Conservatives paint it as a dangerous national security misstep, while Democrats say the President did the right thing in announcing the uprooting of a Bush-era missile defense shield over Europe.
Republican Congressman Mike Pence (IN) harkened to the days of the Cold War and warned the administration against bowing to a burgeoning powerhouse, Russia, "The Obama administration is continuing a policy of appeasement at the expense of our allies. History teaches that weakness and appeasement invite aggression against peaceful nations."
The administration tapped into a vein coursing with controversy when President Obama announced Thursday that he would be scrapping the Bush administration's international defense staple; a European missile shield to guard against the threat from Iran.
The new Obamafied version would include sea-based interceptors and, according the the President, be more adaptive and agile, "[W]e have updated our intelligence assessment of Iran's missile programs, which emphasizes the threat posed by Iran's short- and medium-range missiles, which are capable of reaching Europe," he told reporters at the White House.
President Bush himself had to walk a political tightrope with Russia, who claimed the shield was not intended to counter Russia's defenses. And in his White House briefing Thursday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs denied that Russia's concerns were the impetus for the decision, "[T]his is not about Russia. This is about protecting our homeland."
But some members of Congress felt blind-sided by this decision and said that the threat from Iran has not lessened. Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia lamented, "[T]his sudden release, apparently, of new intelligence information that has not come the way of the Hill, is somewhat puzzling to say the least. Congress has received briefings on intelligence about the threat that Iran poses...So we are we're very very concerned about what seems to be a sudden turnaround and a shift in terms of the analysis of intelligence we received."
The Bush plan had called for ground-based ballistic missile interceptors to be placed in Poland, as well as a related radar site to be based in the Czech Republic. President Obama phoned the Prime Ministers of each country, attempting to assuage any potential concerns.
Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer said it didn't come a surprise, "We were aware about the possible backing away as well as the fact that the analysis by specialists in the US is ongoing."
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) told Fox, "It's my understanding the Poles are very open to it. The Czechs are very open to it."
Famed Polish President, Lech Walesa, for one, isn't thrilled, "I just don't like this policy. It's not because we needed this missile defense system so badly. It's all about a way of treating us. It has to change. The US can't play military policeman of the world."
Republicans said the Bush plan would have provided protection from intercontinental ballistic missiles by 2013 and that Obama's plan won't provide that same protection until 2020.
Gibbs said a fresh take on intelligence necessitated the change, "based on additional and more recent assessments, we believe that assessment intelligence-wise has changed from an intercontinental ballistic missile capability that's less advanced compared to a medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missile capability now."