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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 17:24, June 14, 2007
Putin shuffles Washington a hot potato
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During their meeting at the G8 Summit in Germany, Russian President Vladimir Putin suddenly proposed a new suggestion to US President George W. Bush: the US could jointly use the radar station in Azerbaijan with Russia if the US wanted to set up an anti-missile system.

This suggestion took Bush by surprise. Therefore, he simply said "very interesting" at the time. In fact, Putin's suggestion has put Bush in a tight spot. Putin is trying to determine the US's real purpose for establishing anti-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. It is well-known that the US has always claimed that its reason for deployment of an anti-missile system is to safeguard the security of the whole of Europe, so that it will not be threatened by the countries such as Iran. However, the strange part of it is that its radar and missiles are pointed in the northeast region of Eastern Europe, and not in the southeastern region, closer to Iran. That is to say, it only protects Northern and Western Europe, but not the entirety of Europe; southern and southeastern parts of Europe were not included. Thus Russia has reason to question whether the US really wants to aim at Iran, who currently does not have any long-range missiles, or at Russia.

If the US truly wishes to aim at Iran, then Russia would like to invite the US to use the Azerbaijan radar station, located on the northwest border with Iran. Anti-missile systems can be deployed in Turkey or other southern European countries. This kind of deployment will be both effective and economical. It would cover the whole of Europe, and Russia would not need to worry either.

Putin made a wise suggestion. First of all, Azerbaijan is different from Poland and the Czech Republic. It is a country that has friendly relations with Russia. Second, Russia is renting this radar station, and has gathered much information; thus it is not a threat for Russia. If the US really wants to protect Europe, not aim at Russia, and would like to cooperate with Russia, it does not have any reason to refuse such a suggestion. If the US refuses, Russia's suspicion becomes substantiated.

However, Bush's attitude was clear when he visited Poland after the summit. He told Polish President Lech Kaczynski in Gdansk during a press conference, that "I appreciate the support of the deployment of the missile defense interceptors here in Poland. We will negotiate a fair agreement that enhances the security of Poland, and the security of the entire continent against rogue regimes that might be willing to try to blackmail free nations." This indicates that Bush had dismissed Putin's warning, and continues to discuss anti-missile system deployment with Poland. On the basis of his actions, one may presume that Bush will not accept Putin's suggestion.

If the US disregards Russia's new suggestion and does what it wants, then Russia will "lose face" and become angry. This will provide enough reason for Russia to aim its missiles at eastern European countries. Then the people of eastern and western European countries will feel even greater pressure to be against the US deployment of anti-missile systems. Thus, Russian-US, Russian-European and Europe-US relations will all experience tensions. On the one hand, the US intension has divided Europe. It has side-stepped NATO, and talked directly with Poland and the Czech Republic. This has already made some European countries unhappy. On the other hand, Russia's threat will aggravate concern in other European countries. To see what will happen next, one has to observe a clear head.

By People's Daily Online; Li Xuejiang, People's Daily correspondent in Washington


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