2009/09/17:Obama scrapping missile shield for Czech, Poland

WNPJ has been following this story, with our members responding to Action Alerts, as we posted stories on our website home page of the actions of mayors from cities in the the Czech Republich caravaning to NATO headquarters in Belgium, in protest of this missile shield....and this grassroots work has had an impact. Thanks to all who played a part, to make the world a little safer and saner. - WNPJ staff.  Thursday, September 17, 2009. Washington Post story: PRAGUE -- President Barack Obama has decided to scrap plans for a U.S. missile defense shield in the Czech Republic and Poland that had deeply angered Russia, the Czech prime minister confirmed Thursday.

 

NATO's new chief hailed the move as "a positive step" and a Russian analyst said Obama's decision will increase the chances that Russia will cooperate more closely with the United States in the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

Premier Jan Fischer told reporters that Obama phoned him overnight to say that "his government is pulling out of plans to build a missile defense radar on Czech territory."

"The same happened with Poland. Poland was informed in the same way about this intention," Fischer said.

He said Obama assured him that the "strategic cooperation" between the Czech Republic and the U.S. would continue, and that Washington considers the Czechs among its closest allies.

In Poland, officials declined to confirm Fischer's remarks, saying they were waiting for a formal announcement from Washington.

The plan, proposed by the Bush administration, aimed to defend the United States and its European allies against a possible missile attack from Iran or elsewhere in the Middle East. In all, 10 interceptor rockets were to have been stationed in Poland and a radar system based in the Czech Republic.

But Russia was livid over the prospect of having U.S. interceptor rockets in countries so close to its territory, and the Obama administration has sought to improve strained ties with the Kremlin.

"The U.S. president's decision is a well-thought (out) and systematic one," said Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament. "It reflects understanding that any security measure can't be built entirely on the basis of one nation."

"Now we can talk about restoration of (the) strategic partnership between Russia and the United States," Kosachev added.

Alexei Arbatov, head of the Russian Academy of Science's Center for International Security, told a Moscow radio station on Thursday that the U.S. was giving in on missile defense to get more cooperation from Russia on Iran.

"The United States is reckoning that by rejecting the missile-defense system or putting it off to the far future, Russia will be inclined together with the United States to take a harder line on sanctions against Iran," he said.

Czechs and Poles, along with some other Eastern Europeans, have complained of what many perceive as neglect by the Obama administration.

That, in turn, has prompted a U.S. diplomatic effort to reassure the countries that America - which helped liberate them from decades of communist-era isolation and helped bring them into NATO - still values them as friends and partners.

Fischer said after a review of the missile defense system, the U.S. now considers the threat of an attack using short- and mid-range missiles greater than one using long-range rockets.

"That's what the Americans assessed as the most serious threat," and Obama's decision was based on that, he said.

Obama took office undecided about the European system and said he would study it. His administration never sounded enthusiastic about it, and European allies have been preparing for an announcement that the White House would not complete the shield as designed.

Obama himself had hinted that the U.S. was rethinking the plan. In a major foreign policy speech in April in Prague, he said Washington would proceed with developing the system as long as Iran posed a threat to U.S. and European security.

But a top military leader, Marine Gen. James Cartwright, recently suggested that the U.S. may have underestimated how long it would take Iran to develop long-range missiles.

The Czech government had stood behind the planned radar system despite fierce opposition from the public, which staged numerous protests.

Critics feared the Czech Republic would be targeted by terrorists if it agreed to host the radar system, which was planned for the Brdy military installation 90 kilometers (55 miles) southwest of Prague, the capital.

In Washington, Defense Secretary Robert Gates scheduled a news conference Thursday with Cartwright, the point man on the technical challenge of arraying missiles and interceptors to defend against long-range missiles.

The decision to scrap the plan will have future consequences for U.S. relations with eastern Europe.

"If the administration approaches us in the future with any request, I would be strongly against it," said Jan Vidim, a lawmaker with Czech Republic's conservative Civic Democratic Party, which supported the missile defense plan.

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/17/AR2009091700639.html?hpid=topnews

By KAREL JANICEK and WILLIAM J. KOLE
The Associated Press

Forwarded from the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

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And here's the rest of the story today - 9/18/09:

Missile Defense: The Other Story

 

Yesterday we witnessed a flurry of emails and articles proclaiming victory after President Obama's announcement that he was going to scrap George W. Bush's plans to deploy missile defense interceptors in Poland and a Star Wars radar in the Czech Republic.  There is no doubt that our peace activist friends in those two countries do indeed have reason to celebrate after their hard and determined work to stop those deployments.  We also need to recognize and thank the many people around the world who acted in solidarity with them during these past couple years of intensive campaigning.

