All attention in Prague later this week will laser in on the scripted signing ceremony by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev of a much buzzed about strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty. It was in Prague a year ago when Obama set out his vision for a world with no such weapons for the weak, fewer for the strong, like Washington and Moscow. So, the selection of Prague for the signing of the treaty to replace the 1991 START makes sense. It makes sense on another level too. The Czech Republic is one of Eastern Europe's Russophobe nations, which see any thawing of relations between Washington and Moscow as a potential softening of U.S. commitment to protect them from the Kremlin. To allay those, many would say, unfound fears, Obama will also hold a summit with Eastern Europe leaders. heads of state from eastern and central Europe in the city of spires.
Obama will break bread with eleven
The president would meet with regional leaders "to recognize their contributions and discuss issues specific to Central and Eastern Europe, and how the region can continue to contribute not just to European, but global security," a White House spokesman said.
"He appreciates very much that 11 NATO allies from the region have agreed to join him for the discussion."
Those allies include Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia, the White House said.
Elites in these countries looked on with trembling brows as Obama announced last year he was scrapping Bush-era missile defense plans. They chided Obama for caving to the Russians at their expense.
Some of the region's heavyweights sent Obama a much-cited letter, whining out their concerns.
Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, however, we see that Central and Eastern European countries are no longer at the heart of American foreign policy. As the new Obama Administration sets its foreign-policy priorities, our region is one part of the world that Americans have largely stopped worrying about. Indeed, at times we have the impression that U.S. policy was so successful that many American officials have now concluded that our region is fixed once and for all and that they could "check the box" and move on to other more pressing strategic issues.
As Informant readers know, missile defense never was scrapped. It's been repackaged, and moved further south to the Balkans and maybe elsewhere.
Romania and Bulgaria are eager to get in on the missile shield sweepstakes. That has already caused ripples of unrest in the region. Slav separatists in tiny Transdniester want Russian missiles if the Romanians, ethnic kin to Transdniester's jailers, the Moldovans, get them from Washington.
And even Poland and the Czech Republic could figure in new U.S. missile defense calculations.
Poland has agreed to "host" 100 or so U.S. soldiers and will plunk a Patriot anti-missile battery about 50 miles from Russian territory.
Even, the U.S. pro-missile crowd at the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance views that move by Washington and Warsaw as needless and provocative.
Contrary to the Administration's decision, the President's new missile defense plan and its sensitivity to Russia to withdraw long-range ballistic missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic to defend Europe and the United States from Iran, this decision is directly providing Poland a capability with deployed U.S. troops to defend Polish military against Russia with no intention of the future threat from Iran to Europe. (Bold and italics added)
The U.S. scored a coup, by winning wording in the new START Treaty that rejects any link between missile defense and nuclear arms reduction talks.
The Russians, however, view it differently.
Sergei Prikhodko, foreign policy advisor to President Dmitry Medvedev, said the new treaty would explicitly acknowledge the strategic link between offensive and defensive systems -- a link Moscow has long insisted upon -- and said it would have "legally-binding status," according to Interfax.
Prikhodko reiterated Russia's threat that Moscow would reserve the right to abandon the treaty in case Russia felt Washington's anti-missile defence threatened its national interests.
"This position covers a quantitative and qualitative build-up of the US strategic anti-missile defence potential," Interfax quoted Prikhodko as saying.
He added Russia's position on the U.S. missile plans would be stipulated in an addendum to the 160-page treaty, which he called an "independent political document" and that Washington may have a similar supplement.
This may all be face-saving bluster from the Russian side.
Off and on the record, officials from both sides acknowledge the new treaty would not formally prevent either side from unilateral deployment of missile defenses.
As the Informant has reported, even the new START Treaty, is much hype over heft, with a "new counting method" to account for nuke reductions.
The reason for this paradox is a new counting rule that attributes one weapon to each bomber rather than the actual number of weapons assigned to them. This “fake” counting rule frees up a large pool of warhead spaces under the treaty limit that enable each country to deploy many more warheads than would otherwise be the case.
Things never are as they seem.