US to abandon Polish-Czech missile shield, lobbyist says
27.08.2009 @ 09:03 CET
The United States has all-but abandoned plans to house anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech republic, according to a senior White House lobbyist.
Riki Ellison, the chairman of the 10,000 member-strong Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, said in Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza on Thursday (26 August) that the US has changed its mind to avoid a rift with Russia and is now looking at Israel, Turkey, the Balkans or ship-borne facilities instead.
"The signals given by generals from the Pentagon are clear: the current US government is looking for different solutions on the question of missile defence than Poland and the Czech republic," he said.
"The new [US] team is paying more attention to Russian arguments," he added.
"Obama's people believe that many problems in the world can be more easily solved together with Moscow ...it's a question of priorities. For many Democrats, the priority is disarmament and they are capable of sacrificing a lot in order to achieve a new agreement with Russia on the reduction of strategic [nuclear] weapons."
President Barack Obama ordered a review of the Bush-era missile shield plan shortly after coming into office this year.
He unveiled his vision for a nuclear weapons-free world at a major foreign policy speech in Prague in April, while sounding a note of scepticism over the value of the shield.
"As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defence system that is cost effective and proven," he said.
The multi-billion dollar project was to install 10 interceptor missiles at a facility in Poland and a radar base in the Czech republic. It also envisaged placing US Patriot missiles in Poland.
Russia said the scheme was aimed at degrading its nuclear capability and could trigger a new Cold War.
Many ordinary people in the Czech Republic also said they were against the shield in opinion polls.
But the Polish and Czech centre-right political elite saw it as US gold-plating of anti-Russian security guarantees offered by Nato.