U.S. Scraps Eastern Europe Missile Shield Plan and Sparks Controversy

In what it is already proving to be a controversial decision, President Barack Obama announced that he is scuttling the Bush administration’s plans for a Poland and Czech missile defense system and insteady opting for a different “redesigned plan” — a major foreign policy reversal for an administration that has been both praised (mostly on the right) and criticized (mostly on the left) for conducting a foreign policy most notable for its general continuity.

The decision has already become controversial abroad and particularly at home where reaction is largely breaking along highly predictable party and ideological lines (just check out the reaction on memeorandum). The

New York Times reports it this way:
President Obama announced on Thursday that he would scrap former President George W. Bush’s planned missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic and instead deploy a reconfigured system aimed more at intercepting short- and medium-range Iranian missiles.

Mr. Obama decided not to deploy a sophisticated radar system in the Czech Republic or 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland, as Mr. Bush had planned. Instead, the new system his administration is developing would deploy smaller SM-3 missiles, at first aboard ships and later on land somewhere in Europe, possibly even in Poland or the Czech Republic.

“President Bush was right that Iran’s ballistic missile program poses a significant threat,” Mr. Obama told reporters at the White House. But he said new assessments of the nature of the Iranian threat required a different system that would use existing technology and different locations. “This new approach will provide capabilities sooner, build on proven systems and offer greater defenses against the threat of missile attack than the 2007 European missile defense program.”

The decision amounts to one of the biggest national security reversals by the new administration, one that has caused consternation in Poland and the Czech Republic and pleased at least some officials in Russia, which had adamantly objected to the Bush plan. But Obama administration officials stressed that they are not abandoning missile defense, only redesigning it to meet the more immediate Iranian threat.

CNN earlier reported:

Vice President Joe Biden earlier refused to confirm to CNN that the George W. Bush-era plan was being shelved.

But he did explain the logic of doing so, saying Iran — a key concern for the United States — was not a threat.

“I think we are fully capable and secure dealing with any present or future potential Iranian threat,” he told CNN’s Chris Lawrence in Baghdad, where he is on a brief trip.

“The whole purpose of this exercise we are undertaking is to diminish the prospect of the Iranians destabilizing that region in the world. I am less concerned — much less concerned — about the Iranian potential. They have no potential at this moment, they have no capacity to launch a missile at the United States of America,” he said.

Here’s Obama’s announcement:

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Here’s the text of his statement.
One Reuters account says Obama’ handed Russia “a gift” and notes the partisan split on his action:

President Barack Obama essentially handed Russia a gift on Thursday with his decision to roll back a planned U.S. missile defense in eastern Europe.

The Russian government had loudly protested U.S. plans begun by Obama’s predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, to deploy an anti-missile system in eastern Europe that the United States insisted had been aimed at defending against a potential missile attack from Iran.

Obama’s decision to shift the focus to defending against Iran’s short and medium-term missile capabilities instead meant there would be no need to deploy the missile shield systems in the Czech Republic and Poland that so alarmed Russia.

His move drew praise from fellow Democrats and some arms control advocates who saw the Bush plan as aimed at a Iranian missile threat that did not yet exist.

“The Obama administration is restoring American credibility while protecting our national security and that of our allies by canceling a failed, ideologically driven program,” said the pro-Obama National Security Network.

But Republicans and missile-defense advocates called the move misguided and short-sighted and said it could weaken U.S. and European security.

Senator John McCain, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called Obama’s move an abrogation of an agreement between the United States and its allies.

“What signal to we send to our friends in eastern Europe, and what signal do we send to (Russian Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin, who most vociferously announced on numerous occasions his opposition to this plan?” McCain told Reuters.

There’s more so go to the link.

Another NY Times analysis says the move will cause a shift in Europe:

After watching President Obama’s pragmatic maneuvering over missile defense, staunch Eastern European allies like Poland and the Czech Republic appeared likely to become more realistic and less idealistic about United States foreign policy going forward, not to mention a lot less liable to fall in line behind the United States.

