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Rice And Gates On Missile Defense

Sixteen years after the end of the Cold War, the transatlantic community and Russia are no longer adversaries. Indeed, today Europe, Russia, and the United States face common threats -- one of the most dangerous being the development and deployment of ballistic missiles of increasing ranges, lethality, and sophistication by rogue states such as Iran and North Korea.

In a recent newspaper commentary, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, "We need to be clear that the missile threat from Iran is real and growing, and it is a threat not just to the United States, but to Europe and Russia as well." Faced with the proliferation of ballistic missiles as well as weapons of mass destruction, it is the responsibility of all governments to defend their people.

That is why the U.S is proposing to deploy a limited missile defense system capable of protecting not only the United States but also its transatlantic allies. The plan includes placing ten interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar installation in the Czech Republic.

U.S. strategy is to strengthen the ability to detect, defend against, and thus deter a missile attack. Effective defenses also reduce incentives for states to acquire ballistic missiles in the first place.

The U.S. is confident that the missile defense system can protect Europe from incoming ballistic missiles. Since 2001, the U.S. has conducted twenty-six successful hit-to-kill intercepts out of thirty-four attempts. And fifteen of the last sixteen flight tests have been successful in the past couple of years.

The proposed missile defense system is oriented against a potential enemy with a small arsenal and is of no use against larger ballistic missile arsenals such as that possessed by Russia. The U.S. firmly believes in transparency and cooperation for its missile defense policy, plans, and programs, especially as they relate to the prospective deployment of defensive capabilities in central Europe. That is why the U.S. has consulted over the years both with Russia and NATO allies and will continue to do so.

"We all face an emerging common threat," said Secretary of State Rice and Defense Secretary Gates, "and America has proposed a practical solution. Europe, above all, must know -- based on its own modern history -- that the time to cooperate is now, not when the threat is imminent."