U.S. Missile Shield to be Shelved

A Polish official said, the Obama administration is supposed to announce on Thursday that it will shelve plans to deploy its controversial anti-ballistic missile shield in Eastern Europe. This ia a move that will be welcomed by Russia but deeply regretted by Poland and the Czech Republic, known as two key American allies.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Wednesday that the administration was “very close” to the closure of a seven-month review of a missile defense shield proposal but he would not give any more details.

Polish and Czech officials said they expected to be briefed by American officials about Mr. Obama’s decision which almost certainly will led to the scrapping of plans to deploy 10 inceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic.

“ Until we are told, we have no comment to make. Except one thing: it is clear that the administration has other priorities,” said a Polish diplomat who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, The New York Times reports.

It also became known, The Wall Street Journal reported overnight that the White House will shelve plans to build the system in both Poland and the Czech Republic, according to people familiar with the matter.

The paper said the United States will base its decision on a determination that Iran's long-range missile program has not progressed as rapidly as previously estimated, reducing the threat to the continental United States and major European capitals, according to current and former U.S. officials.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. James E. Cartwright, who is vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are scheduled to hold a news conference on Thursday morning. The Defense Department has not announced what will be discussed, but Cartwright is the point man for the missile defense shield program.

In the Czech Republic, a meeting was planned for Thursday among the Czech Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Defense and a U.S. delegation, at which an analysis of the defense shield would be presented, a spokesman for the Czech Ministry of Defense told CNN.

The spokesman did not say the program had been scrapped.

No comment was immediately available from the U.S. Embassy in Prague.

There also was no comment Thursday morning from officials in Russia, which has opposed the U.S. plans to build the missile shield so close to its western border. The United States proposed the plan under then-President W. George Bush; the Obama administration has since been reviewing the plan, CNN reports.

In the meantime, Poland and the Baltic republics have been alarmed by what they see as Russian "neo-imperialism" in Moscow's dealings with ex-Soviet republics such as Georgia.

Another senior Polish official, Witold Waszczykowski, also said a decision to shelve the missile shield project would not come as a surprise for Warsaw.

"We have been hearing such things for a while now via different papers, from some conferences and so on," said Waszczykowski, deputy head of Poland's National Security Bureau which advises President Lech Kaczynski.

"This would be very bad. Without the shield we would de facto be losing a strategic alliance with Washington," he said.

For Poland, the timing of the report is particularly sensitive. Thursday marked the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of eastern Poland following a pact between Moscow and Nazi Germany, an event seen by Poles as "a stab in the back."

"I hope this is just a coincidence," said Waszczykowski, Reuters reports.

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