WASHINGTON (CNN) - Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum - two of the Republicans thinking about challenging President Obama in 2012 - are savaging the administration's plans to scrap a planned missile defense shield in Europe.
The Bush administration had wanted to install the shield in eastern Europe to protect against the threat of long-range missiles from Iran, but the Obama administration said Thursday it will instead pursue a scaled-back program that would focus on short-range missiles. The U.S. reversal is likely to please Russia, which had fiercely opposed the Bush-era plans that would have placed missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, called the move a slap in the face to eastern Europeans "who have stood so valiantly with America and who took political heat for backing the missile-defense system" and accused the president of caving to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Romney, who is scheduled to deliver a high-profile foreign policy speech in Washington next week, said it's risky to tinker to with defense plans when American intelligence regarding Iran's missile capability is murky.
"President Obama has made a dangerous and alarming decision to shelve our missile-defense system in Europe," Romney said in a statement. "His decision is wrong in every way, despite his rationale."
Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, said the president is spurning European allies in order to "appease" Russia - "a potential foe."
"The Poles and the Czechs have a legitimate fear of a re-emergence of the Russian threat to their security and are desperately seeking closer ties to the West," Santorum said in a statement to CNN.
"It appears we have not learned from the mistakes made with respect to these allies from World War II and the Cold War," he said. "Repeatedly turning our backs on our friends will only serve to weaken our alliances and embolden our foes."