The fruits of Smart Power: Czechs walk out on missile defense

It may come as a surprise to the Smartest President Ever(tm) and his brilliant foreign policy team, but when you pull the rug out from under an ally in order to appease the guys they fear, they aren’t likely to want to play with you anymore:

The Czech Republic is withdrawing from U.S. missile defense plans out of frustration at its diminished role, the Czech defense minister told The Associated Press Wednesday.

The Bush administration first proposed stationing 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an advanced radar in the Czech Republic, saying the system was aimed at blunting future missile threats from Iran. But Russia angrily objected and warned that it would station its own missiles close to Poland if the plan went through.

In September 2009, the Obama administration shelved that plan and offered a new, reconfigured phased program with an undefined role for the Czechs. In November 2009, the Czech Republic was offered the possibility of hosting a separate early warning system that would gather and analyze information from satellites to detect missiles aimed at NATO territory.

Defense Minister Alexander Vondra told the AP that the Czech Republic wanted to participate but “definitely not in this way.”

“Shelving the plan” is much too antiseptic a description for what really happened. As I wrote at the time:

This is an utter, craven appeasement of Moscow, which has never wanted this system installed in its former empire, making ridiculous claims that it somehow threatened Russia. As originally conceived, the radar stations and roughly a score of interceptor missiles were to protect Europe from a growing Iranian threat. They represented no threat to Moscow. In fact, the Bush administration offered to cooperate in a partnership with the Russians on a European missile shield. Russia’s outrage was in fact a cover for their fear of a continuing loss of influence over their former subject peoples in Central and Eastern Europe.

Poland and the Czech Republic saw this in a similar manner. They cooperated with the US over Afghanistan and Iraq (even sending troops to both places) and agreed to the missile-shield proposal. This was done not just out of a sense of interests shared between fellow democracies, not just out of a sense of worry over Iranian ambitions, but out of a very real geopolitical calculation that closer military ties to the world’s remaining superpower would protect them from a resurgent Russian bear. For the last eight years they have stuck their necks out to help us, and now President Obama has made fools of them.

And Washington expected Prague to accept a consolation prize? Seriously? Why not give them some DVDs, too?

Way back when, Ed Morrissey points out, the Obama Office of the President-Elect (1) transition team promised to “restore our standing in the world.” This is just the latest example of how that’s working out in practice.

The building of alliances and friendships between states is the result of painstaking diplomacy in which each side not only seeks to meet its own best interests, but to assure the other side that such an alliance is in their best interests, too. It’s a mutual exercise in trust-building that includes confidence that one party won’t stick a knife in the other’s back.

And like the husband who comes home to find someone else in his bed, it only takes one betrayal to wreck all that effort. As with Britain, as with Israel, and as with Poland, Obama administration foreign policy seems to be all about pimp-slapping our friends to appease our rivals, going out of its way to betray that trust, as if telling these nations “you won’t leave us; you’ve got nowhere else to go.”

Except the Czech Republic decided otherwise and left. As Team Obama pursues the “Welcome Back Carter” (2) style of diplomacy, don’t be surprised to see other nations decide their best interests are served elsewhere, too.

Footnotes:

(1) I’d forgotten about this bit of egoism.

(2) Glenn Reynolds famously worried that “Jimmy Carter, part two” might be the best-case scenario. I’m worried he’s right. Though, while reading Schweizer’s book “Reagan’s War,” the resemblance between Carter and Obama’s approach to national security is stunning.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

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