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Biden's task in eastern Europe: Reassurance

After the decision to cancel missile defense plans in Poland and the Czech Republic, the US needs to do more than damage control to soothe ties there.

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Vice President Joseph Biden's trip to eastern Europe this week provides an important opportunity to reassure Poland, the Czech Republic, and Romania that the US is committed to their security.

This reassurance is needed, especially in the wake of the Obama administration's controversial decision to cancel the deployment of missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic – Although President Obama's decision to scrap the Bush missile plan was the right one from a military and strategic point of view, the public rollout was less than ideal.

Polish and Czech leaders were informed of the decision only at the last second, making them feel like dispensable pawns in a broader US strategic game rather than the valued allies they have long been. This contributed to the misperception that the move was designed to placate Russia, and that eastern European interests would suffer as Washington attempted to reset relations with Moscow.

This perception is false. The decision was prompted by a shift in the nature of the Iranian threat. But it nevertheless damaged the US relationship with the region – a key relationship already in difficulty. Mr. Biden will therefore need to do more than just repair the damage done by the missile defense decision. He will also need to articulate a clear and coherent policy that explains where eastern Europe fits into broader US strategy toward Europe and Eurasia, and how the US commitment to security in central and eastern Europe will benefit, rather than suffer from, the resetting of US-Russian relations.

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