Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher on Planned Missile Defense 'There Is No Reason for Antagonism if Russia Shares Same Threat'

Ellen Tauscher, a Democratic member of Congress in the United States, discusses the Bush administration's plan to station part of its missile defense system in Poland, Russia's resistance and the wave of negative sentiment it has unleashed in Europe.

A US interceptor missile: "Embarrassing tests"

A US interceptor missile: "Embarrassing tests"

SPIEGEL: Congresswoman Tauscher, the Bush administration likes to compare the ambitious plans for a missile defense shield with the moon landing or the building of the Atomic bomb. Are Democrats similarly enthusiastic?

Tauscher: We share the same kind of deep concern about the threats that we see developing, concern about short- und medium-range missile threats coming from the Middle East. That is worrisome and we have to find a comprehensive solution. There is a lot of confusion as to exactly what kind of a system this is.

SPIEGEL: So what do you propose?

Tauscher: The credibility of our last line of defense against a missile threat is a top priority. But I am concerned that the administration is moving forward with this program on a bilateral basis, outside an overarching NATO framework. While it is true that NATO nations traditionally develop weapon systems and offer those capabilities to the alliance, there is usually a NATO requirement for those capabilities. I believe that it is in the fundamental interest of the United States to obtain NATO's support. We need to send a clear signal once and for all that the days of "Old Europe" and "New Europe" are over and done with.

SPIEGEL: You proposed a bill which would reduce the funding for missile defense -- especially the money needed to start building silos in Poland.

Tauscher: In the bill, what we have done is we have effectively said that we don't want construction to begin. We don't want site preparation to begin. We want engagement on a diplomatic level. So we will slow them down. The current threat is short- and mid-range, I am for protecting against that now. The long-range threat, analysts say, will come out of Iran in 2015.

SPIEGEL: Many experts argue that mobile systems would provide a better defense than missiles stationed in silos like those planned in Poland.

Tauscher: Before we begin to build poles in the ground and make a huge investment -- after all, the site could end up costing close to $4 billion -- we have to find out what the best solution really is. I am concerned that the proposed shield would not cover all of Europe and that the Southern flank -- Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania -- would be vulnerable to medium range missile threats. And I am concerned that more mobile systems have not been examined.

SPIEGEL: Does America's missile defense system really work?

US Representative Ellen Tauscher: "The current approach is dividing Europe rather than uniting it against a common threat."

US Representative Ellen Tauscher: "The current approach is dividing Europe rather than uniting it against a common threat."

Tauscher: We have increased significantly the amount of accountability and oversight over the Missile Defense Agency. They have been given effectively all the money they wanted for the last 6 years. While we have a site in Alaska and a site in California, we had an embarrassing number of tests that have not created a suitable deterrent. Unfortunately, we have not been rigorous enough in forcing the system to meet the kind of operational flight testing and counter measures and real threat scenarios that would cause people to believe it really works. All you have is a political claim that you have put a missile defense system out there. Democrats want a system that works -- one that protects the United States, our soldiers, our assets around the world and especially our allies in Europe.

SPIEGEL: So it doesn't make any sense to deploy it in Poland without knowing whether it works or not?

Tauscher: That is right. It is not clear why there should be a rush to build a fixed site. Fixed sites are very big targets and are more easy to defeat than capabilities that are mobile. So I have a preference for mobility, for land and sea-based systems which can be deployed to new locations if the threat evolves.

SPIEGEL: Do you think the Russians would accept such a solution?

Tauscher: The Russians have no veto over our national security, and I am sure that the Germans feel the same way. But there is no reason for antagonism if Russia shares the same threat we do. The way the Bush administration handled these negotiations has created a lot of hostilities and has caused uneccessary saber rattling. The current approach is dividing Europe rather than uniting it against a common threat.

SPIEGEL: Do you think there will be more consultations -- as Chancellor Angela Merkel has proposed -- before the US actually starts building the system in Europe?

Tauscher: Yes. I talked to her when she was in Washington and I think that we are absolutely congruent. We have to make sure that people actually understand what we do, get them to buy into the idea in parliaments and governments around Europe. There should be no hostilility at all. People should actually belooking forward to it because it provides them the protection that we think they need.

SPIEGEL: Do you believe you will get the votes in the House and the Senate to slow development of the system?

Tauscher: Yes, I do.

Interview conducted by Georg Mascolo.


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