America has backed up its famous decision to reset relations with Russia, and is abandoning its controversial anti-missile shield in Europe. One of President Obama’s first steps was to call for new relations with Moscow, which vehemently opposed US rockets so close to its borders.
The missile shield was President Bush’s grand plan to defend the United States from what he called ‘rogue’ states like North Korea and Iran. But its cost, in both financial and political terms, has proved too high. The plan foresaw missiles based in Poland, controlled by radar in the Czech Republic. Warsaw and Prague have confirmed the idea is being dropped; President Obama will make the formal announcement later. The decision will be welcomed by many, not least in Moscow, but will perhaps be met with regret in eastern Europe, which wanted American support against a revitalised Russia. The question now is will Washington move the missiles elsewhere? It has radar stations in Britain and Greenland; Turkey and Israel have been mooted as possible launching sites. Despite a thaw in relations between the old Cold War foes since President Bush left the White House, Russia is unhappy at what it sees as NATO encroaching on its borders. President Medvedev has made it quite clear he will not tolerate the West meddling in Moscow’s sphere of influence.