WASHINGTON — A senior Defense Department official said Thursday that the United States is considering options for European missile defense other than current plans for a system based in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow told lawmakers in the House of Representatives at a hearing on relations with Russia that the Obama administration is looking at various configurations as part of its review of missile defense plans.
"The site in Poland and the radar in the Czech Republic are among the options that are being considered, together with other options that might be able to perform the mission as well," Vershbow said.
The administration has been seeking better relations with Russia, which adamantly opposes the U.S. plans made by the former Bush administration to install 10 interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic. Russia has said continuing with the employment would undermine talks launched by the U.S. and Russian presidents on renewed cooperation.
While ordering a review of the plans, the Obama administration has maintained the Bush administration's argument that the European missile defense plans are aimed at countering a threat from Iran and pose no threat to Russia. The administration also has been sensitive to the possibility that canceling the plans in Poland and the Czech Republic will harm relations with those two allies.
Vershbow said the missile defense review will look at a range of options, but will not take Russia's objection into account.
"We are reviewing these internally; we are not engaged in a discussion with the Russians about alternative options at this point," he said. "Our conclusions will be based exclusively on the threat from Iran, the effectiveness of the systems and the cost."