“Betrayal! The U.S. sold us to Russia and stabbed us in the back,” the Polish tabloid Fakt declared on its front page, while the Czech paper Mlada Fronta Dnes declared, “No Radar. Russia won.”
President Obama is feeling heat from some quarters after deciding to drop the Bush administration’s missile defense plans in Eastern Europe.
Republicans say the president’s decision is naïve, while Democrats say the new plans will do more for defense and diplomacy with both Iran and Russia than the missile program, which had increased tensions in the region.
Moscow had resisted President Bush’s plans to install interceptor missiles in what it considered Russia’s backyard.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski said he was concerned that Mr. Obama’s new strategy leaves Poland in a dangerous “gray zone” between Western Europe and the old Soviet sphere.
Recent events in the region have rattled nerves throughout central and Eastern Europe, a region controlled by Moscow during the Cold War, including the war last summer between Russia and Georgia and ongoing efforts by Russia to regain influence in Ukraine. A Russian cutoff of gas to Ukraine last winter left many Europeans without heat.
The Bush administration’s plan would have been “a major step in preventing various disturbing trends in our region of the world,” Kaczynski said in a guest editorial in the daily Fakt and also carried on his presidential Web site.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he still sees a chance for Poles and Czechs to participate in the redesigned missile defense system. But that did not appear to calm nerves in Warsaw or Prague.
Kaczynski expressed hopes that the U.S. will now offer Poland other forms of “strategic partnership.”
In Prague, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said he made two concrete proposal to U.S. officials on Thursday in hopes of keeping the U.S.-Czech alliance strong: for the U.S. to establish a branch of West Point for NATO members in Central Europe, and to “send a Czech scientist on the U.S. space shuttle to the international space station.”
An editorial in Hospodarske Novine, a respected pro-business Czech newspaper, said: “an ally we rely on has betrayed us, and exchanged us for its own, better relations with Russia, of which we are rightly afraid.”
The move has raised fears in the two nations they are being marginalized by Washington even as a resurgent Russia leaves them longing for added American protection.
The Bush administration had said its missile plans were aimed at countering any threat from Iran’s ballistic missile program. But Poles and Czechs saw it as protection against Russia, and Moscow too considered a military installation in its backyard to be a threat.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last summer that a U.S. deployment of an anti-missile system close to Russian borders “will of course create additional tensions,” and might be met with a military response.
“They don’t want us messing around [in] former client states of the Soviet Union,” Michael Crowley, senior editor at The New Republic, told “Early Show” anchor Harry Smith. “They saw that as hostile, although it really wasn’t about Russia.