Europe cool on US missile bases plan
By Daniel Dombey in Brussels and Neil Buckley in Moscow
The US sought on Thursday to overcome scepticism among its Nato allies and hostility from Russia over its plans to locate missile defence bases in Europe – but failed to win a convincing show of support.[..]
Thursday’s US presentation, spearheaded by Lt. Trey Obering, director of the missile defence agency, Eric Edelman, under-secretary of defence, and John Rood, head of the State Department’s non-proliferation bureau, argued that the proposed sites in Poland and the Czech Republic would allow the system to cover all but a handful of Nato allies.
The system, which is principally designed to protect the continental US, already uses bases in
California and Alaska. According to maps circulating among Nato officials, only Turkey and parts of Greece, Bulgaria and Romania would be outside the system’s protection once additional interceptor missiles were installed in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic.
But on Thursday some countries, including Turkey and Belgium, voiced worries that shooting down missiles could leave them at risk of radioactive debris, and also mentioned concerns about command and control of the new system, public opinion and the reaction of Russia.
Exactly the three points, I mentioned earlier here. But I do not think, that Europe should follow blindly Russia in its opposition. A continental protective system against space-born nuclear attacks is not wrong in itself. On the contrary: It would strengthen Europe's position in world politics and be a supplementary stimulus for European cooperation on security matters. It is a problem that only can be solved by the EU-countries themselves. Hiding behind the broadening Russian back, is a second-choice, weak, option.
Moreover, the Russians seem not to be so sure themselves, what they want exactly:
At a later stage of the meeting, Russia took approximately an hour to outline its objections – despite promises from the US to deepen co-operation through steps such as sharing radar images to help early warning.
In Moscow, Sergei Ivanov, Russia’s first deputy prime minister, said he saw ”no grounds” for co-operation between Russia and the US on creating a joint missile defence system.
”We believe this system of strategic missile defence has, to put it mildly, a somewhat chimerical nature,” he said.
Mr Ivanov’s comments represented an apparent change in Russia’s position.
The first deputy premier had told the Financial Times in an interview earlier this week that Russia had proposed creating a joint anti-missile defence system to Nato five years ago, saying it could use Russian-made S-300 or S-400 surface-to-air missiles. ”We could ward off the threat this way,” he said.
But he also told the FT he believed there was no realistic possibility of Iran or North Korea having missiles that could reach Europe or the US in the foreseeable future.
In my opinion, it is either Europe, who provides itself with a sophisticated anti-missile system, or the US and Russia follow the first Ivanov suggestion and blend their systems for the European region. In the latter case, there will be no independent European discouraging system, and both superpowers will keep the upper hand in European security matters. A sub-option, that the Americans seem to prefer, is a no-blending, which leaves the Europeans divided, and the Russians outside. That is the worst one to envisage for Europe.
The UK, one of the two EU nuclear powers, seems to subscribe to this last option. It thinks apparently, that the American umbrella will protect it against Middle-Eastern or other attacks. Continental Europe is left without protection then. France, the other nuclear power, is momentarily too much occupied with its presidential elections. It may be expected, that it will offer its umbrella to other continental European countries, as it has done before. We can be sure, that it will attach its' conditions to such a move. If those conditions are acceptable to Germany, the other continental countries will have to join too.
Citations: Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007