U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
|Presenter: Under Secretary of Defense For Policy Eric Edelman||April 03, 2007|
BRYAN WHITMAN (Pentagon spokesman): Well, good afternoon, and welcome. It's my privilege to introduce our briefer today, who is probably known by most of you. Ambassador Eric Edelman is the undersecretary of defense for policy. He's here to talk to you about some of the policy efforts that have been going into the detailed discussions with our allies in Europe with respect to missile defense. And he's just recently returned from the region, and has offered to share his thoughts and the direction in which the department is moving.
So with that, sir, let me turn it over to you.
MR. EDELMAN: Thanks, Bryan.
Good afternoon. Nice to see all of you.
As I think most of you know, I was in Europe last week to continue a series of consultations that have actually been ongoing for some number of months about our plans to potentially field U.S. missile defenses in Europe in a third site, with interceptors perhaps based in Poland and an X-band radar in the Czech Republic. This would be in addition, of course, to the two sites that we currently have at Fort Greely in Alaska, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
I went to Europe actually in the fall, along with General Obering of the Missile Defense Agency, to do a briefing for the North Atlantic Council and then the NATO-Russia Council back in mid-November. We've had subsequent efforts to brief the council. General Obering was there a few weeks ago. I met informally with the North Atlantic Council perm reps three weeks ago, en route to my trip to Afghanistan. But I've also met periodically with officials in the other European capitals, particularly London and Paris, before last week, going on to Berlin and Prague to meet with officials there.
These discussions I think are part of a broader set of consultations that we have held. In addition to my efforts, assistant secretary of state Dan Fried was in Poland two weeks ago.
Assistant secretary of state John Rood, now nominated to be undersecretary, will be carrying on some of the discussions that his predecessor, Ambassador Joseph, had with other colleagues and allies, including our Russian friends. So this is part of a broader and ongoing effort.
As you may know, there will be a meeting of the North Atlantic Council and the NATO-Russia Council on April 18th. And last week, following the president's phone call with President Putin, one of the things that we've agreed to discuss is in some detail the potential for cooperation with Russia. We are doing this because we face a growing danger of the proliferation of ballistic missile technology. There are some 20 countries developing programs actively, and we're particularly concerned of course about the threats from North Korea. We saw last summer the potential that threat represents when we had the six or seven missiles shot tests last summer. We are also of course increasingly concerned about the missile capability that Iran is developing.
The effort here is an effort to help extend potentially what we believe is the capability that we are developing against the long- range missile threat to Europe. This is not a capability we need to defend the United States. It's a capability, the program of record that we're embarked on, once it's completed, we believe will provide coverage for the United States; this does, however, provide us with a capability, if we have a third site in Europe, to extend protection to our fielded forces in those European countries that would be covered by this and to defend our friends and allies as well. And that's in keeping with some of the preliminary decisions the president made when he first came into office, to change the program of record he inherited both to spiral out capability as it developed in the first instance and secondly to not only just have a national missile defense but one that would protect allies as well.
The plan which we have been discussing, which would include 10 interceptors, is completely defensive in nature. It doesn't pose a threat, we believe, to Russia's nuclear deterrent, because we don't think that 10 kinetic interceptors with no explosive warhead, much less a nuclear warhead, would pose a threat to Russia's hundreds of missiles and thousands of warheads.
We've gone to great lengths to discuss this and consult with Russia. As I said, I've been involved in briefings myself. We've had others who've been involved. Former Undersecretary Cambone was involved in briefing our Russian colleagues. And moreover, as the president said in his phone conversation with President Putin, we're prepared to work together with Russia in the area to address what we believe is a threat that affects both the United States and Russia.
We'll be consulting closely, as we move forward, with our allies in Poland and in the Czech Republic in these discussions to consult with the rest of the allies. We'll be obviously talking to the Congress -- we've had some testimony last week before the Congress by General Obering and my colleague Brian Green -- so that we can build a common understanding of the contribution that we believe defenses will make to ensuring that our alliance has the capabilities needed to address the threats of the 21st century.
