Monday, May 5, 2008

Lousy excuses and real threats

Reuters reported on May 1 that the Senate Armed Services Committee has approved President George W. Bush's request for U.S. missile-defense installations in the Czech Republic and Poland.

The panel unanimously agreed to "fully authorize" both a proposed interceptor site in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic as part of a $542.5 billion fiscal 2009 defense spending bill, an official summary said.
The money is not available right away. Several criteria have to be met: the legislation must be approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the president and both Poland and the Czech Republic have to finalize agreements to host the installations. Especially the last two points are far from being concluded. Early last week the Czech Foreign Ministry said that the signing of a U.S.-Czech treaty on missile defense has been delayed. No official date had been set, but diplomats from both countries had mentioned early May as a possibility. The Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek contributed to the confusion by telling journalists that the signing will take place early June. He also gave a reason for the delay: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice could not stay long enough during her visit to the Czech Republic. What a lousy excuse! If one takes into consideration how high on the agenda the completion of the agreements between the United States and its two Eastern European partners are, one can assume that Condi would gladly extend her stay to sign the document.

Shifting the focus to a rather technical issue: Lockheed Martin has announced last week that it has achieved a major integrated test milestone on the first Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) geosynchronous orbit (GEO-1) spacecraft. SBIRS is designed to provide early warning of missile launches, and simultaneously support other missions including missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace characterization. The launch is envisaged in late 2009.

The club of countries that are eager to set up some sort of missile defense system has a new member: Turkey. The Turkish Daily News reported that the country is considering systems from China, Israel, Russia and the United States as it looks to procure its first ballistic missile defenses. Ankara wants to field a system to counter a threat emanating from Iran. In contrast to the United States, Turkey is in reach of Iranian missiles.

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