American Forces Press Service

Cohen, European Allies to Discuss National Missile Defense


  By Jim Garamone
 American Forces Press Service

 MUNICH, Germany -- National Missile Defense is an idea that 
 must be sold, not only to the Russians and Chinese, but to 
 America’s European allies, said Defense Secretary William 
 Cohen, speaking to reporters aboard a plane bound for the 
 Wehrkunde Conference on international security policy here 
 Feb. 3, said once people understand what National Missile 
 Defense is and, more importantly, what it is not, then they 
 can keep an open mind about the program. 
 “I found that by taking the time to explain the 
 architecture the dimensions of National Missile Defense 
 that we have, it helped to defuse the rising level of 
 criticism from our NATO partners,” he said.
 The program would defend U.S. territory from a limited 
 missile attack by a rogue state or terrorist organization. 
 It would not be large enough to counter massive attacks 
 such as the Russians or Chinese could launch.
 Cohen said he was pleased by news reports indicating that 
 Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin would be open to 
 discussion on National Missile Defense. “We have to 
 indicate to the Russians why we think it’s important to 
 proceed with a [national missile defense] if the president 
 should choose to do so, within the context of the Anti-
 Ballistic Missile treaty,” Cohen said.
 He said there are many in the United States who think the 
 ABM treaty is irrelevant and should be discarded. “I don’t 
 share that view,” he said. In discussions with Russian 
 leaders Cohen stressed the United States wants to “stay 
 under the umbrella of ABM.”
 Cohen said there are basically three European objections to 
 the National Missile Defense program. First, Europeans see 
 the ABM Treaty as a stabilizing factor in the U.S. 
 relationship to Russia and they do not wish to see it 
 Second, Cohen said, “there is a fear that somehow if we had 
 a limited system that somehow we might decouple our 
 relationship with Europe.”
 Finally, there is an apprehension that somehow this might 
 diminish European strategic systems.
 “These are legitimate issues that need to be raised and 
 discussed,” Cohen said. “We will press forward on the 
 diplomatic front, and I will continue to make the case at 
 the military level.