The decision to suspend plans for placing missile interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic did not come as a tremendous surprise after months of signals from Washington. But for politicians who backed the American plan, it was a disappointment and even an embarrassment.

“It’s a U-turn in the U.S. policy,” said Alexandr Vondra, the former Czech deputy prime minister for European affairs and a staunch supporter of the missile-defense system. “It must not undermine security guarantees in Central and Eastern Europe. Otherwise the United States may have a problem in generating support for out of area missions in this region,” Mr. Vondra said.

The hasty phone call after midnight from President Obama to Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer stood in stark contrast to Condoleezza Rice’s very public trip to Warsaw shortly after Russia’s invasion of Georgia, barely over a year ago, to sign an agreement in August 2008.

But Poland does not appear to be emerging empty-handed from the missile defense merry-go-round. Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski announced that the United States would still deploy Patriot missiles as promised. And Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the United States would base smaller SM-3 missiles on Polish soil if the Polish government still wants them.

Another theory: U.S. firms could gain financially by this decision, although there are notable risks.

And Obama will be taking a lot of political heat for this decision .David Kramer, a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, who served as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor as well as deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova in the George W. Bush administration, blasts Obama in the Washington Post. Here is part of it:

Russian leaders never liked the idea that the United States, Poland and the Czech Republic were cooperating on missile defense to confront an emerging Iranian threat. The notion that two former Warsaw Pact states that Moscow used to control would be hosting 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a corresponding radar facility in the Czech Republic was unacceptable. Kremlin leaders alleged that the system was meant to target Russia, not counter Iran, and they had threatened to scuttle unrelated arms control negotiations with the United States unless Washington backed down.

With the Obama administration’s announcement Thursday that it is indeed abandoning the Polish and Czech sites, Moscow’s complaining appears to have worked. Yet the administration’s capitulation to Russian pressure is a serious betrayal of loyal allies in Warsaw and Prague whose governments pursued politically unpopular positions at the request of the Bush administration to help confront a rising threat from Iran. (Announcing this policy change on Thursday, the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland, added unnecessary insult to injury.)

During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama showed little enthusiasm for the missile defense plans of President Bush. After his election, however, Obama appeared to take a firmer position, one closer to his predecessor’s thinking. “Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran’s neighbors and our allies,” he said in Prague on April 5. “The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles. As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed.”

Whatever the official explanation now for not moving forward, many — including the Kremlin — will read this shift as an effort to placate Moscow. Announcing the decision ahead of Obama’s meetings with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev next week reinforces such thinking.

Go to the link to read it in its entirety.

The Christian Science Monitor steps back and offers this analysis:

President Obama’s decision to abandon a planned missile defense system in Eastern Europe reflects a cost-benefit analysis by an administration that was skeptical of the program from the start, concluding the system posed more hurdles – both diplomatically and in implementation – than it resolved….

…The decision reflects not only the administration’s policy review but also consultations with European allies since Obama took office.

An ongoing discussion among NATO allies on how the objectives of such a system could be achieved at a lower cost was stepped up under the Obama team, a senior European diplomat in Washington says.

“There were long discussions about how it could be done less expensively and more efficiently,” he says. “I think this decision reflects that.”

The decision has potentially far-reaching diplomatic impact.

Much of the snap reaction to Obama’s announcement interpreted it as reflective of the administration’s desire to pursue less confrontational and more productive relations with Russia on issues ranging from stopping Iran’s nuclear program to disarmament.

Some observers caution that it would be a mistake to view the decision primarily as a bow to Russia.

“This is not really a concession [to Russia],” the senior European official says. It’s “really [the result of] a technical assessment of the pros and cons of such a system.”

But others worry that the decision could pose problems for the US, especially in Eastern Europe, if it is not fully explained to all partners.

There’s a lot more so read it in its entirety.

CBS adds some more details:

The White House’s announcement that it would abandon the Bush administration plan for a long range missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic and instead deploy a more portable system of land and sea based interceptors is really the result of intelligence that Iran is advancing is capacity to launch short and medium range missiles, CBS News’ National Security Correspondent David Martin said on “Washington Unplugged” Thursday.

