President Barack Obama and his NATO allies “just decided” at the Chicago summit to go ahead with construction of a missile shield for Europe, despite protests and threats from Russia, a NATO official disclosed.
NATO launched the first phase of the shield on Sunday by deciding to deploy an American warship with interceptors in the Mediterranean Sea and place a Turkey-based radar system under NATO command in Germany, the official told AFP.
Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO’s goal is to establish full coverage of Europe by 2018, and a final stage planned for 2022 would also provide coverage of the United States from Europe, according to The Associated Press.
“Against a real threat we need a real defense,” he said.
The shield is aimed at intercepting missiles that could be launched by Iran or other enemies of NATO, but Russia “fears that the system will also serve to neutralize its nuclear deterrent,” AFP reported.
In November, then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the Russian military to prepare to destroy the command capability of the missile-defense system.
More recently, Russian military chief Nikolai Makarov said Russia would consider stationing short-range Iskander missiles in its Kaliningrad exclave between Poland and Lithuania, alarming Eastern European nations.
And Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov warned on May 11 that Russia is ready to destroy U.S. missile defenses in Europe if Moscow considers them a real threat.
NATO had invited new Russian President Vladimir Putin to the NATO summit in Chicago, but he instead sent a lower level delegation to represent Moscow during the organization’s discussion on Afghanistan.
The missile defense system will be built in several phases, AFP disclosed. Four American Aegis warships will be deployed out of the port of Rota in Spain, while Poland and Romania have agreed to host U.S. land-based missiles in the coming years.
“This is not a project targeted against Russia, but a project we want to push forward with Russia in the interest of Europe’s security,” said Germany Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
Iran has reportedly tested missiles with the capability of reaching parts of Europe. But some analysts have expressed concerns that a missile shield can be relied upon to defend against incoming rockets from rogue states.
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