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BMD Focus: West trumps East -- Part 1

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by Martin Sieff
Washington (UPI) May 5, 2008
U.S. President George W. Bush's plan to build two antiballistic missile bases in Central Europe -- one in the Czech Republic and the other in Poland -- is forging along more strongly than ever. In so doing, it is confounding the conventional wisdom of the past 20 years about the future dynamics of the Atlantic Alliance.

One of the biggest arguments for pushing ahead in 1998 to expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to include former Soviet satellite nations and Warsaw Pact members like Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland was that the young democracies emerging from decades of communist tyranny in Central and Eastern Europe would remain far more grateful and loyal to the United States than the prosperous, long-established democracies in Western Europe that were growing increasingly critical of the American hyper-power that has now protected them for more than six decades since liberating or rescuing them at the end of World War II.

However, the ongoing political and diplomatic struggle of the Bush administration to win approval to build an antiballistic missile base in Poland to house 10 Ground-based Mid-course Interceptors guided by radars to be installed at another base in the neighboring Czech Republic has turned this long accepted Conventional Wisdom on its head. It has been the leaders of four out of five of the main, largest and most powerful nations in Western Europe that dominate the European Union who have strongly supported U.S. President George W. Bush on the issue -- and it has been their support that has been vital in keeping a supportive but beleaguered government in the Czech Republic in power and a potentially hostile one in Poland on track.

That is because the political dynamics of the major Western European nations have transformed very much in Washington's favor over the past three or four years. French President Jacques Chirac, who made no secret of his strongly anti-American inclinations on both domestic issues and international affairs, has been replaced by President Nicolas Sarkozy, an open admirer and loyal ally of President Bush.

An even more dramatic transformation occurred in German where Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who loved to ruffle the American eagle's feathers over Iraq and the global war on terror, was succeeded by Angela Merkel. Merkel has been circumscribed by being forced to operate within a coalition with the opposition Social Democrats, but as a survivor of East German communist tyranny herself, she has proven to be a strong and loyal champion of the Atlantic Alliance and of Bush's plans to extend the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System to the European continent.

In Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has not fulfilled the predictions, fears and -- in some, hopes -- that he would break with Bush. Instead he has continued the warm, close cooperation on defense issues, including BMD, maintained by his predecessor Tony Blair.

And now Silvio Berlusconi not only won but won big in Italy's general elections to return to head his third government over the past 14 years, with every expectation of staying in power for the next five years.

The strategic and diplomatic combined impact of these developments on the U.S. global strategic position and on the health and credibility of the Atlantic Alliance have been immense, overwhelmingly positive and almost totally missed or ignored by the mainstream U.S. media.

Next: Why Western Europe calls the shots

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BMD Watch: SASC agrees to fund BMD bases
Washington (UPI) May 2, 2008
Bush wants to build a base in Poland with 10 Ground-based Mid-course Interceptors that could hit and destroy any nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles fired by Iran or other "rogue" states against the United States or Central Europe. A companion base containing advanced radar arrays to guide the GBIs on to their intended target is to be built in the neighboring Czech Republic. Lockheed Martin said Wednesday it had completed a vital integrated test milestone on its first Space-Based Infrared System geo-synchronous orbit spacecraft.

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