“The buried lede here is that there is this new intelligence estimate which says that Iran is progressing much more quickly than previously thought on developing its short and medium range missiles,” Martin said. “Where previously the U.S. had thought maybe they would have to contend with a launch of four or five Iranian missiles, now they are talking about a capability for Iran to launch hundreds.”…

….Martin added that the standard missile which will be used as part of the new Obama plan has the “advantage of costing one tenth of what those large interceptors they were going to put in Poland cost. So now it’s financially possible to deploy hundreds of these standard missiles.”

CBS News’ Chief White House correspondent Chip Reid said “critics have immediately seized on the idea that what they are doing is basically throwing Poland and the Czech Republic under the bus here…and they are doing it to basically improve relations with Russia.”

16 Comments

  1. Of course, the idea of the Czechs and Poles wanting the missile bases as some sort of “tripwire” to ensure US support in the case of neo-Soviet aggression hasn't come up. As Iran continues its nuclear and misslle development [with Russian acquiescence], it appears that Obama's “reset” button is a “retreat” button. Recall that the Chechen conflict is Putin's biggest concern, with the Iranian-culture Chechens seeking Iran's assistance, so far without any success. This is a sort of threat that Anna Politkovskaya was warning about before Putin had her murdered [the surveillance camera caught the entire murder, but the assailant has yet to be found?].

    I would very much like to play poker with Obama, as he gave away something for nothing, and managed to doubly insult the Poles as it was the 70th anniversary of the Russian invasion of Poland from the East. Talk about wrong-footed clumsiness and timing, Obama & Hillary couldn't have done worse.

  2. I agree, Dave.

    Obama's supporters say that the system had been untested. That is a falshood. Based upon Aegis and Patriot systems, the missle shield system would have worked just as well, as it was based upon the same technology.

    Next, as you stated, President Obama wishes to realign allies. To him, it is better to please (or appease) the Russians in an effort to form a tighter bond, than to follow through with a comittment made with a proven ally like the Poles. I met countless Polish troops in Iraq – and they were outstanding warriors – some of the best in theater.

    But you have to understand why the President is doing this.
    I stated the following on another thread:
    Like Bush, Obama is a “one-world government” type, only with Bush he wished to use NATO where Obama uses UN. Within the NATO framework, we were, indeed, working against the Russians. Under the UN framework, we need Russia for key issues.
    Take your pick. Both forms of world government stink – be it the militarily powerful NATO, or the diplomatically powerful UN.
    Given the choice, I'd rather be on top of the heap with Star Wars and with a tested ally like the Poles, than on an equal keel without it with a “possible” ally with the Russians.

  3. JD, I am a retired FSO State Dept Arabist and have spent decades studying and speaking on the Middle East, especially Iran, concerning which I gave a talk in Coral Gables a year or so ago. I can absolutely vouch for the fact that the twisted and sick message the Iranians will take away from this cave-in by Obama [on the very day, leaked "SECRET" IAEA documents showing that Iran is proceeding with its nuke program and its missile program] will be this: any negotiations with the State Dept or Obama at the upcoming UN GA meetings in New York [remember that Obama gave Iran "until September" to respond to his peace hand of friendship last Spring?] need not be taken seriously.

    Iran, and the rest of the UN will consider it a given that Obama can be rolled, easily, and that he ain't got a pecker in them pants. First he makes a commitment to Poland & the Czechs in April, then reneges, for no apparent reason and for no quid pro quo. At the same time he extends a peace feeler to Iran, they laugh in his face, and he backs down on his missile shield to protect US allies from them.

    Who in fact is in charge in the White House? Is this guy a featherweight or a flyweight? Jimmy Carter, move over, we've got a new contender for championship mush from a wimp.

