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18 Sep, 2009 00:40

Victory over Bush-era foreign policy in Europe

The Pentagon has announced it no longer plans to install permanent bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, something Russia has long opposed.

But Washington’s move to put missile defense plans on the backburner and not deploy just miles from Russia’s border have been welcomed as a clear sign of respect for Russia’s national security.

President Dmitry Medvedev has given a broadly positive reaction to Washington's announcement that it is dramatically altering its missile defense plans in Europe.

“We will work together to develop effective measures regarding the risks of missile proliferation, measures which will take into account the interests and concerns of all parties and provide equal security for all countries in Europe,” Medvedev said.

He added that Russia appreciates President Barack Obama’s “approach to implementing our agreements and readiness to continue the dialogue.”

Russia's envoy to NATO says that while the new American proposals about using facilities on land and sea to combat the threat from short and medium-range missiles are far from perfect, they are a major improvement.

“The new mobile components system will have missiles based on military vessels, which is not very good for Russia because military ships can be in one location one day and the next near St. Petersburg, but it is a very big step away from the offensive plans of the Bush administration,” Rogozin said.

Moscow has consistently opposed Washington's old plans about ABM systems in Europe, which gathered pace under George W. Bush who insisted it was to counter the Iranian nuclear threat.

The Kremlin said missile defense against Iran had no place in Eastern Europe, and even proposed alternative sites in southern Russia and Azerbaijan which would be closer to the Islamic republic – without success, though.

Experts: Obama's voice of reason

“Officially it was about countering the Iranian threat, but in reality the threat was non-existent – Iran now has neither nuclear weapons, nor long range missiles” argues Dmitry Suslov from the Moscow-based Council on Foreign and Defense Policy.

During the last year of the Bush administration, the US signed a deal to place missile interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, which was opposed by many in Eastern Europe.

Jan Tamas, from the Czech “No To Base” movement, had this to say: “Barack Obama realized it’s a step in the wrong direction. It was not improving the security situation, neither in Europe nor in the world. It was actually bringing us closer to a potential conflict, or perhaps even World War III.”

Read also: Obama's night call to Europe changes world