The Cable

Senators call for NATO missile defense in Georgia

Four Republican senators are calling on the Obama administration to place a sensitive missile defense-related radar site in Georgia, rather than in Turkey, as is currently planned.

"We believe that the U.S. should deploy the most effective missile defenses possible -- in partnership with our allies -- that provide for the protection of the U.S. homeland, our deployed forces, and our allies," began a Feb. 3 letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates signed by Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), James Risch (R-ID), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and James Inhofe (R-OK).

The senators are responding to statements from the Turkish government that it would only agree to host the new radar, known as TPY-2, if the United States agrees not to share with Israel any of the information gathered by the radar site, which is part of a NATO system discussed at the recent Lisbon summit. Turkey also wants command and control over the radar and wants NATO to remove any references to Iran as the threat targeted by the missile shield.

For all these reasons, the senators think Georgia would be a better option.

"We believe that the Republic of Georgia's geographic location would make it an ideal site for a missile defense radar aimed at Iran, and would offer clear advantages for the protection of the United States from a long range missile as compared to Turkey," the senators wrote. "What's more, the Republic of Georgia should be a significant partner for future defense cooperation with the U.S."

The senators asked Gates to tell them if Georgia was under consideration as a possible host for the radar site and, if not, what other alternatives the Pentagon is considering.

The prospects of NATO or the Obama administration actually placing a missile defense radar site in Georgia are slim, considering that Georgia is not in NATO and that the consequences for U.S. -Russia and NATO-Russia relations could be devastating.

But the letter is a sure sign that the new Congress is prepared to ramp up its advocacy of restoring defense cooperation with Georgia, which has slowed to a crawl since the 2008 Russian invasion. Other senators who are calling for more military support and cooperation for Georgia include John McCain (R-AZ), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Richard Lugar (R-IN), the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"The United States, under substantial Russian diplomatic pressure, has paused the transfer of lethal military articles to Georgia, and no U.S. assistance since the war has been directly provided to the Georgian Ministry of Defense," Lugar wrote in a December 2009 report. "Consequently, Georgia lacks basic capacity for territorial defense."

The Cable

Ros-Lehtinen to call Obama team to testify on Egypt

House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) will bring two top national security officials to Capitol Hill next week to testify on the administration's policy concerning Egypt, and its implications for the escalating crisis there.

Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy will testify next Thursday before the GOP-led committee. But before Ros-Lehtinen hears from the administration officials, she will first call upon two former Republican officials for their take on the upheaval in Egypt: Former NSC Middle East senior director Elliott Abrams and Lorne Craner, a former assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights, and labor during President George W. Bush's first term. Craner is now president of the International Republican Institute.

Ros-Lehtinen, who has already pledged to examine cutting aid to countries that don't support U.S. interests, called this week for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to go further than his promise not to run for president again in September.

"Continuing with the existing timeline for elections is not going to help stabilize the situation in Egypt. It will only embolden the extremist elements and frustrate the Egyptian people, who seek peaceful, legitimate, democratic change," read a statement she released on Feb. 1. "Far-off promises of change won't cut it after decades of waiting for political and economic reforms."

But Ros-Lehtinen might also use the hearings to publicize the argument that certain elements of the Egyptian opposition, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, might have be excluded from the new process.

"Further, opposition leaders must categorically reject the involvement of extremist elements who are trying to use this crisis to gain power, hijack Egypt's future, and seriously damage Egypt's relationship with the United States, Israel, and others," she said.

On Jan. 29, Ros-Lehtinen set out what she sees as the standards by which the Obama administration should judge opposition groups.

"The U.S. should learn from past mistakes and support a process which only includes candidates who meet basic standards for leaders of responsible nations: Candidates who have publicly renounced terrorism, uphold the rule of law, recognize Egypt's international commitments including its nonproliferation obligations and its peace agreement with the Jewish State of Israel, and who ensure security and peace with its neighbors," she said in a statement.