U.S. Drops Plans For Missile Defense Shield In Europe
PRAGUE (RFE/RL) -- The acting prime minister of the Czech Republic, Jan Fischer,
says U.S. President Barack Obama has told him that he has dropped controversial
plans to install radar for a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe.
"Today, shortly after midnight, U.S. President Barack Obama called to inform me
that his government was giving up its intention to build an antimissile radar
system on the territory of the Czech Republic," Fischer told a Prague news
The Czech-based radar was an essential part of the missile system, which also
involved the stationing of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. Canceling one part
almost certainly means that the whole project is being abandoned.
"The Wall Street Journal" reports in a front-page article that an official
delegation from Washington, including U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Ellen
Tauscher, is visiting Poland and the Czech Republic on September 17 to brief
them on the situation.
An Iranian medium-range Sejil-2 surface-to-surface missile
The newspaper cites present and former U.S.
officials as saying the reason for the move is that Iran is not developing a
long-range missile capability as quickly as had previously been thought.
Therefore, the threat posed to Europe and the United States is correspondingly
Russia would welcome such a decision by the United States, a spokesman for the
Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said such a step would be seen as
positive by Moscow, but that so far Russia had not been given any official
notification of Washington's decision on the missile shield.
Decision Can Be Reversed
The missile-defense shield was conceived by the previous administration of
President George W. Bush as a means of countering perceived threats from Iran.
The West suspects Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear arms and of using
its missile-development program as a delivery system.
The U.S. delegation to Warsaw and Prague will assure the governments there that
the decision to drop the project can be reversed if Iran shows signs of posing
an increased threat, sources say.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has scheduled a news conference in
Washington for later in the day. Also attending will be General James
Cartwright, an expert on the technical challenge of designing and installing
interceptor missiles to defend against incoming long-range missiles.
opposed the project, which it saw as directed at itself,
rather than faraway Iran or North Korea. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had
already said Moscow would view the cancellation not as a concession but as the
reversal of a mistaken policy.
Poland and the Czech Republic, on the other hand, fear that Russia will see the
cancellation as a sign that the United States is wavering in its defense of
Europe, and is susceptible to Russian pressure.
Barack Obama abandons missile defence shield in Europe - Barack Obama
has abandoned the controversial Pentagon plan to build a missile defence system
in Europe. The move has prompted angry accusations of betrayal from Washington's
eastern European allies but delighted the Kremlin. - Guardian
Copyright (c) 2009 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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