NATO Hedges on Justification for Antimissile Plan

NATO has yet to settle on several major elements of a revised strategic concept slated for possible adoption this month, including its official reasoning for potentially developing an alliance-wide antimissile system, the New York Times reported (see GSN, Nov. 2).

NATO nations are expected to determine at their Nov. 19-21 summit in Lisbon, Portugal, whether to formally include missile defense among alliance objectives, paving the way for a program to integrate and augment the protective systems of member countries.

The alliance primarily sees the shield as a means of countering an Iranian ballistic missile threat. Still, NATO has avoided referring directly to the perceived danger amid Western diplomatic overtures to Iran over its nuclear program, as well as the Middle Eastern nation's close ties with alliance member Turkey.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in an interview skirted discussing specific dangers the proposed missile defense system is aimed at addressing. “More than 30 countries in the world have missile technology, and some of them can hit targets in allied territory,” he said (Steven Erlanger, New York Times, Nov. 2).

The alliance must decide at this month's summit whether to move forward with the antimissile plan, RIA Novosti quoted Rasmussen as saying on multiple occasions (RIA Novosti I, Nov. 2).

Turkey has sought to strike mentions of specific state missile threats from the strategy document, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

"The security assessment should be generic," a Turkish Foreign Ministry insider wrote in an e-mail. "It should not name any country, as the situation can change in time. Any threat to any member from any third party should be met by all members, so no need for name-calling."

One Turkish expert voiced concern that the defense plan would force Ankara to choose between aligning itself with either security-provider NATO or major commerce source Iran.

"This is the dilemma. Turkey needs more security and this is only provided with NATO membership. Turkey should not and cannot leave NATO because of this program," said Huseyin Bilgi, an international relations professor at the Ankara-based Middle East Technical University. "If Turkey is not acting together with NATO, then the concerns in the West in general that Turkey is turning away from the West will be strengthened.

"And this is, I would say, an important test for the Turkish government to prove whether they are really in favor of staying in NATO and put NATO forward, or prefer not to do this and be on good terms with Iran," Bilgi added (Robert Tait, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Nov. 2).

The alliance has also avoided referring to any missile threat posed by Russia, which it sees as a potential collaborator on the project. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is slated to attend the summit (Erlanger, New York Times).

Details collected by Medvedev on the missile defense proposal during a meeting today with Rasmussen would aid Moscow in gauging how the shield would affect Russian strategic security, RIA Novosti quoted Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin as saying yesterday. The Kremlin has opposed efforts to field elements of the system near its territory, despite NATO and U.S. assurances that the planned defenses is not intended to counter Moscow's strategic deterrent (RIA Novosti I).

"If it is simply a U.S. system built on European soil with European money and without any guarantees that will not be targeted against Russia, that is unacceptable to us," Rogozin said. "We hope that some cards will be opened before the [strategy] document is officially made public" (RIA Novosti II, Nov. 2).

Meanwhile, NATO member nations were also still negotiating how the alliance's new strategy document would address nuclear weapons, the Times reported (see GSN, Oct. 28; Erlanger, New York Times).

November 3, 2010
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NATO has yet to settle on several major elements of a revised strategic concept slated for possible adoption this month, including its official reasoning for potentially developing an alliance-wide antimissile system, the New York Times reported (see GSN, Nov. 2).