Ballistic Bargaining Chips

missile.defense.jpgThe private intelligence agency Stratfor has an interesting article about how the Obama Administration may be using a planned Central European missile defense system as a bargaining chip in talks about nukes with Iran.

At a February 10 press conference in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. was willing to “reconsider where we stand” on the issue of ballistic missile defense if Iran halted its nuclear aspirations. The implication? Stratfor says Clinton was sending a message to Russia, whose acrimonious actions against Georgia and the Ukraine Stratfor says were based in part on Russia’s resentment of the planned defense system, and in so doing is “keeping the BMD issue in limbo — keeping the Poles and the Czechs nervous at a time when the Baltic states and the Central Europeans are searching for security guarantees from the West against a resurgent Russia.”

The article continues:

“Though the United States and Russia are still feeling each other out in these negotiations, the BMD issue is an area where there is likely room for compromise. By bringing up BMD in the context of Iran — and with the Czech foreign minister standing right beside her — Clinton appears to be signaling Russia that Washington is open to negotiations over BMD as long as U.S. concerns over Iran can be assuaged. This means that Russia, which enjoys using its relations with Iran as another lever in its battle with the West, will be expected to cooperate with the United States over Iran if it expects movement on the BMD issue. Such cooperation could entail support for harder-hitting sanctions aimed at coercing Iran into curbing its nuclear program, halting Russian technical and logistical support for the Bushehr nuclear facility, or suspending any talk over strategic defense deals. Russia, which does not wish to see Iran develop a nuclear weapons capability any more than the West does, would theoretically be open to such an offer, provided it can get the appropriate assurances from Washington.”

The story concludes:

“In this respect, the United States could be trying to kill two birdswith one stone. It could be seeking a deal with the Russians over BMD…in return for U.S. transit through Russian-influenced Central Asia toAfghanistan and joint cooperation against Iran, while using the Russianlever against Iran to further pressure Tehran to cooperate over thenuclear issue, thereby potentially paving the way for more progress onthe U.S.-Iranian negotiating front. Whether this will work is anotherstory, but it appears that Clinton has thrown out a big clue as to whatWashington is thinking as it moves forward in dealing with the Russianand Iranian portfolios. Meanwhile, the Baltics and the CentralEuropeans are in panic mode, and will be doing everything they can toavoid being left in the lurch.”