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.
In one of the sharpest breaks yet with the policies of the Bush administration, Obama phoned the leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic last night to tell them that he had dropped plans to site missile interceptors and a radar station in their respective countries. Russia had furiously opposed the project, claiming it targeted Moscow's nuclear arsenal.
Ironically enough, Defense Secretary Robert Gates just held a press conference. It's ironic because Gates was one of the biggest supporters of this missile defense shield when he was a part of the Bush administration. Secretary Gates cites two specific reasons for the change in policy 1)the intelligence on Iran has changed and 2)the administration believes that there's better technology to deal with the threat.
According to Gates, our intelligence now believes that Iran's intercontinental missile capabilities aren't as robust as we once thought. As such, the missile shield in Europe is unnecessary. I'm not privy to the intelligence however it goes without saying that our intelligence has had a recent history of being off.
There is a plethora of reaction so far. The strongest comes from Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona.
The decision announced today by the administration is dangerous and short-sighted,..Not only does this decision leave America vulnerable to the growing Iranian long-range missile threat, it also turns back the clock to the days of the Cold War, when Eastern Europe was considered the domain of Russia. This will be a bitter disappointment, indeed, even a warning to the people of Eastern Europe.
Joe Lieberman offered similar comments.
This deeply regrettable decision sends the wrong message to Tehran, Moscow, and our European allies at a critical time in our effort to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” Senator Joe Lieberman says in a statement. “Moreover, it means that we will have a less capable missile defense system to protect the United States and our European allies against the Iranian threat. The administration must take immediate and tangible action to reassure our allies in Central and Eastern Europe that we are committed to their security and independence
Gates for his part says that the administration is switching strategy and looking at a more mobile missile defense shield.
The administration announced it is scrapping plans to base long-range missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic in favor of a more flexible, shorter-range system that would counter a potential short- or mid-range Iranian missile threats to Europe. Under the new program, instead of focusing on a ground based system, the U.S. will increasingly deploy sea- and land-based missile interceptors.
I would caution everyone from rushing to judgments on this issue. These are very complicated issues and we, as the public, know an infinitesimal amount compared to those that have made the decisions. There will be plenty that will come out over the days, weeks, and months and we'll all be in a better position to judge the worthiness of this move. There's a lot to be troubled about this but for now we should give the president the benefit of the doubt.