President Obama announced the US is changing its missile defense plans and will be abandoning its former proposal to install fixed sites in Poland and the Czech Republic.
At Thursday’s announcement from the White House, Obama said he is “committed to deploying strong missile defense systems which are adaptable to the threats of the 21st century.”
He said, “Our new missile defense architecture in Europe will provide stronger, smarter, and swifter defenses of American forces and America's allies.”
Obama added that the US will continue to work cooperatively with its “close friends and allies,” Poland and the Czech Republic.
”I've spoken to the prime ministers of both the Czech Republic and Poland about this decision, and reaffirmed our deep and close ties,” he said.
Obama also welcomed Russia's help in combating a future missile threat from Iran.
“We've also repeatedly made clear to Russia that its concerns about our previous missile defense programs were entirely unfounded,” he said. “Our clear and consistent focus has been the threat posed by Iran's ballistic missile program, and that continues to be our focus and the basis of the program that we're announcing today.”
“In confronting that threat, we welcome Russians' cooperation to bring its missile defense capabilities into a broader defense of our common strategic interests, even as we continue to – we continue our shared efforts to end Iran's illicit nuclear program,” Obama said.
The new plan will involve a more mobile and global force that can counter any apparent threat from Iran. However, as outlined by U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, the second phase of this strategy could still see land-based sites in Poland and the Czech Republic in the near future.
“We have now the opportunity to deploy new sensors and interceptors in northern and southern Europe that near term can provide missile defense coverage against more immediate threats from Iran or others," he said.
In the initial stage, he said, the US will deploy Aegis ships equipped with SM-3 [Standard Missile 3] interceptors which “provide the flexibility to move interceptors from one region to another if needed.”
“The second phase, about 2015, will involve fielded, upgraded, land-based SMS-3s,” Gates said.
Consultations with allies have begun, he said, starting with Poland and the Czech Republic “about hosting a land-based version of the SM-3 and other components of the system.”
The missile shield proposal was first raised by Gates in December 2006 and for the remainder of George W. Bush's presidency it continued to be a main item on the U.S.'s foreign policy agenda.
However, the plan first really gathered momentum in July 2008, when America secured a preliminary deal to base a radar station in the Czech Republic.
A few months later, Poland signed an agreement to house US missiles on its soil.
This led to a heightening of tension between Washington and Moscow, which saw the move as an attempt to counter its nuclear arsenal and a threat to national security.
But when President Obama took office in 2009, the countries vowed to reset relations.
And after a presidential visit to Moscow in July, the countries’ leaders further refreshed ties by signing a deal to limit nuclear arms.
“We saw a good cop and a bad cop approach today, because we heard Obama talking about the end of Bush’s anti-missile defense,” said RT political commentator Peter Lavelle.
“And now we have Mr. Gates coming out with Obama’s anti-missile defense. We have to let the military people sort out the details for us, but it sounds like one game ended and another game has started. It’s not going to go down well in this city.”