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U.S. missile defense reversal no concession to Russia - Gates

RIA Novosti

13:11 20/09/2009 NEW YORK, September 20 (RIA Novosti) - U.S. President Barack Obama's proposed shift in America's missile-defense plans in Europe is no concession to Russia, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an article published in The New York Times on Sunday.

Obama announced Thursday that Washington was dropping its previous plans to deploy elements of a missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland.

"Those who say we are scrapping missile defense in Europe are either misinformed or misrepresenting what we are doing. This shift has even been distorted as some sort of concession to Russia, which has fiercely opposed the old plan. Russia's attitude and possible reaction played no part in my recommendation to the president on this issue," Gates said in the article.

"This proposal is, simply put, a better way forward... I believe this is a very pragmatic proposal," Gates said, adding that the new plan was a hedge against a missile threat from Iran, not from Russia.

The U.S. defense secretary said on Friday that two major developments had led to the revision of the U.S. missile defense strategy in Europe: the increasing threat from Iran's short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, rather than intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the significant advances in the U.S. missile defense capabilities in recent years.

"I probably am more familiar with the risks of over-reliance on intelligence than anybody because I've seen how often it's been wrong," Gates told journalists. "If the intelligence is wrong and the Iranians develop a capability sooner than the intelligence is saying, this architecture gives us a better chance of being able to cope with it."

The Bush administration sought to deploy an omni-directional radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland as defense against potential strikes from Iran. Russia has consistently opposed the plans as a threat to its security and the strategic balance of forces in Europe.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev praised the U.S. move to scrap the missile shield plans as "a responsible approach" toward the dialog between Moscow and Washington.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed on Saturday that Russia is set to scrap plans to deploy missiles near Poland after the U.S. shelved its nuclear missile shield plans for Europe.

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