Plans for Missile Defenses in Europe Unsettled

By Boese, Wade | Arms Control Today, July/August 2006 | Go to article overview

Plans for Missile Defenses in Europe Unsettled


Boese, Wade, Arms Control Today


U.S. plans for establishing a strategic ballistic missile defense base in Europe remain unsettled, but Russian officials are sharpening their criticism of the proposal. Meanwhile, leaders of the 26-member NATO alliance will soon begin weighing options for proceeding with missile defenses in Europe.

The Bush administration has installed nine long-range missile interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, and another two at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. A version of the deployed interceptors, which are to hone in on and collide with an enemy warhead in space, has yet to be tested against a target in flight. The first test of this type might occur as early as August.

The Pentagon revealed in 2004 its intentions to expand long-range interceptor deployments to Europe to defend against possible ballistic missile launches from the Middle East. (See ACT, July/August 2004.) Although Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director lieutenant General Henry Obering told reporters March 20 that the United States would like to begin work on the project in 2007, no plans have yet been finalized.

MDA spokesperson Rick Lehner told Arms Control Today June 14 that the possible hosts for a base of 10 interceptors have been narrowed to the Czech Republic or Poland because of their location and expressed interest. "Consultations are continuing" with the prospective hosts, according to Pentagon spokesperson lieutenant Colonel Karen Finn in a June 16 interview with Anns Control Today, but she declined to elaborate. The Pentagon's office of international security policy is heading the talks on the U.S. side.

Marek Purowski, a spokesperson for the Polish embassy in Washington, also told Anns Control Today June 14 that the talks were ongoing but that no decisions had been made. He said many technical details, such as who will control the interceptor's operation, still needed to be worked out.

Some U.S. lawmakers are also balking at funding the site. As part of its fiscal year 2007 budget request submitted to Congress in February, the administration asked for almost $56 million to begin construction of the European site and for an additional $63 million to begin manufacturing the proposed base's 10 interceptors. In a defense appropriations bill passed June 20, the House of Representatives zeroed out the base construction and interceptor funds. …

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