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Czech, Polish Leaders Favor BMD System, But Russia Offers Joint System

By | June 11, 2007

      Bush Terms Putin Offer ‘Interesting;’ Czechs To Get Technology

      Russian President Vladimir Putin, after using nuclear threats to challenge plans for a European ballistic missile defense (BMD) shield in the Czech Republic and Poland, suddenly unveiled a proposal to have Russia join the BMD system.

      President Bush responded in a positive but guarded manner, terming the Russian offer “interesting,” adding that U.S. missile defense and strategic leaders will examine it.

      Putin’s comments came during a meeting of the Group of Eight (G-8) large industrialized nations in Europe, a session Bush also attended.

      The Russian leader’s comments put a new twist in what had sounded like an old replay of the Cold War, in which Bush proposed building a radar site in the Czech Republic and a site with silos filled with missile interceptors in Poland. This essentially would be the third site in the U.S. ground-based midcourse missile defense (GMD) system, adding to sites in Alaska and California.

      Putin and other Russian leaders erupted in fury to the third-site plan, saying the United States and Europe were attempting to neutralize and counter Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The Russians lobbed threats to attack any GMD installations built in the Czech Republic and Poland, and to target Russian nuclear ICBMs at European nations, if the European BMD system were built. Too, Russia test-fired what it described as a new type of ICBM that could penetrate any missile-defense system. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, June 4, 2007, page 1.)

      Bush and other U.S. leaders responded with dismay, saying that the handful of just 10 ballistic missile interceptors planned for installation in Poland never could threaten the hundreds of Russian ICBMs.

      Rather, the Americans stated, the BMD interceptors were intended solely to shield Europe, U.S. troops there and the United States against enemy missiles launched from rogue nations such as Iran.

      Then Putin turned diplomatic, and suggested using a Russian-run radar system in Qabala, Azerbaijan, as an integral part of the European BMD system. If that transpired, then Russian ICBMs wouldn’t be targeted at Europe, Putin said.

      His suddenly warmer comments came as it was clear Bush was receiving solid support for the European missile defense shield plan from the two nations that count most, the Czech Republic and Poland.

      For example, Polish President Lech Kaczynski said in translated remarks that Poland and the United States agree on the necessity to build the European BMD shield.

      “I can tell you that as far as the missile defense system is concerned, the two parties fully agree,” Kaczynski said in a joint news conference with Bush.

      The Polish leader also backed Bush’s assurances that the European BMD system poses no threat to Russia or its fleet of ICBMs.

      Bush also drew support for the European BMD system in the Czech Republic.

      Czech Republic Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek voiced clear support for the Ruopean BMD system.

      “We want to be involved in collective defense by building the missile defense system in the Czech Republic and in Poland,” Topolanek said during a joint news conference with Bush. Topolanek’s remarks were translated.

      “My message will be, Vladimir — I call him, Vladimir — that you shouldn’t fear a missile defense system. As a matter of fact, why don’t you cooperate with us on a missile defense system? Why don’t you participate with the United States? Please send your generals over to see how such a system would work. Send your scientists.”

      After Bush extended that invitation to participate in the BMD system with the United States, Putin made his comments about Russian and the United States working together.

      Topolanek said the Czech Republic and the United States “are pulling in one direction. That’s good news not only for the U.S., that’s good news primarily for the people in this country.”

      Topolanek made clear that the Czech Republic wants more of U.S. investment in the Czech Republic, and more access to U.S. technology, as the price for the Czech government agreeing to host the GMD radar station.

      “Maybe this is our condition … this may be our condition for the installation of the radar facility in the Czech Republic,” he said. “We want cooperation in science technology and innovation.”

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