Zeal for the Deal

Back in the Bush II heydays, I always thought of Russia’s Ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, as a tongue-in-cheek answer to the appointment of John Bolton to the United Nations (minus, of course, the overt racism of the former).  Among others, Paul Goble recently told me in an interview that more attention should be paid to the choices the Kremlin makes in its key diplomatic appointments – and that Rogozin is far from a constructive presence.  Russia’s NATO ambassador has certainly won the longevity contest compared to Bolton (though this is due to, ya know, America’s habit of democratic transfers of power), and currently spends his days giving interviews about Georgia and spearheading the disaggregation strategy of Europe – even proposing that NATO itself is plotting against the reset diplomacy of the Obama Administration.  Removed from officialdom, Bolton spends more time these days enjoying an AEI fellowship and producing regular opinion articles to push a new book.  Below is an excerpt from his latest one in The New York Times, which tries out the new catchphrase “dangerously low warhead levels“:

First, the administration’s bilateral objectives with Russia play almost entirely to Moscow’s advantage, as in arms-control days of yore. Hurrying to negotiate a successor to the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by year’s end, which Secretary Clinton has committed to, reflects a “zeal for the deal” approach that benefits only Russia.

We need not be rushed, since simply extending the existing treaty’s verification provisions would preserve the status quo. Fortunately, Russia seems likely to save us from the dangerously low warhead levels proposed by Senator John Kerry and others, but the risks of foolish, unnecessary concessions remain high.

Paradoxically, theadministration itself might put the entire negotiating process intogridlock by reaching much farther than the Russians are willing to go,such as by trying to negotiate numerical limits on tactical nuclearweapons. More seriously, the administration has pre-emptively concededto Russia on strategic defensive issues: first by linking the generalsubject of missile defense with offensive issues, long a Russian goal;and secondly by signaling that specific projects, like the defensesystem intended for Poland and the Czech Republic, might be abandonedor bargained away.

Second, the Obama administration is seriously weakening both ourstrategic offensive and defensive capacity. The Defense Departmentbudget proposes major cuts in missile defense programs, returning to anemphasis both in operational and diplomatic terms on “theater” missiledefense (mainly for defending deployed military forces), rather than”national” missile defense (for shielding America’s population frommissile attack). Protecting our forces abroad must remain a toppriority, but it need not be at the expense of homeland defense.President Ronald Reagan refused to bargain on missile defense, andPresident Obama isn’t bargaining either. He is simply giving it away.