Fighting to Secure Defenses in Europe

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 8, 2007 | Go to article overview

Fighting to Secure Defenses in Europe


Byline: James Hackett, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Bush administration has undertaken its most aggressive diplomatic offensive in six years in office. The goal is to lay the groundwork for the future defense of Europe and the United States against missiles from the Middle East.

President Bush is showing that his ABM treaty withdrawal, missile defense deployment in Alaska and on Aegis ships, overthrow of Afghanistan's Taliban regime and removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq were all part of a worldview in which national security is the highest priority. Further evidence is his determination to defend America and its allies against threats from Iran or elsewhere.

The plan to put missile defenses in Poland and an ABM radar in the Czech Republic faces bitter opposition from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Despite that opposition, complete with Cold War rhetoric and threats to our European allies, Mr. Bush is engaged in a full-court press to make his plan a reality.

Europe is overrun with U.S. emissaries. Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Mr. Putin and offered Russia unprecedented cooperation in missile defense development and testing, including sharing early warning data. In other trips to Europe, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Assistant Secretaries John Rood and Daniel Fried, Defense Undersecretary Eric Edelman, and Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, head of the Missile Defense Agency, have reassured our NATO allies and tried to reduce Russian angst.

This energetic diplomacy is getting results in Europe, but not in Moscow. The Polish and Czech governments remain firmly in support despite Russian opposition. NATO officials now agree the threat is real and suggest that planned missile defenses for NATO's armed forces would be enhanced by a U.S. defense of population centers. President Bush is personally involved, planning a trip to Poland in June to discuss the issue with President Lech Kaczynski.

But Russia continues to oppose the U.S. plan. Moscow's objections go beyond keeping America out of Europe. Mr. Putin has consistently fought the expansion of NATO to former parts of the Soviet empire. He got the U.S. military kicked out of Uzbekistan and resents NATO's presence in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States.

Awash in oil and gas money, Moscow is trying to re-establish control over Eastern Europe and Central Asia. …

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