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Gates, German Defense Leaders Discuss Military Ties

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BERLIN, Germany, April 26, 2007 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met with German defense leaders yesterday on the last leg of a three-day trip to Moscow, Warsaw and Berlin to discuss U.S. plans to base a missile defense network in Europe.

The network will protect Europe, the United States and Russia from long-range ballistic missiles launched by such rogue nations as Iran and North Korea. At a joint news conference with Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung, Gates pointed out that these missiles can carry weapons of mass destruction.

“Nuclear weapons are not the only danger that is posed by the development of ballistic missiles,” he said. “After all, you can have radiological, chemical and biological weapons on a ballistic missile as well. So I think that that's the reason why defense against ballistic missiles is so important.”

The secretary traveled to Russia at the beginning of the week to discuss U.S. plans to deploy 10 interceptors in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic. He then went on to meet with Polish and German leaders to brief them on his discussions.

Gates said he welcomed the opportunity to brief Jung and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on his talks and to discus a wide range of subjects. The secretary also noted that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had encouraged President Bush to intensify dialogue with the Russians, especially on missile defense.

“We will continue to consult with the Russians on missile defense, as well as consult closely with our allies,” Gates said. He said Putin has asked him to return to Russia, Bush will meet with Putin at the G-8 summit, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet with her counterpart at an upcoming NATO ministerial conference.

Through an interpreter, Jung said he was pleased Gates came to Germany to discuss the main issues of their defense and security policy. He said the two nations have excellent bilateral relations.

Jung said German officials are grateful the United States “is building up this protective defensive system for our population, that we are prepared not only to inform and be informed, but that we also intend to actively pursue this in the NATO framework to have a protective function for all of Europe, for the entire European territory.”

“My counterpart, Mr. Gates, informed me that his talks in Moscow came to the conclusion that a team of experts should be set up to discuss the details of this program,” Jung said. “We have also discussed this with NATO foreign ministers, and will discuss it with NATO defense ministers.”

The overall goal is to deploy a defensive system to defend and protect the population,” Jung said, noting that “the fears voiced by Russia are completely unfounded. For this reason, I am confident that within NATO we will reach a consensus, but that within the NATO-Russia Council we will also be able to make progress in the interest of the protection of our population.”

Jung went on to say German officials are glad they are part of the joint military mission in Afghanistan. “This effort can already be called a success,” he said. “It is an immediate link between providing security and reconstruction, and it helps us to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan population and to guarantee peace and stability in the long run.”

Responding to a reporter’s query about Iraq, Gates said he’d traveled to Jordan and Egypt the previous week “to encourage them to support Prime Minister (Nouri al-)Maliki and his government, to encourage the Sunnis in Iraq to support that government and to encourage Sunni governments throughout the Middle East to do so.

“I would not have made those trips and made that case if I did not believe Prime Minister Maliki could do the job,” the secretary said.

The recent bombing that killed nine U.S. servicemembers at an outpost in Diyala, he noted, is an example of the violence U.S. officials expected as pressure was brought to bear on the various killers. U.S. officials said that they would squirt out to other parts of Iraq in the vicinity of Baghdad.

“It's tragic. We wish to God it hadn't happened.” Gates said. “But at the same time, I think that it is not unexpected that we will see these kinds of attacks as they try to prevent the Baghdad security plan from being successful, and as they try and prevent political reconciliation in Iraq.”

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