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Europe: Deployment of Missile Defense System in Question

Highlights -Poland and Czech Republic fear further delay or cancelation of missile defense -Near-term delay on missile defense project likely in Eastern Europe -United States using missile defense as bargaining chip with Russia Future United States (US) plans to deploy a missile defense system in Europe are in question as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated that Russian concerns would be taken into consideration over the fate of the system. At the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meeting in Krakow, Poland, Gates stated that President Obama and his administration have yet to decide on whether to continue former President George W. Bush’s plans to put missile interceptors in Poland and radar facilities in the Czech Republic. Both Poland and Czech Republic have become increasingly concerned over a potential reversal in US policy, especially as both countries supported the deployment of the system at the expense of souring relations with Russia. In the near-term, Poland and the Czech Republic are likely to actively urge the Obama administration to move forward on the deployment of the missile shield, despite Russia’s qualms and concerns. However, we expect President Obama to take Russian concerns into more consideration than his predecessor. This will ultimately result in frustration among the US’s Eastern European allies, but may potentially allow Washington to further bargain with Russia over other key issues, such as ending support for Iran or increased support in Afghanistan. Delay Causing Unease in Eastern Europe Washington maintains the view that the planned missile sites are meant to defend the US and Europe from possible missile launches from rogue states, particularly North Korea or Iran. However, Russia is weary of the system and claims it would offset the traditional balance of power currently in place on the European continent. Gates has insisted to the US’s anxious Eastern European allies that the country needs more time to finish its review of the project’s cost and technical feasibility. Poland in particular is urging the Obama administration to speed up the deployment of the missile defense system. The scenario that President Obama will scrap the project altogether is a growing concern in Poland and the Czech Republic. According to Andrzej Jodkowski, director of the Polish branch of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, “a lot of people put a stake in the project and they will feel disappointed, even betrayed, if it fails.” It has become clear that both Poland and Czech Republic see the bases as insurance against future Russian aggression, hence their growing nervousness that the plan will be further postponed or canceled altogether. Eastern European leaders who support missile defense see the scraping of the project or further delay as a major concession to Moscow, as well as a tacit acceptance of the view that Russia should have more of a say in its traditional sphere of influence. Backing off the plan may undercut efforts to gain more European cooperation in addressing a missile threat from Iran and effectively deal with future security threats. The US will likely lose the confidence of several of its Eastern European allies, with some countries thinking twice before engaging in agreements with Washington over fears it would either back out or seek Moscow’s approval. In addition, there are domestic consequences in both Poland the Czech Republic, as the cancelation or further delay of the project is likely to have a negative impact on the two countries’ leaders and undercut their national support. To save face on the domestic front and seek protection against potential future Russian aggression, Polish and Czech leaders will continue to pressure Gates and the Obama administration to move

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