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Today's Question: Should Obama have scrapped original plans for missile shield in Europe?

Monday, September 21, 2009 | 9:30 a.m. CDT; updated 9:54 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 24, 2009

President Obama announced Thursday that the U.S. would no longer pursue a controversial antiballistic missile shield in Eastern Europe proposed by his predecessor. That plan had called for the construction of a radar facility in the Czech Republic and 10 ground-based missiles in Poland. Instead, Obama said the U.S. will deploy smaller, ship-based missiles in the region, followed by some form of a missile-defense program in Europe.

In defending the new plan, both Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said it would be better suited to meet a changing threat posed by Iran. They said Iran had made more progress than anticipated in building short- and medium-range missiles that could threaten Israel and Europe than it had in developing the intercontinental ballistic missiles for which the previous plan was designed.

But critics of the plan said it betrayed longtime allies in Europe and caved to pressure from Russia, which has been strongly opposed to the missile shield since it was first announced in 2007. The White House denied that its decision had anything to do with Russian objections to the original program.

The decision, however, does remove one of the biggest obstacles in U.S.-Russian relations, and could clear the way for more cooperative measures between the two nations. It also ensures that defensive missiles will reach Europe sooner than in the previous plan — in 2011 instead of 2018.

“This new approach will provide capabilities sooner, build on proven systems and offer greater defenses against the threat of missile attack than the 2007 European missile defense program,” Obama said.

Should President Obama have scrapped the original plans for a missile shield in Europe? Why or why not?


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