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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Biden Seeks To Soothe Fears in C. Europe

APBiden discussing economic recovery at a meeting in Missouri last week.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden headed to Central Europe on Tuesday to soothe concerns from Poland and the Czech Republic about Washington’s revamped plans for a missile defense system there.

The two countries are still smarting from President Barack Obama’s decision to shelve a plan to install elements of a missile shield on their territory to protect against possible long-range missile attacks by Iran. Russia opposed the original U.S. plan and welcomed Obama’s shift.

The new plan, which the White House says is designed to face more immediate threats from Tehran, would start by deploying sea-based interceptors and then, in a second phase, land-based systems that would target short- and medium-range missiles.

The United States has already told Poland it could be one of the sites for the interceptors, and that topic — along with general concerns about the new plan — is likely to come up at meetings that Biden will hold with leaders in Warsaw on Wednesday and Prague on Friday.

Biden will also make a stop in Romania on Thursday.

“The vice president will talk about … a strong commitment to missile defense and to a better system, a more effective system than the one we had originally proposed,” Tony Blinken, Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters.

He acknowledged lingering concerns about the new U.S. plans but said European nations had shown greater support for them as more details had been explained.

“The more allies have been focused on the details and the specifics, the stronger the support has been,” he said.

Blinken said the Obama administration was eager to have both nations involved in the new system.

Blinken reiterated the U.S. position that resetting previously strained relations with Moscow would not come at the expense of other allies.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returned last week from a visit to Russia where she sought Moscow’s cooperation on U.S. missile defense plans.

Afghanistan, Iraq and energy security are also topics likely to be discussed on Biden’s trip.

n The United States does not envisage placing any elements of the revised missile defense system within non-NATO members and is not in consultations with any such states, U.S. Assistant Defense Secretary Alexander Vershbow told reporters Tuesday in Tbilisi.

Russia had voiced concern last week over a U.S. statement that countries like Ukraine could contribute early warning information as part of the revised shield plan.

Vershbow spoke after attending a meeting of a security working group under a U.S.-Georgia cooperation charter signed after last year’s war, when Russia crushed a Georgian assault on the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

“We are working together with our Georgian friends on a long-term program of assistance to Georgia’s efforts to carry out defense reforms and defense modernization, and to improve its candidacy as a prospective member of NATO,” he said.

Vershbow denied that the United States planned to establish military bases in Georgia.

He said Washington was working on returning international monitors to South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia.