Putin’s Kennebunkport Proposal Falls Short of Missile Defense Breakthrough

Putin’s Kennebunkport Proposal Falls Short of Missile Defense Breakthrough

On June 7, at the G-8 summit in Heiligendamm, Putin surprised his fellow heads of state by offering to provide the United States with unprecedented access to real-time data from the Russian-leased Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan. In return, Putin proposed that Washington freeze its plans to deploy a ballistic missile defense (BMD) radar in the Czech Republic and BMD defensive interceptor missiles in Poland.

Putin and other Russian officials argued that, by using the Gabala complex, the United States would be able to closely monitor missile tests in Iran and would have ample time to deploy BMD against an Iranian threat should it ever materialize. Putin subsequently suggested that, if Iran ever developed long-range missiles, the interceptors could be placed in Iraq or Turkey, or on Aegis-equipped warships or floating platforms in the Caspian Sea.

Putin made the proposal at the summit because the increasingly confrontational strategy Russia had previously pursued on the European BMD issue had failed to derail the planned U.S. deployments. Russian verbal denunciations, indications that Moscow might withdraw from European arms control agreements, and threats to target any U.S. BMD complexes in East Central Europe with Russia's own missiles and warplanes had engendered concern in NATO capitals, but not paralysis.

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