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July 28, 08

NEWS / Missile Defense Plan Directed at Rogue Nations, Not Russia

Missile Defense Plan Directed at Rogue Nations, Not Russia

Radar station to be built in Czech Republic

By Domenick R. DiPasquale
Staff Writer

Washington -- The United States has reiterated that its planned missile defense system in Europe is not directed against Russia but rather against the growing threat from rogue nations such as Iran, according to a senior U.S. military official.

“Ten interceptors in Poland could absolutely not match the hundreds of interceptors and thousands of warheads that the Russians have deployed,” Lieutenant General Henry Obering, director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, said at a recent briefing.

Under the U.S. plan, a missile defense radar station would be built in the Czech Republic, with interceptor missiles based in Poland, to safeguard European nations against a potential missile launch from nations such as Iran.

On July 9, Iran conducted test firings of several missiles, including one model, the Shahab-3, that it claims has a range of 2,000 kilometers -- sufficient to hit targets in more than three dozen nations, including not just parts of Europe but also much of the Middle East and Central Asia.

Russia has objected to the planned U.S. anti-missile deployment, calling it a potential danger to its own national security posture.

At his July 15 briefing Obering said the United States has taken several steps to allay Russian concerns. These include numerous high-level discussions between the U.S. and Russian governments on the issue, as well as measures designed to increase the program’s transparency by inviting Russian officials to visit the missile defense sites and observe flight tests.

Missile defense was among the topics discussed by President Bush and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at their July 7 meeting at the G8 summit in Japan. At that meeting Medvedev agreed to continue existing efforts begun by his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, to transform the current U.S. missile defense plan into a system that in the future would be jointly managed by the United States, Russia and Europe.

Obering said the United States also has attempted to address Russian concerns by offering to build, activate and test the missile defense sites but not bring them to operational status until a threat from Iran emerges. He pointed out, however, that in earlier discussions with Russian officials, the United States had said one of the “triggers” that might cause the United States to activate the sites would be the flight of a missile with a 2,000-kilometer range -- the range Iran claimed for its Shahab-3 missile tested July 9.

The missile defense system, according to Obering, would have a deterrent effect by “injecting an uncertainty into the mind of an attacker as to what will succeed and what will not.”

“I believe that one of the reasons we’ve seen the proliferation of these missiles in the past is that there has historically been no defense against them,” he said. “So they are of a lot of value to nations like Iran and North Korea. If we join together -- United States, NATO, Russia -- and field effective missile defenses, I believe it will have an effect on the value of these weapons. It will devalue them in the eyes of some of these countries.”

Efforts to forge such multilateral defense cooperation are under way. The United States received an endorsement from NATO this April for the missile defense system.

In January and June of this year, the United States and NATO conducted successful tests to connect their respective systems for missile defense command and control, Obering said.

The United States July 8 signed an agreement with the Czech Republic allowing the construction and operation of the missile defense system’s radar station. The agreement must be ratified by the Czech Parliament. Negotiations with Poland on basing the missile interceptors in that nation continue.

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