WASHINGTON (CN) – The United States has dropped plans to develop the missile shield in Europe envisioned by the previous administration, President Barack Obama announced Thursday.
Instead, he proposed a new “missile defense architecture” that he said “will provide stronger, smarter, and swifter defenses,” adding that the new system will provide protection sooner and will be more effective against the current threat from Iran.
He held back on describing the new system in detail.
“The best way to responsibly advance our security and the security of our allies is to deploy a missile defense system that best responds to the threats that we face and that utilizes technology that is both proven and cost-effective,” he said.
The change comes after a 60-day review ordered by Obama
The earlier plan, developed under the George W. Bush administration, included the development of missile sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. It drew heavy criticism from Russia, which has viewed the missile shield as an expansion of U.S. military and strategic capacities while diminishing Russian capacities. Indeed, it is widely agreed that the threat of Russia’s nuclear arsenal to Europe and the United States would be diminished if an effective missile shield is built.
But the United States has maintained that the European defense system would be geared toward defending against Iranian missiles.
“President Bush was right that Iran’s ballistic missile program poses a significant threat,” Obama said. “We’ve also repeatedly made clear to Russia that its concerns about our previous missile defense programs were entirely unfounded. Our clear and consistent focus has been the threat posed by Iran’s ballistic missile program, and that continues to be our focus and the basis of the program that we’re announcing today.”
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has scheduled a briefing at the Pentagon to explain the change to a new defense system.