And that, I believe, is in keeping with many, many years of efforts on the part of policymakers in administrations of both parties to ensure that the defense of the United States remains coupled with the defense of Europe. And though -- although obviously the threats and the challenges we face today are different than those that we faced in the Cold War, the principle of keeping U.S. and European defense coupled, I think, remains an important principle that we would like to maintain. And that's what I told our friends and colleagues in Europe, and that's, I think, what we'll be continuing to discuss with them in the days, weeks and months ahead.
Why don't I stop there, and I'll be happy to try and answer any questions.
Q Ambassador Edelman, why do you need to divide the radar and the interceptors between two different countries in Europe? What is the reasoning behind that?
MR. EDELMAN: The disposition, the locations were determined on the basis of a lot of work that our colleagues in MDA did on what the potentially optimal locations might be to provide radar coverage but also to deal with the geometry of -- and the physics of intercepting missiles as they overfly to the United States from Iran through Russian airspace and then through Central Europe. So that was really, by and large, determined not purely on the basis of geometry and physics, but very largely on the basis of geometry and physics, what the best locations would be.
Q Can you talk a little more about what cooperation with Russia would look like? I mean, clearly Russia's not enthusiastic about the U.S. plan, and it appears that that U.S. officials have been unable to calm any of their concerns about this. So what would cooperation look like? Are we talking about a common missile defense system?
MR. EDELMAN: Well, first of all, I think we need to explore that further. We've had a number of discussions going back several years, including discussions that Secretary Rumsfeld had with his counterpart, his then-counterpart, Minister Sergey Ivanov, that have talked about a variety of different ways in which we might cooperate.
One way, I think, that we all believe would be something that makes sense is to look at how sensor and early-warning technology might be used so that we can have a common operational picture and that the data that we get from these radars and from other sensors can be shared with Russia. That's one way.
There may be some others.
We're looking at, you know, going back over the list of things that we have offered in the past, but looking to see right now, as we anticipate the meeting on April 19th and then future meetings -- because I think we'll probably end up having a series of encounters and discussions at various levels and with various departments represented, including our colleagues in the Department of State as well as those of us in the Department of Defense -- what exactly further might be put on the table. But we're prepared to discuss a lot of potential options.
Q Mr. Ambassador, do you see the only way ahead as a joint venture between the U.S. and Russia, and that putting anything in the other two countries really depends on getting some sort of agreement to do a joint venture with them?
MR. EDELMAN: No, I don't think so. I mean, we want to cooperate with Russia. We think there is a benefit to cooperating with Russia. We think the threat is one that they face as well as one that we face. In fact, they come within range of these missiles before we do. But that being said, I don't think if for some reason we're unable to reach a commonly agreed way ahead, that we would want to accede to Russia being able to dictate what we do bilaterally with other countries or what NATO does as an alliance.
So I'm still very hopeful that we will be able to reach some understandings with Russia that will allay their concerns, particularly about the technical parameters of the system we're talking about. Russia already has the right -- has had for many years under the ABM Treaty and then the subsequent protocols that were agreed -- to have a hundred interceptors around Moscow. I think they've got about 85 or 86 nuclear-tipped interceptors deployed. Don't see how that's been a threat to the stability of Europe for over the last 35 years.
The fact that we're going to have potentially 10, as I mentioned earlier, non-nuclear, non-explosive kinetic vehicles in Poland, I don't think that's a threat to Russia. It is a surface-to-air system, it is not a surface-to-ground system. And I think we can go a long way to assuring them that even if we can't reach agreement on cooperation, which we hope we can, that this system doesn't present a threat to them.
Q You've mentioned a couple of times Iran now. Could you just bring us up to date, given the meetings you've had, what you see the Iranian missile threat being, the types, how soon they could have an operational missile that could strike the United States and Europe, and is it a growing threat now? Do you see them putting more resources into it?
