Putin Attacks U.S. Missile Defense Plans; U.S. Officials Deny Systems Aimed at Russia

Putin Attacks U.S. Missile Defense Plans; U.S. Officials Deny Systems Aimed at Russia

In both his annual Kremlin news conference, which occurred on Feb.1, and in his appearance at the Munich Security Conference the following week, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced U.S. plans to deploy ballistic missile defenses in Eastern Europe. Insisting that the Russian government must consider how to ensure the country's national security, Putin pledged to adopt a "highly effective" response.

For several years, the U.S. government has been pursuing bilateral initiatives with select NATO members to deploy a small number of U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) interceptors in Eastern Europe. On Jan. 20, 2007, U.S. officials made a formal proposal to the new Czech government, offering to establish an American-run BMD radar system on Czech territory. On Jan. 22, they announced that the United States and Poland would soon begin formal discussions about the possible stationing of U.S. BMD interceptor missiles on Polish territory. This deployment would establish the first U.S. missile interceptor base outside the United States.

American officials have characterized the deployment as primarily intended to protect Europe and the United States from a possible future long-range ballistic missile threat from Iran or another Middle Eastern source. Even if Poland, the Czech Republic, or other candidate countries (e.g., Hungary) agree to these proposals, it will take several years and billions of dollars before the proposed U.S. BMD systems become operational. Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, the head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), said that the deployment would most likely occur in 2011 or 2012, when the MDA fears Iran might attain a long-range missile strike capacity.

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