  4. JD, I am a retired FSO State Dept Arabist and have spent decades studying and speaking on the Middle East, especially Iran, concerning which I gave a talk in Coral Gables a year or so ago. I can absolutely vouch for the fact that the twisted and sick message the Iranians will take away from this cave-in by Obama [on the very day, leaked "SECRET" IAEA documents showing that Iran is proceeding with its nuke program and its missile program] will be this: any negotiations with the State Dept or Obama at the upcoming UN GA meetings in New York [remember that Obama gave Iran "until September" to respond to his peace hand of friendship last Spring?] need not be taken seriously.

    Iran, and the rest of the UN will consider it a given that Obama can be rolled, easily, and that he ain't got a pecker in them pants. First he makes a commitment to Poland & the Czechs in April, then reneges, for no apparent reason and for no quid pro quo. At the same time he extends a peace feeler to Iran, they laugh in his face, and he backs down on his missile shield to protect US allies from them.

    Who in fact is in charge in the White House? Is this guy a featherweight or a flyweight? Jimmy Carter, move over, we've got a new contender for championship mush from a wimp.

  5. You're absolutely right on all points, brother.
    And “Quai Falek” to you.
    It's nice to know a bit more about the specifics from your rare (and insightful) point of view. Most shmucks don't have it. Iran is a proud nation – going way back to the Persian empire. They're not the stone-age “arabs” that most Americans (and some politicians) think they are. They've got a long-run game plan, and you nailed it.
    Now isn't the time to join hands with Ahmadinijad and sing Kum ba ya in the Whitehouse.
    I'm just afraid that we'll be pulling back a bloody “nub” when we do.

    And if Obama thinks that Israel is going to sit idly by and watch Iran procure nukes, he's naive at best.
    And perhaps that's Iran's aim. Get Israel to attack and garner pan-arab support for a massive jihad.

  6. I would love to read Obama's “disappeared” graduation thesis from Columbia on US/Soviet nuke disarming! I'll bet he sees pies all over the sky in that [conveniently "lost"] artifact of naive otherworldliness. There are forty-day riots in Iran over the young girl's death and the Iranians in the general population are the most pro-US of any Muslim nation. We are their only hope for democracy and then Brobambi kisses the hem of the robe of Ahmedinejad, who then kicks him metaphorically in the face by continuing the nuke program and not responding to his “peace overture.” In response, POTUS huffily suspends the missile program with his DepSecState Tauscher, a woman who is a specialist in child care! If that isn't a signal his paper on disarmament is childish or childlike, at least we now know why he kept it [and all his records as a State Senator and his attendance at Muslim schools etc...plus his acceptance of Rev. Wright as a "spiritual father" so very long]. If Jimmy Carter weren't a Manchurian Candidate giving up the Panama Canal now owned and operated by the PRC, perhaps Obama is metaphorically the MC for kicking our allies to the curb and encouraging our enemies, all the while trying to repeat Europe's mistakes at home! Maybe India is next. They seem to like GWB, and for that perhaps they will pay, dearly…. Like making them accept Cap & Trade while giving China an exemption. That's how loony-toon this already failed foreign policy is.

    And yes, the Israelis are clear-eyed, but know that if they attack Iran, the price of oil will go to $200 and the whole world will blame them rather than serial UN resolution flaunter Iran. The UN hates it most of all when its flaunted resolutions are actually enforced outside its pattycake garden party echo chamber. I was in two UNGA sessions and I can assert that lunacy walks and sanity hides behind the scenes when the General Assembly, led by a defrocked priest Communist from Latin America, starts proposing whack-job ET scenarios and voting on them. Early on in my State career, I received an application from a third-world country to join the Security Council addressed to “Cyprus” Vance. Needless to say, the country didn't become one of the select 15.

    Over on JustOneMinute at Tom Maguire's blog, there is a discussion of just all the zaniness this missile shield mischief contains.

  7. LOL Dave Lets see what the ArmsControlWonks have to say:
    http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/2465/a-sensible-


    Those who would say the decision was about Russia have it backwards — for exhibits A and B check the quotes in stories by WaPo’s Michael D. Shear and Ann Scott Tyson and the NYT’s Peter Baker and Nicholas Kulish.