MR. EDELMAN: Well, we've seen a number of missile tests. I think you've seen the stories in the press about them, possibly up to and including a capability that might lead to a space launch vehicle, which would be of course capable ultimately of developing a further capability that could reach the United States. The timing, I think, is a little bit hard to pin down. I think all of us are chastened by the experience in 1998 when, you know, people thought that we were some years off before North Korea would have a multi-stage, intercontinental capability, and they were able to demonstrate that they at least were moving in that direction a few months later.
So I think it's a little hard to pin down exactly how that -- how the timeline will evolve. I think the judgment we have is that the threat starts to mature in around 2015, and one of the reasons we're moving ahead now is we want to have a capability in place to meet that threat in that timeline that it's developing on. Because it takes some time to put these defenses systems into place, and I think it's prudent to have that defenses capability in place before the threat matures. I think trying to put it in place afterwards would become a lot harder and would subject, I think, our European friends and allies and potentially our forces to being subject to both attack and blackmail.
Q Can I just ask you to clarify, when you say mature by 2015, do you mean that they could have a capability for a missile --
MR. EDELMAN: To reach the United States by then.
Q What about Europe? Sooner?
MR. EDELMAN: Well, they already range part of Europe and, you know, including a place that I know well that I used to be the United States Ambassador to. And they'll be able to reach further afield as their capability matures. As I said, the Russians and other neighbors come into range first and we come into range second.
Q Just pushing back, chastened by the 1998 experience, a lot of skeptics are going to say, how much were you chastened in these assessments on Iran by the prewar Iraq intelligence and how that was so wrong? How is the emerging consensus on Iran different, in terms of how solid the data is versus the buildup to the Iraq War?
MR. EDELMAN: Well, you know, I would say first of all on the ballistic missile side, with regard to the prewar intelligence on Iraq, everybody who's been through that, I think, is chastened by the experience. And we've had the Robb-Silberman report and others that have pointed out some of the deficiencies that need to be corrected. And we've got legislation, and the intelligence community is taking action to remedy those things.
I would point out on the Iraq front that the one area where the prewar findings turned out to be an underestimate were in the missile area. I mean, that's one of the things that, you know, David Kay and Charley Duelfer did find, that there were plenty Iraqi missiles that violated the limits that had been placed on them by the 1617 U.N. Security Council Resolution. So missiles are things you can see being, you know, fired from national technical means. And while I would always say I'd like, you know, like any policymaker, more and better intelligence on the subject, I think while we need to be, you know, prudent about what we don't know, I think there is, you know, evidence here that this is moving forward.
And you can see it in their public statements and --
Q One quick follow-up. Is the 2015 date presuppose outside assistance or is that the intelligence community's best estimate of indigenous Iranian production without Russian or North Korean help?
MR. EDELMAN: Well, they are getting help from Russia and North Korea, as your question suggests. I don't know that it's -- I don't know that that date disaggregates that. I can't really tell you that. But, I mean, the point is we have to be prepared whether they do it indigenously or whether they have help.
Q Could you talk to us about the costs of this, for the 10 intersectors and the radar and then operating it, and the relative risk of an ICBM attack on Europe, versus a terrorist attack or a theater missile, a shorter ranger missile attack, and why that money is well spent?
MR. EDELMAN: Well, I think there's money in the budget for the initial work that would be needed to begin the process of deploying the 10 interceptors to Poland. I think it's somewhere in the vicinity. You'd have to check with General Obering, but I think it's somewhere in the vicinity of 1.7 billion, something like that, total when it all gets looked at. And then, there's some lesser amount of money for the deployment of the X-band radar. I think those are relatively prudent investments. Of course, the operational costs over time, it's a little hard to quantify that in advance, and some of these numbers are going to shift as these discussions with host countries go on.
As opposed to other threats, you know, yes, there are other threats of terrorism and one has to take prudent steps to deal with those too, but I don't think it's an either/or situation. I think we're confronted by an array of threats, and we need to take prudent measures to meet all of the different kinds of threats that are out there, including the threat of nuclear terrorism, that might born by some other vehicle as opposed to a missile.
