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Missile Defense Success Cause Global Reaction

The GBI program is not designed to protect either the United States or its European allies from the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, the most destructive military force on the planet.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Sep 14, 2006
The successful Sept. 1 test of a U.S. Ground-Based Interceptor is already having repercussions around the world. On Sept. 6, Alexanbdr Vondra, foreign minister of the Czech Republic, boldly stated that European members of NATO would have to build an effective anti-ballistic missile system in cooperation with the United States.

"In the future, the North Atlantic Alliance and European states will not be able to avoid the construction of this system, and it is in the interest of Europe to build such systems in cooperation with America," he announced at a conference on ballistic missile defense in the Czech capital Prague.

In a way, Vondra's comments come as no surprise. His prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, has already been strongly supportive of allowing the United States to build a base for the deployment of Ground-Based Interceptors, or GBIs, such as the one that was successfully tested on Sept. 1 within the territory of the Czech Republic.

And the government of neighboring Poland, especially Polish Defense Minister Radek Sikorski, formerly the long-time head of the New Atlantic Initiative in Washington, is also very supportive of building bases in Poland to house GBIs that could defend his country -- as well as the other countries in the 25-nation European Union -- against possible ballistic missile attack.

However, Vondra's remarks were a significant strengthening of the Czech position. And the issue has been a much more controversial political football in the Czech Republic than in Poland. Previous Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek argued that a national referendum must be held before the United States could be allowed to build a BMD base on Czech territory. By contrast, Topolanek has argued that such a vote should not be necessary.

Clearly the successful U.S. test has strengthened Topolanek and Vonda's hand as well that of Sikorski and his colleagues in Poland.

This development is especially significant given the way the major Western European national governments remain hamstrung on BMD. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, throughout his time in office America's strongest and most loyal ally in Europe, is now on borrowed time. He has just been forced -- under intense political pressure from within his own ruling Labor Party -- to confirm the date of his departure from office as October 2007.

And he may yet be forced to step down sooner than that. His expected successor, Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) Gordon Brown, is also strongly pro-American. But he lacks Blair's warm personal chemistry with U.S. President George W. Bush, and is likely to be more limited in what he can do by the growing anti-American furor within Labor.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is personally strongly pro-American but is limited in what she can do by the nature of the coalition partnership between her own Christian Democrats and the Social Democratic Party. France is heading for a hard-fought presidential election next year in which pro-U.S. forces probably led by Nicolas Sarkozy and left-wing ones critical of America spearheaded by Segolene Royal seem equally matched. Sarkozy and Royal are currently running neck-and-neck in polls.

In such times, the continued support of Poland and the growing readiness of the Czech Republic to defy the anger of Russian leaders in deploying U.S. GBIs so close to Russian soil despite being a former long-time Soviet satellite is particularly striking. It is a demonstration that the growing capabilities of the U.S.-built GBI system have the potential to reinvigorate the NATO alliance for another generation in Europe, just as they have dramatically strengthened U.S.-Japanese ties in Asia.

The GBI program is not designed to protect either the United States or its European allies from the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, the most destructive military force on the planet. Nor could it. The thousands of Russian nuclear warheads, many of them multiple independently targeted-reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, could easily swamp the handful of GBIs already installed at Fort Greeley, Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Even if the current U.S. deployment expansion goes ahead on schedule, no more than 18 in all are expected to be in place by the end of next year. The program is primarily intended to defend the United States -- and ultimately European allies -- against individual, or a few, nuclear-armed missiles that so-called "rogue states" like North Korea and Iran, not Russia, could use to threaten them.

However, Vondra's statement showed that the growing credibility of the GBI system is already emboldening even small countries close to major powers like Russia to defy them and move more closely into the U.S. camp with long-term commitments than they were previously willing, or thought themselves able, to do. It therefore confirmed the positive strategic impact on U.S. global standing and diplomacy of successes in the BMD program. More will likely follow.

Source: United Press International

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Taiwan To Deploy Home-Grown Missile Shield
Taipei (AFP) Sept 13, 2006
Taiwan will introduce a new home-grown anti-missile shield next year as part of the island's efforts to boost defense capabilities against China, reports said Wednesday. The shield, known as the Anti Tactical Ballistic Missile (ATBM), is "expected to effectively counter the threat of China's M-9 and M-11 ballistic missiles," Taiwan's Apple Daily paper said, quoting an unnamed source.

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