A group of Republican senators has urged the U.S. Defense Department to locate key infrastructure for the planned NATO missile shield in nonalliance state Georgia, instead of in Turkey as originally intended, Foreign Policy reported yesterday (see GSN, Nov. 1, 2010).
"We believe that the Republic of Georgia's geographic location would make it an ideal site for a missile defense radar aimed at Iran, and would offer clear advantages for the protection of the United States from a long-range missile as compared to Turkey," GOP Senators Jon Kyl (Ariz.), James Risch (Idaho), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and James Inhofe (Okla.) stated yesterday in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The Obama administration plans a European missile shield that would feature sea- and land-based Standard Missile 3 interceptors as a hedge against medium- and short-range missile attacks from the Middle East. The system would contribute to a broader shield involving NATO states. Washington is still in negotiations with Turkey to establish a radar station on its territory (see GSN, Nov. 22, 2010).
Though Iran is widely assumed to be the chief threat necessitating the missile shield, a November alliance summit in Lisbon did not single out Tehran as a missile danger. This was reportedly done as a nod to member state Turkey, whose support was needed in adopting a new mission statement that included missile defense as a core NATO goal. Ankara has friendly relations with Tehran and has striven to act as a neutral party in the international negotiations over Iran's disputed nuclear program (see GSN, Nov. 18, 2010).
The GOP senators were reacting to an October report that U.S. negotiators had promised Turkish officials that data gained from the radar state would not be shared with non-NATO members such as Israel. Ankara reportedly has also demanded command and control over the technology.
The four lawmakers requested that Gates inform them if Georgia was being contemplated as a potential location for the radar installation as well as any other potential candidates.
The chances of the United States building a radar base in Georgia are low as it is not a NATO member and because doing so would complicate relations with Russia, Foreign Policy said (see GSN, Feb. 1; Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy, Feb. 3).
Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin warned that a failure by NATO to reach an agreement with Moscow on joint missile defense would result in serious harm to alliance states' security, Interfax reported yesterday (see GSN, Jan. 27).
"If we fail to reach an agreement, then, instead of improving security in Europe by deploying a missile defense system there, the West would make this security very questionable by its own efforts," Rogozin said.
The two military powers agreed in November to jointly study areas for potential antimissile cooperation. A report on the matter is expected by June. Moscow has warned it would withdraw from any multilateral missile defense effort if it feels it is not being treated as an equal partner.
NATO and Russia, however, have differing ideas on what antimissile collaboration should entail, with the alliance favoring the establishment of two individual but coordinated entities that would share data on missile threats. Moscow wants a combined "sectoral" program in which each side would have responsibility for eliminating incoming missiles in a specific geographical area. The Kremlin favors this approach because it would ensure the NATO antimissile system is not directed against Russia, Rogozin said (Interfax I, Feb. 3).
Moscow has long viewed U.S. and NATO missile defense efforts as a scheme to undermine the Russian nuclear deterrent.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday said failure to reach a missile defense agreement with NATO would leave the Kremlin with no other choice but to "take protective measures," Interfax reported.
"If we fail to agree and if talks between Russia and NATO turn out to be just a cover for the expansion of the NATO and U.S. missile defense system, not taking into account Russia's interests, then certainly we will have no other choice but to take appropriate measures to defend ourselves," Lavrov said in a televised interview (Interfax II, Feb. 3).