A senior U.S. military officer said that a Russian early warning radar in Azerbaijan could not replace the Bush administration's plans to install a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic, the New York Times reported today (see GSN, Nov. 1).
Russia has frequently objected to U.S. missile defense plans as a threat to its strategic security. President Vladimir Putin in June offered the Gabala radar in as an alternative for the planned Czech installation.
A six-person team led by Maj. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, deputy chief of the Missile Defense Agency, inspected the radar in September. O'Reilly noted the large size of the radar systems -- which incorporated two buildings of 17 and eight stories -- and its strong early warning capabilities, but said it could not perform the duties envisioned for the European missile defense plan.
The Defense Department wants a radar able to track a single missile and then ensure its destruction by guiding one of 10 missile interceptors that would be housed in Poland. The Russian radar does not have the precision necessary as it was intended to monitor wider areas, O'Reilly said.
The Bush administration now anticipates finalizing agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic in 2008. U.S. lawmakers might reduce the requested fiscal 2008 funding for the European missile defense project by $85 million, the Times reported (Thom Shanker, New York Times, Nov. 5).