The head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said yesterday that a Russian radar base in Azerbaijan alone would not provide the protection the United States wants against a potential Iranian missile threat, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, July 13).
Russian leaders have repeatedly asserted that U.S. plans for a radar base in the Czech Republic and 10 missile interceptors in Poland constitute a threat to their country's strategic security. Moscow has suggested alternate plans involving existing radar bases in Azerbaijan and Russia and delaying or relocating deployment of the interceptors.
The Azeri radar site could augment but not replace the U.S. plan, said Lt. Gen. Henry Obering. The proximity of Azerbaijan to Iran means that the radar could only track a missile early in flight, he said.
"It would be too close to serve as a midcourse radar," he said. The Czech radar site would be needed to continue tracking the missile and setting up the interception, according to Obering.
He said, though, that combining the U.S. and Russian radar systems "would be very useful in terms of how we could cooperate," AFP reported.
"I believe that the Russian proposals are things we should certainly pursue. And we are doing that," he said.
"The ideal future for use would be that we have U.S. capabilities, we have NATO capabilities that marry up to that, and we have Russian capabilities that can marry up to as well. So that we can build effective missile defenses against these countries," Obering said.
Iran by 2015 could put the United States within range of its ballistic missiles, according to U.S. intelligence agencies. Russia has been more skeptical of Tehran's future capabilities (Jim Mannion, Agence France-Presse I/Yahoo!News, Aug. 16).
The next round of negotiations on the interceptor site is scheduled to occur "at the end of August" in the United States, Polish Defense Minister Alexander Szczyglo said yesterday.
A final agreement could come in September or October, according to Polish officials.
The northern village of Redzikowo is considered a leading candidate to house the interceptor site, AFP reported. Szczyglo met yesterday with officials from the Redzikowo region.
"No decision has been made about the site of the installation," he said afterward. "The goal was to calm at least some of the concerns of the local population" (Agence France-Presse II/Yahoo!News, Aug. 16).