US asks Europe to pay up for missile

US asks Europe to pay up for missile

A U.S. congressional panel demanded on April 26 that European allies foot more of the bill for a multibillion-dollar shield being built to guard NATO members from missiles that might some day be able to carry nuclear warheads, notably from Iran.

The House of Representatives’ Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee voted to hold back 25 percent of funds authorized for certain shield expenses until the NATO allies spell out their contributions. The allies at a 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon welcomed the U.S.-built bulwark, dubbed by the White House the European Phased Adaptive Approach, as Washington’s contribution to the alliance’s missile defense. The shield is a four-phase program designed chiefly to counter the perceived threat from Iran, which the West is pressing, through sanctions and other measures, to curb its nuclear program.

The measure is part of the Republican-led House’s version of the 2013 defense authorization bill, which guides military policy and spending for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. It was adopted by a unanimous vote during a 3-1/2 minute subcommittee session. The bill must be meshed with the Democratic-led Senate’s version before it can be sent to the president for signing into law. The Senate is expected to start crafting its bill next month. The administration’s stance on the push for more European funding was not immediately clear. Some of the allies have systems of their own that they may add to the collective defense, including Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Co “Patriot” anti-missile batteries and land- and sea-based sensors. Romania and Poland have agreed to host Standard Missile-3 interceptor sites on their soil. Turkey is hosting an advanced missile-defense radar and Spain is serving as home port for four destroyers equipped with Lockheed’s “Aegis” ballistic missile-defense combat system.

Full cost unknown

Subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner, a Republican, said in a guest column in Roll Call newspaper on Thursday that the United States can no longer afford, if it ever could, to pay for Europe’s missile defense all by itself, “especially not if it means neglecting the missile defense of the American people.” At issue, he said, was the system’s “enormous” price at a time when the United States was obligated to reduced its budget deficit. The system’s full cost is unknown, an Armed Services Committee document said, partly because there was no agreed definition on its elements. The bill directs the administration to seek support from European countries through “pre-financing,” a process by which NATO members providing capabilities to the 28-nation pact can be repaid.