Almost 30 years have passed since President Reagan delivered his March 1983 speech announcing the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Both major parties now accept the premise of missile defense. But it is fair to say that President Obama has been overly deferential to Mother Russia in his approach.
In last night's debate, Gov. Mitt Romney quite correctly called out Obama for placating Vladimir Putin.
"I have clear eyes on this," Romney said. "I'm not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia, or Mr. Putin. And I'm certainly not going to say to him, I'll give you more flexibility after the election."
In 2009, President Obama capitulated to Putin and canceled the Bush administration's plan to field 10 long-range missile interceptors in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic. This was tragic. Russian opposition to missile defense is largely contrived and is really a proxy for other issues. Putin is looking reestablish Russian influence in Eastern Europe and push back against NATO expansion.
In his policy statements, Romney has indicated that would revisit missile defense with our allies in Europe and bolster existing anti-missile systems in Alaska and California. That's encouraging.
In response to a question about "America's role in the world," Romney needled the president of undercutting our allies.
"I think also that pulling our missile defense program out of Poland in the way we did was also unfortunate in terms of, if you will, disrupting the relationship in some ways that existed between us," Romney said.
President Reagan once suggested sharing SDI technology with no less than the Soviet Union. However that proposal looks in retrospect, here in the 21st century, there is a growing appetite for missile defense in those parts of the world within range of Iran and North Korea and a real opportunity to build alliances.