NATO chief determined to move ahead with missile shield

WASHINGTON, May 14: NATO’s chief today expressed the Western alliance’s determination to move ahead with building an operational missile defense system, following what he called its first successful comprehensive test.
After a NATO summit in Chicago later this month, “we will continue to expand the system toward full operational capability,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen wrote in an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal.
“The alliance has already developed an initial command-and-control system to link the US assets with sensors and interceptors provided by European allies,” Rasmussen pointed out.
“I expect more announcements in the months and years ahead.”
NATO leaders are hoping to declare the start of an “interim capability” for the missile shield at the summit in Chicago on May 20-21.
According to Rasmussen, this “interim capability” will provide the alliance with a limited but operationally meaningful and immediately available capability against a ballistic-missile threat.
“It is the first step, but a real step, toward providing full coverage for all NATO populations, territory and forces in Europe,” he wrote.
However, the alliance and Russia have failed to reach a compromise on the system, which Russia fears would thwart its nuclear deterrent despite NATO assurances that it is aimed at Iran and other threats.
Moscow has demanded legally-binding guarantees that the missile shield will not undermine its arsenal, but NATO refuses to enter into such an agreement and has instead offered political reassurances.
Ratcheting up the heat, Russia warned this month that it might have to deploy new missiles in Europe to potentially take out elements of the controversial shield.
Russian Chief of Staff General Nikolai Makarov said one option was for Russia to station short-range Iskander missiles in its Kaliningrad enclave near Poland. (AGENCIES)