The decision by the Obama administration to give up on the missile shield that was planned for Eastern Europe has less to do with Poland and the Czech Republic than it has to do with the Middle East and more specifically with President Obama himself.
The Iranians have agreed to enter into negotiations with the five permanent members of the U.N Security Council (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China) plus Germany over the suspected Iranian nuclear weapons program. The countries had made it clear to Iran that if Iran refused to engage in negotiations by the time of the next General Assembly meeting (September 24), they would seriously consider imposing much tougher sanctions on Iran than those that were currently in place.
The Iranians have already won an initial victory in any negotiations by causing the delay of the beginning of talks for at least a week past the deadline given. Furthermore, the Iranians have officially indicated that they are prepared to discuss a range of strategic and economic issues but are not prepared to discuss the nuclear program — which, of course, is the reason for the talks in the first place.
The European nations that will be involved are likely to be happy to get away with being able to say that negotiations have begun. This will allow them to disregard the threat of further sanctions, which they don’t really want to have to be forced to impose.
The Russians, for their part, have made it clear that they would be opposed to sanctions of any sort. This is primarily due to their desire to keep Iran as a problem for the United States. They feel that as long as the United States is bogged down with its adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan and if Iran continues to be a problem for the west, they will be able to make further inroads in Eastern Europe.
All of this, I suspect was discussed when President Obama visited Moscow earlier this year. The Russians would have demanded that, in exchange for their support of any threat of sanctions on Iran, the U.S. would have to give up on their desire to place missiles in Eastern Europe.
Domestically, President Obama badly needs something positive to happen. His foreign policy efforts have not provided much success overseas and are seen as weak and ineffective at home. His domestic policy is driving his poll numbers down at a rapid rate and he is losing the support of portions of his own party.
The president is betting that turning our backs on our friends and allies in Eastern Europe will be less damaging than a possible success in negotiations with Iran.
By giving up the missile shield, he is giving the extreme left of his own party something to cheer about. Even if he can’t achieve anything in the negotiations with Iran, he will get to claim a victory at home with the left for at least talking with Tehran which he promised he would do. That may be enough to sooth some of the more radical left wing party members to allow him to give some ground to the more moderate groups on health care.