Groveling for a legacy
By Charles Bloomer
President Clinton completed his trip to Europe and Moscow last week with nothing positive to show for time and money spent. The president managed to irritate our European allies by pushing his version of a missile defense system, then alarmed them by offering to share missile defense with the Russians. Despite his groveling and begging, he failed to get Russian permission to allow the US to build a limited missile defense system, and failed to get a commitment from the Russians to further cut nuclear arsenals. As a consolation prize, the president did manage to get a negotiated joint communiqué (drafted, no doubt, by Strobe Talbott, the administration's resident Russophile) that called for the "strengthening" of the defunct 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.
Actually, the trip to Moscow was a failure before it ever started. In April, after being briefed on the administration's proposals for the summit, twenty-five senators wrote to the president and told him that any agreements from the summit would not pass the Senate. Specifically, they rejected any link between the US necessity for a missile defense system and the ABM Treaty. In their letter, the Senators told the president, "Without significant changes to your approach, we do not believe an agreement submitted to the Senate for consideration should be ratified."
In addition, the Joint Chiefs of the Armed Forces and the Commander of the US Strategic Command told Congress that they disagreed with a plan being pushed by the White House and the Russians that would cut our nuclear arsenal by another 1000 weapons.
Senator Jesse Helms also warned the president that no new treaties would be supported.
Obviously, the Russians were paying attention. Vladimir Putin, Russia's newly elected president, did not get to where he is today by being stupid. He was not going to hitch his wagon to the fading, lame-duck presidency of Bill Clinton. Mr. Putin will have to deal with America's next president, while Mr. Clinton will only have to deal with building his library, trying to maintain his law license, responding to a few federal indictments, and living down his real legacy as the leader of the most corrupt administration in American history.
Why would the President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of the world's only remaining superpower, feel he needed to ask permission of the Russian government to build a National Missile Defense system? Is President Clinton so anxious for a foreign policy legacy that he will grovel and beg the Russian leadership for permission to do his job? Does President Clinton believe that having a legacy that involves some kind of deal with Russia is more important than enforcing a law (National Missile Defense Act of 1999) that he signed?
There is no doubt that the president should consider the effects of actions taken in the defense of our country. International stability and confidence are important in today's global economy, and in light of the number of nuclear weapons in the world, establishing and maintaining dialogue with others is a necessity. But the primary purpose of any nation's foreign and defense policies is to look after the nation's interests.
Despite the perception that the Cold War is over, despite the opinion of many writers and government leaders that there is no significant threat to the United States, many serious potential threats exist. Russia, with thousands of nuclear warheads, a history of deception and treaty violations, and a rapidly solidifying alliance with China make Russia a potential threat that cannot be ignored.
Russia may be interested in what happens to the United States, but US interests are not first in the minds of the Russian leadership.
US vital interests are of primary concern only to the US. That concern for our interests should drive our leadership to make decisions that will protect our interests regardless of the opinions of others. The decisions made to protect our interests should consider the reality of the potential threat instead of emotional wishful thinking. These decisions should include measures that we, the United States, consider prudent. Sensible actions should include a defense against not just missiles fired from "rogue" nations, but a comprehensive national defense against any missile from any source.
The argument that such a system would violate the 1972 ABM Treaty is a red herring. The treaty is a Cold War relic with no applicability today. No nation can be rationally be expected to abide by a treaty that violates its vital interests.
The President of the United States has a moral obligation to place our nation's interests first in all foreign policy and defense decisions. The people of the United States should be ashamed, embarrassed, insulted and offended that Mr. Clinton's desperate longing for a foreign policy legacy should lead him to grovel before any foreign leader.
© 2000 Charles Bloomer Mr. Bloomer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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