March 30, 2014
The Obama administration is failing to seize on a rare strategic chance, presented by Russia’s increasingly aggressive military posturing around Ukraine, to expand the U.S. missile defense footprint in Eastern Europe, says a group of influential Republican lawmakers.
Several members of the Senate Armed Services Committee say the White House should “re-engage” a George W. Bush administration initiative that would have put ground-based missile interceptors in Poland along with corresponding radar in the Czech Republic — effectively establishing permanent U.S. military positions on the border of the former Soviet Union.
While the administration claims it is on track to implement a modified version of the initiative that includes missile defense sites in Romania and Poland, the lawmakers argue that the White House foolishly scrapped the most muscular aspects of the Bush-era plan in 2009 as part of President Obama’s attempt to appease Moscow into embracing his call for a “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations.
Sens. Kelly Ayotte, John McCain and Lindsey Graham said Russian President Vladimir Putin was deeply uncomfortable with the Bush-era plan, even though the defense system was intended to deter the threat of missiles from Iran, not Russia. Breathing new life into the initiative, particularly by pursing a “third site” in the Czech Republic, would be an effective way to punish Mr. Putin for his use of military force to annex Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, the senators said.
“After Poland and the Czech Republic had demonstrated real courage in standing with the U.S. and ignoring Russian pressure on the third missile defense site, it was a mistake to cancel the missile defense plans in those two countries in a naive attempt to pursue a reset policy of concessions with the Kremlin,” Mrs. Ayotte said.
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