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Remarks at Sixth Annual Missile Defense Conference

John C. Rood, Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
Washington, DC
March 31, 2008

(As prepared for delivery)

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this morning. Also thank you for that kind introduction. I'm pleased that the Ambassadors of the Czech Republic and Poland have joined us today, and would also like to thank AIAA, the Boeing Company, and the Missile Defense Agency for hosting this event.

I also want to congratulate General 0'Reilly on his nomination to be the next Director of the Missile Defense Agency.

And before I begin my remarks I would like to take a moment to recognize General Obering for his service as Director of the Missile Defense Agency. General Obering has presided over tremendous growth of the U.S. missile defense system over the past few years here in the United States. He has also been an excellent "ambassador" the expansion of our international missile defense efforts. As I worked on this speech last night, I reflected on all the hours we have spent together whether at 2:00 in the morning at flight tests in the MIC or at various meetings in the Pentagon, White House, or elsewhere. We have also had the pleasure of traveling together to the corners of the globe over the past 7 years to Fort Greeley, Alaska; Colorado Springs; Tokyo; Moscow; Berlin, Brussels, Mastricht, London, and I could on and on. Thank you for your leadership, thank you for a" that you have done for the program, and thank you for your friendship. You will definitely be missed.

This is an important week for missile defense for a number of reasons.

First, at this conference, over a thousand people who are leaders in missile defense from industry, the Administration, Members of Congress, and academia will gather here at the Ronald Reagan Center to discuss a range of missile defense issues. It's fitting that this conference is being held at the Reagan Center so we can reflect on the fact that 25 years ago President Reagan gave his landmark speech to the nation on the need for a missile defense system.

Later this week, while this conference takes place, President Bush and the other 25 leaders of NATO nations will gather in Bucharest, Romania. Among other things, they will talk about missile defense, and how the Alliance can best address the growing missile threat.

Another important activity this week is our negotiations with the Czech Republic on deployment of a radar in that country as part of a third site of the U.S. missile defense system in Europe. We stand on the cusp of completing those negotiations and I am hopeful that with a burst of activity over the next few days that we can complete them.

And, finally, at the end of the week, President Bush will travel to Sochi in southern Russia to meet with President Putin. Over the past two weeks, we've made significant progress on missile defense with the Russians at the soc-called 2+2 talks in Moscow between Secretary of State Rice and Secretary of Defense Gates and their Russian counterparts, and at discussions I hosted last week in Washington with a Russian delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Kislyak. We're hopeful that the two Presidents can continue to make progress toward resolving the concerns expressed by the Russians about our plans to deploy the third site in Europe.

Since this conference was held a year ago, a lot has happened. For starters, the missile threat has continued to grow. Syria, North Korea, Iran, China, and other nations have continued to make strides in the their missile programs.

Iran's activities have been particularly concerning. As the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, LTG Maples said in testimony to Congress earlier this month, "Iran continues to develop and acquire ballistic missiles that can hit Israel and central Europe, including Iranian claims of an extended-range variant of the Shahab-3 and a new 2,000km medium range ballistic missile (MRBM) called the Ashura. Beyond the steady growth in its missile and rocket inventories, Iran has boosted the lethality and effectiveness of existing systems with accuracy improvements and new sub-munition payload."

For his part President Ahmadinejad has boasted of Iran's progress, including its February 4 space-launch. The rocket launched appeared to be a Shahab-3 based on the video that Iran released. Iran also distributed photographs and video of a new system in development called Safir. This system appears to be much larger than the Shahab-3 and is likely the system Tehran will use when they attempt to place the "Omidswa satellite in orbit perhaps later this year. As you know, space launch vehicles use much of the same technology as long-range missiles.

I know that there are some critics who challenge the imminence of the Iranian missile threat, but unfortunately our intelligence agencies continue to report that lran is making progress toward longer-range missiles of greater sophistication. We hope to have the third site in place to provide greater protection for the United States and to extend coverage to our NATO allies around the middle of the next decade, which is about the same time that the Intelligence Community estimates that lran could have long-range missiles capable of reaching the United States.

Of course, it is possible that the threat from Iran could emerge even faster than our current estimates. Despite our best efforts, we have been surprised before at how rapidly a nation can make technological advances. North Korea's 1998 launch of a Taepo-dong-I over Japan is a case in point.

More recently, the North Korea's launch of seven missile launches on July 4 and 5, 2006, demonstrated a significant degree of operational sophistication and reliability. Recall that six of these seven launches were successful, with only the Taepo-dong4 ICBM launch ending in failure.

Given the history of cooperation between lran and North Korea, it is also possible that lran could either acquire from North Korea complete missile systems with even longer ranges or critical help needed to accelerate its own missile development programs.

I have talked a lot about lranian capabilities -- one element of what constitutes the definition of a "threat." Let me take a few moments to talk about the other element -- "intent."

Here too, we have ample reason for concern. In addition to the all too familiar scenes of lranian leaders before crowds chanting "death to America." President Ahmadinejad has spoken quite plainly about the intentions of the Iranian regime over the years. He has called for "wiping Israel off the map," "destruction of Anglo-Saxon civilization," and encouraged his followers to work for a "worwld without America."

