Obama Shelves Plan for Europe Defense Shield

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President Barack Obama announced Thursday that he is shelving the planned anti-missile defense shield for eastern Europe and suggested his plan will better address threats to America and the nation's allies.

Obama's strategy eliminates a sophisticated radar site in the Czech Republic and defensive missiles in Poland.

The effort will now focus on the threat of Iranian short and medium range missiles rather than long range ones.

"To put it simply," Obama said. "our new defense architecture in Europe will provide stronger, smarter and swifter defenses of America's forces and America's allies."

The president said his plan will utilize mobile and land based anti-missile defense--technology that is already proven more cost effective and can be implemented sooner.

Critics of the American policy shift said Obama is sending the wrong message to America's European allies.

Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe suggested the change will affect the U.S. image.

"Our credibility in eastern Europe is something that really bothers me," he said.

Some Europe reaction was also critical of the move.

"These new member states, of both NATO and the EU, are certainly disappointed, and feel that the solidity of protection by the United States is cracking or subject to questions," said Michael Emerson of the Center for European Policy Studies.

In Britain a columnist in the Daily Telegraph said it looks like President Obama has surrendered to the demands of the Russians.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has opposed the defense shield. It has stood in the way of improved relations between the U.S. and Russia even though President Bush insisted that potential Iranian nukes were the reason the response was needed.

Defense Secretary Gates, who also worked in the Bush administration, said the reality of the Iranian threat has changed, and those who think America has abandoned its committment to European security are wrong.

"Those who say we are scrapping missile defense in Europe are either misinformed or misrepresenting the reality of what we are doing," he said.

Under the second phase of the new American strategy, missiles could be placed in eastern Europe by 2015.

So, the president and secretary Gates suggested it is time for a more affordable approach by using the technology we already have to address current, more realistic threats.

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Gary Lane

Gary Lane

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