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Bush May Press European Ballistic Missile Defense Plan In State Of The Union Address

By | January 28, 2008

      President Bush tonight will deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, and he may use the televised event to press for construction of a U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in Europe.

      While last-minute additions and deletions still are being made in the address, Bush may use the speech on Capitol Hill to state that the potential threat of enemy missiles being launched from the Middle East against European targets hasn’t diminished.

      That would refer to the danger posed by Iran, which is developing longer-range missiles, while producing nuclear materials despite opposition from global leaders. Western observers fear Iran may develop long-range missiles tipped with nuclear weapons.

      In an earlier State of the Union address, on Jan. 29, 2002, Bush branded Iran as part of an Axis of Evil for its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and its exporting of terrorism. (Iraq and North Korea were the other nations in that axis.)

      Fast-forward six years, and Bush now is attempting to persuade the Czech Republic to host a radar, and Poland to host in-ground silos filled with interceptor missiles, as part of a new Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system.

      The system would be the third GMD site, with the other two in Alaska and California.

      At this point, it seems likely that the two nations eventually will grant permission to the United States to install the systems on their land — provided, that is, Washington first meets their price. They are likely to demand sweeteners such as contracts for their hometown industries.

      As Bush cites the threat posed by Iran, and says that demonstrates an urgent requirement for the United States to erect a ballistic missile shield against Iranian aggression, he will be speaking in a chamber filled with members of both houses of Congress.

      It was Congress that placed restrictions on funding for the European GMD site, stating that the money couldn’t be used for construction of the radar and silos until the Czechs and Poles agree to host the GMD facilities. Until then, the funds can be used only for development work.

      It is unclear whether Bush will even mention space programs in his address.

      In 2004, Bush used his State of the Union speech to call for sending U.S. astronauts back to the moon, followed by establishing a permanent scientific-experiments camp on the moon, and then using the moon camp as a base for sending astronauts to Mars and other solar system points.

      But funding for such an endeavor wasn’t spelled out, and it seems an open question as to whether it would be decades before a manned Mars mission embarked. Some critics say the money never will be supplied, and the United States will be lucky to make it back to the moon that American astronauts last visited in the 1960s and 70s.

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