Russia didn't waste any time in putting President-elect Barack Obama on notice. A day after the election, President Dmitry Medvedev renewed Russian warnings that he would base short-range Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, on the border of Poland, if the U.S. proceeds with plans to base a missile defense system in Europe, with the hardware in Poland and the Czech Republic. And this week, the Kremlin rejected new proposals put forward by the Bush administration to assuage concerns that the system could be used to neutralize Russia's nuclear arsenal.
U.S. missile defense hawks responded that Medvedev's threat, coming on the heels of Russia's war with U.S.-allied Georgia, makes it essential for Obama to prove his mettle against an emboldened Kremlin and press ahead with a system to protect Europe and the United States against long-range missiles from Iran.
Obama should not react to the rhetoric from either quarter, but he should reconsider missile defense on its merits -- or lack thereof. The president-elect rightly is skeptical of the defense shield, given that it doesn't yet work and it's intended to defend against nuclear-tipped Iranian missiles that don't yet exist. Although Iran has tested long-range missiles that could reach southern Europe, some security analysts believe the country is merely saber-rattling, because an Iranian attack on Europe, or even Israel, would be met with such force as to be suicidal. Meanwhile, the proposed missile shield has driven an unnecessary wedge between Moscow and much of the rest of Europe.