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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Diplomacy May Be the Best Defense

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The latest NMD trial balloon, floated by the Bush administration in Monday's New York Times, has the distinction of being a positive step in the wrong direction toward an erroneous policy.

The world can't help but be pleased that the United States seems, for a moment at least, to be moving beyond its "we'll do what we like whether you like it or not" diplomacy of recent months — even if that movement consists merely of a bid to buy acquiescence to a destabilizing policy that, at the very least, will only divert precious resources away from real threats.

Russia was right to see immediately through the vague U.S. proposal to buy Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles as part of its program of national missile defense. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov both came out quickly with statements saying that, while Russia would consider any offers to buy its weapons, it would not compromise on the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty or on its opposition to national missile defense.

In a rare moment of seemingly coordinated policy, both ministers said that it would be erroneous to think that there was any link between these two issues. We can only hope that President Vladimir Putin sticks to this line both before and during his upcoming summit with U.S. President George W. Bush in Slovenia.

All available evidence indicates that no anti-missile system will be reliable enough to serve as anything more than a last-ditch defense.

Analysts admit that, even with NMD, the United States would almost certainly respond to a ballistic missile threat with pre-emptive strikes — exactly what it would do without NMD.

The U.S. attempt to bribe the Russians into submission is a poor substitute for diplomacy. Strengthening and building upon existing global non-proliferation mechanisms, including developing early-warning monitoring systems and more sophisticated anti-terrorism measures — in genuine partnership with Russia, China and other countries that oppose NMD — seems a far more reliable and reasonable response to the real threats posed by "rogue nations" than missile defense can ever be.

The only real drawbacks this approach has are that it won't put billions into the hands of the American military-industrial complex and that it will require some real, multilateral diplomacy from the Bush administration — something that it has shown little ability to generate.

There is little hope that the Americans will listen to reason. But that doesn't mean Russia should stop speaking sense.