The occasion of the moment is the state visit of the new Russian President to China, during which a joint announcement was issued for the headline of the day: China, Russia condemn US missile defense plans. It is considered noteworthy that in his first state visit as Russian President, Putin turned to the West. Medvedev is turning to the East.
Some are saying that Russia and China are announcing themselves not as enemies, but adversaries, of the United States. I shall leave it to more nuanced analysts than myself to explain the difference.
In any event, we can understand why second-rate nuclear powers such as Russia and China would fear a missile defense system. The possession of nuclear weapons has historically made countries invulnerable to any attack; a missile defense system capable of fulfilling Ronald Reagan’s dream of rendering such weapons obsolete would nullify the historic advantage of nuclear weapons and make the last remaining superpower -as the greatest NON-nuclear military in the world – all the more powerful.
The United States’ contention that its missile defense system is geared toward preventing a missile attack by such radicalized countries as Iran and North Korea have not overcome the Russian and Chinese fear regarding the long-range viability of their own nuclear deterrents.
But the issue that is most relevant to me is the building threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, and the successful longstanding effort of Russia and China to prevent the United States from doing anything to deter Iran in the international community.
A few articles to establish the point:
Reuters, from today:
PALO ALTO, Calif. (Reuters) – The United States will aggressively impose more sanctions on Iran as long as it refuses to give up sensitive nuclear work and uses the world’s financial system for “terrorism,” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday.
However, the United States would face an uphill battle from veto-wielding Security Council members China and Russia, which oppose further punitive measures against Iran.
The New York Times, from August 2006:
Although Russia agreed to the Security Council’s resolution on July 31, Defense Minister Sergei B. Ivanov’s remarks made it clear that Russia would not support taking the next step that the United States and Britain have called for: imposing sanctions against Iran or its leaders over its nuclear programs. The Council set Aug. 31 as the deadline for Iran to respond to its demand.
Russia has repeatedly expressed opposition to punitive steps, even as President Vladimir V. Putin and others have called on Iran to cooperate with international inspectors and suspend its enrichment activity.
But on Friday Mr. Ivanov went further, saying the issue was not “so urgent” that the Security Council should consider sanctions and expressing doubt that they would work in any case.
The Council on Foreign Relations, from April 2006:
The referral of the Iran nuclear file to the UN Security Council opens up the prospect economic sanctions could be used to pressure Tehran to end its uranium enrichment program, feared as a cover for developing nuclear weapons. U.S. and European diplomats have stressed that council action is necessary to maintain pressure on Iran and the threat of sanctions is seen as important leverage for the council. But the United Nations’ powerful security body has moved away from sanctions as a coercive tool in recent years. Two veto-wielding members of the council, Russia and China, have virtually ruled out sanctions in dealing with the Iran crisis, leading some experts to call for nations to band together outside of the United Nations to plan meaningful economic penalties.
It might be interesting to note at this point that both Russia and China have been involved with nuclear technology transfers to Iran. Some sources:
According to the Journal MERIA:
Unfortunately, for the time being the United States and Russia differ on which countries qualify as rogue states that must be contained or confronted. Like North Korea or China, Russia–the soothing or indignant pronouncements of its leaders notwithstanding–according to many experts and officials in the area, remains the world’s leading source of WMD-related items and expertise proliferation.
According to the Times:
RUSSIA defied stern American warnings yesterday to announce that it had agreed to start shipping nuclear fuel to Iran in three months.
Within hours President Bush vowed to stand by Israel if its security was threatened by Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. He said that it would be unacceptable for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.
According to Asian Research:
China has been providing missiles and nuclear technology to Iran for years, experts told a U.S. security committee last week, adding that transactions have continued despite Chinese government promises to improve regulation and prevent nuclear proliferation.
“China has worked actively to dilute the effectiveness of any global response,” said Ilan Berman from the American Foreign Policy Council. “Tehran’s intransigence in this stand-off has been made possible in part by its strategic partnership with Beijing.”
