Implementation of a bilateral agreement to deploy U.S. missile interceptors in Poland within seven years has started, the Associated Press reported on Thursday (see GSN, March 8).
Fielding an unspecified quantity of Standard Missile 3 interceptors in the Eastern European nation is one aspect of the White House's "phased adaptive approach" that involves the deployment of increasingly sophisticated sea- and land-based weapons around Europe as protection from a potential ballistic missile attack from the Middle East.
A State Department release said the agreement entered into force on Thursday. The SM-3 interceptors by 2018 are to be put in place near the Baltic Sea coast in Redzikowo (Associated Press I/Washington Post, Sept. 15).
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen hailed implementation of the accord in a statement published online, RIA Novosti reported.
The U.S. system would be wrapped into NATO efforts to connect and augment the antimissile operations of its member nations.
"This agreement is yet another sign of progress for NATO's missile defense system which will defend against current and emerging ballistic missile threats," Rasmussen said. "The missile defense base [at Redzikowo] will significantly contribute to NATO's capability to provide protection to its European territory, populations and forces against the growing threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles" (RIA Novosti, Sept. 16).
Russia for some time has raised objections to U.S. and NATO plans to erect a missile defense infrastructure in Europe, seeing in them a threat to its nuclear deterrent, the New York Times reported. Moscow is particularly concerned with the Obama administration's plans to in the latter half of this decade field missile interceptors capable of destroying intermediate-range missiles and ICBMs.
"The architecture of the system is designed to provide the optimal protection against ballistic missile threats from the Middle East, from Iran in particular," an Obama official said. "The system is not in any way directed against Russia"
Implementation of the Poland-U.S. deal capped off a productive week for the administration's missile defense plan that also saw the signing of an agreement that authorizes deployment of SM-3 interceptors in Romania and Turkey's announcement that it had agreed to host a long-range radar system -- a crucial element of the NATO antimissile system.
"This is probably the biggest strategic decision between the United States and Turkey in the past 15 or 20 years," a high-ranking White House official told journalists (see GSN, Sept. 14).
There had been doubts that Ankara would agree to host the early missile warning system as it has enjoyed warm relations with Iran. The radar system is to be located in Turkey's southeast, some 435 miles from Iran.
While Turkish officials have refrained from directly labeling Iran as a missile threat, Ankara is concerned by Tehran's growing missile strike abilities as well as indications Iran has illicitly aided the Syrian government's lethal repression of civilian demonstrators.
Additionally, there were Turkish media reports that Ankara was balking at the provision of missile threat data collected by the radar to Israel, which is not a NATO member. Tensions between Turkey and Israel have risen significantly in recent weeks amid Jerusalem's continued unwillingness to issue an apology for the 2010 attack on a flotilla heading toward Gaza in which several Turkish citizens were killed. High-ranking Obama officials said the administration had not agreed to limit the sharing of data gathered by the U.S. radar system.
Information from the radar in Turkey, along with other missile threat information collected by different systems and sources, will be provided to friendly nations such as Israel in accordance with pre-existing agreements, the Obama officials said.
Israel already has its own U.S.-provided long-range radar (Thom Shanker, New York Times, Sept. 15).
U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), however, is not mollified by verbal White House assurances that radar data will be shared with Israel, AP reported.
Kirk offered an amendment to the Senate Armed Services Committee's fiscal 2012 defense spending bill -- passed out of committee on Thursday -- that would block funding for the radar in Turkey if the White House is unable to convince lawmakers that all information gathered by the system would be employed in the assistance of Israel.
Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) countered that "nothing in the agreement reached with Turkey restricts our ability to assist in the defense of Israel."
The Illinois senator ultimately retreated on the amendment, though he could seek to place it in the bill again when the legislation comes up for a Senate vote.
Kirk also submitted and then pulled an amendment that would prohibit supplying antimissile information with Russia on the grounds that it still has relations with Tehran and could share sensitive radar data with the Iranian government (Donna Cassata, Associated Press/Bloomberg Businessweek , Sept. 15).
The Russian Foreign Ministry warned the government would take "military technological" actions should an agreement with NATO on missile defense not be reached and implementation of the alliance's missile shield plan unilaterally continue, Interfax reported on Thursday.
The Kremlin has already warned it would build up its nuclear deterrent if it cannot reach agreement with the United States and NATO. The sides for months have been in talks on potential collaboration on missile defense.
"We have never kept it secret that, if we fail to come to an agreement within the foreseeable future, Russia will have no other option than making appropriate military technological solutions," ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said (Interfax I, Sept. 15).
Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin castigated the deal signed this week by Bucharest and Washington that would around 2015 field U.S. SM-3 interceptors at the Daveselu air base near Romania's border with Bulgaria, Interfax reported (see GSN, Sept. 13).
"Without waiting even for the first and second phases of the U.S. plans on building a missile defense system in Europe, agreements that could relate ... to the third and fourth phases are being signed," Rogozin said.
The Kremlin's point man on European missile defense accused the United States of "hurrying to consolidate their agreements" for its phased adaptive approach before the Western military bloc has finalized its own plans for antimissile architecture.
"In doing so, the U.S. is seeking to confront the North Atlantic alliance with a fait accompli," the Russian diplomat said (Interfax II, Sept. 15).