Wednesday, October 29, 2008

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2008 – The next president will “take a fresh look” at plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today, but he dismissed Russian objections to the system as politically based.

Gates said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace he’s confident the Russians know the proposed missile defense system in Eastern Europe does not threaten them. He called objections that 10 missile-defense interceptors would jeopardize Russia’s arsenal “laughable.”

“I think we’ve leaned forward pretty far and have been open with them about what we intend to do,” Gates said. “I think 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.”

Gates noted proposals the United States has offered to help reassure Russia. One would allow Russia to have representatives at each site, if the host nation agreed, to provide technical monitoring of activities. Another would be to base a common-data-sharing center in Moscow.

He said he assured Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin when Putin was president that the United States would not make the sites operational until the Iranians had tested a missile that could reach most of Western Europe, including parts of Russia.

“We have provided transparency in a number of ways,” Gates said. While the Russian military “has shown some interest in this,” Russians have “chosen to make an issue of the notion,” for political reasons, he said.

Meanwhile, Gates said, he believes it’s likely the United States and Russia will arrive at an agreement when the Moscow Treaty expires. President Bush and Putin signed the Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions in 2002, calling for both countries to reduce their strategic nuclear warheads to a level of 1,700 to 2,200 by 2012.

Gates said he believes there’s “a willingness and ability to make deeper reductions,” but said any new agreement must include the same verification procedures included in previous arms-control agreements.

But Gates said he’d like to see one big difference. “I’m not sure agreements the size of a telephone book that take years and years to negotiate are in the interest of either party,” he said. “It ought to be an agreement that is shorter, simpler and easier to adjust to real-world conditions than most of the strategic arms agreements that we have seen in the last 40 years.”

Robert M. Gates

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