Despite strong opposition from Russia, the Bush administration
has beefed up is efforts to build a controversial missile defense
system in eastern Europe, it was reported Wednesday.
In addition to Russia's bitter reaction, the move raised fears
of a new arms race elsewhere in the world, said the Los Angeles
Under the system, the United States would base 10 interceptor
missiles in Poland and a radar center in the Czech Republic, both
formerly part of the Soviet Bloc, according to the paper.
The project, to be discussed at a NATO meeting later this month,
could escalate a simmering diplomatic issue into a significant
international dispute, depending on Moscow's reaction and the
administration's next moves, said the paper.
A senior Pentagon official responsible for overseeing the plan
said in a briefing that the administration hopes to dampen Russian
opposition, but that Moscow would not be allowed to derail the
project if no agreement is reached with the Kremlin, according to
"We think there is a benefit to cooperating with Russia; we
think the threat is one that they face as well as one that we
face," Eric S. Edelman, the undersecretary of Defense for policy,
was quoted as saying.
"That being said, I don't think if, for some reason, we're
unable to reach a commonly agreed way ahead, that we would want to
accede to Russia being able to dictate what we do bilaterally with
other countries," he said.
Edelman had just returned from making the case for the system in
European capitals last week.
The missile defense system, which would be operated by US
soldiers stationed in the Eastern European countries, has become
one of the thorniest points of contention between Russia and the
United States, and rhetoric has escalated since December, when
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates gave the go-ahead to seek formal
negotiations, the paper said.
The Bush administration has been pushing for a European site to
expand its missile defense system for several years as a hedge
against Iran. The current US system, with interceptor missiles
based in Alaska and California, is considered useful mainly against
The missile defense project, however, is not popular in European
countries which have voiced fear that it could spark a new arms
race. Poland, ordinarily a staunch US ally, is concerned that the
plan would spur Russia to upgrade and reconfigure troop placements
and missile systems.
Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has warned of an "inevitable
arms race" if the US proceeds. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, the chief of
Russia's missile forces, also warned that Moscow could resume
building intermediate and short-range missiles to target Poland and
the Czech Republic if those nations agreed to allow bases on their
(Xinhua News Agency April 5, 2007)