U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Saturday talked up U.S. spending on a European missile shield, and urged NATO nations to spend strategically on defense.
"In the face of budget constraints here on the continent, as well as in the United States, we must all invest more strategically to protect military capabilities and readiness," the defense chief said in remarks at the Munich Security Conference. "The question is not just how much we spend, but how we spend together," he was quoted by Defense News as saying.
Hagel said belt-tightening in Washington will not mean less funding for the NATO missile shield: "The [fiscal 2015] budget we will release next month fully protects our investment in European missile defense."
As its contribution to the alliance's developing ballistic-missile shield, the United States is deploying antimissile systems in stages around Europe. Already established is a command-and-control center in Germany, and an AN/TPY-2 radar in Turkey. The U.S. Navy just sent the first of four Aegis-equipped missile destroyers to Spain. The Pentagon also plans to field next-generation interceptors at bases in Romania in 2015, and in Poland three years later.
While the United States is providing the bulk of technology for the NATO shield, securing larger financial investments in missile defense by European alliance partners has been a recurring theme for some congressional lawmakers. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2011 rebuked NATO countries for not spending enough on their militaries.
Hagel, while imploring NATO members to spend more on defense, took a more subtle approach, according to Defense News.
"Partnership means partnership," the secretary said. "Everybody has to participate, everyone has to contribute, everybody has a role to play."
Among the few alliance member states planning their own antimissile contributions is Turkey.
Ankara's announcement last year that a Chinese state-owned firm was the leading candidate to provide Turkey with a national antimissile system frustrated NATO. The alliance warned that the Chinese technology would not be compatible with the NATO missile shield and could pose a cyber security threat. After heavy lobbying from the United States and senior NATO officials, Turkey signaled that a final decision to go with the Chinese developer was a ways off.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday said his government was ready to consider competing defense firms' bids if they sweetened their offers by promising joint production with Turkish firms, Reuters reported.
"Turkey did not decide yet which system should be bought," the foreign minister said at the Munich Security Conference. "For us three criteria are important -- joint production, the time of delivery and price."
The U.S. firm Raytheon, which produces the Patriot system, and the European firm Eurosam are the other two companies in contention for the Turkish multibillion-dollar contract. Davutoglu said he met with representatives of an unidentified U.S. firm on Saturday to discuss the matter.
"The Chinese company was the first because they offered us joint production. Joint production was important for us," Davutoglu said.