Analysts Consider Fate of Proposed European Missile Shield

Reports that U.S. President Barack Obama ruled out deployment of missile defenses in Europe is prompting speculation about the fate of the Bush-era initiative, even though Obama's administration insists the plan is still under review, Politico reported yesterday (see GSN, Sept. 9).

The Bush administration sought to place 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar installation in the Czech Republic, contending that the defenses were necessary to counter an emerging Iranian long-range missile threat. Russia,though, characterized the initiative as a threat to its strategic security and threatened to deploy short-range missiles near Poland if it went through.

“Certainly the Bush administration was very enthusiastic, and the Obama administration is less so,” said John Isaacs, head of Council for a Livable World. “I hope they kill the system,” he added.

A Polish newspaper reported last month that the administration was considering alternatives that could involve sea-based systems or missile defenses in Israel, Turkey and the Balkans. The U.S. State Department called the report "inaccurate."

The Obama administration is expected to complete its review of U.S. missile defense operations this month. There are hints that a decision has already been made -- including the complete absence of discussion on the matter by top military officials attending a major missile defense conference in Huntsville, Ala.

Prominent defense industry insiders noted that the Obama administration's missile defense budget proposal places less emphasis on long-range missile interceptors than the preceding administration, instead focusing on battlefield missile defense capabilities (see GSN, Aug. 13).

U.S. national security adviser Gen. James Jones has said Washington has a "firm and unwavering commitment to Poland's security and defense," but Washington has provided little direct reassurance that Poland would host the missile interceptors (see GSN, Aug. 28).

In addition, longtime congressional advocates of the shield -- including Senators Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Joesph Lieberman (I-Conn.) -- have largely stopped promoting the proposal, analysts noted (Jen DiMascio, Politico, Sept. 10).

September 11, 2009
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Reports that U.S. President Barack Obama ruled out deployment of missile defenses in Europe is prompting speculation about the fate of the Bush-era initiative, even though Obama's administration insists the plan is still under review, Politico reported yesterday (see GSN, Sept. 9).