Russian opposition to U.S. missile defense plans in Europe are only political, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday, arguing that Washington has made good-faith efforts to assuage Moscow’s concerns (see GSN, Oct. 21).
Top-level Russian officials have decried the U.S. effort, claiming that the plans to deploy 10 U.S. interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic would threaten Russia’s strategic missiles (see related GSN story, today).
Gates rejected that argument.
“The Russians know perfectly well this isn't aimed against them,” he said in a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “We have gone a long way toward providing the necessary assurances to Russia that this system is not aimed at them but is aimed at a very limited threat coming from Iran.”
The Bush administration has offered to allow Russian “representatives at both the sites, in the Czech Republic and in Poland, if those governments agree to it, having technical monitoring of what is going on, at both of those sites, having a common data-sharing center in Moscow,” he said.
Furthermore, “I've proposed to President [Vladimir] Putin, now Prime Minister Putin, that we would not operationalize the sites until the Iranians had tested a missile that could reach most of Western Europe, not to mention a good part of Russia,” he added.
“We have offered transparency in a variety of ways. And to tell you the truth, the Russian military has shown some interest in this. But I think that for political reasons, the Russians have chosen to make an issue of it,” Gates said.
“The notion that the Russian arsenal is any way put in jeopardy, by 10 interceptors, I think, is laughable on its face,” he continued. “I've also talked to them very directly about, well, here's your worry, breakout, that someday we would change the configuration of these sites and expand them, in a way that might put your deterrent at some risk; said, we can reach agreements on that, and because you'll be there, you'll know if we're going to start to do anything” (Greg Webb, Global Security Newswire, Oct. 29).