The Heritage Foundation says we should Confront China’s Support for Iran’s Nuclear Weapons, noting that:
China’s security relationship with Iran is broad. Despite over a decade of protests from Washington, China continues to export nuclear technology, chemical weapons precursors, and guided missiles to Iran. Indeed, China is one of Iran’s top two weapons suppliers (with Russia). A report in 2004 by the U.S.-China Security and Review Commission stated that “Chinese entities continue to assist Iran with dual-use missile-related items, raw materials and chemical weapons-related production equipment and technology” and noted that the transfers took place after the Chinese government pledged in December 2003 to withhold missile technology Iran. The Central Intelligence Agency reported in 2004 that “Chinese entities are continuing work on a zirconium production facility at Esfahan that will enable Iran to produce cladding for reactor fuel.” Although Iran was a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and was required to accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on its production of zirconium fuel cladding, Iran made no moves to do so, and China exerted no influence to the contrary.
This is a repeat of the similar thwarting by Russian, French, and Chinese efforts to undermine the United States from having any success at attaining meaningful resolutions that would have forced Iraq to open itself up to meaningful weapons inspections. And, just as was the case in Iraq – with Saddam Hussein using the U.N. Oil for Food Program to secure the cooperation of the aforementioned corrupt countries – we are seeing the identical trend building against any effort to place any kind of deterrent against an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
This stuff is eerily similar to the Armageddon scenario depicted in the Book of Revelation and such passages as Ezekiel chapters 37-38. And while I’m not saying that the United States should base its foreign policy on Bible prophecy, I very much am saying that we very much should be acting according to our clear national interests. And we are seeing a very frightening development – a nuclear armed Iran which could be the hair trigger to World War III – happening before our very eyes.
What are we going to do? Should the United States passively sit by while a violent and apocalyptic regime such as Iran develops nuclear weapons? Should we similarly tolerate the resulting nuclear proliferation in the Sunni Arab world as a deterrence against the Shiite Iranian bomb?
One thing is increasingly clear: the United Nations is completely incapable of providing any meaningful resolution to one genuine international crisis after another. With its endemic corruption and incompetence, and with the five permanent member states having diametrically opposed agendas, there is simply no possibility that any meaningful action can occur within the halls of the U.N.
This makes the Iraq War all the more relevant as a baromter for the response to Iran’s nuclear campaign.
As I have argued in past articles, how is an American president who condemned the Iraq War, and who calls for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, going to respond against Iran in this hostile international environment?
How could such a president – who condemned the invasion of Iraq – now permit an attack on Iran, or even issue a meaningful threat of such an attack? The same murky “do they have these weapons or not?” scenario will again be the case in Iran; and the same staunch refusal of veto-wielding U.N. members that stymied any resolution against Iraq will again be the case with Iran.
Furthermore, how can a president who has demanded an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from the vulnerable, fledgling Iraq ever possess the moral authority to promise Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan that the United States – which does NOT want to see a nuclear arms race in the Islamic world – that it will protect them from a nuclear Shiite state at all costs?
John McCain – his considered flaws aside – is the only candidate who can meaningfully confront Iran and say, “The United States attacked Iraq because we believed it was developing weapons that threatened our vital national security – and I assure you that we will do the same to you unless you stop what you are doing.” He alone can assure the Sunni Arab states, “The United States stood by Iraq even when it was difficult – and I assure you that we will do the same for you.”
We are entering an increasingly frightening world in which we desperately need a leader who has the wisdom and the policy to prevent the Armageddon scenario from unfolding. As was the case in the last great conflagration, strength – and NOT weakness – provides the only chance of avoiding a future cataclysmic horror. Let it be noted that – to the extent that Iran DID set aside its nuclear weapons program in 2003 – it did so because a powerful American president invaded its next-door-neighbor over its own weapons program.
As a P.S. I have no doubt that some will skim this and say, “There the conservatives go again, using the politics of fear for the sake of partisan advantage.” My response is that such a claim is meaningful if and only if I presented a false case. If I am wrong in contending that Russia and China are not blocking sanctions against Iran; if I am wrong in contending that Iran is a truly peaceful country with no hostile intentions, then present the case. But if I presented an accurate case, then the refusal to take a nuclear weapons-armed Iran seriously is simply a demonstration of such people’s foolishness and inability to comprehend reality.