But Putin was not fishing in friendly waters. Diplomatic aftershocks following the summit suggest that the U.S. is adamant about its missile defense dream being bolted down to former Soviet-bloc real estate.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who rather absentmindedly and not a little unwisely lumped Russia together with Iran and North Korea in a Who’s Who in the World of Bad Guys speech in January (this comment was probably the main impetus behind Putin’s Munich speech in February, where he slammed the “one sovereign” for having “nothing in common with democracy”), said the Azerbaijan radar would complement, not substitute, the Polish and Czech components.
The diplomatic tit-for-tat escalated to a new level on Wednesday as First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said that if the U.S. went ahead with its missile plan, Russia would have no choice but to “base new rocket forces in the European part of Russia, in Kaliningrad, in order to parry the new threats.”
This comment will certainly screw up the geopolitical calculus in Europe, since Kaliningrad, Russia’s exclave, sits further to the west than the Baltic States, and shares a border with Poland and Lithuania.
The Russian president chased away the thunderstorms with a sunny Fourth of July message, which held out hope for constructive relations with the U.S. despite some soggy fireworks in the box.