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US Defense Chief Defends New Missile Program

By VOA News
20 September 2009

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is dismissing criticism of a new missile-defense plan for Europe, rejecting claims it is a concession to Russia.

Gates defends the Obama administration's strategy in an opinion article published Saturday in The New York Times newspaper.

The administration is following Gates' recommendation to change plans from a ground-based missile-defense system to a sea and ground-based program.

Gates says the new plan will enable the United States to defend itself and its allies against Iranian missile attacks years earlier than the original plan.

He says those who say the administration is abandoning missile defense in Europe are either misinformed or misrepresenting what it is doing.

Gates says the new plan will deploy sea-based interceptor missiles by 2011, and install similar technology on the ground in Southern and Central Europe four years later.

The old plan pursued during the previous Bush administration would have placed 10 ground-based missile interceptors in Poland and advanced radar in the Czech Republic.

That system, also proposed by Gates, was not expected to be up and running until 2017.

Russia fiercely opposed that plan, calling it a threat to its security.

One critic of the new plan, U.S. Republican Senator John McCain, says the new missile-defense strategy is "misguided." He says it is a step backwards at a time when eastern European countries are increasingly wary of what he calls "renewed Russian adventurism."

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