Obama has pulled out of the missile defense program in Eastern Europe, and some are calling this a capitulation to Russia. Here’s a quote from Robert Kagan that perhaps could clarify that position a little better:
“That is the primary motive behind Russia’s opposition to American missile defense programs in Poland and the Czech Republic. It is not only that Russians fear the proposed sites may someday threaten their nuclear strike capacity: Putin has suggested placing the sites in Italy, Turkey, or France instead. He wants to turn Poland and other eastern members of NATO into a strategic neutral zone.”
Because, as Kagan argues, we’re not living anymore in the heady days after the fall of communism and a coming liberal international order (See Francis Fukuyama’s The End Of History). We’re living in a world where Russia is playing old-style, nation-state power politics to regain its former scope, complete with a lot of strong-arming its former satellites and shutting off access to its resources when it sees fit.
Kagan broadens the picture further: China and India are gaining national strength (though still fragile) and their governments’ and peoples’ conception of their own identity will change accordingly. They will want more resources, to have more control over their own waters and trade routes, and have larger and larger spheres of influence. Matters of national pride and identity (Taiwan) are not to be taken lightly. They will push nations into potential conflicts, shifting alliances, and a scene more closely resembling 18th and 19th century European states and geo-politics.
Philosophically, Kagan clearly has doubts about the Enlightenment roots of the popular vision of liberal international order (with roots in Kantian “perpetual peace” and Hegelian dialectical progress…). However, he argues that there is a future, and there are moral obligations that (I would imagine individuals have in it), and that democracies have to one another to shape that world going forward (as we progress through our collective will?).
It’s definitely worth a read for its keen eye on the international scene and its challenge to a liberal internationalism.
So, as for the missile-defense program…was it an appeasement to Putin…do you trust Obama’s vision for the world and America’s place in it…is he positioning us well between our own interests and our own moral obligations?
Addition: A reader links to this piece and argues that this is Obama trying to forge common interest with Russia, which may bear fruit.
Yet Another Addition: It’s looking like Russia’s not on board with Iranian sanctions.
See Also On This Site: From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington…From The Chronicle Of Higher Ed: Russian Forum…Dick Cheney Travels To Georgia: Is the U.S. Allied With Georgia?