Lugar Faults Obama over Missile Defense; Sees 'Abruptness' in Decision

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Byline: Jon Ward, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A top Republican senator involved in foreign affairs and ally of President Obama in the past said Monday that the White House's decision to scrap the George W. Bush administration's plan for missile defense in Eastern Europe was unfortunate.

Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized the abruptness of Mr. Obama's decision to scrap plans for defenses against long-range Iranian missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic, in favor of a strategy aimed at short- and mid-range projectiles.

Mr. Lugar, who was a key ally to Mr. Obama during his time as a senator, said he was called the morning of the decision by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and found the hurried announcement unusual, to say the least.

The missile announcement was unfortunate in my judgment in the way it was handled, said Mr. Lugar during a brief interview after his speech to the Atlantic Council, a bipartisan Washington think tank focused on foreign policy.

In his speech, Mr. Lugar said that even if the administration's missile defense change of course is a technical improvement over the previous plan, Iranian missiles never constituted the primary rationale for Polish and Czech decisions to buy into the Bush administration's plan.

He said Poland and the Czech Republic signed on to the plan for 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic because of a waning confidence in the resolve of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to protect its members.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in his first speech to a U.S. audience, told the Atlantic Council later Monday that he thought the missile-defense decision was a good one.

NATO was founded in 1949 to protect Europe, particularly the eastern countries, from Soviet aggression. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many of the former Soviet and communist-bloc countries joined NATO. …