A high-level security conference in Munich this weekend exposed rifts between the US and its European allies on the issues of a US missile defense system and the deployment of a "rapid reaction" European Union force. The US missile defense system took center stage over the weekend as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced the Bush administration's plan to go ahead with development and deployment, unilaterally if necessary. Deliberately dropping "national" or "US" from his references to the system, Rumsfeld offered to develop it with European allies and extend its protection to their countries as well. Nonetheless, the European response was guarded and cautiously negative. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder warned the US against "overly hasty and early determinations" about deploying missile defenses. The reaction of Russia was more pointed, referring to the possible development of a new arms race that could extend even into outer space (the Bush administration is considering a laser defense system) and the system's violation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Rumsfeld dismissed European fears as unfounded and suggested that the relationship with Russia needed to be renegotiated on the ground of current threats, rather than outdated cold war assumptions. In the meantime, talks at the conference also revealed some US concern over current European Union plans to develop a "rapid reaction" force that could operate independently of NATO. Turkey's opposition to such a force, combined with the US's concerns, may help to ultimately kill the project.
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