Jump to search Jump to main navigation Jump to main content Jump to footer navigation

Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

Produced by
NationalJournal logo

Hagel: U.S. May 'Adjust' Missile Defenses in Europe, As Tensions Rise

By Rachel Oswald

Global Security Newswire

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak speak to the media at the Pentagon on Thursday. With tensions running high over Russia's incursion in Ukraine, the U.S. defense chief said planned European missile defenses could be adjusted depending on security needs. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak speak to the media at the Pentagon on Thursday. With tensions running high over Russia's incursion in Ukraine, the U.S. defense chief said planned European missile defenses could be adjusted depending on security needs. (U.S. Defense Department photo)

Amid rising tensions with Russia, the U.S. defense chief said Washington and its allies may "adjust" the timing for fielding antimissile systems in Europe.

For now, "we are continuing with our schedule with the enhanced adaptive approach to fulfill the commitments that we've made in the interests of Poland, Romania and our NATO partners," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.

He spoke alongside Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak after holding bilateral talks to discuss options for enhancing Polish security. The discussions came against a backdrop of continuing concerns about Moscow's incursion in Ukraine and possible further meddling into former Warsaw Pact territory.

In response to a reporter's question about the potential for compressing the timetable for fielding interceptors in Poland as a signal to Russia, Hagel said: "We will adjust where we need to adjust. Obviously the whole point about ... missile defense is about real threats. It's not about theory."

The secretary also emphasized that U.S. missile defense systems in Europe, though, are "not a threat to Russia."

Moscow views U.S. missile defenses as a challenge to nuclear stability on the continent. Washington maintains that the interceptors are intended as protection against potential missile strikes from the Middle East and do not have the technical capacity to engage Russian strategic nuclear missiles.

Under the U.S. "phased adaptive approach" for providing missile protection to NATO allies, interceptors capable of defeating short- and medium-range ballistic missiles are due to be installed in Romania in 2015, and systems capable of targeting intermediate-range missiles are slated to be deployed in Poland in 2018. Moscow is particularly concerned about the interceptors intended for fielding at the Polish Redzikowo base.

In recent weeks, several U.S. lawmakers have raised the possibility of speeding up the pace for deploying interceptors in Europe. The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency says the deployment schedule could be accelerated if more money is allocated to the Romania program, and if there are no major technology-development challenges with the next-generation missiles planned for Poland.

In comments to reporters, Siemoniak underlined how crucial the interceptor deployment is to Poland, which twice before has agreed to host more-sophisticated U.S. antimissile systems only to see those plans canceled.

The Polish defense minister said Hagel had "reconfirmed" U.S. plans to implement a future phase of the European protective architecture under which the advanced defensive systems would be deployed in his country. He also noted the interceptors planned for fielding in Romania would provide missile-defense coverage to Poland.

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a live call-in press conference on Thursday criticized Washington for its refusal to give Moscow a legally binding promise that its interceptors in Europe would never target Russian nuclear arms.

"We are told: 'This is not against you,'" Putin was quoted as saying by ITAR-Tass. "But everyone at the expert level understands that the deployment of these systems close to our border covers the positions of our land-based strategic missiles."

This has not deterred Russia, said Putin, adding: "We will be patient and will persistently conduct negotiations" on the matter.

The Obama administration last month said it had suspended talks with Russia on areas for potential antimissile cooperation due to Moscow's actions in Ukraine. High-level Russian officials said this month, though, that the suspension made little difference because the discussions had made little, if any, progress.

Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

NTI Analysis

  • How to Deal with Russia without Reigniting a Full-Fledged Cold War Psychology

    March 28, 2014

    A new op-ed by former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and NTI Co-Chairman and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn on how to deal with Russia in the crisis over Ukraine, highlighting key areas of common interest where cooperation remains vital.

  • Ukraine Must Not Become a New Berlin Wall

    March 13, 2014

    On Friday, March 14, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. Five statesmen from Germany, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States call for the urgent formation of a Contact Group of Foreign Ministers to address the crisis and more broadly, create a new approach to building mutual security in the Euro-Atlantic region.

Country Profile

Flag of Ukraine

Ukraine

This article provides an overview of the Ukraine's historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

Learn More →