Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile Defense Efforts Tied to Iran, Gates Says

By Jim Gara­mone
Amer­i­can Forces Press Service 

KRAKOW, Poland, Feb. 19, 2009 — A NATO bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense sys­tem would­n’t be need­ed if Iran did­n’t pose a threat, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said here today. 

“We con­tin­ue to be very con­cerned about the Iran­ian mis­sile threat, par­tic­u­lar­ly as they con­tin­ue to work on what we believe are weapons of mass destruc­tion,” Gates told reporters fol­low­ing the begin­ning of the NATO defense min­is­ters meet­ing here. 

NATO has agreed to a bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense that would pro­tect against a launch from Iran. The Czech Repub­lic will host a radar for the sys­tem, with the mis­siles based in Poland. 

Rus­sia adamant­ly has opposed the system. 

“I told the Rus­sians a year ago that if there were no Iran­ian mis­sile pro­gram, there would be no need for the mis­sile sites,” Gates said. 

The Iran­ian launch of a low-Earth-orbit satel­lite Feb. 2 shows the nation is build­ing up its capa­bil­i­ty to launch pay­loads far­ther and more accurately. 

“The fact is that with the eco­nom­ic cri­sis, Afghanistan and Iraq, the admin­is­tra­tion has not yet reviewed where it is on a whole range of issues, includ­ing rela­tion­ships with our allies, the mis­sile defense pro­gram and our rela­tion­ship with Rus­sia,” the sec­re­tary said. “These things are all tied togeth­er, includ­ing Iran.” 

The sec­re­tary said he hopes that with a new admin­is­tra­tion, the prospects for coop­er­a­tion from Rus­sia will improve. 

“We will con­tin­ue to move for­ward,” Gates said. “We also are very inter­est­ed in con­tin­u­ing to per­suade the Rus­sians to part­ner with us in this endeavor.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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