The Deputy Director for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, Brigadier General Patrick O’Reilly, made the comments in Budapest after talks with Hungarian government representatives.
O’Reilly is on a charm offensive to convince governments in several European capitals to embrace the system Washington wants to build in Poland and the Czech Republic to counter incoming rockets from Iran and North Korea .
However Moscow has condemned the plan saying it could threaten Russia and global security. The head of the Russian strategic missile forces even warned that Russia might train its missiles on Poland and the Czech Republic if they accept the US defense system. Yet, O’Reilly told reporters in Budapest that Russia has nothing to worry about.
"The Russians have expressed concern about our proposal, which has surprised us," he said. "The location in Poland and the Czech Republic is not good for defense of the US from a Russian missile arsenal. This is not set up to counter Russian missiles."
However even some European Union officials are worried, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who urged the US to coordinate its missile defense program with NATO.
Despite the tensions, O’Reilly suggested he was optimistic that the negotiations with Poland and the Czech Republic will be concluded successfully and that the defense system can be operational within four years.
He said the US plans to spend two billion dollars on 10 interceptors in Poland, from where rockets without warheads can be fired to destroy long range ballistic missiles in mid-air. A further half a billion dollars will be spend on special radars in the Czech Republic, which form part of the defense system.
O’Reilly, who met Hungarian Defense and Foreign affairs officials on Wednesday, March 28, said the US system is aimed to protect both the United States and its allies against a growing missile threat from what he called "rogue states" and terror organizations.
"We are very concerned about the threat of long range ballistic missiles. Twenty years ago eight countries had ballistic missiles. Today 24 have them and we are very concerned that that number continues to grow," he explained. "That number is not only growing from North Korean activities, where we have watched what they have build and seen their technologies proliferated but also the utilization of those technologies by Iran."
In addition, O’Reilly said the US remains concerned that a growing number of terror organizations have missiles, including Hezbollah, which he claimed fired "over 4,000 missiles into Israel last summer."
Hungary was the first stop on O’Reilly’s one-week trip to Europe. A US official speaking on condition of anonymity told BosNewsLife that the general will also meet officials in Poland as well as Greece , Spain and Turkey.