Friday, November 9, 2007

Let’s NATO-ize!

In an interview on November 8, Ellen Tauscher, the Chairwoman of U.S. House Strategic Forces Subcommittee, strongly criticized the current plans of the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system and its developments. The Missile Defense Agency should focus on the existing threats like the 600 Iranian short-range and medium-range missiles rather than prioritizing “science projects” such as the European missile defense site which would not become effective until 2012.

The Congresswoman suggested to take a strategic pause, get the rhetoric right and NATO-ize it the missile defense plans. The U.S. should work with all of its 26 NATO partners on these plans — instead of working bilaterally with just two — and also try to win cooperation from Russia. Tauscher specifically named NATO's Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense program - which could include the PAC-3, THAAD, and Aegis BMD systems - which is awaiting a February 2008 study on its potential for pairing with U.S. GMD. She stressed that the NATO-system, when deployed in southeastern Europe, has clear advantages over the currently planned U.S. system. The NATO-option would leave no gap in missile defense coverage because it could engage shorter-range missiles launched from the Middle East.

On the same day, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a fiscal 2008 defense spending bill that includes $8.7 billion for missile defense programs, about 2 percent less than requested by President Bush. As laid out by, the bill cuts $85 million for construction of the third ballistic missile defense site in Poland, but retains funding for the radar in the Czech Republic. Congress would bless defense budget reprogramming in 2008 once Czech and Polish legislatures formally bless agreements to hosts the bases, Tauscher said. However, she does not expect that to happen. This makes a NATO-ized option even more attractive.

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