After months of angrily rejecting a White House plan for missile defense in Europe, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia surprised President Bush on Thursday with an offer to build a joint system in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan.This is an interesting tactic by Putin. The Bush Administration has long insisted that the missile defense system was not about US-Russian relations, but about threats from rogue states. By offering this proposal, it seems to me, Putin is trying to make Bush prove that his argument is sincere. I think the fact that Bush did not turn down the deal right away is a step in the right direction. I find it hard to believe that we would go so far as to accept the deal, but the fact that civilized communication is taking the forefront over veiled threats is a definite improvement. Hopefully a true compromise can eventually be worked out.
The proposed system, designed to guard against a missile attack from Iran, poses serious diplomatic and technical challenges, experts said. But the fact that it was suggested by Mr. Putin, and not immediately rejected by Mr. Bush, indicated a desire on both sides to cool the hostile exchanges that in recent months had driven relations to a low point in the post-cold-war era.
[. . .]
Experts say that Mr. Putin’s proposal faces a number of daunting, and possibly insurmountable, hurdles. Russia leases but does not own the radar station in Azerbaijan, and it is an early warning system, not the X-band radar that is used to guide antimissile interceptors, and which the Bush administration wants to build in the Czech Republic.
Trust between the nations is also an issue. The plan would require the kind of intense cooperation in which only the closest allies could engage. With the two sides already embroiled in disputes over the future of Kosovo, the state of democratic institutions in Russia and how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program, some experts raised questions about whether Mr. Putin was serious — and, if he was, whether the White House would ever accept the offer.
[. . .]
In recent weeks, the Russian president has made a veiled comparison between the United States and the Third Reich, complained of “diktat and imperialism,” and, most recently, threatened to once more aim Russian missiles at Europe if Mr. Bush went through with his missile defense plan.
Friday, June 08, 2007
An interesting development (US-Russian Relations edition)
NYT - Putin Surprises Bush With Plan on Missile Shield