Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: Missile defense, Iran and value voters

President Barack Obama’s decision to abandon a big, fixed-installation missile defense shield in Eastern Europe is drawing some angry reaction abroad.

Conservatives in Poland, where the Bush administration planned to base interceptor rockets, and the Czech Republic, where a radar installation was planned, accused Washington of buckling to Russian pressure.

OBAMA/Defense Secretary Robert Gates meets Friday afternoon with his Czech counterpart, Martin Bartak, as the administration works to explain its new thinking. It may be a hard sell.

“Betrayal! The USA has sold us to the Russians and stabbed us in the back,” said the Polish tabloid Fakt.

The Czech daily Lidowe Noviny took a similar line. “Obama gave in to the Kremlin,” it said.

What’s the view? Obama’s “new approach” on missile defense

President Barack Obama used “new approach” a couple of times to describe a shift in U.S. missile defense policy, but his statement was so steeped in diplo-speak that it led to much initial head-scratching over what was actually new and different. OBAMA/

It was left to Defense Secretary Robert Gates to shoot down as “misinformed” raging speculation that the United States was scrapping missile defense in Europe. He said the United States would initially deploy ships equipped with missile interceptors to Europe.

Keep in mind that Gates was also defense secretary under President George W. Bush who had pushed for the agreements to build missile interceptors and radar in Poland and the Czech Republic — a move that had royally angered Russia.

The First Draft: Obama scaling back European missile shield

President Barack Obama is abandoning a Bush administration plan to build a big, fixed U.S. missile defense in Eastern Europe.

The president announced the decision Thursday amid reports from Poland and the Czech Republic overnight that officials there had been informed about the final decision.

EU-PROTEST/Instead of a fixed missile shield, the administration plans a more mobile defense aimed at short- and medium-range rockets.

McCain revives Czechoslovakia as a country

ST. LOUIS  – Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who prides himself on his national security expertise, has twice in two days referred to recent Russian activities against Czechoslovakia, a country that no longer exists.
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“I was concerned about a couple of steps that the Russian government took in the last several days. One was reducing the energy supplies to Czechoslovakia,” McCain told reporters on Monday in Phoenix.
 
He went on to repeat similar language on Tuesday at a town hall meeting in Albuquerque.
 
He was clearly referring to the Czech Republic, citing that government’s agreement with the United States over missile defense, an action he said prompted Moscow’s retaliation.

Czechoslovakia split into two parts, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in 1993 after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
 
McCain’s campaign headquarters in suburban Washington D.C. got the distinction correct, issuing a written statement under McCain’s name late on Monday saying that “Russia’s 50 percent cut in oil deliveries to the Czech Republic” was deeply disturbing.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.  

Photo credit: Reuters/Fredy Builes (McCain and wife Cindy arrive in Colombia on a recent visit)