President Obama was recently caught on a “hot mic” conversing with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, saying “[o]n all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space… [t]his is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.” The START treaty that was signed with Russia in April of 2010 requires the United States to reduce the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers in our inventory by half. This decision garnered tons of controversy at the time since there was no guarantee Russia would be required to comply as well. Now, the feeling that we are playing with fire again by the President’s insistence that we also attempt to reduce our missile defense systems as well is all too familiar. Not only should this give Americans more of a reason to reconsider electing the President for a second term, we should also realize that while the days of the Cold War are over, Russia is not a country we should be making a missile defense treaty with.
Most in the conservative community (and those in the center like me) were quite taken aback by what transpired at the Nuclear Summit in Seoul, South Korea. Not that President Obama was caught again saying something irresponsible for all the press (and later the world) to hear, but that he is planning on attempting a missile defense treaty with Russia at all. The President’s view that this is a stepping stone to accomplish his dream of ridding the world of stockpiles of nuclear weapons is certainly understandable, and even Ronald Reagan has been quoted saying the world would be safer without them in his memoirs. But, the difference is that it isn’t the 1980’s anymore, and we’re not the only country with nuclear weaponry now. Entering a nuclear or missile defense treaty with a country like Russia is capricious, counter-productive and most of all, impractical. It is not “smart power” to engage in a treaty with a country like Russia when they are guilty of trading with countries like Syria and Iran, even selling weapons to the former. Not to mention, Russia (along with China) has acted as a consistent blockade when the United Nations pursued sanctions on Iran and Syria. Let’s also not forget that after the Russian “elections” were held earlier this year, protesters of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin were beaten mercilessly in the streets. We also know the Russian government is extremely corrupt and uses excessive force to break into the homes of public dissenters and lock them up in jail.
Now, our relationship with Russia is not entirely bad. They do let us use the port in Vladivostok to supply weapons and other necessary items to our troops in Afghanistan. Also, in 2009, Russia (and even China) did participate in supporting new U.N. sanctions on North Korea when Kim Jong-il’s regime announced they were conducting a new nuclear test. Therefore, President Obama is correct to not label Russia as an enemy, at least not in the same sense that Iran is. However, some analysts continue to stress how troubling it is that we are thinking on reducing our missile defense systems in an effort to appeal to a country that conducts business with the world’s worst actors. The way I see it, we already have about as much cooperation as we’re going to get from Russia. Reducing our missile defense systems at the expense of further perturbing our actual democratic allies in Georgia and Poland sounds completely incongruous and could end up doing more harm than good. Furthermore, the President should carefully think about whether his outreach to Russia is in the best interest of the United States. While it is noble to pursue a goal like ridding the world of nuclear weapons, it is those weapons that make the United States the feared and respected superpower that it is.
Our missile defense systems, much like our nuclear weapons stockpile, are a sign of awesome international power and were installed to make our allies feel safer. We possess that power not only because of our sophisticated technology but also because throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, no other country has done as much to attenuate pernicious threats like fascism, communism and global terrorism. Let’s not risk giving up any our power in an attempt to please a country like Russia. Russia will not change into a more democratic society anytime soon, and while they are not one of our primary enemies at the moment, we ought not to forget that they still do business with them.