But the agreement with the former Soviet Bloc states rankled Russia, which feared that the deployment could actually be used for offensive instead of defensive purposes. This anger was in keeping with Russia's distaste for strengthened states near its borders -- particularly formerly communist ones; see the fights with Georgia for reference -- and what it perceives as foreign interference in regional affairs. For example, Russia has vociferously opposed NATO expansion into the former Soviet states.
More reasons for rancor
In addition to the nationalistic reasons for Russia to oppose the military defense system, there is the alliance that runs contrary to the reason for the defense in the first place. Ties between Russia and Iran have reached a recent unprecedented closeness, with economic cooperation, the sale of Russian missile interceptors to Iran that could deflect any Israeli strike against nuclear facilities, and joint military exercises conducted by Russia and Iran in summer 2009.
This increased cooperation has coincided with an authoritarian slide in Russia, driven by powerful prime minister and former President Vladimir Putin, that has many political watchers likening the process to a transformation back to the days of the superpower Soviet Union.
Loss of support
The plan was launched well into Bush's second and final term, leaving Eastern Europe unsure if President Barack Obama would continue Bush's program. In September 2009, Obama said that the missile defense shield would be scrapped, prompting Russia to proclaim a rebirth in Washington-Moscow relations and mixed reaction across Europe, including disapproval from Poland's Lech Walesa and the Czech Republic's Vaclav Havel, men who led their nations out of the Soviet system. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that Iran's short- and medium-range capability was developing at a faster clip than long-range missiles, highlighting the need for immediate ship-based interceptor defense for Europe instead of the ground-based system in Poland and the Czech Republic.