But we see the missile programs developing. The countries that are doing it are doing it for a reason. They think it provides them with some benefit and some ability to offset the power of the U.S. and its allies both in the region and in Europe and around the world. And so we have to figure out a way to deal with the threat that that represents.
Q Are you asking NATO to share any of the cost?
MR. EDELMAN: Well, I think what right now we're looking at is how we can provide some benefit to protect Europe based on what we have been able to develop with regard to the long-range ballistic missile threat that faces us and also challenges Europe.
There is also a short- and medium-range threat which will not be completely covered by this effort that NATO has to look at. NATO has its own plan for an active layered theater defense that it's been working on. That work ought to go forward. And our hope is that we will be working in parallel with our friends and allies in Europe and with NATO so that the system that NATO ultimately moves forward to develop is compatible, complementary, and perhaps ultimately interoperable with what we're proposing.
Q So no on the ICBM defense? "No" is the answer? You're not looking for money from NATO for the long-range missile defense?
MR. EDELMAN: No, this is, I think, something that we're looking at as the nations that are involved in this, and it's not just Poland and the Czech Republic. I'd, you know, draw your attention to the fact that we've got the radars in Fylingdales and in Thule in Greenland, so we've got Denmark and the United Kingdom involved as well. In some sense, this is five member countries of NATO making an initial national contribution to protecting Europe and working together with what NATO is doing in its theater defense efforts.
Q Sir, can I get back to the Russians real quickly? Given the vehemence of their objections, and some would say belligerence of their objection, is there any thinking in this building about perhaps tabling this, at least temporarily, or, you know, pulling back a bit on the negotiations with the Poles and the Czechs in particular?
MR. EDELMAN: No, we're not pulling back, we're moving forward. The Czech government has approved last week moving forward. We're anticipating an answer from the government of Poland. We've got these briefings, as I said, that we're going to be doing in Brussels on the 19th of April. And we're also very actively engaged with Russia, as we have been. We've had, I think, close to a dozen, the last time I counted, iterations with Russia. We're prepared to do more.
I've noted that since the president's phone call with President Putin, we've had a bit of a cessation of the incessantly negative statements from Russia. And I hope that we'll be able to make some headway on the discussion -- in the discussions we're having with them on the possibilities for cooperation and will be able to get back to a discussion of facts, as opposed to discussions of fears, founded or unfounded.
Q Can I just follow up? Rightly or wrongly, the missile defense system is very closely associated with Secretary Rumsfeld. I'm curious whether you've discussed this with Secretary Gates and whether he is similarly enthusiastic about proceeding along the lines that they had been in Europe.
MR. EDELMAN: Well, Secretary Gates is the one who actually made the decision in December to propose to the president that we begin the process of moving forward with Poland and the Czech Republic to develop a third site in Europe.
I briefed him on it, and he made that decision, and I think he is very supportive of what we're doing in missile defense.
Q Are we going to form any joint working groups with Russia? And do you have any plans to go to Moscow yourself in the near future -- you or Secretary Gates?
MR. EDELMAN: I don't want to get into the schedule of who's going where, because we're still in the process of working out exactly who is going to go where, when, because we've got a State Department component in this as well as the Defense Department. And we've got the NATO event, and so we're in the midst of trying to schedule all these things, and at the appropriate time when all these things are actually scheduled, we'll announce them. But I expect that we will have a lot of discussions with our Russian counterparts.
As to working groups, that's possible in the future. I don't think there's a plan ahead of time to do that. We'll see what grows out of the discussions. If there are areas where the two sides want to delve into it further, we're certainly open to having working groups.
I mean, we already have one in a certain sense. Ambassador Joseph had a strategic dialogue under way with Deputy Foreign Minister Kislyak last September when we met in Washington. I participated in that. When Ambassador Joseph went to Moscow more recently, some of my colleagues from OSD were there. And although that's not a working group, I think in a sense it -- you're suggesting it is a venue for ongoing discussion, and that's where this subject has been talked about on a number of occasions. If there are some things to do more concretely, I think we're open to having working groups if both sides agree it's something to be pursued.
