Official Discusses Missile Defense in Europe
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 3, 2007 The United States and Russia have agreed to discuss ballistic missile defense even as the U.S. moves to help defend European allies from a rogue missile threat, a senior defense official said today.
Eric S. Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, told Pentagon reporters that both the United States and Russia face growing dangers from the proliferation of ballistic missile technology.
“There are some 20 countries developing programs actively, and we're particularly concerned, of course, about the threats from North Korea,” he said during a news conference. “We saw last summer the potential that threat represents when we had the six or seven missile-shot tests last summer. We are also, of course, increasingly concerned about the missile capability that Iran is developing.”
The missile defense proposal would put 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an X-band radar in the Czech Republic. U.S. State Department and DoD officials are speaking with leaders in those countries about the basing proposal.
The United States already has limited missile defense capabilities based at Fort Greely, Alaska, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. In addition, the United States is working with Japanese experts on missile defense in that theater.
Edelman said the next step is to bring the discussions to a meeting of the North Atlantic Council and the NATO-Russia Council, April 18.
The long-range missile defense capability is important for Europe, Edeleman said. While the program is designed to protect the United States, if it is extended to Europe it would protect not only Americans, but also European allies. The plan poses no threat to Russia, he said.
The interceptors have no explosives aboard them; they work on the hit-to-kill principle, which destroys the hostile missile by the sheer force of a collision with the interceptor. “We've gone to great lengths to discuss this and consult with Russia,” he said.
The United States will continue to consult with leaders in Poland and the Czech Republic, he said.
“We can build a common understanding of the contribution that we believe defenses will make to ensuring that our alliance has the capabilities needed to address the threats of the 21st century,” he said. “And that, I believe, is in keeping with many, many years of efforts on the part of policymakers in administrations of both parties to ensure that the defense of the United States remains coupled with the defense of Europe.”