Congressman John Boehner, the House minority leader, told the New York Times that, “[s]crapping the U.S. missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic does little more then empower Russia and Iran at the expense of our allies in Europe.” Sen. Lindsey Graham echoed Rep. Boehner’s words and warned that the new policy is a significant blunder for the new President. “It will empower the Russians and it will scare the crap out of the Poles, Czechs, Ukrainians and Georgians. It is a huge mistake.”
Rep. Boehner and Sen. Graham were not alone in voicing opposition to the new policy. Other key members of Congress have required little time to come out publicly against President Obama’s decision to end the current missile defense system with Poland and the Czech Republic. Congressman Eric Cantor, the second-ranking Republican in the House, issued a strongly worded statement against the new policy.
“I am extremely disappointed to learn about the Administration’s decision to abandon an important foreign policy commitment to two of our key allies. Scrapping our missile defense effort in Europe has severe consequences for our diplomatic relations and weakens our national security. Our allies, especially Poland and the Czech Republic, deserve better and our people deserve smarter and safer . . . I will work to overturn this wrong-headed policy.”
Senator John McCain, the ranking Republican on the influential Senate Armed Services Committee, also issued a statement:
“I am disappointed with the Administration’s decision to cancel plans to develop missile defenses in Eastern Europe. This decision calls into question the security and diplomatic commitments the United States has made to Poland and the Czech Republic, and has the potential to undermine perceived American leadership in Eastern Europe. Given the strong and enduring relationships we have forged with the region’s nations since the end of the Cold War, we should not, I believe, take steps backward in strengthening these ties. Yet I fear the Administration’s decision will do just that, and at a time when Eastern European nations are increasingly wary of renewed Russian adventurism.”
Sen. McCain was even more critical in his statements to ABC News;
“most important, we made a commitment to the Czech and Polish governments. Now we go and tell them we’re abrogating that agreement? Is that the way you treat friends and allies?” McCain called the announcement “ham-fisted” and said he was concerned that the move “can only be construed in some quarters — Ukraine, Georgia, Poland, the Czech Republic and others — as acceding to the threats and bullying of Vladimir Putin.”
Senator Jon Kyl, the second-ranking Republican in the upper house, described the new Obama policy as “dangerous and shortsighted.” Sen. Kyl is particularly worried about how today’s announcement will be interpreted by our allies in Europe.
“This will be a bitter disappointment, indeed, even a warning to the people of Eastern Europe . . . The message the administration sends today is clear: The United States will not stand behind its friends and views ‘re-setting’ relations with Russia more important. This is wrong!”
While it is certain that the Obama administration expected some disagreement from Republicans in Congress on this decision, even the White House must be surprised at the swiftness and intensity of opposition manifested by Congressional leaders against it’s new missile defense policy. Apart from the impact of today’s decision on relations with our allies, the administration will sorely need to identify tangible benefits from the new policy (e.g., concessions from Moscow), if it is to successfully face the growing criticism from Capital Hill.
Therefore, do not be surprised if an agreement is soon made in the START negotiations with the Russians, especially in light of next week’s meeting between President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in New York. Nevertheless do not be too anxious, because if President Kennedy’s agreement to remove missiles from Turkey as part of his resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis is any indication, such linkages are sometimes decided in secret and implemented after a “decent interval.” (photo: AP)