The US President, Barack Obama, has abandoned controversial plans to site a missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The decision is likely to ease tensions in the USA’s relations with Russia.
The news was revealed by the Czech Prime Minister, Jan Fischer, this morning (17th September), following rumours that emerged yesterday. A formal announcement from the US government is expected later today.
Although Obama had insisted that the missile system was designed for defence against Iranian attack, it was commonly perceived as a threat to Russia.
Obama’s decision is likely to put pressure on the Iranian government to temper their own weapons development. The Wall Street Journal suggested that the missile plan could be reinstated if Iran began to develop missiles more rapidly.
This did not prevent a warm welcome for the news from peace campaigners around the world. In the UK, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) expressed delight at the announcement.
“The missile defence plans were an unnecessary and destabilising provocation to Russia which threatened to plunge Europe back in to a new Cold War” said CND chair Kate Hudson, “We hope this decision will open the way to negotiating major cutbacks”.
Doubts remain over the details of Obama’s new policy, such as whether he will also cancel plans to site short-range Patriot anti-missile batteries in Poland, as they are not technically part of the missile system in question.
In Britain, the news also raises questions about whether two military bases in North Yorkshire will continue to form part of a US missile system, as they were expected to be tied in to the system in central Europe.
Hudson urged the UK government to follow Obama’s “example of cancelling unnecessary and costly weapons programmes” by scrapping plans to renew the Trident weapons system.