Q Okay. Let me shift to the other side of the world and talk about North Korea. What kind of implications -- I mean, it's early days, but what kind of implications does the potential peace agreement with North Korea on its nuclear program have on U.S. missile defense plans in terms of the fact that the site that exists now in Greely and in California are basically intended to defend against North Korean missiles? What happens if that threat goes away as a result of this agreement going into effect? Do you -- what do you do with those missiles --
MR. EDELMAN: If the threat goes away, I think all of us will be very happy.
Q Will you keep them there and then risk getting China quite upset about the idea that perhaps those sites were always intended to defend against Chinese missiles?
MR. EDELMAN: While I have great confidence in the negotiating skills of my friend and colleague Chris Hill, and very hopeful that we get a positive result out of the efforts he's undertaking in the six- party talks, and everybody in the U.S. government is expending their efforts to make sure that that happens, I don't think we ought to get ahead of ourselves. We still have a missile threat that we have to deal with. If it turns out to be one that becomes more benign over time, that'll be great. But those interceptors in Greely can also be used to defend the United States against a missile attack from Iran.
They can reach the East Coast of the United States, and even without the 10 interceptors in Europe. And as I said, one of the concerns we have is to make sure that we keep U.S. and European defense coupled. And so I don't think we want to have a situation where only the United States is defended and not our friends and allies in Europe.
Q In the past there have been attempts to have substantive missile defense cooperation with Russia, most notably the RAMOS satellite experiment, and ultimately those things faltered when it got down to the details of liability issues and things like tax sharing. So what gives you the confidence now or what makes you think now that things could be different and you could go ahead and have some kind of -- you could bring Russia into the fold and have BMD cooperation there?
MR. EDELMAN: Well, you're certainly right, tax and liability issues have been a persistent problem in a lot of areas, both with regard to this kind of technology sharing but also in the cooperative threat reduction area, et cetera. I'm hopeful that we can overcome this because, A, we've got a common threat, and I think the comments Russians have made from time to time about their own anxieties about the INF Treaty reflect a sense that there is a threat from their south that they need to respond to. Our view is that it would be better to respond to that threat by developing defenses rather than having to recreate a category of offensive weapons that they and we decided to forego, you know, almost 20 years ago. It is 20 years ago. (Inaudible.) Time flies when you're having a good time. So, you know, we think that expenses are a better way to go.
And I'm hopeful that the latest conversation that the president and President Putin have had, you know, led to maybe a little bit of a rethinking about how important the possibility of cooperation is, and the possibilities are real.
Q Last week General Obering said that you have recently signed a framework technology-sharing agreement with Italy regarding the missile defense system. Can you give us some details about this agreement?
MR. EDELMAN: Well, that's really an agreement MDA has signed, and you'd really have to direct the question to General Obering because I haven't been involved in that myself.
Q Do you have an idea when the negotiations will start with the Czechs and the Poles and who will be the chief negotiator on the U.S. side?
MR. EDELMAN: I don't think that we've actually got a date set yet. I mean, we only got the decision on Thursday, I think, from the Czech government, if I recall correctly. I was moving around Europe pretty fast. But I think it was on Thursday, and -- or perhaps it was Wednesday, but in any event, we, I think, will begin having some preliminary discussions about that, but the negotiations will almost certainly be led by our State colleagues, because they are the ones who tend to negotiate these kinds of agreements.
Who, precisely, I'm not sure yet.
Q Sir, how do we work the command and control for this system? And is that subject to negotiations, your negotiations?