It's tempting to dismiss this talk as hyperbole, political theater for the masses. It is hard for those of us in liberal societies to understand ideologies of hate and destruction. Yet, history shows us that this can be a tragic mistake.

The horrors of Nazi aggression and occupation, and concentration camps only clarified the seriousness of Hitlefs earlier ravings against Jews and other perceived "enemies." We learned this lesson again on 9/11 when Osama bin-Laden translated his hateful ideology and desire for a "war against the Americans" into grisly attacks on our soil.

It is this context that the Administration has approached our European Site Initiative to place a radar in the Czech Republic and ground-based interceptors in Poland and why, over the past year, we have proceeded with such vigor and determination.

Technical analysis showed that Poland and the Czech Republic are the optimal locations for fielding U.S. missile defense assets in Europe to maximize the defensive coverage of both Europe and the United States.

We began negotiations to base missile defense assets in those countries in May 2007 and have had extensive talks since then. The negotiations have covered the range of issues you would expect associated with missile defense operations. And we have spent considerable time dealing with a full basket of issues associated with basing U.S. military facilities on the soil of countries who are understandably sensitive about protecting their sovereignty given their unhappy experience with other foreign troops from the Soviet Union during decades of occupation.

These negotiations, and the European Site Initiative, is in many ways the largest manifestation of the thinking that led this Administration to drop the "N" from "NMD" or national missile defense to make clear that we intended to pursue missile defenses to protect both the United States and our a"ies from missile attack. History has shown us the importance of linking our security to that of our allies.

The Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic and Poland have both made recent visits to Washington for Oval Office meetings with the President. Missile defense was the major topic discussed during both visits.

As I mentioned earlier, we are very close to completing negotiations with the Czech Republic and I hope that with a final burst of activity that we will be able to do so in the coming days.

I also remain optimistic that we can successfully conclude negotiations with Poland as well, although there are still some important issues yet to be resolved in that negotiation.

The negotiations we have held with Poland and the Czech Republic have brought about strong complaints by Russia, including reprehensible threats to target missiles at Poland and the Czech Republic. In response, the Administration has sought to allay Russian concerns, by engaging in the most extensive and far-reaching dialogue of its kind. In this process, we have learned a great deal about Russia's concerns, including the fact that Russia's primary concern is that these facilities would be placed in NATO states that formerly were part of the Warsaw Pact. The Russians have explained that if these missile defense facilities were located elsewhere in Europe that they would not be concerned.

As part of this dialogue, the United States has also offered far-reaching proposals on missile defense cooperation. Our thought has been that missile defense cooperation is the best confidence building measure we could offer, which is why last April the U.S. offered to cooperate with Russia across the full spectrum of missile defense activities. Since then, we have gone further, offering the prospect of a joint regional missile defense architecture between Russia, the United States, and NATO.

The Russians have not responded positively to these offers for missile defense cooperation. The United States has however developed ideas for transparency and confidence building measures like reciprocal exchanges of liaison officials that could conduct monitoring and inspections at facilities in the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, and the United States, as well as information exchanges and technical measures. In a significant warming of Russia's public posture, at the 2+2 meeting two weeks ago in Moscow, President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov described these ideas as "serious", "important," and "useful," words that were echoed during my discussions last week with Deputy Foreign Minister Kislyak. We are hopeful that when President Bush meets with President Putin in a few days that we can make even more progress. While it would be unrealistic for Russia to endorse the U.S. deployment of missile defenses in Europe, we are hopeful that with the measures we have offered, that Moscow will conclude that it's concerns have been allayed and we can put this dispute behind us.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the tremendous progress that has been made over the past year at NATO. In a debate that mirrored the debate we had in the United States in the 1990s, last Spring, many in NATO questioned the missile threat. Some questioned whether missile defense was an appropriate response to the threat.

Early Russian wedge driving was causing divisions among allies about our negotiations with Poland and Czech Republic. But since that time, we have come a long way.

This week in Bucharest, NATO Heads of State and Government will meet at their annual Summit. I expect that at the summit that all allies will agree that there is a growing missile threat and that missile defense is an important part of a response to that threat. I also expect NATO to recognize the protection that would be afforded by the European based assets proposed by the U.S. and to set further work in motion to expand missile defense protection for allies.

As President Bush said on February 27 following his meeting with Czech Prime Minister Topolanek: "...[O]ur job as leaders is to deal with the issues of the day, but also deal with the issues of tomorrow in a way that yields a peaceful world. And that's what we're doing."

We take seriously the need to give America and its allies the means to deal with the emerging threats that we see to our security. Weyve made tremendous progress in recent years and over the past year.

So in closing, let me just pass along my hopes for continued progress over the next few days and a conversation I had with my daughter this weekend. She is about to turn 7 and we had a discussion about lucky and unlucky numbers. Of course, some people think the number 7 is lucky. And I was stuck as I prepared these remarks that in addition to being a good omen for my daughter's next year, that 7 was very prevalent in our missile defense activities.

We have held 7 rounds of negotiations with the Czech Republic, 7 meetings of missile defense experts with the Russians, our next round of negotiations with Poland will be our 7th, and the 26 members of NATO will meet this week.

And as I said at the outset of my remarks, this is a big week in missile defense. And I hope that when the sun rises on April 7th that we can look back on the significant progress that was achieved over these next 7 days.

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you. I would be happy to take some questions.

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