Update II: The AP confirms our report and adds that Secretary Gates will announce the administration's missile defense plans on Thursday morning at 10 am. A source tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that the team in the air to Europe will be making stops in Warsaw, Prague, and Brussels. It sounds like the administration did not undertake any serious consultation with the allies affected by this decision, displaying a kind of unilateralism that became one of the core Democratic criticisms of the Bush administration's diplomacy.
Worth keeping in mind are President Obama's comments on missile defense in an April 5, 2009 speech:
"So let me be clear: Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran's neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles. As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed."
According to reliable sources, Obama administration officials are on their way to Poland and the Czech Republic to deliver very bad news. The administration intends to cancel completely the missile defense sites that had been promised to these governments by the previous administration. This represents a complete capitulation to Russia's Vladimir Putin, who had demanded that the proposed deployments be halted as a price for improved relations. Ironically, the Obama administration, which is appeasing Russia in the hopes that Moscow will help put pressure on Iran, has made this mammoth concession just a few days after Moscow declared that it had no intention of supporting sanctions against Iran.
The consequences of this action in Eastern Europe, especially in Ukraine and in other countries that feel vulnerable to Russian power, will be disastrous. It is a major American retreat in the face of Russian bullying. And we will get absolutely nothing for it.
Update: Gary Schmitt has more details:
Four senior Obama officials, including Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security "Sandy" Vershbow, are apparently in the air right now on their way to Poland. Why? If the Washington hot rumor mill is right, to deliver the news to the Poles and then the Czechs that the administration has decided not to go forward with a missile defense system for Europe and the United States against the budding missile threat from Iran.
It looks like not only have we hit the reset button when it comes to Russia, but now with our friends in Central Europe-except this time, it's a big fat "no thank you" for your willingness to stick your neck out to protect allies.