- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The relationship with U.S. allies in Central and Eastern Europe is emerging as one of the key factors of 21st-century alliance-building for the United States. In these countries the memory of Communist oppression is still fresh, and the appreciation for their security relationship with the United States is keen. Recent Russian revanchism under President Vladimir Putin has only made it more so. The United States for its part is looking at a challenging world of the 21st century where several powerful players will increasingly challenge American power.

It is therefore monumentally shortsighted, even reckless, for congressional Democrats to target for cuts one of the most important strategic, collaborative efforts between the United States, Poland and the Czech Republic. The case in point is, of course, the “third site” for missile defense, for which 10 interceptors are to be stationed in Poland and a radar installation in the Czech Republic. The governments of those two countries have made a courageous commitment which not only has been controversial domestically, but has also aroused vociferous — if unwarranted — Russian opposition.

As stated on Monday in Washington by President Lech Kaczynski of Poland after meeting with President Bush to proceed with planning, “There is no better symbol of our desire to work for peace and security than working on a missile defense system… that would provide security for Europe from single- or dual-launched regimes that emanate from parts of the world where leaders don’t particularly care for our way of life and are in the process of trying to develop serious weapons of mass destruction.”

Democrats, however, don’t seem much to care about protecting American citizens from missile attacks by rogue states, nor about he vital strategic U.S. alliance relationships in the challenging world of the 21st century. They are aiming for big cuts in missile defense funding in the Department of Defense authorization bill, currently under debate on the Hill. The president asked for $8.9 billion in his 2008 budget proposal, which Democrats are whittling, basically with the aim of crippling the program beyond recovery.

Already, the Democratic leadership has removed $764 million from the missile-defense top line, and during mark-up Rep. Ellen Tauscher, who is chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, has cut $400 million from the Airborne Laser program, $85 million from the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, $80 million from the Multiple Kill Vehicle program and $10 million from the proposed Space Test-Bed. Meanwhile, Rep. John Murtha (who has made a name for himself by demanding that the United States cut and run in Iraq) and others are attempting to cut funding for the third site for missile defense in Europe.

Here the Democrats would play right into the hands of the Russians, who have been making every effort to stall the project, even threatening to reopen the Cold War. Mr. Putin has deployed harsh rhetoric, outrageously comparing Mr. Bush to Adolf Hitler and American policy to the Third Reich’s push to the East. He has also more productively issued a new proposal by Russia to house a joint missile-defense platform in a former Soviet base in Azerbaijan.

And over the weekend, the Russian leadership announced that it would suspend compliance with the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe in “asymmetrical” retaliation against the American plans. This response is aimed solely at scaring Europeans insofar as the treaty governs the deployment of armored and infantry divisions and has nothing whatsoever to do with missiles.

“It is not dangerous for the United States,” commented Mr. Kazcynski, “but it is very dangerous for Europe. It is why it has been done in this way.” Pitting the United States and Europe on opposing sides is a longstanding Russian strategy, and Democrats here in Washington seem intend on going right along.

The United States has to stand firm with the two European governments that have made a courageous commitment to work with us for the protection of Europe and the United States alike. If this project is abandoned for lack of funding, political fortunes would be very shaky. Clearly, though, other governments in the region would be hesitant to throw in their fortunes with the United States again.

The Democratic leadership seems intent on taking the United States down a road that will lead alike to a disastrous, self-inflicted defeat in Iraq and a weakening of American alliances in Europe. They will do this nation great damage if they succeed.