Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Some Call U.S. Move On Missiles A Betrayal

WARSAW, Poland — Poles and Czechs have voiced deep concern at President Barack Obama’s decision to scrap a Bush-era missile defense shield planned for their countries.

“Betrayal! The U.S. sold us to Russia and stabbed us in the back,” the Polish tabloid Fakt declared on its front page Friday.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski said he was concerned that Obama’s new strategy leaves Poland in a dangerous “gray zone” between Western Europe and the old Soviet sphere.

Recent events have rattled nerves throughout Central and Eastern Europe, including the war last summer between Russia and Georgia and ongoing efforts by Russia to regain influence in Ukraine.

“Russia is testing us. It is testing how much we are afraid of it. It’s pity that we won’t be able to complete the test,” said former Czech President Vaclav Havel.

Former President George W. Bush’s missile defense plan would have been “a major step in preventing various disturbing trends in our region of the world,” Kaczynski said in a guest editorial in Fakt that also was carried on his presidential web site.

Lithuania also expressed regret over Obama’s decision. Defense Minister Rasa Jukneviciene said the shield would have increased security for Lithuania and she hoped that missile defense would not be excluded from future talks on NATO security.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he still sees a chance for Poles and Czechs to participate in the redesigned missile defense system. But that did not appear to calm nerves in Warsaw or Prague.

Kaczynski expressed hopes that the United States would now offer Poland other forms of “strategic partnership.”

Later Friday, U.S. Ambassador Victor Ashe stressed that “the United States counts Poland among its closest allies and friends.”

“Consultations on the way forward for missile defense will continue between our two governments,” Ashe said in a statement. “The role Poland would play in the new, phased, adapted approach is as crucial now as in the past.”

In Prague, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said he made two concrete proposals to U.S. officials on Thursday in hopes of keeping the U.S.-Czech alliance strong: for the United States to establish a branch of West Point for NATO members in Central Europe and to “send a Czech scientist on the U.S. space shuttle to the international space station.”

An editorial in Hospodarske Novine, a respected pro-business Czech newspaper, said: “An ally we rely on has betrayed us, and exchanged us for its own, better relations with Russia, of which we are rightly afraid.”

The move has raised fears in the two nations that they are being marginalized by Washington even as a resurgent Russia leaves them longing for added American protection.

The Bush administration always said the planned system was meant as defense against Iran.

But Poles and Czechs saw it as protection against Russia, and Moscow too considered a military installation in its backyard to be a threat.