WASHINGTON, DC (EANC) – National Security Council officials from the White House met with the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) on Tuesday, September 22, 2009, to provide information on the Administration’s new plans for a missile defense system in Europe. This followed initial discussions on September 17, the day that President Obama announced his decision to cancel current agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic.
Both the Estonian American National Council, Inc. (EANC), and the Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) are members of the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), an assembly of 18 ethnic organizations representing 22 million Americans of Central and East European descent. Both Marju Rink-Abel, EANC President, and Karl Altau, JBANC Managing Director, were at the meeting with senior members of the Obama Administration Antony J. Blinken, Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President; Jeff Hovenier, Director for Central and Southeastern Europe; William Schlickenmaier, Director for Eastern and Strategic European Affairs; and Jon B. Wolfsthal, Special Advisor for Nonproliferation.
Antony Blinken stated that the Administration has “moved to a new phased approach” in the deployment of missiles aimed at protecting the U.S. and its European allies against Iranian missiles. The United States has reassessed the threat from Iran, and will deploy “proven technology” in the form of multiple short and mid-range missiles in various locations, initially ship-based and later land-based, beginning in 2011, instead of the small number of long-range missiles previously planned to be deployed several years later in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The United States will work through NATO to develop its plans, and intends to consult with the Russian Federation in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council. The United States did not link its decision on missile defense to on-going negotiations for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
The CEEC voiced concern about the negative perceptions engendered by the decision to change course and the manner in which the announcement was handled. CEEC members also offered suggestions for the Administration to consider that would demonstrate continued U.S. support for Central and Eastern Europe.
One such suggestion, the formulation of a public U.S. policy regarding the Central and East European region, including affirmation of the delinkage of this policy from that of the U.S. policy toward Russia, was raised by Marju Rink-Abel. The policy should discuss security in the region, addressing topics such as increased military presence, more training and aid, cooperative military exercises, and contingency plans. In response, Antony Blinken affirmed the Administration’s intent to “articulate the basic tenets of the policy” in a robust fashion before the year is out, but stated that the policy would encompass more than security, including areas such as the economy, cultural exchanges, and energy.
Other topics discussed included enhanced public U.S. support through high-level visits and exchange programs, expansion of the visa waiver program, NATO expansion and assistance to Georgia and Ukraine, and the use of the Baltic and Western NIS Enterprise Funds, as well as assistance for Armenia and Belarus. NSC officials referred to President Obama’s July 2009 speech in Moscow and to Vice President Biden’s February Munich speech and trip to Ukraine and Georgia in July as examples of U.S. commitment to Central and Eastern Europe (www.whitehouse.gov).
Central and East European Coalition meets with U.S. national security officials on missile defense system plans (4)