    The Bush Administration placed a midcourse interceptor site and X-band radar within the former Warsaw Pact precisely to make a political point to the Russia, not because it provided the best defense. Aegis was always a better technical option.

    Once the White House was no longer motivated to be churlish toward Moscow, that allowed technical considerations at the front of the debate. The fact that this may also open up a world of possibilities with Moscow (and I stress may) is nice, but is not the reason to put theater missile defenses into Europe. The reason is to give NATO allies a defense that works against a threat that exists.

  8. There always have been pathological fools who are instinctively against US-Western missile and other defenses, and lament the demise of their late, great, beloved USSR.

    The lessons taught by this decision don't just involve the Czechs and the Poles, but also the Georgians and the Ukrainians.

    The separate issue is if the alternative sought is mere liberal “symbolic” fluff or actually of value; theater missiles are a serious threat, and Iran is a serious threat, and naval missile defenses against theater missiles say “Persian Gulf” and “protecting Iran's neighbors and their oil installations.”

  9. “'one-world government' type”

    Normal people who slipped and flirted with this realized the error of their ways after the Iron Curtain fell. Anyone wanting this as their goal since then has no excuse and is much more pathetic if not more sinister.

  10. “First he makes a commitment to Poland & the Czechs in April, then reneges, for no apparent reason and for no quid pro quo.”

    At least with the scummy politics-of-torture Bush-Cheney Code Pinkers, there was a (sinister) reason.

  11. Well stated, brother.
    I saw above where several stated it “wasn't about Russia”. It's about Russia, and Iran – and puts already valuable allies (former Soviet Bloc countries) at bay. But as I said earlier, Obama is a stary-eyed United Nations junky. The right tends to be NATO intensive. However, even GW Bush went to the UN to speak, as did Clinton.
    I believe that the “one-world-government” types (put that there for you, DLS) act for different reasons. The left because they actually want a one-world government. Some on the right recognize the world economy as it is and have moved to keep the US in the mix (otherwise PRC and India would be your new superpowers). That's the reason behind bipartisan support of NAFTA and the like.

    But I find it odd that Obama decided to break the news about the missle shield on the 70th anniversary of the Invasion of Poland. Nice touch, Barack.

  12. Of course it's about Russia, although the Groupthinkeers on the NYT/WaPo DNC foreign policy agitprop squads would like to have you think otherwise. They are Obamamaniacs who actually extracted the exceedingly embarrassing eff-up of announcing the missile decision on the 70th Anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Eastern Poland, according to the agreement of the Molotov/Ribbentrop Pact in August, 1939. Putin must be ROTFL uproariously at Obama's imbecilic timing. This goes along with the removal of the “tripwire” and of linkage, violating two basic tenets of World Diplomacy and Political Military Affairs 101.

    “ArmsControlWonks” are pretty much evenly divided, though they do like the technical side of things. However, EVERY single European politician and diplomat who isn't under Putin's thumb knows that one HUGE bargaining chip in the fight to keep European energy from becoming completely under Putin's control has just been removed. The Eastern Europeans have no lost complete confidence in the US's ability to be a foreign policy leader. Obama has done in months what took Jimmy Carter three years to do.

    For those who actually understand these things, Putin's next goal is the Baku/Ceyhan Pipeline through Georgia, which sparked last year's August Russian invasion. These matters are light-years above Rudi's foreign policy skill sets, but serious people don't rely on the NYT and the jabberwocky MSM to define what is a foreign policy mistake. And Obama who was always punching above his weight with Putin, has just moved from a flyweight down to a featherweight. This dude is making Carter's give-away of the Panama Canal to [eventually] China look like a brilliant move!

    The Democrats always wonder why people think they are weak on national security. Obama once again demonstrates why.

