia.

Now, the Kremlin is at it again. While there is nothing on the table yet to replace Third Site with a plan that would include the radar station in the Ukraine as a component, Russia is already objecting to the U.S. even talking to the former Soviet satellite country about missile defenses.

Russia continues to assure the U.S. that rolling back their missile defense plans in Europe will improve cooperation between the two countries. Yet, there is scant evidence that Russia will deliver anything credible in return for Obama's abandonment of the Third Site. Russia has failed to offer any concessions in return for this policy change. Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov refused to join with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and to call for tougher sanctions on Iran. Lavrov wouldn't even agree to threaten the rogue state with harsher sanctions, calling the exercise "counterproductive." Based on this type of rhetoric, it remains unlikely Russia will support greater U.N. sanctions against Iran anytime soon.

The Obama Administration must take the Russians at their words and their inactions and not submit to pressure from Moscow when it comes to U.S. missile defense plans. It was shameful for the Administration to turn their back on Poland and the Czech Republic. Now is not the time to add Ukraine to the list of allies Obama has deserted.

Now is the time for the Obama Administration to reverse course and fully fund our missile defenses, thereby preparing America and its allies for all potential threats. Giving into the Russians is a strategic loss, a security loss, a diplomatic loss, and another black eye for America's prestige on the world stage.

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