Missile shield up and running, NATO declares

Missile shield up and running, NATO declares

Missile shield up and running, NATO declares

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. AFP photo

NATO has declared the achievement of an interim capability for NATO ballistic missile defense at its Chicago summit, also renewing an invitation to cooperate with Russia, seeking to ease fears that the defense system is directed against Moscow.

The achievement is seen as an important step towards fulfilling the commitment made at the Lisbon summit in 2010. In Lisbon, NATO made the historic decision to endorse a missile defense capability with the aim of providing full coverage and protection for all NATO European populations, territory, and forces against ballistic missile attacks. 

What interim capability means is that NATO has initiated a capability that, although limited in its initial phase, can provide real protection against ballistic missile attacks. The system puts a U.S. warship carrying interceptors in the Mediterranean and a Turkey-based radar system under NATO command from Ramstein, Germany.

With initial NATO command and control procedures in place, U.S. President Barack Obama has directed the Secretary of Defense to transfer operational control of the U.S. radar in Turkey, also known as to AN/TPY-2 radar, to NATO. U.S. missile defense-capable ships in Europe are also able to operate under NATO operational control when necessary. 

The radar’s information, combined with the NATO command and control system, gives NATO missile defense commanders a comprehensive and real-time operational picture, enabling them to employ the available missile defense assets effectively. 

Apart from Turkey, Spain, Romania and Poland have also agreed to host key U.S. missile defense assets. Interim capability is scheduled to be followed by the milestones of initial operational capability in 2015 and full operational capability in 2018. 

The alliance insists that the shield is not aimed at Russia and aims to knock out missiles that could be launched by enemies such as Iran, but Moscow fears the system will also serve to neutralize its nuclear deterrent. “We have invited Russia to cooperate on missile defense and this invitation still stands,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a news conference on May 20.

Smart defense projects

“We propose to develop a transparency regime based upon a regular exchange of information about the current respective missile defense capabilities of NATO and Russia,” summit declaration said. “In this regard, we today reaffirm that the NATO missile defense in Europe will not undermine strategic stability. NATO missile defenses are not directed against Russia and will not undermine Russia’s strategic deterrence capabilities,” the statement added. “Missile defense can complement the role of nuclear weapons in deterrence; it cannot substitute them. This capability is purely defensive.”

Click to read NATO's "Deterrence and Defence Posture Review."

The alliance also agreed on a slew of some 20 joint projects to pool military hardware as part of a so-called “Smart Defense” initiative. The initiative is mainly designed to share the costs of weapons and equipment at a time when member states are facing shrinking defense budgets. Some of the joint projects are in the areas of maritime aircraft, the joint supply of munitions and aviation training centers. 

Click to read "Summit Declaration on Defence Capabilities: Toward NATO Forces 2020"

In maritime aircraft, member countries will aim to create a pool of maritime patrol planes from a number of nations. Upon request, NATO members could have access to the patrol aircraft. In the joint supply of munitions, members will aim to create joint management of munitions, including costly precision-guided bombs. Countries taking part could jointly buy munitions and store the bombs in a single warehouse, sharing the costs of maintenance, officials said. Each government would be able to draw on the stockpile, based on the level of their contribution. In aviation training centers, NATO plans to provide training to helicopter pilots and ground crews. The training will focus on preparing crews for alliance operations and for advisory missions instructing Afghan security forces.

According to the declaration, these projects will deliver improved operational effectiveness, economies of scale, and closer connections between NATO forces. They will also provide experience for similar Smart Defense projects in future.

Click to read the full "Chicago Summit Declaration."

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