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Tue, Aug 26, 2008

US Official Says NATO Benefits From Missile Agreement

Implies Shield Isn't "Just" For Iran, North Korea

The agreement between the United States and Poland on ballistic missile defense is important for the relationship between the two countries and for the NATO alliance, a senior State Department official said Monday.

John C. Rood, acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security -- who helped to negotiate the agreement -- talked with reporters at the State Department. As ANN reported, the agreement -- signed August 20 -- will allow the United States to place 10 Patriot interceptor missiles in Poland to defend the European NATO allies from a missile strike from a rogue state like Iran, or North Korea. A radar site for the system will be built in the Czech Republic.

There are two pieces to the agreement, Rood said. "One is a ballistic missile defense agreement," he said. "The second is a declaration on a strategic cooperation between the United States and Poland."

The missile defense agreement is the culmination of a NATO initiative approved by alliance leaders at the alliance's summit in Bucharest, Romania, in April. NATO leaders agreed that the missile threat from rogue regimes was growing, and that a system needed to be in place. The summit also called to expand this initial area by exploring options for a NATO-wide architecture for missile defense.

"This capability will be very important to our NATO allies, for their security, just as it's very important for the United States and Poland," Rood said.

He adds NATO remains concerned about the missile threat. "As if on cue, the Iranians just in the last couple of weeks have launched a space launch vehicle, which again demonstrates additional capabilities and underscores the concerns we have about the growing missile threat from countries like Iran," Rood said.

In a comment likely to be bandied by officials in Russia -- who are vehemently opposed to the Polish agreement, and are winning few friends on the global stage with that country's assault on Georgia -- Rood then pointedly noted the need for such a missile shield is "not limited to Iran, I should hasten to add, but it's certainly an additional matter."

That indirectly contradicts earlier US statements, intended to placate Russian concerns of a US strategic presence in formerly Eastern-bloc states. Given recent events, however... it seems the US is no longer quite as concerned for delicate Russian sensibilities.

That said, Rood noted the agreement covers how the missile defense facility would be operated. It also covers what the respective roles of the different parties would be, and their rights. For example, he said, the United States has undertaken a commitment not to conduct flight tests of the ballistic defense interceptors that would be stationed there out of that site.

"It's a pretty broad coverage in terms of the subject matter in that document, and I think it's befitting of the fact that this is going to be a ... substantially changed relationship between the United States and Poland, in that you will have a much greater level of defense cooperation," Rood said.

(Aero-News thanks Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service, for his initial report.)



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