Cohen, European Allies to Discuss National Missile Defense
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 4, 2000 National Missile Defense is an idea that must be sold, not only to the Russians and Chinese, but to America’s European allies, said Defense Secretary William Cohen.
Cohen, speaking to reporters aboard a plane bound for the Wehrkunde Conference on international security policy here Feb. 3, said once people understand what National Missile Defense is and, more importantly, what it is not, then they can keep an open mind about the program.
“I found that by taking the time to explain the architecture the dimensions of National Missile Defense that we have, it helped to defuse the rising level of criticism from our NATO partners,” he said.
The program would defend U.S. territory from a limited missile attack by a rogue state or terrorist organization. It would not be large enough to counter massive attacks such as the Russians or Chinese could launch.
Cohen said he was pleased by news reports indicating that Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin would be open to discussion on National Missile Defense. “We have to indicate to the Russians why we think it’s important to proceed with a [national missile defense] if the president should choose to do so, within the context of the Anti- Ballistic Missile treaty,” Cohen said.
He said there are many in the United States who think the ABM treaty is irrelevant and should be discarded. “I don’t share that view,” he said. In discussions with Russian leaders Cohen stressed the United States wants to “stay under the umbrella of ABM.”
Cohen said there are basically three European objections to the National Missile Defense program. First, Europeans see the ABM Treaty as a stabilizing factor in the U.S. relationship to Russia and they do not wish to see it discarded.
Second, Cohen said, “there is a fear that somehow if we had a limited system that somehow we might decouple our relationship with Europe.”
Finally, there is an apprehension that somehow this might diminish European strategic systems.
“These are legitimate issues that need to be raised and discussed,” Cohen said. “We will press forward on the diplomatic front, and I will continue to make the case at the military level.