The meeting of two presidents in Kennebunkport was not expected to produce any tangible results. But this depends on what do you call "results". In my view, it did produce an important outcome - the call for broader cooperation made by the Russian president.
President Putin confirmed his proposal to jointly use the radar in Gabala, Azerbaijan and extended this offer to the new radar that Russia is building in Armavir. Then he called for revival of the Joint Data Exchange Center (JDEC), that has been languishing in a bureaucratic limbo for almost ten years. As a way of engaging Europe into this arrangement, he proposed opening a similar center in, say, Brussels. In President Putin's words at the press-conference,
Such cooperation I believe would result in raising to an entirely new level the quality of cooperation between Russia and the United States. And for all practical purposes, this would lead to a gradual development of strategic partnership in the area of security.This is exactly the right logic. The more the United States and Russia engage in various cooperative projects, the easier it would be for them to settle all kind of disagreements (and prevent them from occurring in the first place). As much as I am skeptical (to put it mildly) about missile defense, I have argued before that cooperation in this area would be very valuable. I have some questions about the JDEC idea as well, but overall it is a much more valuable and much more promising program.
It would be unfortunate if the Bush administration rejects or ignores the Russian call for cooperation, as it probably will. Of course, at the moment it looks like Russia is asking the price that many in the United States would argue is too high - it wants the United States to reconsider its plan to build missile defense sites in Poland and Czech Republic. But in reality Russia is asking for something else - it mostly wants to be part of the discussion.
Yes, the missile defense installations in Eastern Europe is the main Russian grudge of the moment, but nothing says that it will remain this way forever. Especially if Russia and the United States would engage in a serious discussion about it. Besides, the current location of the radar and interceptors is largely a result of political calculation, rather than of technical ones. Ted Postol has done some good calculations that show that a radar in Azerbaijan would work very well and that Poland is not an optimal place for interceptors (the U.S.-friendly Albania would be much better). So, even those who wish the U.S. missile defense program well may want to reconsider the decision to go with the current radar and interceptor sites.
I'm not very optimistic about the United States being serious about Russian offer. I just don't see that this administration is able to recognize it as an opportunity, much less to act on it. But who knows? Let's hope it will.