Congress must fully support the proposal of placing a missile interceptor site in Europe. The United States, with over 90,000 U.S. troops deployed in Europe, and our allies currently do not have a robust defense against Tehran's probably upgraded long-range ballistic missiles which can now reach most of Europe.
In April, Iran's Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad-Baqer Zolqadr said: "No place is safe for America since we have long-range missiles. Iran is capable of firing tens of thousands of missiles against U.S. interests on a daily basis. With its long-range missiles, Iran can also threaten Israel which backs the U.S." It is widely believed that Iran could have the capability to launch missiles that could reach the continental United States by 2015.
To defend against this threat the president has proposed that a third missile defense site in Europe be deployed in the Czech Republic and Poland. America is currently in negotiations with these countries to reach a final agreement on the nature and scope of such defenses. We have already concluded agreements with England, Greenland and Denmark to upgrade existing radars as part of the missile defense deployed now in Alaska and California against North Korean missile threats.
Both North Korea and Iran have stunned the world community with their missile capabilities. In 1998, North Korea launched a rocket that landed between Japan and Hawaii. If the test had been successful, the North Koreans would have demonstrated an ability to hurl a 200-kilo warhead onto the western United States. The North Koreans have cooperated with the Iranians in building and testing missiles, most recently delivering to the Iranians new technology that extends the range of Tehran's missiles to slightly over 2,100 miles.
We also know that North Korea has exploded a nuclear device and that Iran is seeking the ability to enrich uranium to produce the nuclear fuel for nuclear weapons. This threat requires that we build a common defense for Europe and the United States against such missile strikes. If we do not, we inevitably doom ourselves to be threatened and coerced by Iran. It could, in fact, result in major policy shifts harmful to U.S. interests and could embolden Iran's radical leadership to take actions against U.S. allies. Additionally, Iran's attending control and influence over oil supplies could seriously erode the strength of U.S. economic and national security.
NATO has agreed to the deployment of short- and medium-range missile defenses, including Patriot missile batteries. The work with NATO has been going on since 2002 and was initiated at a summit in Prague, Czech Republic. At the 2006 Riga summit, NATO proposed missile defense architecture of long-range interceptors and sensors as well as theater defenses required to defend against shorter-range threats to NATO.
Despite the aforementioned, some of my colleagues in this Congress intend to seriously limit funding for the roughly $300 million for the Third Site in Europe contained in the Defense authorization budget request submitted to Congress in February. Their ostensible rationale is two-fold: (1) NATO as a whole has not explicitly endorsed the third site deployment; and (2) the Russians object that the deployment will upset the "strategic balance."
These objections are fallacious and spurious. NATO deployments of all kinds, whether missile defenses, strategic aircraft or tanks, are produced by member countries, sometimes in cooperation with each other, and are then deployed as part of each individual country's military forces and made available to NATO. With the exception of Advanced Warming Aircraft and some cargo planes, which have previously been purchased as military units owned by NATO, countries within the alliance do not give other member nations a veto over their security decisions.
Objections from the Russian government can also be soundly put to rest. The United States has kept the Russian Federation informed of its plans to deploy the European Interceptor Site, which will be an unarmed, defensive system, and which provides no capability to defend against the Russian Federation's strategic offensive force. The interceptors carry no explosive warhead and rely solely on kinetic energy to intercept and destroy on impact an incoming warhead. The United States and NATO have also proposed to the Russian government an entire series of cooperative measures that could be jointly pursued in the area of missile defenses, including concepts, operations, training, exercises and joint deployments, as well as onsite inspections of the missile defense deployment.
In short, the third site funding proposals must not be slowed down because some members of Congress do not have the intestinal fortitude to deploy a layered and robust missile defense. The Third Site compliments existing defenses with a necessary layer of defense. It provides protection against nuclear blackmail by the rogue regime in Tehran. It protects our allies and our deployed military forces overseas. It adds to our security and the security of our allies. It is the duty of this Congress to fully fund the missile defense budget in general and specifically as it relates to the Third Site.
Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican, represents the 2nd District of Arizona in the U.S. Congress. He is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and vice chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee.
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