But now that we've had a day to rejoice, the time has come for more reflection on what the Obama administration intends to do next.  I've quickly learned during these eight months of watching Obama in action that when he gives something with one hand it is wise to watch what his other hand is taking away.

In his September 17 speech Obama stated that his new missile defense architecture for Europe would be more "comprehensive than the previous [Bush] program" and would be "enhanced" by NATO involvement.

Secretary of War Robert Gates was left to explain the details of the new missile defense "architecture" that would replace the now rejected deployment plan for Poland and the Czech Republic.

Gates stated that he was the one who had proposed three years ago to deploy the missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic.  He concluded that the original plan was no longer the best military "architecture" for the current "threat" from Iran.  Thus instead of missile defense interceptors that would target offending missiles in their mid-course of flight, and that had a series of bad test results, the Pentagon now wanted to deploy in northern and southern Europe missile defense systems that had a proven testing record and were more appropriate for the kind of threat now expected from Iran.

The intelligence community now assesses that the threat from Iran's short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, such as the Shahab-3, is developing more rapidly than previously projected," Gates said. "This poses an increased and more immediate threat to our forces on the European continent, as well as to our allies."

Gates continued, "We now have proven capabilities to intercept these [short range] ballistic missiles with land and sea-based interceptors supported by much improved sensors.  This allows us to deploy a distributed sensor network rather than a single-fixed site, like the kind slated for the Czech Republic."

US Navy Aegis destroyers, outfitted with Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) missile defense interceptors, would "provide flexibility to move interceptors from one region to another," Gates said.  In years to come the SM-3 will be upgraded and be deployed throughout Europe as land-based systems as well.  Since 2007 the SM-3 has had eight successful tests, including the February of 2008 shoot-down of a falling military satellite with an SM-3 missile from an Aegis ship in what many saw as proof that these systems also had "anti-satellite" weapons capability.

You can watch brief video clips of Gates here and Obama here from yesterday.
 

The Russians first reaction was positive, as would be expected, since they were deeply concerned that the Poland and Czech deployments could be used by the US as the shield in a first-strike attack.  But their concerns have not completely disappeared.

The Washington Post reported today that Maj. Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin, former chief of the Russian military's main research institute for nuclear strategy, cautioned that the reconfigured U.S. system could still pose a threat to Russia. "Everything depends on the scale of such a system," he told the Interfax news agency. "If it comprises a multitude of facilities, including a space echelon, it may threaten the Russian potential of nuclear deterrence."

As described by Gates and his top generals, Obama's new missile defense plan will unfold in three stages. By 2011, the Pentagon will deploy Navy Aegis ships equipped with SM-3 interceptors in the eastern Mediterranean.

A second phase in about 2015 will field an upgraded, land-based SM-3 in allied countries, and discussions are underway with Poland and the Czech Republic on basing the missiles in their territory, Gates said. In 2018, the third phase will deploy a larger and more capable missile, which will allow the system to protect Europe and the United States against short- and intermediate-range rockets and, eventually, intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Bloomberg News reports that, “This shift clearly benefits Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and is negative” for Boeing.  “The move away from fixed missile-defense sites in Eastern Europe is a continuation of the more flexible, tactical missile-defense shield that Secretary Gates advocated," said Rob Stallard, an analyst at Macquarie Capital Inc. in New York.

The Pentagon’s 2010 budget seeks 250 Standard Missile-3 interceptors. It also seeks to increase to 27 from 21 the number of warships equipped to
launch the Standard Missile-3s and requests $1.6 billion to develop software and hardware to upgrade ships and to develop a ground-based model.

The Pentagon is also now promising Poland that Patriot missiles will still be deployed in that country as previously planned. 

So in the end I see this as an adjustment in strategy due to technology as much as anything.  The flexible, more mobile, short range missile defense systems are proving ready to go while the former Bush proposal for Poland and Czech Republic included technologies that are not yet proven. 

Obama can appear to be stepping back from an immediate confrontation with Russia but in fact he is following the lead of the Pentagon who for some time has been saying that they must move to expand the more promising Navy Aegis-based missile defense system.  This program has already been dramatically growing in the Asian-Pacific region and will now be slated for expanded European operations.

Bruce K. Gagnon
Coordinator
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502
http://www.space4peace.org
globalnet@mindspring.com
http://space4peace.blogspot.com (Blog)