  13. Of course it's about Russia, although the Groupthinkeers on the NYT/WaPo DNC foreign policy agitprop squads would like to have you think otherwise. They are Obamamaniacs who actually extracted the exceedingly embarrassing eff-up of announcing the missile decision on the 70th Anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Eastern Poland, according to the agreement of the Molotov/Ribbentrop Pact in August, 1939. Putin must be ROTFL uproariously at Obama's imbecilic timing. This goes along with the removal of the “tripwire” and of linkage, violating two basic tenets of World Diplomacy and Political Military Affairs 101.

    “ArmsControlWonks” are pretty much evenly divided, though they do like the technical side of things. However, EVERY single European politician and diplomat who isn't under Putin's thumb knows that one HUGE bargaining chip in the fight to keep European energy from becoming completely under Putin's control has just been removed. The Eastern Europeans have no lost complete confidence in the US's ability to be a foreign policy leader. Obama has done in months what took Jimmy Carter three years to do.

    For those who actually understand these things, Putin's next goal is the Baku/Ceyhan Pipeline through Georgia, which sparked last year's August Russian invasion. These matters are light-years above Rudi's foreign policy skill sets, but serious people don't rely on the NYT and the jabberwocky MSM to define what is a foreign policy mistake. And Obama who was always punching above his weight with Putin, has just moved from a flyweight down to a featherweight. This dude is making Carter's give-away of the Panama Canal to [eventually] China look like a brilliant move!

    The Democrats always wonder why people think they are weak on national security. Obama once again demonstrates why.

  14. Is there any surprise to ANYONE that this President is a tool when it comes to dipomacy?
    Granted, GW Bush was a tool as well in that arena as well. But at least he let the world and would-be third world dictators know that if you attack us, we WILL attack you.

    We haven't had a good diplomat in office for a long long time. Bolten seams to have a clue, but those before and after him were severely lacking. I think it's because of the cold war ending, and our diplomatic pants were down around our ankles. Putin has us in spades on that.

    Hey…. I've got an idea!!!!
    Maybe Obama, in an effort to stop possible Russian agression, could give the Rhineland to Putin!
    No, wait…..That's been done already.

  15. Bolten seams to have a clue, but those before and after him were severely lacking.
    ROFLMAO
    Bolton is a complete fool. He couldn't even carry Kissingers bags…

  16. Larison writes on the conservative backlash to what he calls out as satire(unintended).
    http://www.amconmag.com/larison/2009/09/18/the-

    For starters, you have to enjoy all of the unnecessary capitalization. It isn’t merely missile defense, but Missile Defense that Obama has scrapped. All of the usual tropes are here: surrender, betrayal, appeasement. It doesn’t seem to bother these people that all of this is garbage. Former Polish President Kwasniewski specifically rejected describing this decision as a “betrayal,” and it is laughable that anyone would make such a charge. How can cancelling a system that hasn’t even been built and which at least half of Poland doesn’t want count as a betrayal of Poland? If this move were an attempt at “appeasing” Russia, it might start to rehabilitate the reputation of appeasement. It would mean that foregoing unnecessary provocations can repair frayed international relations, and it implies that critics of the decision would prefer a world in which relations with Russia continue to deteriorate and European security is steadily undermined. Iran’s nuclear capability is neither here nor there. Without a long-range missile program to deliver the nukes that Iran is nowhere near close to having, Iran’s nuclear capability might be real and still pose no threat to European security. The signatories of this statement haven’t a shred of credibility on these issues. Unfortunately, instead of being greeted with embarrassment and disdain by conservatives, this statement represents the common view of much of the American right.

    Here's what the former Polish President has to say:
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,15

    SPIEGEL: Even though Warsaw and Prague signed a deal with the Bush administration, US President Barack Obama has called a halt to the construction of an American missile shield based in Poland and the Czech Republic. The Polish papers are calling it an American betrayal of Poland. Is it?

    Aleksander Kwasniewski: No, and I am completely opposed to describing it as such. For myself and many others, it doesn't come as any surprise that the Americans have changed their plans. During Obama's election campaign, there had already been talk of how the security threat, the technological feasibility and the costs of the project needed to be reassessed.

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