Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

May 24, 2014

Fact Check: Cheney's misguided missile attack

Dick Cheney says President Obama scrapped the Bush administration’s missile defense system in Europe “at the mere request” of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But the new strategy was based on two things: evidence that Iran had accelerated its short- and medium-range missile programs and technological advances that allowed the U.S. to develop what former Defense Secretary Robert Gates called “a far more effective defense.”

Gates, who recommended the Bush plan, writes in a memoir that “new intelligence” published in February 2009 - less than a month after Obama took office - prompted him and other military leaders to “rethink our priorities.” He writes that critics are wrong to describe Obama’s new strategy as “a big concession to the Russians.”

Cheney, Bush’s vice president, discussed European missile defense on “Fox News Sunday” in the context of the current crisis in the Ukraine caused by Russia seizing control of Crimea. Cheney blamed the crisis, in part, on Obama allowing himself to be “pushed around” by Putin — beginning with Obama’s 2009 decision on missile defense in Eastern Europe.

Cheney, May 18: We saw, for example, at the mere request from Putin, President Obama withdrew the plans for a missile defense program based in Poland and the Czech Republic. He’s demonstrated repeatedly, I think, that he, in fact, can be pushed around, if you will, by a - by the Putins. And I don’t think by - Mr. Putin has any hesitation at all, from the standpoint of the American president, of changing his course of action.

Cheney’s partisan attack is at odds with the public statements and writings of a man who is in the unique position to know the intimate details of the Bush and Obama plans: Robert M. Gates, who served as defense secretary under Bush and Obama from December 2006 to July 2011.

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