Obama, Hagel Kill Missile Defense in Europe

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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel canceled the final stage of a Europe-based U.S. missile defense system on Friday.

The Pentagon claimed that the decision has nothing to do Russia, but Hagel has long advocated reducing missile defense capabilities in Europe as a means to increase cooperation with Russia and it has been reported that the Obama administration is attempting a second reset with Russia.

Rep. Mike Turner (R., Ohio) said Friday’s announcement vindicated his claim of a secret agreement between President Barack Obama and Russian leaders. Turner’s claim refers to a 2012 incident in which Obama was caught on microphone saying to then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that "after my election I have more flexibility" concerning missile defense. Turner attacked the secret agreement, telling Foreign Policy:

We watched the president state to Medvedev that he would have greater flexibility after the election. Putin later announced the terms of the agreement. You’d have to conclude that there was a deal. … The president clearly has abandoned the shield that the Russians opposed and we’re left with the U.S. having greater exposure to North Korea and Iran without any Benefit.

A long proponent of closer U.S.-Russian relations, Hagel first spoke out about the need to base missile defense policy around Russian concerns as a senator in 2000 when he endorsed the decision by the Clinton administration not to deploy a limited national missile defense system.

He said:

[Missile defense] cannot develop in a vacuum … [it] must move forward on a four parallel tracks—technology, Congress, our allies, and the Russians.

Hagel built on his previous arguments against missile defense in his book, America: Our Next Chapter, claiming that the U.S. was provoking Russia with its "dubious" missile defense development:

But I question if provoking Russia with a missile defense system position on its borders … that has dubious utility to American security, will do anything but …  further erode our relationship.

Heading the Commission On U.S. Policy Toward Russia, Hagel illustrated how far the U.S. should go in cooperating with Russia on missile defense.

The commission said in a 2009 report that an integrated missile defense system between the U.S. and Russia was the "most desirable" outcome. According to the report:

Building a joint system that could include Russian facilities and equipment is most desirable. … At a minimum, the United States must seriously address Moscow’s concerns that the system could be directed against Russia.

Hagel’s willingness to use missile defense programs as a bargaining chip with Russia appears to coincide with Obama’s objective of "resetting" U.S.-Russian relations.

Many saw Obama’s decision not to deploy parts of the missile defense system to the Czech Republic and Poland as components of that "reset."

According to the New York Times, within the White House the first "reset" is seen as a failure, requiring a second "reset" in Obama’s second term.

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