HOHENFELS, Germany U.S. and Russian generals, undeterred by recent political tensions over a proposed American missile shield in Europe, said Thursday that their joint training exercises in Germany should expand because of a common enemy: global terrorism.
Lt. Gens. Kenneth Hunzeker of the U.S. and Vladimir Chirkin of Russia outlined the two-week exercise in southern Germany that put soldiers from both countries against an opposing enemy force, in an effort to better coordinate strategy, communications and tactics. It began Dec. 2 and ended today.
About 60 soldiers from the Utah National Guard were headed late last month to Grafenwohr, Germany, for combined training exercises with Russian troops, but it's unclear if the two exercises in Germany are the same one.
Hunzeker said that he and Chirkin "have talked to our soldiers several times and said, 'This is not about politics. This is about how to work (military to military) operations so that our two nations can do that in the future in the global war on terror,"' he said.
"We both strongly believe that this program should expand and that, hopefully, our two nations will see it the same way."
Last week, the United States said it still plans to build the missile defense system in Europe despite findings by its intelligence agencies that Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program.
Because United States officials have said the threat from Iran was the main reason for building the defense shield, however, the Americans may have a harder time persuading European allies that it still is necessary.
The proposed system would include radar installations in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles based in Poland.
The United States has said that those sites were chosen to position the system to counter a threat from Iran. But Russia has objected strenuously to the plans, arguing that the system could lead to a new arms race. The disagreement has led to the worst friction in U.S.-Russian relations since the Cold War.
Despite those concerns, the joint-training exercise went ahead. It was dubbed "Torgau 2007," named after the place where U.S. and Soviet armies linked up near the end of World War II as they moved to defeat Nazi Germany.Chirkin said the concerns about the shield will be "considered by mainly politicians and not by the military."
Contributing: Stephen Speckman, Deseret Morning News