Poles, Czechs: US missile defense shift a betrayal
WARSAW, Poland (AP) - Poles and Czechs voiced deep concern Friday 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.
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 in the region have rattled nerves throughout central and eastern Europe, a region controlled by Moscow during the Cold War, including the war last summer between Russia and Georgia and ongoing efforts by Russia to regain influence in Ukraine. A Russian cutoff of gas to Ukraine last winter left many Europeans without heat.
The Bush administration's 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 the daily Fakt and also carried on his presidential Web site.
Secretary of Defense 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 U.S. will now offer Poland other forms of "strategic partnership."
In Prague, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said he made two concrete proposal to U.S. officials on Thursday in hopes of keeping the U.S.-Czech alliance strong: for the U.S. 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."