(Updated with Sen. Levin's comments)
Republicans on Capitol Hill loudly lambasted the move immediately after the defense secretary and vice chair of the Joint Chiefs made the announcement. Conservatives decried the planned changes as dangerous to the United States, insulting to Eastern European allies and too beholden to Russia. They called for reversal or reconsideration.
“The Obama’s administration’s decision to cancel the third missile defense site scheduled to be deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic is short-sighted and leaves America and our allies vulnerable to the growing missile threat from Iran,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (Okla.), the second-ranking Republican on the Armed Services committee and a member of the Foreign Relations committee.
“It shows a willful determination to continue ignoring the threat posed by some of the most dangerous regimes in the world, while taking one of the most important defenses against Iran off the table,” said Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House minority leader.
“This action and others have signaled weakness to our friends and enemies,” echoed Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), also on Foreign Relations there.
Democrats on the Hill were far more receptive. "President Obama has made a sound choice that will improve our security," said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.). He noted Polish and Czech hesitations over the previous plans and said the new vision would still provide widespread protection. Poland also is being offered a Patriot battery (their first priority) and Standard missiles for deployment on their soil. "This decision reinforces our security commitment to our European allies; it does not weaken it."
“While I look forward to reviewing the details of the President’s plan, it appears the new missile defense strategy for Europe is a comprehensive approach that will counter the most immediate missile threats from Iran and protect our allies and our troops in the region,” said Levin's House counterpart, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.). “This new approach, which has the support of both the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, focuses our resources where they will do the most good.”
And major arms control experts agreed. "The Obama administration made the right call," said Tom Z. Collina, the Arms Control Association's research director. "President Obama's more pragmatic approach steers the United States toward a European missile defense that addresses more realistic threats and also facilitates deeper reductions in bloated U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles. This is a win-win-win for the United States, Europe and global security," he added.