Bush: Missile defense in Europe is vital

US president says intelligence shows Iran could have capability to strike US, European allies by 2015.

October 23, 2007 21:20
2 minute read.
Bush: Missile defense in Europe is vital

Bush shouts 224.88. (photo credit: AP)

President George W. Bush said Tuesday that plans for a US-led missile defense system in Europe is urgently needed to counter an emerging threat of attack by Iran. "If (Iran) chooses to do so, and the international community does not take steps to prevent it, it is possible Iran could have this capability," Bush said. "And we need to take it seriously - now." Bush's latest warning about Iran's nuclear ambitions came in a broad defense of his security policies at the National Defense University. He said intelligence estimates show that Iran could have the capability to strike the United States and many European allies by 2015. "The need for missile defense in Europe is real, and I believe it's urgent," Bush said. Bush's warning about Iran was contradicted by Russian Foreign Minster Sergey Lavrov during a visit to Tokyo. He said US-led missile defense initiatives in Europe and Asia are based on an erroneous assessment of the threat posed by Iran. "North Korea poses a fundamental threat, but Iran does not," Lavrov was quoted as telling Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura. Bush sought to allay Russia's concerns and draw Moscow in, portraying the proposed system as a "cooperative effort" against "an emerging threat that affects us all." He spoke somewhat positively of President Vladimir Putin's offer of facilities for this purpose in Azerbaijan and southern Russia. The idea would be to replace the US plans for missiles based in Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic. Bush said the project as a whole is "part of a broader effort to move beyond the Cold War" and "could lead to an unprecedented level of strategic cooperation between" Russia and the United States. But the president's words were not likely to appease his Russian counterpart, who has instead sounded as if the Cold War is beginning again over the dispute. Bush said only that Putin's suggested alternative "could be included as part of a wider threat monitoring system" and made clear that the Poland- and Czech-based plan is still the operative one for the United States. "The danger of ballistic missile attacks is a threat we share and we ought to respond to this threat together," Bush said. Bush complained that Congress has cut money for missile defenses by hundreds of millions of dollars. "Missile defense is a vital tool for our security. It's a vital tool for deterrence and it's a vital tool for proliferation," the president said. "Yet despite all these benefits, the United States Congress is cutting funding for missile defense." He said money for missile defense in Europe had been reduced by $139 million. He said that "could delay deployment for a year or more and undermine our allies who are working with us to deploy such a system on their soil." Further, he said Congress had eliminated $51 million from an airborne-laser program intended to intercept missiles in the boost stage of flight. Further, he said $50 million had been cut from the multiple-kill vehicle program that is supposed to counter decoy missiles as well as actual warheads. Another $50 million had been cut from a space tracking and surveillance system of satellites used to detect and track missiles posing a threat to the United States. "Each of these programs is vital to the security of America and Congress needs to fully fund them," the president said. "The greatest threat facing our nation in the 21st century is the danger of terrorist networks or terrorist states armed with weapons of mass destruction," he said.

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