US President Barack Obama on Thursday scrapped a Bush-era missile defense plan for Europe that Russia had bitterly opposed and offered what he said would be faster, more flexible defense systems to protect against Iran.
A C300 anti-aircraft missile flies over head during an air defense exercise near the Black sea town of Shabla east of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, Friday, Sept. 4, 2009.
In a move that could spur fears of resurgent Kremlin influence, Obama said he had approved recommendations from US military leaders to shift focus to defending against Iran's short- and medium-range missiles.
"This new approach will provide capabilities sooner, build on proven systems and offer greater defenses against the threat of missile attack," Obama said, dropping plans of his White House predecessor George W. Bush for ground-based interceptors in Poland and a related radar site in the Czech Republic.
Under the new plan, the US would initially deploy ships with missile interceptors and in a second phase would field land-based defense systems.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hailed the decision, which removed an issue clouding US efforts to enlist Russian support on Afghanistan, Iran and nuclear arms control.
"We value the US president's responsible approach towards implementing our agreements," Medvedev said in an address shown on national television. "I am ready to continue the dialogue."
Critics accused the White House of dangerous weakness.