Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

U.S. Cancels Missile Defense System Opposed by Russia

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

U.S. Cancels Missile Defense System Opposed by Russia

Article excerpt

MOSCOW -- The United States has effectively canceled the final phase of a Europe-based missile defense system that was fiercely opposed by Russia and cited repeatedly by the Kremlin as a major obstacle to cooperation on nuclear arms reductions and other issues.

Russian officials have so far declined to comment on the announcement, which was made in Washington on Friday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as part of a plan to deploy additional ballistic missile interceptors to counter North Korea. Much of the savings from canceling the extra Europe-based defenses will help fund those added interceptors.

Aides to President Vladimir V. Putin said there would be no reaction until early this week, when they expect to be briefed by American officials.

But Russian news accounts quickly raised the possibility that the decision could portend a breakthrough in what has been a largely intractable dispute between Russia and the United States for years. A headline by the Itar-Tass news agency declared, "U.S. abandons fourth phase of European missile defense system that causes the greatest objections from Russia."

Pentagon officials said those long-standing objections by Russia played no role in the decision to reconfigure the missile interceptor program, which they said was based on the increased threat from North Korea, and on technological difficulties and budget considerations related to the Europe-based program.

"The missile defense decisions Secretary Hagel announced were in no way about Russia," George Little, a Pentagon spokesman, said Saturday.

Still, other Obama administration officials acknowledged potential benefits if the decision is well-received in Moscow, as well as the possibility of continued objections given that the United States is not backing away from its core plan for a land- based missile shield program in Central Europe. …

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