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Inconsistent Statements on the Primary Aim of European Missile Defense

Defense News quotes Rich Lehner, a spokesman for the US Missile Defense Agency: "deployment of interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic is designed specifically to defend most of Europe."

According to Defense News, Lehner's statements appear to contradict the understanding of US policymakers, including Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee:

Tauscher... told a gathering of defense reporters on Nov. 8 that 10 missile interceptors planned for Poland and a radar unit for the Czech Republic are "to protect the United States against a long-range system that will emerge from Iran sometime between 2012 and 2015." When asked by a reporter, "So it's not really to protect Europe?" Tauscher replied, "No, and they now know that."

In response to another question, Tauscher said the European missile defense site "is meant to protect the United States. Now, can it protect Europe? Yes, but not southern Europe and only against long-range systems."

CQ Today reports: as was widely expected, the 2008 defense authorization bill (HR 1585) will block funding for construction of missile defense sites in Europe until agreements are signed with host-nations Poland and the Czech Republic.

"What I've insisted on is that we NATO-ize the system," Tauscher said, adding that the conference report contains a "trap door" that would allow the administration to come back to Congress for the money if and when host nation agreements are signed. "But I don't expect that to happen."