Ballistic Missile Defense Efforts Tied to Iran, Gates Says
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)