NATO Adopts US Missile Shield in Europe at Lisbon Summit
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has adopted as its own the project of the United States for a missile defense system in Europe during its summit in Lisbon.
"I'm pleased to announce that - for the first time - we've agreed to develop missile defence capability that is strong enough to cover all NATO European territory and populations, as well as the United States," US President Barack Obama told journalists during a break in the summit of the 28 NATO member states, including Bulgaria, on Friday, as cited by DPA.
The Lisbon Summit is the highest NATO forum since the Bucharest Summit in April 2008.
The US missile defense in Europe was initiated by the Bush Administration, which planned to station interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic, a plan that antagonized Russia. Partly as a result of Russian opposition, the Obama Administration modified the plan to focus it in Southeastern Europe in order to make it clear that it will be designed to tackle threats from Iran.
The US is already developing a long-range system of anti-missile rockets and is planning to bring parts of that system to Europe, starting with Aegis-class ships in the Mediterranean (2011) and later bringing land-based rockets to Romania (2015) and Poland (2018), DPA reports.
If the interceptors are to be station in Romania, Turkey has been rumored to be the most likely location of the X-band radar system. Bulgaria has been informally mentioned as a possible location for the rather as well.
The NATO decision mandates the alliance to create a computer program which would allow a NATO commander to use the US and short-range European systems as a single unit to shoot down attacks.
"It offers a role for all of our allies. It responds to the threats of our times. It shows our determination to protect our citizens from the threat of ballistic missiles," Obama said.
On Saturday, when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will join the summit, the leaders of the 28 NATO member states are expected to invite Russia to start talks on linking its early warning system to the future NATO missile shield in Europe.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus has explicitly stated that Russia has made it clear it wants to cooperate with NATO, and that it should be invited to join the ballistic-missile defense.
NATO member states, however, have made a compromise with the missile defense under Turkish pressure not to name Iran as the source of ballistic missile threat to be countered by the future shield.
In the weeks before the summit Turkey has made it clear that it would join the system – and potentially host some of its elements – only if its neighbor Iran is not mentioned as a threat.
"We are categorically opposed to have a country named [as a threat] and our request appears to have been accepted. Turkey cannot join a project that is aimed at a specific country. The project must cover all [Nato] members without exception ... It will not be aimed at Iran, we said it," Abdullah Gul, the Turkish president, told reporters before leaving Ankara, the Turkish capital, to attend the summit as cited by Al Jazeera.
Turkey is also reported to have made sure that the NATO missile defense in Europe will not be used to protect Israel against missile attacks.
"The fact is that more than 30 countries in the world have or are acquiring missile technologies, some of them can even hit targets in the Euro-Atlantic area. And we intend to build a missile defence system to defend against any of these threats," said NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
The expanded system is expected to cost USD 273 M over the next 10 years, Rasmussen said.
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