Sunday, September 20, 2009

POLAND NEWS: Russian Missile Plan near Poland Suspended

(photo: Evgeny Stetsko)

Russia now says it is giving up on a plan to deploy missiles near Poland. The announcement follows an American decision to cancel deployment of a missile shield in Eastern Europe.

Vladimir Popovkin told Ekho Moskvy radio that Obama's move has made the deployment of Iskander short-range missiles in the Kaliningrad region unnecessary.

Today, President Barack Obama sharply dismisses criticism that Russian opposition influenced his decision to scrap a European missile defense system, calling it merely a bonus if the leaders of Russia end up "a little less paranoid" about the U.S.

"My task here was not to negotiate with the Russians," Obama told CBS' "Face the Nation" in an interview for broadcast Sunday. "The Russians don't make determinations about what our defense posture is."

The president's comments were his first on the matter since he abruptly announced on Thursday that he was scuttling plans to deploy 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a related radar in the Czech Republic. That shield had been proposed under President George W. Bush.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski, a conservative supporter of the shield, said his government shared blame for the demise of the U.S. project, but analysts say the economy is a far bigger priority than missile defense for Polish and Czech voters.

Russia had fiercely opposed plans to deploy the shield in a region it had dominated until the fall of communism in 1989.

"Betrayal! The USA has sold us to the Russians and stabbed us in the back," said the Polish tabloid Fakt.

Washington and its NATO allies in Prague and Warsaw always insisted the shield was aimed against Iran, not Russia, noting that 10 interceptors could not deter Moscow's

"Polish diplomacy and administration must bear part of the blame for the present situation. In the process of negotiation with the American side ... what was lacking was a feeling that the Polish government believes in the strategic character of the American presence in Poland," Kaczynski wrote.