The US has rejected Russia’s offer to cooperate on the missile shield. Kommersant reports that in the an interview with CNBC, Secretary of State Rice stated that “I think the Russians, after a period now of just saying no, no, no to what we intend to do in terms of missile defense, decided to come up with some of their own ideas. Now, we don’t agree; we believe that we still need to continue to move forward with the Czech Republic and with Poland.” The response comes in regard to the proposals Putin offered when he and Bush met in Kennebunkport. During a joint press conference Putin blindsided Bush with the following:
“We support the idea of consolidating our forces with regard to the Gabala radar station. And the idea is to achieve this through the Russia-NATO Council. But our proposal is not limited to this. We propose to establish an information exchange center in Moscow… A similar center could be established in one of the European capitals, in Brussels, for example. This could be a single system that would work in real time… In this case, there would be no need to place any more facilities in Europe – I mean, those facilities in the Czech Republic and the missile base in Poland. And if need be, we are prepared…to modernize the Gabala radar station. And if that is not enough, we would be prepared to include in this system a newly built radar station as well, an early warning system in the south of Russia.”
According to Kommersant Bush met these words by staring at Putin “in surprise and even let his smile fade for the first time throughout the entire first 15 minutes of the press conference.” It seems that Putin failed to mention any of these during their talks leaving Bush “to have been caught flat-footed again.” Bush bounced back by reasserting that Poland and Czech Republic should be part of a missile system no matter what the outcome.
Rice’s announcement is simply a reiteration of that opinion though she conceded that “U.S.-Russian cooperation could make a gigantic leap forward.”
The announcement also came on the cusp of “Sea Breeze 2007” in Odessa. The operation is the 10th of its kind. Last year’s was canceled when war broke out between Israel and Hezbollah. The U.S. and Ukraine along with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Greece, Canada, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Germany, Romania, and Turkey are staging military exercises in the Black Sea. The maneuvers feature a personnel of 2,500, 22 naval ships and numerous airplanes. The U.S. and Ukraine are providing the bulk of the personnel. About 1,000 are Ukrainian while the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are providing about 700. The exercises last until 22 July.
But Sea Breeze 2007 was met with a chill from the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine (PSPU) and the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) joined by the Black Sea Cossacks and United Fatherland. A few hundred protesters at two separate rallies voiced opposition to the presence of NATO members in Ukrainian territory. While PSPU members shouted slogans of “We Don’t Need NATO” and “NATO, get lost”, at the joint KPU, Black Sea Cossack, and United Fatherland rally speakers regaled their members with visions of inter-Slavic war. “We oppose the deployment of foreign troops on our soil, because that could lead to war between Slavic peoples,” prophesied Black Sea Cossack leader Oleg Dryanin.
The only violence was a small scuffle between police and PSPU members who refused to take down their tents despite a court order. The cops were unleashed to clear the area.
There is no doubt that tensions between the U.S. and Russia are going to make some see year’s Sea Breeze far more ominous than year’s past.