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Calling in the Bluffs on Missiles

It’s an interesting move for the Obama administration to propose the involvement of Russia in an alternative anti-ballistic missile shield effort, just two and a half weeks before the state visit to Moscow.  On the one hand, Washington is opening the door to a possible cancellation of the proposed sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, while on the other hand calling the bluff on the Kremlin’s contention that the purpose of the entire project was directed against Russia.  Now that Moscow has been invited to play a central role (which they have at least initially rejected), the onus has been passed over to their side to figure out a reasonable and cooperative solution, while previous arguments about U.S. intentions are significantly weakened.

That said, some comments from Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn are breathtakingly optimistic:  “A U.S.-Russian collaboration would have an additional benefit of a diplomatic signaling to the Iranians that this is an unacceptable course for them to pursue and that they will face a concerted international front, should they proceed down that path.”  In addition, Gen. James Cartright from the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that “Probably the greatest leverage is the partnership and the message that would send. That would be very powerful.

The diplomacy is clear-cut in this case:  if the Russians want, they can get the Polish and Czech missile sites cancelled by July 6 – and if that happened, it would probably be the biggest breakthrough in U.S.-Russia relations in recent memory.  However the comments from the military brass carry some weighty assumptions, most importantly the mistaken idea that Russia is in any mood make deals right now, even if they accomplish their stated goals.

Does anyone actually think this will happen?