Why Obama dropped European missile defense shield
Administration cites technological advances and a shifting threat from Iran. But many in Eastern Europe worry the US is simply appeasing Russia.
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.Skip to next paragraph
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In a Thursday morning announcement at the White House, Mr. Obama said a careful review of the proposed system, which would have placed fixed missile interceptors and radar stations in Poland and the Czech Republic, resulted in a unanimous recommendation from the secretary of Defense and other top military advisers to scrap the plan.
In its place, Obama said a new system would be implemented – one taking into account both recent technology advancements but also assessments showing that the potential threat from Iran has shifted. Those assessments conclude that Tehran has refocused its ballistic efforts on short- and medium-range missiles instead of on long-range missiles that could have threatened more distant allies and US forces.
The decision reflects not only the administration's policy review but also consultations with European allies since Obama took office.
"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."