Peace campaigners welcome Obama decision to drop missile defence shield

 News that President Obama has decided to abandon the 'Star Wars' Missile Defence project  in Poland and the Czech republic has been welcomed by peace groups and churches.

The system, based on an idea originally devised by the Reagan administration, and then proposed by President George W Bush, was intended as a deterrent against attack by Iran. But many Russians felt it was a threat to them, and  some people where the missiles were due to be based, especially  in the Czech Republic, voiced concerns that it made them a target.

Bruce Kent, former head of CND and vice chair of Pax Christi, said: "This cancellation is another of President Obama's sensible decisions aimed at reducing tension.The missile defence  shield, from a Russian perspective, was never defensive.

"If it had ever worked it would have to be seen  be seen  by the Russians as a way of mopping up any retaliation from remaining missiles after a First Strike from the West. For nuclear deterrence to make any sense it must mean that each ' side' is equally vulnerable."

Pat Gaffney, General Secretary Pax Christi said  the organisation "welcomes this 'smart diplomacy' decision of President Obama.  Pax Christi saw the Missile Defence project as a destabilizing project, creating  fear and  provocation in the region.  This decision could be an important step in generating new discussion   on genuine security - security built on justice and trust between nations."

This did not prevent a warm welcome for the news from peace campaigners around the world. In the UK, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) expressed delight at the announcement.

“The missile defence plans were an unnecessary and destabilising provocation to Russia which threatened to plunge Europe back in to a new Cold War” said CND chair Kate Hudson, “We hope this decision will open the way to negotiating major cutbacks”.

Doubts remain over the details of Obama’s new policy, such as whether he will also cancel plans to site short-range Patriot anti-missile batteries in Poland, as they are not technically part of the missile system in question.

In Britain, the news also raises questions about whether two military bases in North Yorkshire will continue to form part of a US missile system, as they were expected to be tied in to the system in central Europe.

Hudson urged the UK government to follow Obama’s “example of cancelling unnecessary and costly weapons programmes” by scrapping plans to renew the Trident weapons system.

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