Bush's vision of a missile defense shield stretching across Poland and the Czech Republic--a lingering roadblock in relations between the U.S. and Russia--has been abandoned.
The right was the first to respond, and the reaction has been explosive. Many allege that the decision amounts to bowing before Russian influence, and relinquishing America's security commitment to Central Europe. But others argue that the issue was not containing Russia, but Iran, where the nuclear weapons program has (according to a Newsweek report today) been dormant since 2003.
The best first reactions:
- America Kneels Before Russia, writes Nile Gardiner in the Telegraph. "What signal does this send to Ukraine, Georgia and a host of other former Soviet satellites who look to America and NATO for protection from their powerful neighbour?"
- Shield Wouldn't Have Stopped Iran, says Doug Mataconis in Below the Beltway. "The missile defense system was never intended to be a defense against Russian missiles; it was intended to be a defense against Iranian missiles and there's been a reassessment of the Iranian missile threat."
- Blow to Neoconservative Hopes, argues Numerian in the Agonist. "With this policy change, it is getting more and more difficult for the Obama administration to go along with the neoconservative campaign to eliminate Iran's nuclear threat, since such a threat does not yet exist and is not likely to exist anytime soon, contrary to what the neocons and the Israeli government assert."
- Shift Toward Foreign Policy Caution, says Paul Reynolds in the BBC. "It is a major signal, which has followed a number of others, that the United States is adopting a far more cautious and flexible foreign policy under President Obama than it did under President Bush."
- Handing Over Europe to Iran, suggests Clifford D. May in National Review. "Iran's ruling mullahs will be delighted. They will view this as weakness. And they will find such weakness provocative, as tyrants always do."
- Submitting to Putin for Nothing in Return, fumes Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard. "This represents a complete capitulation to Russia's Vladimir Putin, who had demanded that the proposed deployments be halted as a price for improved relations. Ironically, the Obama administration, which is appeasing Russia in the hopes that Moscow will help put pressure on Iran, has made this mammoth concession just a few days after Moscow declared that it had no intention of supporting sanctions against Iran."
- Killing an Expensive, Useless Program, writes Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns and Money. "Let's be clear; this is a huge victory for common sense over fantasy, and for responsible defense budgeting. This project had no function other than to serve the pecuniary interest of the missile defense industry, and to sate the ideological lust of conservatives infatuated with St. Reagan."
Is any of this response a surprise? The Atlantic's own Marc Ambinder thinks not, commenting on Twitter that the fault lines between neo-conservatives, liberals, and foreign policy pragmatics have been exactly what you'd expect:
On the missile defense decision, I've not come across one single unpredictable response. Everyone is responding according to habit.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.