Poland and Czech Republic Don’t Feel “Abandoned”

Via Steven Taylor, we note that neither Poland nor the Czech Republic feel “abandoned” by Obama’s decision to scrap missile defense replace an expensive, ineffective boondoggle “missile defense system” with a less expensive, mobile, effective land and sea-based SM-3 interceptor force. Here’s the Polish Prime Minister:

Tusk said that Obama’s “proposal of an alternative strategy should not affect the security of Poland” or of Europe.

“I would not describe what is going on today as a defeat for Poland,” Tusk told reporters, adding that he spoke to Obama on Thursday and the U.S. leader signaled to him that “Poland has a chance to win an exclusive position” in the new system.

And here’s the Czech President:

Czech President Vaclav Klaus also brushed off any concerns about the decision’s impact on relations with the United States.

“This decision of the American government did not come as a surprise to those who closely followed the signals over recent months,” Klaus said in Prague.

“I’m 100 percent convinced that this decision of the American government does not signal a cooling of relations between the United States and the Czech Republic.”

It’s also worth mentioning, as Dr. Taylor notes, that the Czech government never actually approved the Bush Administration’s plan in the first place. President Klaus signed the treaty, but it has yet to be approved by the Czech Parliament.

So here’s the thing: if the Czech Republic and Poland aren’t opposed to Obama’s decision, why on earth should we be? For my own part, I’d rather that American tax dollars weren’t spend to defend Europe from what are currently hypothetical threats–I fail to see why Europe can’t shoulder the financial burden to defend itself. That said, if we are going to expend tax dollars in this way, the prudent course of action is to spend those tax dollars wisely on military technology that actually works, not boondoggles whose only purpose is to enrich the pockets of defense contractors and make us feel “tough.”

UPDATE (James Joyner): I agree that 1) there are solid technical arguments to be made in favor of the new plan vice the old one and 2) there is a divide in Eastern Europe on the issue.  I did a rather comprehensive roundup this morning on just this: “Obama’s Missile Defense Decision: The View From Europe.”  Not only has public opinion there been divided — with the Czechs generally opposed and the Poles lukewarm — but both countries voted out the center-right governments which negotiated the original deal and voted in center-left governments that were less enthusiastic. I do, however, take the official government statements since the announcement with a grain of salt: The decision was a fait accompli.

I disagree, of course, that the purpose of the Bush program was to serve as a sop to the defense industry and think the “boondoggle” descriptor wrong.  And I’m a BMD skeptic.  We’re not talking about SDI, which may well be impossible to create, but rather theater defense, with which we’ve had much more success.  And, of course, sending a man to the moon was impossible until we actually committed the resources to solving the problem.

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Crust says:

    Hear, hear

  2. Triumph says:

    The only people who use the term “abandonment” to describe the Obama move are those who have no idea what they are talking about.

  3. I think if the Poles and Czechs understood that Obama is a secret Muslim Communazi, a Granny-killer, the unholy union of Hitler and Stalin, a person who has the effrontery to tell students they should stay in school and study hard, and roughly 18% pure Anti-Christ, they would change their tune.

  4. Shimmer Pop says:

    Was the defense system really intended just to protect Europe? Was that it? I understood differently.

    Isn’t ‘hypothetical threat’ redundant? But I guess this can be revisit after Iran launches one or two…then it’ll be a ‘real action’ and no longer hypothetical?

    You should stick to writing for Comic books

  5. Alex Knapp says:

    Was the defense system really intended just to protect Europe?

    Yes. Missiles that would threaten U.S. territory from Russia, Iran, or North Korea would not pass over Europe.

    Isn’t ‘hypothetical threat’ redundant? But I guess this can be revisit after Iran launches one or two…then it’ll be a ‘real action’ and no longer hypothetical?

    By hypothetical, I mean that Iran currently lacks the technical capability to mount a missile attack against Europe. (And they aren’t even close to being able to hit U.S. territory.)

  6. An Interested Party says:

    But I guess this can be revisit after Iran launches one or two…then it’ll be a ‘real action’ and no longer hypothetical?

    Speaking of comic books…

  7. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    So Alex if you know so much about the Iranian capability. Why did you not warn us of their satellite launch? Since your inside information is so damned good. Just how many nukes do they currently possess and how many are they working on. Since they will probably not test before using one on some friends of ours. Who do you think will be the first recipient of Iranian largess? The previous poster was correct you should stick to writing comic books however Marvel probably seeks greater talent.

  8. Good grief, the Iranians are not going to launch missiles at us or at Europe. Any more than NK will. A missile launch points a great big finger at the launch point and Iran is not suicidal.

    The point of this is for Iran to force on us the same reluctance to engage militarily that we have re: NK. They’ve noticed that we tend not to invade heavily-armed, nuke-capable countries. Iran wants to be a regional power, not a parking lot.

    The Aegis thing is a logical countermove on our part. Iran says: you can’t invade us because we might just go nuts and launch one at Europe or Saudi Arabia or Israel. Our defensive system is a way of lowering their confidence that they have a strike capability or can ever have one.

    They want nukes so we won’t overthrow the regime. We want Aegis so we preserve that possibility. The end game logically should be a promise by us not to overthrow them, a US policy of Unilateral Assured Destruction if they ever do get that crazy, and Iran stops short of putting warheads on missiles.

