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The long-range missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic


MOSCOW TRIUMPHANT: Moscow is triumphant over Obama's decision to cancel his missile shield plan, says Moritz Gathmann in Spiegel Magazine. The decision by Washington not to install a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic has prompted Russians to breathe a little easier, it is also fueling a sense of triumph, writes Gathmann. Russia had long objected to plans pursued by the administration of former-President George W Bush to base a missile interceptor system close to its borders. The question now is what Russia will offer the United States in exchange for freezing the missile program in Poland and the Czech Republic?

It seems unlikely Moscow's position on Iran to change dramatically, but the Russians have made already some concessions on issues such as Afghanistan. In 2008, Moscow began permitting the transport of American supplies over Russian territory. On Sept. 6, Russia also started allowing American aircraft to transport military supplies for Afghanistan through Russian airspace.

According to Gathmann the main current source of tension for the relationship between the US and Russia actually lies in Georgia and Ukraine. (read in depth)

EAST EUROPE IS ANXIOUS: The timing of the announcement for cancelling the U.S. plans for missile defence in Eastern Europe is poor, writes The Economist.  September 17th is the anniversary of the Soviet attack on Poland in 1939. In a country highly tuned to symbolic snubs, it matters that nobody in Washington seemed to know or care about that, says the magazine.

From a practical point of view, the American change of plan is understandable. The technology of the planned scheme was unproven, and the Iranian threat it was supposed to counter only nascent. But the big task for America now is to reassure the Poles and other twitchy ex-communist countries such as the Baltic states, that it remains committed to their defence. The east European countries, squeezed between an increasingly close Russian-German friendship, look anxiously towards America to safeguard their interests. But is America looking at them? (read in depth)


REWARDING BAD RUSSIAN BEHAVIOR? The administration's capitulation to Russian pressure is a serious betrayal of loyal allies in Warsaw and Prague, writes David Kramer in Washington Post. Kramer explains the changes in the American plans for missile defence in east Europe as a deal with Russia. Yes, Washington has an interest in an arms control deal with Moscow, but Russia's need for such a deal is much greater: It cannot afford to maintain its aging nuclear weapons, nor could it compete with the United States in any new arms race, writes Kramer. Ten interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic were never a threat to Russia, yet the change in the U.S. plans is for expense of Eastern Europe. Rewarding bad Russian behavior is likely only to produce more Russian demands on this and other issues, thinks Kramer. David Kramer is a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, served as deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova in the George W. Bush administration. (read in depth)

A VICTORY FOR A SANE FOREIGN POLICY: The decision to deploy a US ballistic missile defence system to Eastern Europe was, at its core, a political manoeuvre, writes Robert Farley in Guardian.  The military arguments in favour of the deployment were confused and contradictory, he says. Advocates initially argued that the system was intended to deter Iran, and that it could not defend against Russian missiles. Later, as concern about the Iranian missile threat ebbed, supporters argued that cancellation of the programme would represent appeasement of Russian aggression .

Overall, this is a tremendous victory for a sane foreign policy and a responsible defence policy . The US will save money, and avoid needlessly antagonising Russia, is Farley's opinion. (read in depth)

SOUND DECISION BUT BE PREPARED: President Obama made a sound strategic decision, scrapping former President George W. Bush's technologically dubious plan to build a long-range missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Instead, the Pentagon will deploy a less-ambitious - but more feasible - system of interceptors and sensors, first on ships and later on land, writes The New York Times. Neither Poland nor the Czech Republic was ever worried about Iran or particularly committed to the need for missile defense. What they fear is Russia. However, the newspaper notices that the Russians will be watching American foreign policy closely for any signs of weakness. Mr. Obama must be prepared to press Mr. Medvedev hard on any important issue. (read in depth)

map US defence system


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