Vice President Joe Biden will visit Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic this month, the White House said on Tuesday, amid fresh concerns over the U.S. commitment to eastern Europe’s defence.
Biden will visit the three NATO allies from October 20-24 and meet with heads of state and government, parliamentary leaders and others on a broad range of issues, including security challenges, the White House said.
U.S. President Barack Obama in September shelved a project first proposed by former President George W. Bush to install a missile shield in eastern Europe that would have included interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar site in the Czech Republic.
The missile defence system was originally proposed to counter possible attacks from Iran, but it came to be seen by some as offering protection to former Soviet bloc nations still living in Moscow’s shadow.
Obama said he would instead deploy a missile defence system involving sea-based as well as land-based interceptors.
The shift was warmly greeted by Russia, which had opposed the original missile plan, but it raised fears in a region worried about Moscow’s assertive foreign policy, especially in the wake of its short war with Georgia last year.
The White House said Biden’s visit was not an effort at damage control.
The governments of the three countries understand that the new U.S. shield plans would protect a broader area and address a more direct threat, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
“I have no doubt that the issue will come up, and I think the Vice President will be very comfortable, as will our allies, in the decision that we’ve made,” Gibbs said at a daily news briefing.