Gates Stands Firm For European BMD In Czech Republic, Poland
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates didn’t budge from his support for a U.S. ground-based midcourse missile defense (GMD) system being installed in the Czech Republic and Poland, rejecting a Russian proposal to use a substitute radar in Azerbaijan.
“I was very explicit in the meeting that we saw the Azeri radar as an additional capability, that we intended to proceed with the radar, the X-band radar in the Czech Republic,” Gates said he told NATO ministers in a meeting in Europe.
The Pentagon leader also said it’s unlikely that there could be a full assessment of and response to the Russian proposal to use the Azeri radar in the European ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, before Russian President Vladimir Putin travels to the United States to meet with President Bush July 1 and 2 at Bush’s dad’s home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
“I would be skeptical that they could — that the arrangements for an experts meeting and to further explore the Russian offer could actually take place before that meeting,” Gates told journalists.
However, Gates said repeatedly that there was no opposition voiced by European defense ministers to the proposal for the Czech-Polish siting of the European BMD system.
During meetings, “there were no criticisms by any of the NATO allies of our missile defense proposals or of our moving forward,” Gates said. “There obviously is interest in trying to encourage the Russians to participate with us, to make the system complementary to NATO shorter-range missile defenses and for transparency, but as I say, there were no criticisms from any of those who spoke, and quite a number of the ministers did speak.”
The European BMD plan would have the U.S. GMD system provide a shield for European nations, U.S. troops there and the United States against enemy missiles launched from Middle Eastern countries such as Iran. Whether Russia would join in that system, and in what context, has yet to be decided.
Gates also responded indirectly to Russian threats to use missile strikes to annihilate the European BMD system if it is built, or to target European cities.
Such bombast isn’t sitting well with NATO leaders, Gates indicated.
“One theme of several of the representatives from the alliance during the meeting was the need to modulate rhetoric and for us to deal on a businesslike basis with one another,” Gates said.