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U.S. missile defense plan change made Russia "less paranoid" - Obama

RIA Novosti

18:51 20/09/2009 WASHINGTON, September 20 (RIA Novosti) - U.S. President Barack Obama praised Russia's readiness for deeper missile defense cooperation but said the U.S. decision to adjust its European missile shield plan was not caused by Russia's attitude.

"If the by-product of it is that the Russians feel a little less paranoid and are now willing to work more effectively with us to deal with threats like ballistic missiles from Iran or nuclear development in Iran, then that's a bonus," Obama told the Face the Nation show on CBS aired on Sunday.

"The Russians don't make determinations about what our defense posture is. We have made a decision about what will be best to protect the American people as well as our troops in Europe and our allies," he said.

Obama announced Thursday that Washington was dropping its previous plans to deploy elements of a missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland. The U.S. new plan contains a "phased, adaptive approach" to missile defense in Europe.

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.

The White House said in its Fact Sheet on U.S. Missile Defense Policy released September 17 that two major developments had led to the revision of the U.S. 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.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has praised the U.S. move to adjust its missile shield plans as "a responsible approach" toward the Moscow-Washington dialogue.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed 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.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an article published in The New York Times on Sunday that Obama's proposed shift in America's plans in Europe is no concession to Russia.

"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," Gates said.

"Russia's attitude and possible reaction played no part in my recommendation to the president on this issue," he said.

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