Bush re­as­sures Putin on mis­sile shield plan for Europe

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Joseph Curl

Pres­i­dent Bush on May 21 sought to pla­cate Moscow over a planned U.S. mis­sile de­fense sys­tem in the heart of Europe, vow­ing to con­vince Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin “that this mis­sile shield is not di­rected at them.”

“NATO al­lies and other na­tions rec­og­nize the threat we face from bal­lis­tic mis­siles launched by a rogue state,” the pres­i­dent said from his ranch near Craw­ford, Texas, where he met over the May 19-20 week­end with NATO Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

Mr. Bush dis­patched De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates to Rus­sia re­cently “to have a full and trans­par­ent con­ver­sa­tion with Pres­i­dent Putin and his Cabi­net to make sure that the Rus­sians un­der­stand that this mis­sile shield is not di­rected at them, but in fact di­rected at other na­tions that could con­ceiv­ably af­fect the peace of Europe,” he said.

Mr. Putin op­poses the U.S. plan for a mis­sile-de­fense shield and is press­ing his Euro­pean al­lies to join his op­po­si­tion. He has crit­i­cized planned U.S. mil­i­tary bas­ings in the Czech Repub­lic and Poland, go­ing so far as to com­pare the project to the sta­tion­ing of Per­sh­ing mis­siles in West­ern Eu- rope dur­ing the Cold War.

Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice said in the Rus­sian cap­i­tal two weeks ago that the United States will not per­mit Rus­sia to veto its plans to build the shield.

“The United States needs to be able to move for­ward to use tech­nol­ogy to de­fend it­self and we’re go­ing to do that,” Miss Rice told re­porters af­ter meet­ing with Mr. Putin. “I don’t think that any­one ex­pects the United States to per­mit some­how a veto on Amer­i­can se­cu­rity in­ter­ests.”

Mr. Bush de­parts early next month for talks in Ger­many, the Czech Repub­lic and Poland. The Czech Repub­lic and Poland have ex­pressed sup­port to house the shield.

The Pen­tagon says that mis­sile in­ter­cep­tors and high-tech radar in Europe — work­ing in con­cert with a mis­sile de­fense sys­tem in­stalled in Cal­i­for­nia and Alaska — are in­tended to pro­tect the United States and Europe from the threat of Ira­nian mis­siles.

“Of course, I will con­tinue to reach out to Rus­sia,” Mr. Bush said, not­ing that “the sec­re­tary­gen­eral agrees that U.S. mis­sile de­fense plans com­ple­ment NATO ef­forts to keep all na­tions safe from at­tack.”

“I ap­pre­ci­ate the fact that the NATO-Rus­sian Coun­cil is an in­te­gral part of the sec­re­tary-gen- eral’s plans to make sure that Rus­sia fully un­der­stands our in­ten­tions,” the pres­i­dent said.

Mr. Scheffer said, “It will be now up to NATO — and I’ll try to lead NATO into that di­rec­tion — but apart from the third site and the U.S. plans, there will be a NATO sys­tem which com­ple­ments, which will be bolted in the U.S. sys­tem so that ev­ery­body and ev­ery­thing will be cov­ered for the long-range threats, the medi­um­range threats and the short-range threats — an im­por­tant el­e­ment, I think.”

Mr. Bush and the NATO sec­re­tary-gen­eral also dis­cussed on­go­ing ef­for ts to se­cure Afghanistan. The pres­i­dent vowed to press U.S. al­lies to do more to share the bur­den and the risks in fight­ing in Afghanistan as ca­su­al­ties rise with a resur­gent Tal­iban.

“In or­der for NATO to be ef­fec­tive it has to trans­form it­self into an or­ga­ni­za­tion that ac­tu­ally meets the threats that free na­tions face,” he said. “I pledged to the sec­re­tary-gen­eral we’ll work with our NATO al­lies to con­vince them that they must share more of the bur­den and must all share the risks in meet­ing our goal.”

Mr. Scheffer agreed, say­ing, “Afghanistan is still one of the front lines in our fight against ter­ror­ism.”

Agence France-Press / Getty Images

NATO Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Jaap de Hoop Scheffer met with Pres­i­dent Bush at his Texas ranch, where he agreed that threats of mis­sile at­tacks by rogue states must be ad­dressed with sys­tems like the one the U.S. wants to in­stall in East­ern Europe.

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