Nov 13, 2008

Medvedev’s “Zero Option”

The quid pro quo is now explicit.

Yesterday, Medvedev signaled the terms of Moscow’s trade on missile defense: "We are ready to negotiate a 'zero option'. We are ready to reflect on a system of global security with the United States, the countries of the European Union and the Russian Federation."

The explicit use of the term “zero option” is curious, however, since it recall’s Regan's legendary Cold War gambit. At the time, “zero option” meant that the U.S. proposed to give up intermediate missiles in Europe, and not deploy a non-existent weapons system, only if the Soviets withdrew 1,100 missiles from the European theater. The kicker? U.S negotiators originally did not expect the Soviets to accept the deal.

They did.

In the current context, Medvedev has offered not to deploy missiles if the U.S. will not deploy a defensive missile system. There is nothing to remove from the table, since nothing is technically on the ground and beeping at the sky -- yet.

If the next Administration accepts the offer (and there's very little reason to belive the offer is directed at the current White House), then the Kremlin will take the lesson that threats of deployed force can push the U.S. off a weapons system. We will then see the same pattern repeated.

If the next Administration declines the offer, the Kremlin will take the lesson that it must follow through with said threats, else they appear empty, and we’ll see a further increase in tensions.

There is very little up-side to either scenario.

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