MR. EDELMAN: Well, this is a U.S. system. And so the command and control will remain in the hands of the United States. However, we expect that there will be discussions about exactly how the system works. I mean, one of the things about missile defense is that the timelines that we're talking about here are a great deal shorter than the seemingly luxurious timelines we were talking about in the Cold War when dealing with offensive weapons, when we thought we had 30 minutes in order to make a response. You're now talking, depending on the circumstances, of a window between two and maybe 12 minutes. So a lot of how the battle management piece of this, the execution protocols of this work are preprogrammed into the system.
And some of that is obviously going to have to be part of a discussion that we would have with governments that were hosting significant parts of the system as we go forward. But in the end, you have to have the command and control piece in a position to execute very, very quickly.
Q Did the Czech Republic or the government of Poland get any material inducements to cooperating? Did they get a promise of more foreign aid, or is this just a question of tying closer to the United States?
MR. EDELMAN: No, they've agreed to begin these negotiations without promises of any kind. We -- there will be obviously certain ancillary economic benefits that will flow from having these facilities both constructed and then present on their territory. And we're prepared to discuss with them other needs they think may emerge out of hosting these things. And if there are things we can do to be helpful, we are very prepared to discuss that and be helpful, but there have been no promises of any specifics.
Q I want to follow that question. But a lot of people in the Czech Republic and Poland are afraid that if this system would be located in our country, Poland or the Czech Republic may become a target of an attack. And a lot of politicians expect the Americans to provide with additional defense systems, like (inaudible) or THAAD. Would you be ready to do it?
MR. EDELMAN: Well, if there is, you know, a military need that -- and requirement that can be identified, I think we're prepared to discuss it. The system itself provides a certain amount of defense.
If there are other kinds of defenses that might be necessary, we can certainly look at that. But I think no commitments have been made.
And with regard to THAAD, you know, it may well be that THAAD plays some role in NATO's broader effort at short-range and theater- range missile defense. That is yet to be determined. But I think we're not in a position to start talking now about what will or won't be provided. We'll have discussions, and if there is a clear military requirement that can be identified, we're prepared to address those as they arise.
Q Sir, I wonder if you could address the arms race aspect of this. Since you've decided to deploy this system, the Russians and the Chinese have vowed to make vast improvements to their ICBM force. How does this all make us safer if there are better and stronger and faster ICBMs out there?
MR. EDELMAN: Well, first of all, the Russians and the Chinese already have modernization programs for their strategic forces under way, developing new systems, new warheads. So the fact of defensive -- possibly 10 interceptors possibly being deployed in Poland, which are not aimed to deal with either the Russian or the Chinese missile threat, I think doesn't contribute in any way to a -- you know, burgeoning arms race.
I think what this does do is give people some assurances that as countries like Iran develop a missile capability, we can assure our allies that we can and will defend them, and we hope we can dissuade Iran from pursuing this avenue and others. As I said, it's not just Iran; there are 20 countries developing ballistic missile programs of one kind or another. I think we want to dissuade them from pursuing those programs and ultimately deter them from ever using those weapons if they decide to proceed with those programs and, if deterrence fails, to be able to defeat them.
Q Sir, just a quick follow-up. You referred to the -- you didn't call it -- but the joint warning center issue with Russia and the common operational picture. Are you any closer to having that with the Russians?
MR. EDELMAN: Well, we've had a number of offers that have been made. The Russians have never really pursued, I would say, any of those offers, but we're prepared to -- the advances in the technology are quite dramatic over time. I mean, the -- so it's possible that, you know, we can sit down and just go around and hopefully make some progress and get them to agree.
Q How is this system different from the Arrow missile system that the U.S. helped develop with Israel? Is it different, better? Why not just use the same system that was funded --
MR. EDELMAN: This has, I think, a greater range and greater capability than the arrow system, but again, for the technical programmatic side, I'd refer you to General Obering. He can give you the specifics on that.
Q Following this gentlemen's question, if there's a military requirement for an anti-ballistic missile defense system now for long- range missiles that don't yet exist, why isn't there a requirement for short-range systems -- short-range missiles systems that do exist?
MR. EDELMAN: Which short-range systems?
