NATO Allies Discuss U.S. Missile Defense Proposals
By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 14, 2007 Today’s formal meetings of NATO’s North Atlantic Council ended with no formal opposition to U.S. proposals for a European missile defense plan.
Following a meeting with the NATO-Russia Council, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said there were no criticisms from allies on the U.S. missile defense proposal or of the United States moving forward with its plans to place radar systems in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland.
“There is obviously an interest in trying to encourage Russia to participate with us to make the system complementary to NATO’s shorter-range missile defense and for transparency,” Gates said.
During today’s sessions, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer praised the “forward-leaning offer” the United States has made to share technology and data with Russia to develop capabilities for the radar system. “There has been a good spirit in the discussions between Russia and the United States today,” de Hoop Scheffer said.
He said Russia has not only acknowledged the threat of missile use by rogue nations, but has taken a proactive approach in easing tensions within the alliance.
Gates said the missile defense system proposed for central Europe is intended to complement NATO’s overall capability and mission. “We are going to continue discussing the complementarity of systems and how U.S. and NATO systems will work together,” he said.
“I told representatives that I appreciate (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s recognition of potential missile threats in the Middle East and welcomed his proposal to share radar data in Azerbaijan,” Gates said.
Putin expressed dissatisfaction in early June with a U.S. proposal for the radar system and interceptor missiles. During the G-8 meetings in Germany last week, Putin proposed to President Bush that the two countries combine efforts for the European missile defense radars in Azerbaijan.
Allies are beginning to understand the benefit of having sites in both Poland and the Czech Republic, as well, a senior U.S. defense official said. “As we protect ourselves, we see the need to protect our allies, as well,” the official said.
The defense official said the United States will lead the effort in developing a long-range missile system, while allies will focus on short- and mid-range threats from Iran.
NATO has launched a theater missile defense program for the development of a capability to protect deployed troops against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. The contract is slated for completion by 2010. It will have a capability against aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and other aerial threats.