Biden to Visit Poland, Romania and Czech Republic
By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Washington — Vice President Biden will travel to Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic to discuss a range of issues at a critical time for East European nations that are transitioning from local agendas to a broader global security environment, Biden’s senior national security adviser said October 19.
All three nations are NATO members, all are involved in security operations in Afghanistan, and all are involved in the advancement of democracy, Tony Blinken, national security adviser to the vice president, said in a briefing with reporters before Biden leaves for Europe October 20. Biden will consult with leaders in Warsaw, Bucharest and Prague October 20–23.
“The United States is thinking about the region less in terms of what we can do for Central Europe and more in terms of what we can do with Central Europe,” Blinken said. “The countries are no longer ‘post-communist,’ or ‘in transition’; they are full-fledged members of the NATO alliance and the European Union, with serious and substantial responsibilities.”
Eastern Europe’s security concerns, Blinken said, remain a significant U.S. concern, despite a recent change in a proposed missile defense system for Europe. But Blinken cautioned that the trip is not all about missile defense; it involves a broad range of issues including support for U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan, advancing democracy in Eastern Europe, energy and climate change issues, and recovery from the global economic crisis.
During the trip, Europe will mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall that effectively signaled the beginning of the end of the Cold War in Europe and around the world.
“The vice president’s going to mark the moment, but his focus is going to be much more on the future than on the past,” Blinken said. “In his view, the real validation of 1989 is less in what we took down and more in what we built and continue to build together: strong democracies, strong partnerships that deliver for people in all of our countries and beyond.”
As NATO members, Blinken said, each nation is committed to the others’ defense, and all three allies make important contributions with soldiers and civilians to the effort in Afghanistan, as well as in Iraq and in the Balkans.
But missile defense is expected to dominate talks with national leaders and policymakers. On September 17, President Obama announced he would halt plans to install an advanced radar station in the Czech Republic and 10 ground-based missile interceptors in Poland. Instead he said he wanted to build a simpler system using proven technology. (See “Obama Announces New Plan to Defend Europe from Iranian Missiles ( http://www.america.gov/st/peacesec-english/2009/September/20090917132034esnamfuak0.1177637.html ).”)
“The best way to responsibly advance our security and the security of our allies is to deploy a missile defense system that best responds to the threats that we face and that utilizes technology that is both proven and cost-effective,” Obama said. “This new approach will provide capabilities sooner, build on proven systems, and offer greater defenses against the threat of missile attack than the 2007 European missile defense program.”
Beginning in 2011, the new missile defense architecture would feature deployments of sea- and land-based missile interceptors, primarily upgraded versions of the existing Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), and a range of sensors in Europe to defend against the growing ballistic missile threat from Iran, the White House said in a fact sheet on the new proposal. Current intelligence indicates that short- and medium-range missiles from Iran or other countries pose the greatest threat to Europe.
Blinken said the phased-adaptive system is more focused and is based on new intelligence and proven technology. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said after the president’s announcement that the proposed system can be deployed around the world on relatively short notice during crises or as a situation demands.
“It’s adaptable to future threats,” Blinken said. “It’ll be deployed sooner than the previous program and cover all the countries in NATO.”
Blinken said the United States and its three allies also have a partnership for energy security and combating climate change.
“The countries in Central Europe have a particularly critical role to play in diversifying energy sources and suppliers, promoting efficiency, [and] strengthening the European grids,” he added.
Biden’s trip follows a recent trip by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose European travel included a stop in Moscow for talks with Russian leaders.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)