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Joseph Nye: The Solution to the Missile Feud is Stronger Sanctions on Iran

Joseph Nye in the Boston Globe:

Yet these tensions also create an opportunity. We should offer Russia a grand bargain: We would delay our plans for missile defense in Eastern Europe, while the Russians would agree to back stronger sanctions against Iran. Since our technology is not fully developed and Iran is not on the brink of having long range missiles that can accommodate nuclear warheads, we could afford to offer Russia a delay in deployment while we engage in broader discussions of our military relationship. At the same time, since an Iranian nuclear weapon will undercut Russian security, and Russia has already offered to provide enrichment services to Iran if the Iranians forgo their own enrichment program, Russia might find the bargain tempting. Critics might worry that we would give away too much. But we can afford to buy ourselves a little time. It’s not likely that Iran could develop missiles capable of reaching Europe or the United States for at least a decade. Therefore, we can take our best shot at blocking Iran’s nuclear ambitions without compromising our immediate security. The United States clearly intends for any missile defense in Eastern Europe to protect against Iran, as well as any other hostile states. But we have the opportunity right now to prevent Iran from getting the nuclear bomb we’re trying to defend ourselves against. By striking a deal with Russia to support sanctions against Iran, we would get a chance to make our strongest bid yet to prevent Iran from becoming the newest nuclear state. Everything else should be second to that goal. Although the administration will be reluctant to alter its missile defense plans, Rice often speaks of transformational diplomacy. What better example than for Bush to suggest this bargain to Putin when they meet at Kennebunkport this summer?