US abandons part of its European missile defence plan

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USA has decided to abandon a key part of its European missile defence plan - an interceptor that had been strongly opposed by Russia. The interceptors were to be deployed in Poland and possibly Romania early next decade but plan has been shelved owing to financial reasons. Russian alleged that interceptors were a counter to their missiles and had indicated that they would not consider further nuclear arms cuts unless their concerns were resolved.

George W. Bush sought to base long-range interceptors in central Europe to stop Iranian missiles from reaching the U.S. but Russia believed the program was aimed at countering its own missiles and undermining its nuclear deterrent. Obama reworked this plan in 2009, cancelling an earlier interceptor planned for Poland and radar in the Czech Republic, and replacing the high-speed interceptors with slower ones that could stop Iran’s medium-range missiles. Russia welcomed the changes and relations between the two powers improved leading to New Start Treaty setting new limits on both countries’ nuclear arsenals. But NATO claims that the fourth and last planned upgrade of the interceptors would be able to stop Russia's intercontinental missiles launched at the U.S. and will undermine Russia’s nuclear deterrent, soured relations again. Cancelling phase 4 may open the door to another round of US-Russian nuclear arms reductions, according to experts.

However the Russian concerns remain as U.S. is still going ahead with the deployment of land-based and ship-borne mobile interceptors in Europe as well as deployment of extra U.S. interceptors in Alaska would significantly expand U.S. capabilities in the sphere of missile defences.

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