Ted Postol, in an op-ed published by The New York Times today, argues that the United States should accept Russia's offer to use the radar in Azerbaijan for its missile defense system.
Ted admits that he is quite skeptical about the proposed missile defense, but he argues that if the United States wants it to work, then integrating the systems would make a lot of sense from the technical standpoint, since the radars would complement each other:
[...] the Russian radar can quickly and effectively search the sky for missiles, but has little ability to determine exactly what it has found. The American radar may take longer to find the object, but can carefully observe its structural details. It should be obvious that when you use two systems with such different strengths and weaknesses in tandem, you will have a much easier time spotting and tracking missiles.As for the politics, Ted argues that "technical cooperation between the countries is a good way to encourage Russia to be closer with the West".
I completely agree with Ted's points. All confrontational rhetoric notwithstanding, Russia has been trying to tell the United States that it really wants to cooperate on a range of issues, missile defense being one of them. Following Putin's offers at the G8 meeting and in Kennebunkport, a call for cooperation was made by Sergei Ivanov, who oversees defense and security issues in the government. Speaking during his trip to the Far East, Ivanov hinted at a possibility of even broader cooperation on missile defense and data exchange.
I really wish someone in the Bush administration took a serious look at the Russian proposals. For the moment, however, all we hear is that the United States is not going to abandon the plan to build missile defense installations in Eastern Europe. But this does not seem to be a precondition of the Russian offers. This is something that Russia appears to be willing to discuss and I do not see any reason why this discussion could not end with approval of the Easter European deployment (which, as Ted Postol argues, may make sense). In any event, the process of talks and cooperation would matter much more than technical details of the system that may (or may not) emerge.