PunditFact checks Romney's claim of Russian "gift"

St. Petersburg, Florida -- Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney returned to the Sunday talk shows over the weekend, after writing a Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing President Obama on foreign policy.

On CBS's "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer, Romney said the president has been naive about Russian President Vladimir Putin's intentions in Ukraine -- saying Putin blocked Iran from harsher sanctions, aligned with dictators in Syria and North Korea and gave Edward Snowden a safe haven.

Romney said he would have handled things differently:

"For instance, you reconsider putting in our missile defense system back into the Czech Republic and Poland, as we once planned. And as you recall, we pulled that out as a gift to Russia."

PunditFact decided to take another look at that missile program and why it was scrapped.

The program began during President George W. Bush's administration. The idea was to install 10 interceptor missiles on the ground in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic to ward off long-range missiles from Iran.

"The Russians didn't really like this program," said Katie Sanders of PunditFact. "They thought that even though the U.S. said they were only targeting missiles from Iran and not Russia, they still felt like it was affecting their nuclear base."

President Obama canceled the program after coming into office, but it's not clear it was a "gift" to Russia.

"The same person who recommended the program to Bush, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is the same person who advised Obama to turn away from it," said Sanders. "Because they had new, information that suggested Iran wasn't working long-range missiles anymore, they were really picking up on short- and medium-range missiles that could effect U.S. presence in Europe."

PunditFact says that Romney is correct that President Obama ended the program. But experts are split over how much of a gesture it was to Russia, so PunditFact rates the claim HALF TRUE.


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