President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to discuss missile defense, their thorniest bilateral problem, at the G8 summit in Ireland on June 17 and 18. Previous talks between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have floundered over the alliance’s refusal to give Moscow legal guarantees that the system would not undermine Russian nuclear forces.
But the diplomatic dance around missile defense cooperation has always been like Kabuki theater — with officials playing out their designated roles. There is only the illusion of real engagement.
Thirty years after President Ronald Reagan’s famous “Star Wars” speech, Washington is still light years away from developing technology capable of distinguishing missile decoys from real warheads. Yet the United States is again talking about this expensive missile defense program as a viable system.
To allay Moscow’s concerns, Washington has invited Russia to participate in the defensive system, helping NATO guard against Iran. But Moscow is unlikely to cooperate on a flawed system against a threat it doesn’t see as imminent.