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Opinion: Obama's move was not appeasement

The only purpose for a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe was to provoke Russia.

U.S. Sen. John McCain said the decision to abandon the missile plans for Poland and the Czech Republic was a mistake, one of the reasons being it would be seen as abandoning our allies. By saying so, McCain let it be known that he, too, looked on the missile shield as an anti-Russian ploy, and we can expect more charges of appeasement.

But both Poland and the Czech Republic are NATO members, and an attack on any NATO country is considered an attack on all. Poles and Czechs are not in danger, and if anything the missile shield made them less secure because of the provocation Russia perceived.

There was never a guarantee that the missile shield would have worked, and it was a good bargaining chip to trade away — just as the obsolete missiles in Turkey were traded away by President John F. Kennedy to ease the Soviet back-down removing missiles from Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis of the early 1960s. Appeasement has been a dirty word since Munich, in 1938, when the British and French sold out Czechoslovakia in the hopes of preventing another World War. As Winston Churchill said of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain at the time, he had a choice between war and dishonor. He chose dishonor. He will get war.

But the East European missile defense was never a matter of war and peace, and to suggest that Obama is acting unwisely is similar to saying President Richard Nixon was an appeaser for changing the strategic relationship with Mao’s China.

Of course that was a more earth-shaking, game-changing event than merely trying to remove unnecessary obstacles to Russian-American cooperation. But the words that Henry Kissinger later wrote of that engagement ring true today.

“It was not abstract goodwill,” Kissinger wrote, “ but converging interests … .”

The same could be said of Obama’s recent decision.