Fri, Apr 02, 2010 - Page 9 News List

The promise of Euro-Atlantic missile defense

By Anders Fogh Rasmussen , BRUSSELS

Next week in Prague, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and US President Barack Obama will sign a new strategic arms reduction treaty (START). That agreement is an historic achievement and an inspiration for further progress in global arms control. At the same time, however, here and now, we must also prepare to defend against another, less encouraging trend.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery is a threat to both the NATO allies and Russia. A look at current trends shows that more than 30 countries have or are developing missile capabilities. In many cases, these missiles could eventually threaten Europe’s populations and territories.

Iran is a case in point. It has signed the Nuclear Non-­Proliferation Treaty and is developing a nuclear program that it claims is for civilian purposes only. Iran has gone far beyond what is necessary for a purely civilian program, however. It has concealed several nuclear facilities from the International Atomic Energy Agency, played hide-and-seek with the international community and rejected all offers of cooperation from the US, the EU and others. Most recently, Iran’s government announced plans to enrich its uranium to levels that appear incompatible with civilian use and that defy several UN Security Council resolutions.

Iran also has an extensive missile development program. Iranian officials declare that the range of their modified Shahab-3 missiles is 2,000km, putting Allied countries such as Turkey, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria within reach.

In February last year, Iran introduced the SAFIR 2 space launch vehicle. This is a key stage in the development of intermediate and intercontinental-range missiles. If Iran completes this development, the whole of Europe and all of Russia, would be within its range.

Proliferators must know that the NATO allies are unwavering in their commitment to collective defense, including nuclear deterrence. Confronted with the spread of missile technology, and unpredictable regimes and leaders, we owe it to our populations to complement our deterrence capabilities with an effective ­missile-defense capability.

We are not starting from scratch. NATO allies have been looking at various missile-defense options for some time. NATO itself is developing protections for our deployed troops. But with the new US approach to missile defense, there are now much better opportunities for an effective NATO-wide system that would enhance the territorial defense of our populations and nations.

A true joint Euro-Atlantic missile defense would demonstrate NATO’s collective will, not only to defend against the new threats of today and tomorrow, but also to send a clear message that there is nothing to be gained from missile proliferation. It can also provide an opportunity for Europeans to demonstrate again to the US their willingness to invest in self-defense capabilities and to play an active role in a process that, until now, has been conducted largely over their heads, by the US and Russia.

There is another reason for developing missile defense: to create a new dynamic in European and Euro-Atlantic security. There is much talk these days about the Euro-Atlantic security architecture. Russia, in particular, has focused on treaties, conferences and political arrangements.

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