Monday, 14 May 2012

Operational Missile Defense System - The Way Ahead

NATO's Secretary General Fogh Rasmussen said that the Western Alliance is determined to move ahead with an operational missile defense system.  The statement follows what Rasmussen called a comprehensive test.

 "We will continue to expand the system toward full operational capability.  The alliance has already developed an initial command-and-control system to link the US assets with sensors and interceptors provided by European allies.   I expect more announcements in the months and years ahead."

An announcement by NATO leaders of an "interim capability" is expected to be announced during the Chicago Summit on May 20-21st.

The missile defense shield has caused frictions in the relationship between the U.S. and Russia and newly elected Russian President Vladimir Puttin is skipping the G8 Summit.  While Putin said that his attendance was cancelled due to the work he needs to do on his Cabinet, it is widely believed that it is as a protest against missile defense.

While there have been high level negotiations between Russia, NATO and the U.S., Russia was seeking a binding agreement to ensure the system was not being used against Russia.  The U.S. and NATO are only prepared to give political assurances.

 "We have not been able to find mutually-acceptable solutions at this point and the situation is practically at a dead end," said Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. 

 The U.S. and Europeans are ready to go ahead with the deployment of the first elements of the missile defence system next month.  The United States says it is installing the system to protect European allies from an attack by Iran, which the Western allies fear is on the brink of developing a nuclear weapon.

Russia has been opposed to the missile shield from the outset and fears that the deployment would harm its own nuclear deterrence.  Russia has warned that if the United States proceeds, it would be forced to unleash its own massive armament system if the U.S. did not address its concerns.

Rasmussen announced that NATO conducted a comprehensive test last month, which included  US ships, radar and satellites, as well as interceptor batteries from Germany and the Netherlands.

According to Rasmussen the test was successful and that first elements of the US network of satellites, sensors and sea-based interceptors are already deployed to Europe.

Turkey, Romania, Poland and Spain have all agreed to host US assets, Rasmussen pointed out.  Russia is particularly concerned about deployment of missile defense assets in former Warsaw Pact satellites.  This should be a hot issue during the Chicago Summit, which former Russian President Dimitry Medvednev will attend.

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