US says will not alter missile shield plan in Europe
The United States will not alter its plans to deploy a NATO missile defense system in eastern Europe, US officials said Wednesday, adding the shield was not aimed at Russia.
"The United States has been open and transparent with Russia on our plans for missile defense in Europe, which reflect a growing threat to our allies from Iran that we are committed to deterring," insisted National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.
And he added: "In multiple channels, we have explained to Russian officials that the missile defense systems planned for deployment in Europe do not and cannot threaten Russia's strategic deterrent."
He was speaking after Russia warned it could deploy missiles on the EU's borders to strike against the planned missile defense facilities.
President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow was prepared to deploy short-range Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad enclave that borders EU members Poland and Lithuania.
Romania and Poland have agreed to host part of a revamped US missile shield which Washington said is aimed solely at "rogue" states like Iran but Moscow believes would also target its own capability.
NATO member Turkey has also decided to host an early warning radar at a military facility near Malatya in the southeast.
Vietor said the implementation of the missile system in eastern Europe "is going well and we see no basis for threats to withdraw from it."
"We continue to believe that cooperation with Russia on missile defense can enhance the security of the United States, our allies in Europe, and Russia, and we will continue to work with Russia to define the parameters of possible cooperation," he added.
"However, in pursuing this cooperation, we will not in any way limit or change our deployment plans in Europe."
A Pentagon spokesman also stressed Wednesday that the system was not aimed at Russia, but sought to deter any ballistic missile threat from Iran.
"It's worth reiterating that the European missile defense system that we've been working very hard on with our allies and with Russia over the last few years is not aimed at Russia," said spokesman, Navy Captain John Kirby.
"It's designed to help deter and defeat the ballistic missile threat to Europe and to our allies from Iran."
© 2011 AFP