Q Shorter-range systems that are proliferating throughout the world that can hit Europe currently, that you told him, maybe if the military need arises, we would talk about providing.
MR. EDELMAN: Well, I think we're prepared to talk about that. At this stage, at least, I've not seen anything that would indicate that Patriot would be necessarily the right solution for that problem. We'd have to look at it more closely and see again if there's something that make military sense. I mean, we're happy to look at things that make sense militarily, if need be. But I have not seen anything at this stage -- and maybe it will come out of the discussions with Polish and Czech colleagues, but I don't want to presume what might or might not come out of those discussions because they haven't started.
Q I'm having a hard time following the logic of it. If the logic is, is that there is a military requirement to provide defenses against missile systems that are not yet developed by Iran and other countries, and there are shorter range systems that can hold Europe right now in their sights, I don't understand why there's not a military requirement --
MR. EDELMAN: Well, I don't think there's a -- in the case of the Czech Republic and Poland, I don't think there's an immediate threat right now that would be met by Patriot. If we can identify one, then we'll look at that. We're certainly prepared to look at that.
Q A quick question about Russia. What's the state of their assistance to Iran? We know they provide civil nuclear technology. But are you assured by the Russians now that they're not -- their industries are not providing Iran missile technology either for short- , medium- or their long-range programs?
MR. EDELMAN: Well, as you know, there have been in the past a number of entities in Russia that have been involved. Some of them have been, historically in the past, sanctioned. I'd have to go back and look specifically at the current state of that. I haven't looked at it recently, Tony, so I can't really give you a specific answer.
Q Well, there's an irony here, if Russia is complaining about a system designed to protect against Iran, but some of their industries have been covertly providing Iran missile technology. That begs for an explanation, if there is one.
MR. EDELMAN: You could replicate that discussion in some other areas as well. I mean I agree, it's an interesting question. You ought to ask our Russian colleagues that question.
Q How do your discussions with Britain about U.S. missile defense assets there fit into this picture in Europe? Are they related at all? And if not, what are you seeking to put into the isles of Great Britain?
MR. EDELMAN: Well, Her Majesty's government is already a participant, as I said, by virtue of hosting the radar at Fylingdales, which is being upgraded. We've had some discussions over a period of time about what other contribution the United Kingdom might make to the system.
Those discussions are continuing. We haven't really, I think, come to any conclusion or really completely identified at this point any concrete things that they might do. But it could develop over time in that direction, but we're just not there yet.
Q Sir, again, to follow up on Colin's question, it's sort of subjective. During your trip last week, give us a sense of sort of the political temperature in Poland and the Czech Republic. Because obviously as was stated, there's some domestic opposition growing in both countries.
MR. EDELMAN: Yeah, I was not in Poland, so I don't want to speak about the situation there. My other colleagues were there, and I hope to get there. Ambassador Ashe has asked me to come, and I hope I can get to Poland. I haven't been there in some years. I used to be the deputy chief of mission in the Czech Republic, so -- and it was the first time I had been back in 11 years, and the city still looks great. In fact, it looks better than it did when I was there 11 years ago.
You know, I think first of all there is a bit of an absence of information. And as I said in press discussions I had in Europe, I think we bear some of the onus for that. I don't think we provided adequate information about what we were doing.
So I think some basic facts were not part of the discussion, including the fact for instance that these interceptors not only have no nuclear warhead, they have no conventional explosive warhead. It's purely a kinetic kill vehicle that destroys the incoming missile by virtue of the kinetic energy released by the collision. There were some other, I think, technical misconceptions that people had, and so I think it was good to be able to do that.
In all of these countries, certainly in the Czech Republic, this is a matter that is going to be subject to their democratic parliamentary debate. That's perfectly appropriate. One of the things I did when I was there was to meet with some of the members of the parliamentary opposition to discuss with them the basic facts of this, and I personally believe the facts are on our side here. And so the more that is known about this, the better off, you know, their debate will be and the better off we will be.
