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NATO Moves Ahead With Missile Shield
NATO members on Friday approved plan to establish an integrated and enhanced shield against missile threats, Reuters reported (see GSN, Nov. 18).
The program includes a U.S. plan to deploy a radar base and land- and sea-based missile interceptors around Europe. Obama administration officials said the missile cover -- to be fielded in phases from 2011 to 2020 -- would have the ability to target long-range missiles and ICBMs, Reuters reported.
The plan to integrate European antimissile capabilities alongside U.S. missile defense systems is expected to cost $280 million.
"It offers a role for all of our allies," President Obama said at the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal. "It responds to the threats of our times."
"We look forward to working with Russia to build our cooperation with them in this area as well, recognizing that we share many of the same threats," the U.S. president said.
His administration's Phased Adaptive Approach for Missile Defense in Europe would be at the center of NATO antimissile plans, Obama said.
Under the Obama plan, sea-based interceptors are to be deployed in the Mediterranean starting next year, with the establishment of interceptor batteries in Romania around 2015 and in Poland around 2018. Washington is still seeking Turkey's permission to locate a radar station on its territory.
"This is a phased system and if the threat of long-range missiles, ICBMS, develops, this system will be capable of actually intercepting those missiles coming from the Middle East," said U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder.
Shield specifics, such as where the command and control center would be located, are to be decided in the future, NATO envoys said. It is anticipated that the missile umbrella would be controlled through the NATO military command structure already in place (Spetalnick/Brunnstrom, Reuters I, Nov. 19).
Russia and NATO pledged on Saturday to collaborate on antimissile efforts, Reuters reported.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the two sides had taken a "historic" step.
"Today marks a fresh start in NATO-Russia relations," Rasmussen said. "For the first time in history, NATO countries and Russia will be cooperating to defend themselves."
The agreement came at the NATO summit, where nations from the 28-member alliance adopted a new mission statement to guide alliance actions in the 21st century.
Years of frosty relations have been set aside, said Medvedev, adding "We have large-scale plans, we will be working in all areas, including European missile defense."
The two sides decided to resume a plan geared toward safeguarding Russian and NATO troops from missile strikes that had been on ice since the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia. They also decided to carry out a bilateral analysis on how Moscow could participate in the new effort intended to safeguard North America and Europe from potential long-range missile attacks from the Middle East (Anishchuk/Brunnstrom, Reuters II/Yahoo!News, Nov. 20).
Medvedev said specialists from his nation would take part in preparing the missile defense system but notably did not promise Russian involvement in an active shield, the Associated Press reported.
Moscow could choose not to participate in the missile shield should it believe it is not being given equal standing in the U.S.-led effort, Medvedev warned.
"Our participation has to be a full-fledged exchange of information, or we won't take part at all," he said to journalists.
Obama heralded Moscow's decision to participate in the development of the shield. Rasmussen was also optimistic of Russian participation: "We could cooperate one day in shooting down missiles."
Left unaddressed at the Lisbon summit were the crucial questions of whether European NATO states could pay their share of the costs for the missile shield and whether the system would operate as intended.
"It is quite evident that the Europeans themselves don't have a complete understanding how it will look, how much it will cost. But everybody understands the missile defense system needs to be comprehensive," the Russian president said.
Nuclear power France -- which had earlier opposed giving missile defense equal footing in the alliance with nuclear deterrence -- said it agreed to support the shield once its worries were addressed.
"France would have refused a unilateral project disconnected from reality, or costly -- or if it had been for that matter hostile to Russia or had been a substitute for nuclear deterrence," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said.
Sarkozy pointed out that no nation was singled out as the reason for building a missile shield, though he continued, "France calls a cat a cat: the threat of the missiles today is Iran" (Alan Clendenning, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, Nov. 20).
NATO did not specifically call out Iran as a missile threat in its statement from the summit because of Turkish objections. Ankara agreed to support the alliance pursuit of missile defense when it was assured that no nation would be singled out as a missile danger. Turkey also wants funds to purchase missile defense systems, the New York Times reported on Friday.
The new NATO strategic concept -- the first such mission statement in more than 10 years -- pledges the alliance "to the goal of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons," while reaffirming the strategic premise of NATO nuclear deterrence "as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world." Previous mission statements had not explicitly called for total nuclear disarmament (Erlanger/Calmes, New York Times, Nov. 19).
Medvedev today was reported to have suggested to NATO leaders that Europe be sectioned off into different areas of armed forces oversight, according to Agence France-Presse.
While the Russian president did not provide specifics about the proposal at the Lisbon summit, Russian media today cited officials as asserting the plan would call for Moscow having authority over one area and the alliance the other.
Informed insiders said to the Kommersant that the proposal, conveyed in private discussions, would enable Russia and NATO to develop a bilateral missile shield without having to integrate their antimissile capabilities or share classified information.
"Medvedev's initiative can be be briefly laid out as follows: Moscow is ready to shoot down any object heading to Europe through our territory or our sector of responsibility," an unidentified high-ranking diplomat told the newspaper. "That is literally to defend countries located to the west of Russia.
"Equally NATO should take upon itself similar responsibilities in its sector or sectors: if someone decides to strike at us through Europe -- everything that will fly should be shot down by Americans or NATO member," the diplomat said.
He did not indicate whether Moscow's area would be constrained to only Russian land or if it would envelop former Soviet republics (Agence France-Presse/Spacewar.com, Nov. 22).
Still in dispute is what role nuclear arms would play going ahead in NATO's underlying defense stratagem. The new strategic concept adopted at the summit says the alliance would maintain an "appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities" to ward off a possible attack, AP reported (see GSN, Nov. 19).
Germany and several other NATO states have urged the withdrawal of some 200 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons deployed at six bases in five NATO states -- Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey (Clendenning, Associated Press)
Medvedev said his government would collaborate with NATO in keeping tabs on the nuclear development taking place in individual states such as Iran, United News of India reported.
"Jointly with NATO states, we will closely watch the development of various programs by other countries," the Russian leader said. "We are not indifferent to what the planet's nuclear potential looks like," RIA Novosti reported (United News of India/NewKerala.com, Nov. 21).