Although the United States advocates placing limited missile defense capabilities in Europe, a senior U.S. government nonproliferation expert says it has no interest in sparking an arms race with Russia, according to the U.S. Department of State.
Discussions with Poland and the Czech Republic entail deployment of “a purely defensive system,” says U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Rood. This would put 10 missile interceptors and tracking radar sites in Central Europe to defend against Middle Eastern threats.
The U.S. objective for limited missile defenses in Europe “is to optimize the defensive coverage of both Europe and the United States,” Rood said during a February 27 speech in London. Adding the defense assets would provide considerable protection against long-range missiles and intermediate-range missiles, he said.
The United States has been transparent about its plans and capabilities and has encouraged Russia to cooperate against a common threat, Rood added. “I think everybody understands that with a growing Iranian missile threat -- which is quite pronounced -- that there needs to be ways to deal with that problem,” he said.
If negotiations with the two Central European hosts are successful, he said, “we hope to begin major construction in these countries in 2008 and ... [begin] missile defense operations by 2012.” Once operational, the assets in Poland and the Czech Republic would be integrated with existing radar sites in the United Kingdom and Greenland as well as missile defense interceptors in California and Alaska.
“We will continue to keep Russia informed about the status of our programs and decisions,” Rood said, “and to explore the possibility of additional confidence-building measures” that the United States, Russia and the two host countries might agree to and carry out.
Rood, who heads the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Non-Proliferation, said recent “chilly rhetoric” and threats by Russian political and military leaders “seem to be a clumsy attempt to drive a wedge between NATO allies.”
The alliance has been studying for some time how to protect member nations’ cities from a Middle Eastern ballistic missile attack. NATO officials addressed the political and military implications and technical feasibility of missile defenses during the November 2006 summit in Riga, Latvia. “While this clearly shows progress at NATO as a whole,” Rood said, “it is important that NATO transition from studying ... to implementing the options.”
If Poland and the Czech Republic agree to host limited U.S. missile defenses, the official said, it will make a significant contribution to alliance collective security.
Further, if NATO approves a military requirement in the future to defend population centers and the territory of its members from all ranges of missiles then, he said, the limited U.S. missile defense deployment in 2010 could make an important contribution.
Rood told members of the Royal United Services Institute that the value of defenses against ballistic missiles “is increasingly recognized” within the international community. He pointed out that even Russia sees the value of missile defense. Russia operates a missile defense system with nuclear-tipped interceptors to protect the region around Moscow, Rood said, and has defenses against shorter-range missiles.
Rood said 14 nations have engaged to some extent in the U.S. missile defense effort.
These include Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, India, Japan, the Netherlands and Ukraine. Taiwan is also participating, he said. The range of activities includes preliminary discussions about hosting facilities, as is the case with Poland and the Czech Republic, to research and development programs or maintaining capabilities, as in the United Kingdom.
There are also defense industrial benefits for foreign government participation that may involve co-production, joint testing and foreign military sales. An example is a cooperative understanding among the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Israel, Italy and Denmark to conduct government-to-government and industry-to-industry missile defense cooperation.