This morning Secretary of Defense Gates will announce that the Obama administration will scrap plans for a permanent defense shield to be built in the Czech Republic and Poland and roll out what a senior administration official called "a major enhancement of missile defense capability against the emerging threat of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. He'll underscore the commitment to our allies while enhancing defense of our troops and facilities in Europe."
The new system would be "both more agile and more effective and will come on-lines sooner than the existing program," the official said.
The White House will today argue that the decision was not based on appeasing Russia — which had vehemently objected to the missile defense system — but rather on what the U.S. needs to do and what it can do based on the clearest threat — short and medium range ballistic missiles from rogue states such as Iran.
President George W. Bush had moved to build in the Czech Republic a radar with 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. The administration official would not say where the new system would be located, saying the U.S. has a "range of options in Northern and Southern Europe."
Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer today told reporters that "shortly after midnight, Barack Obama telephoned me to announce that his government is backing away from the intention of building a missile defense radar on Czech territory. The Czech Republic acknowledges the decision."
In Poland, Andrzej Kremer, the deputy Foreign Minister responsible for the project, that "from different sources we hear there are serious chances the shield won't be deployed here," Reuters reported.
Russian leaders had not yet been told about the plan, the Obama administration official said.
In July, in his first meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, President Obama was treated to a nearly hour-long discourse by Putin on the history of the US-Russian relationship since the Cold War, and ways he felt Russia had been slighted by the US, sources told ABC News.
"The prime minister was very communicative in terms of his opinions," a senior administration official later said.
The meeting ran long. But as President Obama explained to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev — whom he was subsequently late meeting — "I thought it was important to listen," sources told ABC News.