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Missile Plan for Europe Seen as Shield Against Iranian Ambitions

03 May 2007

Limited U.S. defensive deployments will have "no offensive capability"

Washington –- The elements of a limited missile defense system the United States proposes to place in Central Europe will have “no offensive capability,” State Department officials tell a congressional panel.

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried told a joint House subcommittee May 3 that the missile silos that would be built in Poland for unarmed defensive interceptors would be substantially smaller than any used by the United States in an offensive role.

The 10 missile interceptors proposed for Poland and an advanced radar facility for the Czech Republic are designed to protect against long-range ballistic missiles from the Middle East.  These missile defense elements would be operational in 2013. Intelligence projections show that Iran – if it chooses to do so -- will have long-range missiles capable of reaching Europe and the United States by 2015. (See related article.)

“We don’t want Iran to be able to use a nuclear arsenal to extend its power nor to threaten Europe,” said Fried, who is responsible for European and Eurasian affairs at the State Department.

But the U.S. proposal has raised concern in Russia.  Fried made clear that the United States has no plans to modify the missile silos in any way in the future.  In any case, he said, conversion efforts would be highly visible due to the extensive modifications that would be required, thereby, “precluding the possibility of covertly converting the interceptor silos” for offensive use.

Representative Ed Royce said the United States has been exceptionally open to Russia about its missile plans in Europe, offering to share technology and inviting Russian experts to visit American sites. (See related article.)

Even though U.S. officials have offered extensive confidence building measures to the Russians, he said, Russian President Vladimir Putin is “leading a public relations assault” against the U.S. effort to defend against emerging missile threats.

In part, Royce said, this reflects a trend by the Russian government to turn away from democracy.  When reduced to its essence, he said, the missile defense controversy “is about Russia’s ambitions to diminish U.S. clout and expand its power eastward” and is not about Russian national security.

Fried said the limited defense as envisioned for Europe “is nowhere as ambitious as were the missile defense plans of the so-called Star Wars of the Cold War.”  It is limited and sized for anticipated threats from countries such as Iran.  The new strategic environment is not hypothetical, he said, “but emerging in our time.”

But just because the United States, in partnership with its allies, is developing missile defenses does not mean that it is abandoning its focus on nonproliferation, Fried said.  Deploying a layered missile defense system could help nonproliferation efforts, he said, since “effective defenses reduce incentives for states to acquire missiles in the first place.”


Fried said John Rood, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, will lead the first set of missile defense negotiations in Prague, Czech Republic, and Warsaw, Poland, at the end of May.  “Basing these missile defense assets there presents the United States with an opportunity to deepen our strategic relationships” with these two nations, he said.

Rood testified that European-based missile defenses would serve to protect “most of Europe against intermediate- and intercontinental-range ballistic missiles.”  Further, he said, the 10 interceptors and single radar “would have little or no capability against Russia’s large strategic offensive force which could overwhelm the U.S. system’s limited number of interceptors regardless of their location.”

Geography dictates that any U.S. interceptors based in Europe “would have little or no capability to intercept Russian [intercontinental ballistic missiles] launched at the United States as the U.S. interceptors are too slow to catch Russian ballistic missiles,” according to Rood.

Rood has just returned from Moscow where he sought to allay Russian concerns and offered new proposals for bilateral missile defense cooperation.  U.S. officials now are waiting Russia’s response.

Rood also urged members of Congress to support the administration’s $310 million fiscal year 2008 budget request for European-based missile defense capabilities.  He solicited their support one day after another House subcommittee voted to cut $160 million from the request for silo construction for Poland.

The full texts of the prepared testimonies of Fried and Rood are available on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Web site.

For more information, see State Department fact sheets on the proposed basing of missile defense assets in Europe, technical aspects of the proposed deployment, and ongoing cooperation with NATO and Russia.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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