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Putin Lauds Obama for Scrapping Missile Defense System in Europe

By VOA News
18 September 2009

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to scrap plans for a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic is "correct and brave."

Mr. Putin Friday said he hopes other measures that would improve ties will follow.

President Obama Thursday said he is replacing a planned missile defense system in central Europe with what he calls a new approach for defending the United States and its NATO allies from a missile threat from Iran.

Russia had fiercely opposed the earlier planned system as a threat to its security.

Some U.S. Republican leaders and East European politicians have criticized the change as misguided.

Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States is not shelving missile defenses but implementing a more comprehensive defense system. She insisted the United States is not walking away from its allies.

Thursday, U.S. Republican Senator John McCain called the decision a step backwards at a time when Eastern European countries are increasingly wary of what he calls "renewed Russian adventurism."

Some Czech and Polish officials said the development will not endanger the security of their countries. But others, such as former Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose government negotiated the missile deployment accord, said the decision threatens Czech security.

Poland's Foreign Minister Radek Sikorsky called the timing of the announcement clumsy, noting that it came on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of his country during World War Two.

In his announcement, Mr. Obama said the change follows a new assessment of Iran's missile program. The missile defense system planned for central Europe was supposed to counter an attack from Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles.

But White House officials say the Iranian ICBM threat is developing more slowly than previously thought, while the threat from Iranian short and medium-range missiles is developing faster than projected.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush first proposed building a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic in 2006. Russia immediately condemned the move and threatened to place its own missiles on the European Union borders if Washington carried out its plans.

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