Q Any sense of that -- the nervousness of the Czech government as the domestic opposition grows to any extent, or --
MR. EDELMAN: No. I mean, on the contrary, I think right after I left, the government made its decision to proceed with the negotiations. I actually participated in a televised debate, primetime, along with the foreign minister and some other -- well, my Czech was good enough I could understand it. But it's actually deteriorated a little bit, so I didn't speak in Czech, luckily.
But, you know, it's a vigorous discussion and it ought to be one. But I think as you get the facts out, it becomes harder for people to make the arguments that this is destabilizing or dangerous. In fact, I think it has -- that people begin to understand that there's a virtue in having some capability to defend against this threat.
Q Thank you.
MR. WHITMAN: One or two more.
Q One of your top officials here handling missile defense in Asia, Mr. Richard Lawless, is leaving the Pentagon in the near future. Could you comment a little bit on that?
MR. EDELMAN: Well, if and when Richard decides to leave, we'll announce that. And if it did happen, it would be a tremendous loss. He's been a great colleague and I'm a big fan of Richard's.
Q I'm wondering if this is in any way even plausible. I'm wondering if the U.S. -- if the goal is to bring Russia in in kind of this new wave of cooperation, I'm wondering if the U.S. is willing to offer to Russia some umbrella of protection from the Central Europe (inaudible) site for parts of Russia that Moscow's own ABM site might not be able to reach. If there's an understanding that there's a common threat emanating from the Middle East and Near East, I'm wondering if those kind of things will be part of these discussions with Russia.
MR. EDELMAN: Very well could be. And I think, you know, we'll address some of that during the NATO North Atlantic Council meetings and NATO Russia Council meetings on the 19th, and I'm sure it will become a subject of further discussion between us and the Russians. If, you know, if we can help them defend theirselves against the same threat, I think we're happy to do that.
MR. WHITMAN: I think this is the last one.
Q You've mentioned access of information about the system in Poland and Czech Republic. I'll hope you'll forgive me the simplicity of the question. I think that people in Poland would like to understand it. Someone within minutes will have to decide whether to use the interceptor or not. So how does it work technically? I understand an American official on the site or somewhere in the Pentagon will decide to press the button or not, but is there time to contact Polish officials or how -- Germans, as far as we understand would like to see the system as part of a NATO system. So I think it's completely unrealistic to expect that someone would like to call the Russians or SHAPE to contact or NATO alliance.
MR. EDELMAN: One of the points we've made is this is not a system that's going to have dual keys. You can't do that, because of the factors that you mentioned, the lack of time to -- after the fact, once a missile is launched, to consult. In fact, some of our own struggle is to have our own weapons release authority functional and working in a circumstance of that time constraint, and we work pretty hard on that and we've made some progress.
I think where the discussion will come will be before the fact, when the -- as I said, the parameters that are programmed into the system will be discussed with host countries so they understand exactly what kinds of considerations will come into effect once a missile is launched and before the weapon is -- the interceptor is released and the weapon is destroyed.
I do think that people need to shift their mindset around a little bit, I think, because we succeeded so well in convincing the Soviet Union that defenses were a bad idea -- which the Soviets came into this back in the '50s and '60s having a different view.
We convinced them defenses were bad. We now need to move back -- as a result of that, I would say, we ended up with an offensive mindset having to do with how one deters another country by being able to destroy their forces, et cetera, and having a second strike capability, survivable deterrent, et cetera.
In defense, you're dealing with a slightly different set of considerations and concerns. If the concern that you had in the Cold War era and when the emphasis was on offensive systems, your concern was someone might inadvertently by using offensive weapons start another world war that would have catastrophic consequences because of the destruction that would be wreaked on people. With defenses, it slips around. So your concern is more not that you fired an interceptor in error, but that you didn't fire it and lost the city because a failure to intercept a weapon.
So it's a different kind of mindset. It's going to require a little bit of a reorientation of people's understandings of how these systems work.
Thanks very much for your time. Appreciate it.
Q Thank you.
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