Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Robin" Medvedev gets red-breasted over missile defense

Is it unduly speculative to infer that Medvedev's newfound tough-guy demeanor is early fallout from the WikiLeaks cable dump? From The New York Times online:
MOSCOW — President Dmitri A. Medvedev, expressing continued wariness over the prospect of military cooperation with his country’s former cold war adversaries, warned on Tuesday that a failure by Russia and the West to reach an agreement on missile defense could provoke a new arms race. [snip]

The following alternatives await us in the next 10 years,” Mr. Medvedev told an audience of Russia’s top leaders gathered at the Kremlin. “Either we reach an agreement on missile defense and create a joint mechanism for cooperation or, if we do not succeed in entering into a constructive understanding, there will begin a new arms race.”

In the absence of cooperation, he said, Russia would be prepared to deploy “new means of attack.”

The remarks elicited applause from the audience, which included Mr. Medvedev’s predecessor and mentor, Vladimir V. Putin, who as prime minister remains Russia’s paramount leader. [snip]

It is still unclear, however, what Russia’s role in the project [European missile defense] might be, and Mr. Medvedev’s remarks on Tuesday, delivered in the clipped, aggressive style typically favored by the more hawkish Mr. Putin, appeared to signal that Russia’s participation was not unconditional.
Prominent in the WikiLeaks cables' scuttlebutt about world leaders, of course, is a 2008 cable from the U.S. Moscow embassy styling Medvedev as "Robin" to Putin's "Batman."

Adding speculation to speculation: in the same Times story, it seems that Jon Kyl may be raiding the Dick Cheney cite-the-story-you-planted-as-evidence toolbox:

Further complicating the debate, though, may be a report in The Wall Street Journal about Russia moving short-range tactical nuclear warheads to facilities near NATO allies last spring in response to the deployment of American and NATO missile defense installations nearer its territory. The moves have been reported before but the fresh attention to them could embolden critics of the treaty.

Mr. Kyl’s office sent a copy of the article to reporters on Tuesday and Mr. McCain cited it in his television interview.
Note the Journal lede:
The U.S. believes Russia has moved short-range tactical nuclear warheads to facilities near North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies as recently as this spring, U.S. officials say, adding to questions in Congress about Russian compliance with long-standing pledges ahead of a possible vote on a new arms-control treaty.

U.S. officials say the movement of warheads to facilities bordering NATO allies appeared to run counter to pledges made by Moscow starting in 1991 to pull tactical nuclear weapons back from frontier posts and to reduce their numbers 
So...the hot news today is that Russia moved tactical warheads 6+ months ago...continuing behavior that's been consistent since 1991 (and that's fodder for a new round of negotiations contingent on ratifying New Start).  Way to work that front page, Murdoch.

On the plus side, the same story reports that McCain is once again making soothing noises about New Start, after falling into line behind Kyl's demurral. Could there even be a little pushback from "The Master" against the geopolitical leadership of the junior senator from Arizona?

“I’m a little disturbed at the news this morning that tactical nuclear weapons have been moved closer to Europe by the Russians,” he said. “But that is not directly related to the Start treaty but certainly is an indication of the need to have verification.”
You never know which way jealousy or pique will push McCain.

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