Biden: Short-Range Missiles Threaten Europe

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Vice President Biden said Thursday that Europe was threatened by medium and short-range missiles and a new missile defense system would help protect it.

Biden was presenting a revamped U.S. missile shield replacing a scrapped Bush-era project that would have placed 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic to intercept long-range missiles from Iran. His one-day visit to Bucharest was part of a swing through eastern Europe designed to reassure Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic — all staunch U.S. allies — that America's commitment to the region remains strong.

The Obama plan would include SM-3 anti-ballistic missiles at a former air base in the Polish town of Redzikowo, the same site that was to host U.S. missile interceptors in underground silos under the Bush plan.

Moscow perceives the new plan as less threatening because it would not initially involve interceptors capable of shooting down Russia's intercontinental ballistic missiles, experts say.

Biden denied that the new approach was "to appease Russia" at the expense of Central European countries. He said the U.S. would never make a deal involving central European states without consulting them. Biden was to travel to the Czech Republic later Thursday.

Biden also called on the countries of eastern Europe to use their experience to help former Soviet republics to build greater democracy, saying the U.S. would support their efforts.

Speaking to an audience political leaders and students at Bucharest University, Biden paid tribute to the revolutions of 1989 that toppled communism in the former Soviet satellites.

"The example you set...inspired the world," he said. "You can help guide Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine...Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus... Your leadership must be bold and your voices loud."

But he also warned about "a new season of challenges" facing the world today, naming the economic crisis, security threats, ethnic tensions, the uncertainties of energy and water supplies.