At first it seemed like a political ploy or even a publicity stunt when Russian President Vlad Putin offered to settle his differences with Bush by having the advanced, anti-missile operation planned for Poland and the Czech Republic situated instead in Azerbaijan.Putin has managed to upstage Bush quite thoroughly. If Bush goes with the original plan, it looks like he's sacrificing Eastern Europe in order to do what he promised not to: check Russia's second strike capability.
It turns out Putin's proposal makes a lot of sense unless Bush has been lying through his teeth again.
McClatchey News Service quotes several American experts in saying the Azerbaijan site is superior - if (and here's the "if") Bush genuinely wants to guard against an Iranian missile attack.
"A radar in Azerbaijan would be better able to monitor missiles launched from anywhere in Iran and could monitor missiles aimed at any part of Europe, whereas a radar in the Czech Republic could not track missiles headed toward parts of Eastern Europe, they said.
"Equally important is what a radar in Azerbaijan couldn't do: track intercontinental ballistic missiles Russia fired at the United States. This would reassure the Kremlin that the U.S. system was directed only at Iran, they said.
"'If it is in Azerbaijan, it's unambiguously aimed at Iran and can't be used against Russia,' said Ted Postol, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist and long-time critic of U.S. missile defense efforts.
"'It's closer to Iran. And secondly, it covers all of Europe, which the European site does not,' agreed Phillip Coyle, a former chief of the Pentagon's weapons testing office who also has been critical of the Bush missile defense plan. "It's technically a better site."
(I'm sure there are those in the Pentagon who would love to do just that.)
Bush looks like a madman, too, and Putin gets carte blanche to openly develop the anti-NMD capabilities he's probably already got on the go, without attracting significant international criticism. Putin gets significant cover for being the "sane" one in the relationship, Polonium or no Polonium.
If he goes along with Putin's idea, though, then he sacrifices any ability to check Russian armaments, and implicitly admits that Putin knows his own job better than he does; the jobs of many of his employees as well. The Russians look brilliant; the Americans look like idiots. That'll come into play in any future dispute between the two countries.
Either way, Putin wins.
Makes you wonder what the man's chess game is like.