- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2007

WIESBADEN, Germany — Germany called yesterday for talks on creating a NATO missile defense shield for Europe, a day after the United States vowed to press ahead with its system without alliance approval.

The head of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency said Thursday Washington wanted to secure the understanding of 25 NATO members for its plans to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe, but was not seeking their green light.

The United States’ European allies are concerned the move will damage their ties with Moscow, and Germany has led calls for wider consultations on the project. Ukraine has also complained Washington had not consulted with it.

Three ex-Soviet states in the Caucasus — Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia — said yesterday that Washington had not yet asked them to host the anti-missile shield.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering said having a radar in the Caucasus, just south of Russia, would be useful, but not essential. He did not specify a country.

“We should discuss developing such a defense measure within a NATO framework,” German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung told reporters on the margins of a meeting of EU defense chiefs in the German city of Wiesbaden.

Mr. Jung said Russian concerns over the shield could be allayed by talks within NATO’s existing NATO-Russia Council, a forum for discussing defense issues between the former Cold War foes.

“I think that is the right way forward,” he said.

The United States wants to set up a radar system in the Czech Republic and a missile battery in Poland as part of a shield that would counter missiles fired by what Washington calls “rogue states” such as Iran and North Korea.

Mr. Jung did not say whether Germany was prepared to participate in the huge cost of such a shield but his spokesman said Berlin acknowledged action was needed to address the threat of attack.

“The question of a threat from long-range missiles exists and this threat must be addressed by concrete measures,” Defense Ministry spokesman Thomas Raabe said, adding that ultimately any missile defense system should be brought under a NATO roof.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s junior Social Democrat coalition partners are worried such a shield could provoke a new Cold War.

Moscow sees the system as an encroachment on its former sphere of influence and an attempt to shift the post-Cold War balance of power, but a top Russian general was quoted as saying yesterday Russia had its own missile shield and need not worry.

“We have everything needed to adequately respond to all these deployments,” Russian news agencies quoted Russia’s air force commander Gen. Vladimir Mikhailov as saying.

“They have lots of cash, let them spend it,” he added.

An opinion poll yesterday showed nearly two-thirds of Czechs opposed hosting the radar system. The Czech government is due to respond by the end of the month to a U.S. request to open talks on the system. It has spoken in favor, but may face problems getting any proposal through parliament.

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