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American Forces Press Service

Gates Calls U.S. Offers to Russia on Missile Defense Enough

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT OVER THE ATLANTIC, Oct. 25, 2007 – The United States has given Russia sufficient concessions regarding a proposed missile defense system in Eastern Europe and supports diplomatic and economic measures to rein in the Iranian missile threat, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today.

“I think we’ve gone pretty far,” Gates said of measures he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice offered during their recent trip to Moscow to reduce Russian opposition to the missile system and reassure the Russians it wouldn’t threaten them.

“I think that if you look at the four or five principal proposals we’ve put forward, they represent a very forward-leaning posture in terms of partnering with the Russians,” Gates said.

He offered his assessment during a return flight to Washington following a five-day swing through Europe that included meetings with Czech and Polish leaders. The proposed missile defense system would include an X-band radar in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland.

The secretary also met today with Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov during a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at the NATO informal ministerial in Noordwijk, Netherlands.

Gates told reporters in the Czech Republic that he and Rice had suggested to the Russians ways to “encourage transparency and greater information on the part of Russia as to what is going on at these sites.”

One would be to allow Russian observers. Another might be to build the system but delay its deployment until the United States provided “concrete proof of the threat from Iran.”

Although the Russians have yet to respond formally, statements issued by the Russian news agency indicate the suggestions are getting a “nyet.”

Gates told reporters today the big question is “whether the Russians are serious about partnering with us or whether this is merely a pose to try and stop us from going forward with the Czech Republic and Poland.”

He said positive reaction he’s gotten from European officials about the proposals he and Rice presented indicates “just how far-reaching they really are.”

“I think we’ve leaned about as far forward as we can. We’ve offered a lot,” Gates said. “And my view is, now I want to see some movement on their part.”

Although the United States and Russia disagree over plans to build missile defenses, they share a recognition of the Iranian missile threat it will protect against, Gate said. “It was clear when I was in Russia that the Russians consider Iran a security threat,” Gates said. “It’s just a disagreement about when their missiles might be available to have a certain range.”

While asserting that the United States will follow through with its plans to build defenses with or without Russian consent, Gates said the U.S. would prefer to head off the situation by using political pressure and economic sanctions to get Iran to give up its nuclear program.

“The focus that we all have is on using diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions to persuade the Iranian government that they are isolated (and) they need to alter their policies and ambitions,” he said.

Gates expressed hope that “tightening the pressure and increasing the isolation of this government in Tehran” will convince the broad range of Iranian leaders that “it’s not in their interest or the interest of the Iranian people to continue to pursue the course they are on.”

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