Michael Stott at Reuters provides some good commentary on the Obama administration’s decision to formerly pull all plans for the missile shield in Eastern Europe. It’s funny how we have found ourselves in a situation with an unnecessary project, featuring technology that does yet exist to defend a threat that is not yet present, should be cancelled, yet in doing, had to be cancelled in a way that perceptions would not lead the Kremlin to conclude that its sphere of influence reaching up to the border of Germany had been conceded. Worst of all, as Stott alludes to, this kind of policy response will be viewed as a positive reaction to the hawkish, bellicose games of confrontation of the siloviki, edging out the Medvedevian games of liberal lip service:
Russian diplomacy is largely a zero-sum game and relies on projecting hard power to force gains, as in last year’s war with Georgia over the rebel regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia or the gas dispute with Ukraine at the start of this year.
Western concepts of “win-win” deals and Obama’s drive for 21st century global partnerships are not part of its vocabulary.
Diplomats here say Moscow hardliners could read the shield backdown as a sign of Washington’s weakness. Far from doing the bidding of the United States, they may instead press for further gains to shore up Russian power in the former Soviet bloc.
Ukraine, Georgia and other Kremlin foes in the ex-Soviet Union may be the first to feel the consequences.