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The politics of US missile defence cooperation with Europe and Russia

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Pushed by the realities of domestic politics to proceed with plans to deploy a US missile defense (MD) capability in Europe, the Obama administration has made cooperation on MD a key element in its strategy for engaging both NATO and Russia. While addressing many of the shortcomings of the Bush administration's approach, the current US vision underestimates both the technical and political obstacles ahead. European states and NATO see MD as a lower priority, particularly in the aftermath of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Libya, and are unlikely to commit the resources necessary to making a shared NATO MD architecture a reality. Russia's cautious support for MD cooperation is based on a desire to create a more inclusive model of European security, an idea that has limited support in Washington and the European capitals. By trying to do too much with MD cooperation, the Obama administration risks the whole effort collapsing. Given domestic constraints, the administration cannot pull back from its European MD plans, but should nudge them off centre stage in its conversations on security with both NATO allies and the Russians.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Visiting fellow at both the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC and Columbia University in New York City, and the author of Russian foreign policy: the return of Great Power politics (2009).

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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