NATO Reaffirms Faith in Antimissile System

Efforts to establish a European missile defense system are moving forward smoothly, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the Associated Press on Monday (see GSN, April 27).

The 28-member alliance intends at a summit in Chicago next month to formally declare that the first components of the shield are in place, Rasmussen said.

"This will make it possible to protect parts of NATO territory, and that concept will be further developed in the coming years so that we will gradually be able to protect all the populations in European NATO countries," the official said. "As far as NATO is concerned, we have tested the systems and they work."

The White House's "phased adaptive approach" through 2020 is to field increasingly advanced Standard Missile 3 interceptors on bases in Poland and Romania and on Aegis-equipped missile destroyers home ported in Spain. An accompanying long-range radar system has already been established in Turkey. The U.S. effort is to form the core of a broader NATO initiative to link up and augment individual member nations' antimissile programs for the stated goal of deterring a possible ballistic missile strike from the Middle East.

Recent assessments by the U.S. Government Accountability Office and Defense Science Board, though, raised concerns over excessive spending on the effort as well as shortcomings in its planned execution. Potential issues include the need for stronger radars and the threat that decoys could confuse the defenses, allowing missiles to reach their targets (see GSN, April 23).

Rasmussen said he had not reviewed the assessments and refused to address their substance.

"I think that's a U.S. question," the official said (Slobodan Lekic, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, April 30).

Meanwhile, the six member states to the Gulf Cooperation Council face a host of challenges to their hopes of developing a U.S.-backed missile shield that would be based on the European program, Reuters reported (see GSN, April 9).

Among the issues are governments' concerns about exchanging information with other GCC states, the potential siting of a command facility and collaborating during a crisis.

Much like their counterparts in Washington and European capitals, leaders in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are wary of Iran's developing missile and nuclear capabilities.

"The question is not only about trust among Gulf states but also trust in the Americans," said Middle East defense expert Mustafa Alani. "The central command is going to be controlled by a powerful state (Saudi Arabia) and the Americans and the small states will be sandwiched between the two."

"The GCC is overall a fractious organization. They weren't able to agree on a common currency and it's rare they have real consensus among themselves," said former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan (Mahmoud Habboush, Reuters, April 30).

April 30, 2012
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Efforts to establish a European missile defense system are moving forward smoothly, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the Associated Press on Monday.

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