French President Nicolas Sarkozy undercut the American rationale for a U.S. missile shield in Eastern Europe on Friday by saying that the system would do nothing to improve European security.
Sarkozy’s comments were the strongest to date by an American ally against the missile-defense plans, which have infuriated Russia despite the Bush administration‘s insistence that they are aimed at protecting Europe from Iran.
By ANGELA CHARLTON, Associated Press Writer
France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy (L), welcomes Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev (R) at the start of a EU-Russia summit in Nice, November 14, 2008. At rear is Christian Estrosi the mayor of Nice. REUTERS/Pascal Deschamps
“Deployment of a missile defense system would bring nothing to security in Europe … it would complicate things, and would make them move backward,” Sarkozy said after a summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev smiled and pointed his finger at Sarkozy in approval after the comments from the French president.
The remarks came at the end of a week in which the United States and Russia rejected each other’s proposed solutions to the standoff over the missile plans, making it increasingly likely that it will not be resolved before U.S. President-elect Barack Obama takes office.
Obama has not been explicit about his intentions on European missile defense, saying it would be prudent to “explore the possibility” but expressing some skepticism about the technical capability of U.S. missile defenses.
Moscow sees the defense plans as a Cold War-style project that could eliminate Russia’s nuclear deterrent or spy on its military installations. Russia recently threatened to install short-range missiles close to EU borders in response to the U.S. plans for a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Much of Western Europe is nervous about the idea of such major defensive weaponry stationed around the continent.
Sarkozy has generally been hawkish on Iran and allied himself more closely with Bush than his predecessor Jacques Chirac. But Sarkozy is also clearly looking ahead to his relations with Bush’s successor.