Chirac warns US on missile base plan

By Daniel Dombey and Bertrand Benoit in Brussels and Guy Dinmore in Washington

Financial Times

Published: March 10 2007

Jacques Chirac bowed out of what might be his last European Union summit by warning that US plans to install missile defence bases in Europe could split the continent and provoke a fresh cold war.

The French president said Europe and the US needed to consider Russia’s concerns about the projected missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.

“We should be very careful about encouraging the creation of a new dividing line in Europe or a return of the order of the past,” he said.

His comments marked the first French intervention in the debate since the US formally requested the use of Polish and Czech bases this year. They were also the latest indication of deep concern among western European Nato governments that the plans will hurt ties with Moscow.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia has said siting the bases in the former Warsaw Pact states would break 1990s-era understandings with the US and lead to an “inevitable arms race”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany called on the US this week to consult Russia further about the programme, principally within a Nato-Russia forum.

Washington is dismayed by what it sees as an eagerness to placate Moscow at the expense of solidarity within the alliance.

The US says the bases are intended to protect against missiles from Iran. It says Russian missiles could easily overwhelm the 10 interceptors the US wants to place in Poland.