NATO's chief on Monday expressed the Western alliance'sdetermination to move ahead with building an operational missiledefense system, following what he called its first successfulcomprehensive test. After a NATO summit in Chicago later this month, "we will continueto expand the system toward full operational capability," NATOSecretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen wrote in an op-ed piece inThe Wall Street Journal. "The alliance has already developed an initial command-and-controlsystem to link the US assets with sensors and interceptors providedby European allies," Rasmussen pointed out. "I expect more announcements in the months and years ahead." NATO leaders are hoping to declare the start of an "interimcapability" for the missile shield at the summit in Chicago on May20-21. According to Rasmussen, this "interim capability" will provide thealliance with a limited but operationally meaningful andimmediately available capability against a ballistic-missilethreat. |
"It is the first step, but a real step, toward providing fullcoverage for all NATO populations, territory and forces in Europe,"he wrote. However, the alliance and Russia have failed to reach a compromiseon the system, which Russia fears would thwart its nucleardeterrent despite NATO assurances that it is aimed at Iran andother threats. Moscow has demanded legally-binding guarantees that the missileshield will not undermine its arsenal, but NATO refuses to enterinto such an agreement and has instead offered politicalreassurances. Ratcheting up the heat, Russia warned this month that it might haveto deploy new missiles in Europe to potentially take out elementsof the controversial shield.
Russian Chief of Staff General Nikolai Makarov said one option wasfor Russia to station short-range Iskander missiles in itsKaliningrad enclave near Poland. Rasmussen did not comment of Moscow's threats. But he announced that last month NATO conducted the firstcomprehensive test of the missile-defense capability, during whichUS ship, radar and satellite, as well as interceptor batteries fromGermany and the Netherlands, conducted a series of simulatedengagements to test the alliance's ability to defend againstmissile attacks. He said the test was successful. "The test was a clear demonstration of trans-Atlantic solidarity inaction," said the NATO chief.
"It also shows NATO's continuingdetermination to protect our members' territory and populationsfrom attack and the threat of attack." The first elements of the US network of satellites, sensors andsea-based interceptors are already deployed to Europe, Rasmussensaid. The Netherlands has announced plans to upgrade four air-defensefrigates with missile-defense radar, while France, according to theNATO chief, plans to develop an early-warning capability andlong-range radar. Germany has offered Patriot missile batteries and is hosting theNATO command-and-control at Headquarters Alliance Air Command inRamstein. Meanwhile, Turkey, Romania, Poland and Spain have all agreed tohost US assets, Rasmussen pointed out.
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