  9. Crust says:
  10. Alex, what do you expect them to say in public? They lost. They gain nothing by picking a fight over it and perhaps can do more damage in the long run.

    Or are government statements now to be taken at face value? At least as long as they support President Obama, I guess.

  11. Alex Knapp says:

    Charles,

    What evidence to you have that they opposed this move?

  12. Brett says:

    By hypothetical, I mean that Iran currently lacks the technical capability to mount a missile attack against Europe. (And they aren’t even close to being able to hit U.S. territory.)

    They’re not far off, though. They have the ability to build rockets and missiles capable of putting satellites into orbit, which puts them in striking range of ICBMs.

  13. TangoMan says:

    What evidence to you have that they opposed this move?

    Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk confirmed today that he declined last night to take a call from the U.S. informing him of the decision to scrap planned missile-defense bases in his country.

    Two U.S.-based sources close to the Polish government said Thursday that Tusk also rejected a call from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — on the grounds that, as the head of the government, he should speak to the president.

    Poles and Czechs voiced deep concern Friday at President Barack Obama’s decision to scrap a Bush-era missile defense shield planned for their countries.

    “Betrayal! The U.S. sold us to Russia and stabbed us in the back,” the Polish tabloid Fakt declared on its front page.

    Polish President Lech Kaczynski said he was concerned that Obama’s new strategy leaves Poland in a dangerous “gray zone” between Western Europe and the old Soviet sphere. . . . .

    The move has raised fears in the two nations they are being marginalized by Washington even as a resurgent Russia leaves them longing for added American protection.

    The Bush administration always said that the planned system—with a radar near Prague and interceptors in northern Poland—was meant as defense against Iran. But Poles and Czechs saw it as protection against Russia, and Moscow too considered a military installation in its backyard to be a threat.

    “No Radar. Russia won,” the largest Czech daily, Mlada Fronta Dnes, declared in a front-page headline.

  14. Alex Knapp says:

    TM,

    I quoted from the AP article linked to that same Politico post. The AP article has actual quotes from the Prime Minister. The post itself does not provide any evidence that Poland opposes the move.

    Additionally, the polls cited above demonstrate the majority of Czechs and Poles opposed. Just because some tabloids opposed the move doesn’t mean its a majority view. Fox News is the leading Cable News Channel, but Obama’s approval ratings are, as I look right now, above 51%…

  15. I assure you that I have no special sources within the Polish or Czech governments and even if I did I doubt that I would disclose any confidences here, so evidence beyond the secondary or tertiary sources like that offered by Tangomanwill not be forthcoming. But I have a question, are you wittingly ignoring my point or do you just not get it?

  16. Alex Knapp says:

    Charles,

    That’s my point exactly. You’re making assumptions based purely off your own view — NOT the view of the countries in question. Doesn’t it make more sense that a politician in a country where a majority of the public does not want a certain type of missile defense would not have a problem with it being gone? The polls show the Czechs and Poles didn’t want it. The public statements of the relevant politicians show that they didn’t want it. The Czech government had yet to approve the deal in the first place.

    Apart from your own ideological view of the situtation, what EVIDENCE do you have that the majority Poles and the Czechs in government and out feel “abandoned” or “betrayed” by this? Especially keeping in mind that the most recent elections in both countries KICKED OUT the governments that made the initial deal?

  17. Jeez, Alex, even James is echoing my point above in his update so don’t act as though I am completely off the wall here. Do you now accept all government statements at face value?

    And I’m ideological but you’re not. Please…

    And spare me the 51% support/oppose this so it must be done/done away with, or can we stop talking about President Obama’s theoretical health care reform proposal now since 51% of the public oppose it — even though no one, apparently including President Obama can quite nail down what it is. But I digress.

    Really Alex, I expect better of you, really I do.

  18. The point of this is for Iran to force on us the same reluctance to engage militarily that we have re: NK. They’ve noticed that we tend not to invade heavily-armed, nuke-capable countries. Iran wants to be a regional power, not a parking lot.

    Indeed.

  19. An Interested Party says:

    TangoMan links to such sterling sources…

    “Betrayal! The U.S. sold us to Russia and stabbed us in the back,” the Polish tabloid Fakt declared on its front page.

    That would be this newspaper…

    …Fakt has been subjected to criticism concerning its style of journalism from media watchdogs. Twice so far, the Association of Polish Journalists awarded Fakt with its “Hyena Of The Year” award for “particular unscrupulousness and neglect of the principles of the journalistic work ethic”…

    …and…

    “No Radar. Russia won,” the largest Czech daily, Mlada Fronta Dnes, declared in a front-page headline.

    Ahem

    Mladá fronta started out as a serious newspaper but has been slipping into a more tabloid feature, with sensationalist stories…Its orientation can be described as right-wing conservative.

  20. TangoMan says:

    award for “particular unscrupulousness and neglect of the principles of the journalistic work ethic”…

    Hey, they’re clearly shooting for the standards of the New York Times. What are liberals complaining about?

    Both newspapers speak for certain demographics in their countries. Those voices are as legitimate as the voices of the intelligentsia.

  21. An Interested Party says:

    The question is, do most of the people of Poland and the Czech Republic feel “abandoned” by the Obama Administration? Or, is that just a tasty little talking point peddled by the president’s ideological opponents…