Behind schedule and over-budget, the Bush Administration’s missile defense shield in Eastern Europe was a source of tension with Russia and a multi-billion dollar black hole. It is unsurprising, then, that President Obama was so non-committal about following through with the plan that wouldn’t even have its first missile on the ground until 2012.
The possibility of abandoning the plan providing an opening for improving relations with Russia, which has offered an olive branch of their own in promising to abandon their own threatened missile deployment in the same region so long as the US did the same. But improving the troubled relationship with one of the world’s largest nations isn’t an end in itself for the new administration, they want to trade.
Instead, officials are suggesting that if Russia is willing to help the United States with its continued isolation of Iran, they would “be able to moderate the pace of the development of missile defenses in Europe.” It may be a tough sell to offer to abandon a program they didn’t seem all that interested in continuing anyhow, unless the plan is to keep the program going just to spite the Russians until they’re willing to play ball against Iran.
The Bush Administration claimed the shield was necessary to protect Europe from Iranian missile attacks, in spite of the fact that the best Iranian missile was several hundred miles out of range of either location. The sites are however extremely close to Russia, which perceives them as directed at them.