Obama’s letter to Medvedev on a bid to swap missile defence for curbing of Iran – analysis of the Lithuanian political scientist

March 3, 2009 at 8:17 pm 3 comments

The United States’ proposal to give up its missile defence plans in Eastern Europe in return for Russian assistance in curbing Iran’s possible nuclear weapon ambitions gave a headache to Moscow, says Lithuanian political scientist Kestutis Girnius the BNS writes.

In his words, Eastern Europe, the initial planned deployment site of the missile defence system elements, should not worry about fewer US security guarantees.

US daily, the New York Times, said on March 3 that US President Barack Obama had sent an allegedly secret letter to his Russian colleague, Dmitry Medvedev, envisaging a possibility of swapping the missile defence system in Europe for cooperation against Iran’s ambitions to build nuclear weapons.

Girnius, a lecturer at the Vilnius University’s International Relations and Political Science Institute, told BNS that the letter was not likely to be secret, adding that leaking of its content as a conscious and serious move by the United States.

“First of all, I would say that the term “secret” used by the New York Times is a bit imprecise. I believe that many diplomatic letters are secret – we do not know the content of letters of our prime minister or our president. The handing of the letter to Russia by a diplomat does not necessarily mean the secrecy of the content but, instead, underlines that Obama views the letter as very serious and worthy of attention. I would not be surprised to find out that Obama’s people intentionally leaked it in order to put pressure upon Russia,” said Girnius.

In his opinion, the BNS writes, it actually puts pressure upon Moscow to take specific steps in line with its interests to keep the Czech Republic and Poland free of the missile defence system elements – radars and interceptor missiles. Russia has warned to deploy missile systems Iskander in Kaliningrad, a small enclave wedged between Lithuania and Poland – in case Washington does not give up its missile system plans in Europe. Both Lithuania and Poland are members of the EU and NATO.

“Indeed, its an attempt to tell Russia: “Look, we are building the shield because we see a threat in Iran. If you help us eliminate the threat, there will be no missile defence system and no threat to you. If you rare really worried about missile defence, do not threaten to deploy Iskander but join the efforts to put a check on Iran’s intentions of creating nuclear weapon. If you don’t take the steps, it will mean you are engaged in propaganda.” I believe it is not indulgence but statement of logical positions. They are pressuring Russia to respond properly,” Girnius told BNS.

In his words, as BNS wrote, the goal of the missile defence system is to protect Europe and the United States against possible missiles from Iran, therefore, the debates to give up the deployment plans, with Russia’s assistance against Iran, do not mean sacrificing or swapping Eastern Europe’s security interests.

“The decision not to build the shield would mean sacrificing Eastern Europe’s interests only if it was originally aimed against Russia, while America has always said this was not the case. Nevertheless, Eastern Europe may not like such wayward opinions as making them look as fools. By holding talks with the United States and agreeing, administrations of the Czech Republic and Poland sacrificed part of their political capital and electorate,” the political scientist argued.

In his opinion, the “hawks” in Eastern Europe may attempt to claim that such changes of plans of the United States undermined security guarantees, however, the main security guarantees remain, just as the US and NATO promises and commitments to protect.

BNS continues, friendlier communication between Russia and the United States, lower tensions between the East and the West without any indulgence to Moscow, in Girnius’ words, better answers the interests of Lithuania. In his opinion, the discussions to give up the missile defence system plans did not mean indulgence to Russia.

“If I were in the shoes of Eastern Europeans, I would not be concerned – absence of the shield means no additional target for Russians, and if the shield is there its operation and reliability will not be clear. (…) Giving up a very costly and not necessarily an efficient weapon is a smart thing to do. (…) I see this move of Obama as more constructive, as compared with the earlier US administration,” said Girnius.

In his words, the changed US plans would be a puzzle to Russia, which may procrastinate its reply.

“To my view, such proposal to Russia is a clearly bigger headache. I believe the shield was a perfect tool for slapping America and saying: “Look how aggressive it is, it ignores our interests and does not allow creation of a unified Europe.” (..) I’m almost certain that Russia will procrastinate (its response) and try to get more. We will see how much patience the US will show. Much will depend on the developments in Iran,” Girnius told BNS.

BNS

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Entry filed under: Baltic States, Central Europe, Estonia, EU, Latvia, Lithuania, Northern Europe, Poland, Politics, Russia, Terrorism, Totalitarian regimes, USA. Tags: .

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