President Barack Obama's rollback of the European-based ballistic missile defense system is a strategic blunder that will incentivize Russian intransigence at the negotiating table, erode relations with loyal U.S. allies in Central and Eastern Europe, and ultimately place the American homeland at greater risk.
The about-face stands in a long line of similar American miscalculations on Russia and its leaders. Famously misreading his Soviet counterpart, Joseph Stalin, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once mused, "If I give him everything I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return, [he] won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace." Clearly, Vladimir Putin -- let alone Dmitri Medvedev -- is no Stalin. However, the current administration has committed a miscalculation similar to FDR's in its attempt to "reset" relations with Moscow.
By partially decoupling American interests from those of our democratic friends in Central and Eastern Europe, Obama hopes to entice the increasingly authoritarian Kremlin to cooperate on a host of issues -- from negotiations over the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) to nuclear proliferation in Iran and military bases in Central Asia. Unfortunately, this gambit is unlikely to bear fruit. Through undaunted persistence, Moscow has derailed the missile defense program and eroded U.S. credibility in the region -- all without making a single concession. Why should Putin abandon such a successful strategy?