US to shelve Nuclear Missle Shield in Europe.

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U.S. to Shelve Nuclear-Missile Shield in Europe

Defense plans for Poland, Czech Republic to be dropped as Iran rocket threat downgraded; Moscow likely to welcome move


Thursday, September 17, 2009


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WASHINGTON — The White House will shelve Bush administration plans to build a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, according to people familiar with the matter, a move likely to cheer Moscow and roil the security debate in Europe.

The U.S. will base its decision on a determination that Iran’s long-range missile program has not progressed as rapidly as previously estimated, reducing the threat to the continental U.S. and major European capitals, according to current and former U.S. officials.

The findings, expected to be completed as early as next week following a 60-day review ordered by President Barack Obama, would be a major reversal from the Bush administration, which pushed aggressively to begin construction of the Eastern European system before leaving office in January.

The Bush administration proposed the European-based system to counter the perceived threat of Iran developing a nuclear weapon that could be placed atop its increasingly sophisticated missiles. There is widespread disagreement over the progress of Iran’s nuclear program toward developing such a weapon, but miniaturizing nuclear weapons for use on long-range missiles is one of the most difficult technological hurdles for an aspiring nuclear nation.

The Bush plan infuriated the Kremlin, which argued the system was a potential threat to its own intercontinental ballistic missiles. U.S. officials repeatedly insisted the location and limited scale of the system — a radar site in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland — posed no threat to Russian strategic arms.

The Obama administration’s assessment concludes that U.S. allies in Europe, including members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, face a more immediate threat from Iran’s short- and medium-range missiles and will order a shift towards the development of regional missile defenses for the continent, according to people familiar with the matter. Such systems would be far less controversial.

Continue reading at The Wall Street Journal

The Associated Press reported on Thursday President Obama phoned the Czech prime minister to discuss the missile defense system, a government spokesman said, and Czech media reported that Obama told the premier he will shelve the plan.

Government spokesman Roman Prorok declined to provide details of what Obama told Prime Minister Jan Fischer, saying only that Fischer later informed Czech President Vaclav Klaus.

The Czech national news agency CTK, citing a diplomatic source it didn’t identify, reported that Obama indicated the U.S. intends to “withdraw from its missile defense project in the Czech Republic and Poland.”

Prorok said Ellen Tauscher, a U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, would brief Czech officials in Prague and Polish officials in Warsaw later Thursday about Obama’s decision.

“It is most probable that the U.S. administration will unfortunately scrap the plan altogether,” said Jaroslaw Gowin, a lawmaker with Poland’s ruling Civic Platform party.

“This would confirm that Central Europe is not in the center of Obama administration’s interest,” he said, adding: “But maybe the U.S. will offer us an alternative.”

The Czech government had stood behind the planned radar system despite fierce opposition from the public, which has staged numerous protests over the past few years.

Critics fear the Czech Republic would be targeted by terrorists if it agreed to host the radar system, which was planned for the Brdy military installation 55 miles southwest of Prague, the capital.