Art Goldhammer reads the tea leaves on French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s abrupt about face on the American-Russian standoff over European-based missile defense. On Friday, at an EU-Russia summit in Nice, Sarkozy had called for what amounted to a mutual cooling off period, whereby both sides would postpone deployment of measure and countermeasure for six months. But in Washington, he reversed course, stating that the missile defense system is a good idea after all.
Like Art, I’d imagined, when I first saw the news Friday, that Sarkozy would not have floated this kind of plan had he not had some sort of assurance that it would fly. But apparently his urge to improvise got the best of him. Like Art, I find it worrisome that the Obama administration might be seriously attached to European-based missile defense, especially if that attachment is now justified by a need to not back down to Russian demands. Sarkozy’s idea ultimately is a face saver for everyone concerned, so hopefully this isn’t the last we’ve heard of it. But with the Czech Republic assuming the EU presidency in January, it will be a bit more challenging to get the proposal off the ground.