Debate urged on U.K. role in missile system
RAF MILDENHALL, England — Nearly 60 members of Britain’s ruling Labor Party last week called for an open debate on their country’s role in the planned U.S. missile defense system.
Military communications at RAF Menwith Hill and radar at RAF Fylingdales in northern England would be used in the system, along with planned stations in the Czech Republic and Poland.
"We urge the U.K. government to arrange a full debate to allow MPs to scrutinize in public the U.S. Missile Defence deployment plans in the U.K.," the statement reads
Menwith Hill is largely a National Security Agency eavesdropping station run by U.S. Air Force personnel, while Fylingdales is staffed with British military members.
This latest call for debate follows previous entreaties for more discussion of the shield and the U.K.’s place in it.
It also happened the same week as Russia — one day after Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was elected U.S. president — threatened to deploy missiles and jamming missiles to Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave near the Polish-Lithuanian border.
In Britain, critics say the way the government announced U.K. participation in the U.S. missile defense system stifled public debate.
The Liberal Democrat party criticized the Labor government for issuing a press release on it a day before Parliamentary recess in the summer of 2007.
Kate Hudson, head of Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said Britons have the right to expect their elected leaders to discuss such a contentious project, one that could further destabilize U.S.-Russia relations and start a renewed arms race.
A poll commissioned by the group recently shows more than 60 percent of Britons are concerned about their country’s part in the shield plan, Hudson said.
Proponents say the shield is essential to protecting Europe from missiles fired from rogue states or Islamist groups.
In August, a State Department official announced that about 100 U.S. soldiers would man a Patriot missile battery in Poland as part of the shield, with hopes for a garrison to be established by 2012.
The 100 soldiers would include air defenders to operate the battery as well as security and support personnel.
The battery would be moved to Poland from units stationed in Germany or Texas.
The system, often touted as the "Son of Star Wars" because it takes cues from former President Ronald Reagan’s similar initiatives, is criticized by opponents as unproven, expensive and potentially destabilizing.
Negotiations between the U.S., Poland and the Czech Republic are ongoing, but earlier this month U.S. Missile Defense Agency head Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering III said the U.S. will build its shield regardless of Polish or Czech cooperation, according to the Associated Press.
"There’s an urgency to getting the schedule on," Obering said.