Charles Krauthammer wants to know what was behind Obama’s assurance to Medvedev on his increased post-2012-election “flexibility”:
After all, what is Obama doing negotiating on missile defense in the first place? We have no obligation to do so. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a relic of the Cold War, died in 2002.
We have an unmatched technological lead in this area. It’s a priceless strategic advantage that for three decades Russia has been trying to get us to yield. Why give any of it away?
To placate Putin, Obama had already in 2009 abruptly canceled the missile-defense system the Poles and Czechs had agreed to host in defiance of Russian threats. Why give away more?
It’s unfathomable. In trying to clean up the gaffe, Obama emphasized his intent to “reduce nuclear stockpiles” and “reduce reliance on nuclear weapons.” In which case, he should want to augment missile defenses, not weaken, dismantle or bargain them away. The fewer nukes you have for deterrence, the more you need nuclear defenses. If your professed goal is nuclear disarmament, as is Obama’s, eliminating defenses is completely illogical.
But maybe this is why; it’s an article on the subject of the nuclear weapons race with the USSR that Obama wrote while a senior at Columbia. Now, I realize that most people’s points of view change between college and many decades later. But still, it’s logical to assume, from the evidence of this paper, that nuclear disarmament was a topic he cared unusually deeply about in early adulthood, since it’s virtually the only sustained piece of his academic writing that’s come down to us.
Here’s the text of Obama’s article. And here’s what the NY Times had to say about it in 2009 [emphasis mine]:
What clearly excited [the younger Obama] was the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would end the testing and development of new weapons, and thus, in the minds of arms controllers, end the nuclear arms race. The Reagan administration vehemently opposed the treaty. Paraphrasing Mr. Bigelow’s views, Mr. Obama said the United States should initiate the ban “as a powerful first step towards a nuclear free world.” That phrase would reemerge decades later…
Barack Obama’s journalistic voice was edgy with disdain for what he called “the relentless, often silent spread of militarism in the country” amid “the growing threat of war.” The two groups, he wrote, “visualizing the possibilities of destruction and grasping the tendencies of distorted national priorities, are throwing their weight into shifting America off the dead-end track.”
In closing, he decried the “the twisted logic of which we are a part today” and praised student efforts to realize “the possibility of a decent world.”
Even back then, Obama believed (for whatever reason; you can fill in the blanks with any number of theories from benign to malignant) that it was up to the US to go first in disarming, and this was true even before the fall of the Soviet Union.
But back to the present—and the future, on which Krauthammer speculates:
Can you imagine the kind of pressure a reelected Obama will put on Israel, the kind of anxiety he will induce from Georgia to the Persian Gulf, the nervousness among our most loyal East European friends who, having been left out on a limb by Obama once before, are now wondering what new flexibility Obama will show Putin — the man who famously proclaimed that the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century was Russia’s loss of its Soviet empire?
They don’t know. We don’t know. We didn’t even know this was coming — until the mike was left open. Only Putin was to know. “I will transmit this information to Vladimir,” Medvedev assured Obama.
Added Medvedev: “I stand with you.” A nice endorsement from Putin’s puppet, enough to chill friends and allies, democrats and dissidents, all over the world.