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The Missile Defense Distraction

If there is one thing that Republican hawks think they know about foreign policy, it is that the decision to scrap a Bush-era missile defense plan in Poland and the Czech Republic was horribly wrong. Charles Krauthammer repeats this very stale complaint once again in his list of things the U.S. should do to “reassure NATO”:

Urgently revive the original missile-defense agreements concluded with Poland and the Czech Republic before Obama canceled them unilaterally to appease Russia.

While it is true that Russia responded favorably to the decision, it is not really accurate to say that the decision was done in order to satisfy Russia. Joe Cirincione made this point again this week on Twitter. For that matter, there is no interest in the would-be host countries to revive the old plan. The current Czech president dismissed the idea this week:

Czech President Miloš Zeman considers a possible building of a part of the U.S. missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland ineffective, he told ČTK via his spokesman Jiří Ovčáček today.

He reacted to Monday’s suggestion by U.S. Republican Senator John McCain that the US resume the project, originally planned by the George W. Bush administration and scrapped by Barack Obama in 2009, in reaction to the recent Russian invasion of Crimea.

“The president opposed the project [from the beginning], he considered it ineffective, and nothing has changed about his position,” Ovčáček told ČTK.

That’s not surprising, since the original plan was a political headache for governments in both countries, and most Poles and Czechs were against it. Reviving the Bush-era missile defense plan has nothing to do with reassuring NATO allies, and everything to do with recycling a tired partisan complaint on behalf of an unworkable, costly plan that major members of NATO never wanted in the first place. Reviving this plan would be politically impossible, useless, and irrelevant, so naturally it seems to be at the heart of every Republican proposal for responding to the crisis in Ukraine.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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