So, we’re going to capitulate to our enemies, such as North Korea, Venezuela and Iran, while at the same time alienating and abandoning our allies, such as Poland and the Czech Republic? That doesn’t seem to me like a sustainable foreign policy.
But that’s exactly what this president is doing in shelving Bush administration promises for missile defense systems. Abandoning allies. Emboldening Russia. Assuaging enemies. And on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland no less.
It’s no wonder that eastern European nations feel as though this president has largely ignored the entire region. As I pointed out at the beginning of the month during a discussion of the 70th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland–an event that the United States conspicuously brushed aside as inconsequential–many leaders from eastern Europe sent Barack Obama an open letter in mid-July expressing disappointment in the apparent shift of American foreign policy away from the area. An excerpt (emphasis mine):
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. Relations have been so close that many on both sides assume that the region’s transatlantic orientation, as well as its stability and prosperity, would last forever.
That view is premature. All is not well either in our region or in the transatlantic relationship. Central and Eastern Europe is at a political crossroads and today there is a growing sense of nervousness in the region. The global economic crisis is impacting on our region and, as elsewhere, runs the risk that our societies will look inward and be less engaged with the outside world. At the same time, storm clouds are starting to gather on the foreign policy horizon. Like you, we await the results of the EU Commission’s investigation on the origins of the Russo-Georgian war. But the political impact of that war on the region has already been felt. Many countries were deeply disturbed to see the Atlantic alliance stand by as Russia violated the core principles of the Helsinki Final Act, the Charter of Paris, and the territorial integrity of a country that was a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace and the Euroatlantic Partnership Council -all in the name of defending a sphere of influence on its borders.
Despite the efforts and significant contribution of the new members, NATO today seems weaker than when we joined. In many of our countries it is perceived as less and less relevant – and we feel it. Although we are full members, people question whether NATO would be willing and able to come to our defense in some future crises. Europe’s dependence on Russian energy also creates concern about the cohesion of the Alliance. President Obama’s remark at the recent NATO summit on the need to provide credible defense plans for all Alliance members was welcome, but not sufficient to allay fears about the Alliance´s defense readiness. Our ability to continue to sustain public support at home for our contributions to Alliance missions abroad also depends on us being able to show that our own security concerns are being addressed in NATO and close cooperation with the United States.
Two months later, it is apparent that those leaders, including former Czech President Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa, the architect of Polish liberty, certainly had reason for their worries. It seems that President Obama’s remarks at the recent NATO summit were just words, that he may acknowledge the need for credible defense plans in eastern Europe, but that he is not willing to deliver. In fact, he’d rather leave two strong allies twisting in the political wind.
Furthermore, according to the Associated Press, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen hailed Barack Obama’s decision to leave eastern Europe defenseless–in terms of a missile shield, at least–as “a positive step.” To nations already concerned that NATO and the United States do not have their security at heart, what faith will they ever have in the United States of America? After all, these were promises made expressly by the previous administration. Poland and the Czech Republic stuck their necks out for those missile defense plans, riling up Russia in the process, and we leave them high and dry? From this point on, what faith will any nation have in the continuity of foreign policy promises made by the United States of America?
I understand the need for Russia to cooperate with the United States with regard to Iran’s nuclear program, but there’s a difference between responsible engagement and irresponsible appeasement. The ineffectiveness and danger inherent in Barack Obama’s “justice-driven,” detente-at-all-costs foreign policy is one thing, but actively stabbing allies in the back for the sake of political expediency is another. Those eastern European nations took on significant risk in entering into this agreement with the United States, and for what? We have abandoned good relationships–and not to mention the security of effective physical countermeasures–in favor of appeasing and placing more faith in the former Soviets.
To be fair, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, as well as the president himself, has said that the ground-based missile defense system they’ve scrapped will be replaced by a more mobile and effective one. Still, I have two worries about that — first, the decision to scrap the original plan was based upon an assessment which suggested that Iran’s long-range missile capabilities simply weren’t there, yet it was Iran that tested a two-stage rocket and successfully launched a satellite into space; second, I’ve learned that when the president of the United States makes a promise, it’s just words, especially given his idealistic view of the world around him.
Regardless, with friends like these, folks in Poland and the Czech Republic must be wondering, who needs enemies? So much for the president’s promises to change the perception of America across the world — sure, we were reviled by the right people for our freedom and our liberty, but now we are seen as a mere friend of convenience, a nation to depend upon no more.