2nd Oct 2023

Russia and Germany welcome US missile move

Russia and Germany have welcomed a US decision not to build missile shield bases in Eastern Europe, but the move has caused bitterness in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a TV address that the US pull-back will help in upcoming talks on nuclear disarmament: "The statement made in Washington today shows that quite good conditions are evolving for such work."

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  • Russia's Dmitry Medvedev said the shift will help in nuclear disarmament talks (Photo:

Russia's ambassador to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, described it in more colourful terms.

"It's like having a decomposing corpse in your flat and then the mortician comes and takes it away," he said in UK daily The Guardian. "This means we're getting rid of one of those niggling problems which prevented us from doing the real work."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also reacted positively. "I see the decision today as a very hopeful signal that we can overcome the difficulties with Russia and develop a united front to counter the threat of Iran," she said.

US President Barack Obama earlier on Thursday (17 September) confirmed he will no longer build a missile silo in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, as agreed under George W. Bush.

The shift comes after US intelligence downgraded the coming missile threat from Iran from 2012 to between 2015 and 2020. The US will now deploy mobile anti-missile batteries which will tour Europe from 2015 onward.

It will also install Patriot missiles in Poland, capable of shooting down small-scale rockets.

The roll-back has caused consternation in Poland and the Czech Republic, where the Bush-era plan was widely seen as offering extra US guarantees against potential Russian aggression.

President Obama's announcement came out on the 70th anniversary of Russia's invasion of Poland on 17 September 1939, with Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski informing US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in a phone conversation of the "awkwardness of the timing."

It is the second recent instance of painful US-Polish diplomacy, after the White House declined to send a senior figure to Poland's commemoration of the 70th anniversary outbreak of World War II on 1 September.

"I can see what kind of policy the Obama administration is pursuing towards this part of Europe. The way we are being approached needs to change," former Polish president and anti-Communist icon Lech Walesa said, AFP reports.

"This is a very bad signal for Poland. The Russians will have a voice in the affairs of this part of Europe," former Polish defence minister Aleksander Szczyglo said.

Czech socialists welcomed the move, saying it will raise US prestige among the large proportion of ordinary people who had voiced opposition to the scheme.

But the recently ousted centre-right Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, also read the move as a betrayal. "The Americans are not interested in this territory as they were before," he said on national radio. "It's bad news for the Czech Republic."


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