Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Round up of European views of Obama and the Missile defense

Pajamas Media » Europeans Ambivalent About Obama’s Missile Defense U-Turn
In Germany, the center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: “Obama’s biggest challenge is this: He has to quell the suspicion that he has buckled in the face of Russia. And he has to succeed in doing this not only in the U.S. Congress, but also when it comes to America’s allies in Eastern Europe. They are afraid that some people in Moscow will be able to misinterpret the decision to cancel the missile defense shield as a sign of weakness and to be emboldened to promote their interests with tanks in other places in the same way they did in Georgia.”

The Financial Times Deutschland writes: “What is truly unusual about Obama’s decision is that he is taking a huge step toward Russia without having any guaranteed quid pro quo to show for it. It is a rare thing for a U.S. president to make a down payment like this. It either shows great courage in the face of risk or pure naiveté. Just how risky Obama’s bet is can be seen from Moscow’s celebrations of the cancellation of the missile plans. Diplomats are pounding their chests and boasting that Obama’s buckling was the logical consequence of their refusal to compromise on this issue. For Obama, it will be a very expensive decision. In terms of domestic politics, he is exposing himself to accusations of being a wimp and damaging the country’s security. In terms of foreign politics, he is snubbing two allies — the Czech Republic and Poland — who view the cancellation of the missile shield as a betrayal. It would be dangerous for Obama if people got the impression that he had genuflected before the Russians. He has no way of guaranteeing that they will respond to his gesture of friendship. Moscow has the upper hand now.”

The center-right Die Welt writes: “[Obama’s decision] does raise the question of whether this policy is naïve and, in the end, dangerous. The other problem is that it leaves much of Central Europe disappointed. … People there are afraid of being abandoned again. Sandwiched between Western Europe (Germany, in particular) and Russia, the nations in Central Europe were for a long time the ping-pong ball of foreign powers. Having been admitted into NATO and the EU and having become visible partners with the U.S. raised hopes in these countries that they really counted for something. After Obama’s failure to appear at the ceremony marking the anniversary of the beginning of World War II in Gdansk, this will be the second blow to their hopes. Those who continue to believe that the freedom movement in the 1980s was right will enthusiastically welcome Obama’s decision. But they need to remember just one thing: Communism came to a peaceful end because America was both civil and well-armed.”

The Berliner Morgenpost writes: “The governments in Warsaw and Prague, which sought the deployment of the missile shields despite strong resistance in their own countries, have been duped by Obama. Their confidence in America’s reliability has not been strengthened. They may retaliate if America announces, after 2015, that it actually does want to put an entirely new missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic.”

The center-left Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: “Poland and the Czech Republic have exposed themselves to a lot of criticism from their neighbors to the west, serious threats from Russia and the skepticism of their own populations. But, from now on, they will give a lot more thought to working closely with America on such controversial issues and the consequences that doing so entails. Obama might have been thinking that canceling the plan would elicit some sort of quid pro quo from Moscow. The Russians are very happy about it, less because it can (presumably) improve U.S.-Russian relations, and more because it means that Russia’s tantrum has had its desired effect. … Russia’s claim that the planned missile defense system harmed strategic stability was never meant seriously. It was rather intended as propaganda and a way to influence a public that was very touchy about this issue. So this means it pays to play hardball.”

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