Regarding Russia

By Kate Brannen / September 25, 2008 at 5:00 AM

At a seminar yesterday here in Washington, Stephen Blank, professor of national security studies at the U.S. Army War College, talked about Russia's views of the missile defense agreements signed by the United States with the Czech Republic and Poland -- and suggested steps the next administration should take to promote security in the region.

"We need to decide what our objectives are in regards to Russia," said Blank at the Woodrow Wilson Center, emphasizing the need for policy discipline within the administration. He said Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen recently have been using nuanced language in discussing Russia, whereas Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has taken a more strident tone.

Russia has recovered its "great power chauvinism" and wants to be recognized as an equal player with the United States, he said. In order to balance U.S. power in Europe, Russia believes it must maintain its capability to threaten nuclear weapons -- and missile defenses placed in Poland and the Czech Republic thwart this ability, said Blank.

Russia also perceives the missile defense treaties as posing a threat to its security, even though the United States maintains they are aimed at countering an Iranian nuclear program, said Blank. However, the deal includes a provision for placing Patriot missiles in Poland, which, according to Blank, was included in response to Russia's threat to strike any country that signs such a treaty with the United States.

Earlier this month, at a George Washington University/CNN forum with five former secretaries of state, Colin Powell also discussed how the inclusion of Patriot missiles in the Poland deal had angered Russia.

POWELL: And, frankly, they believe that we had been sticking it in their eye now for the last 10 or so years with the continued expansion of NATO, with a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, and then we add Patriot missiles to the deal in Poland, and the Russians know that system is not aimed at Iranians.

And so we have to be very, very careful. There are ways to deal with Russia. You have to deal with the Russians. . . .

SESNO: You want the next president to pull those out? Do you want -- should the next president pull those Patriot missiles out? . . . .

POWELL: No, why should we? We've done it. It's a done deal. America does something, it's done it. But we have to not pull them out, but recognize what the Russian reaction is going to be to that kind of a step. You have to deal with the Russians in a straightforward, candid, no-holds-barred way.

Meanwhile, Inside Missile Defense reports that in addition to a comprehensive missile defense review, Congress wants to "limit the availability of fiscal year 2009 and future funds for procurement, site activation, construction, preparation of equipment for, or deployment of a long-range missile defense system" until the two countries sign and ratify the pacts needed to allow for the radar and interceptors to be deployed.

"I suspect missile defense will take a big hit in FY-10, especially given the current economic crisis," said Blank. "There will be pressure to cut defense spending, especially big-ticket items like that."