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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NATO Chief Sees Two Separate Systems in European Missile Shield

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen yesterday said the alliance's plan for a European missile shield involves two separate but collaborative programs, one operated by the military alliance and the other by Russia, RIA Novosti reported (see GSN, Jan. 12).

Moscow and Brussels in November decided to work on researching and potentially setting up a continent-wide program for missile defense. An outline for what that collaboration would entail is expected no later than June.

"By exchanging information we share a bigger, wider picture of the skies above Europe," Rasmussen said. "By developing potential synergy between two systems we would improve the protection of the allied and Russian territories."

Employing distinct systems would ensure that neither side is placing their security in the other's hands, the NATO chief said.

Moscow has been wary of its Cold War foe's missile defense initiatives, seeing in them a scheme to undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent. The Kremlin has threatened to pull out of the missile defense deal if it decides it is not being dealt with fairly and instead pursue a strategic arms buildup.

Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said this month the Kremlin opposed establishing two separate systems that would share data. He asserted that such a plan would be "aimed at deterring Russia's nuclear potential under the guise of protection against Iranian missiles."

Alternatively, he suggested establishing a broad-based shield with "joint centers for establishing threats and based on joint decisions" (RIA Novosti, Jan. 19).

In a web posting, Rasmussen said in the first six months of the year "we have to move ahead with our decision to develop practical cooperation with Russia on missile defense," the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"Russia will know without doubt that the system cannot be directed against her," the secretary general said. "And we will do our utmost to offer her transparency on NATO's missile defense system."

"NATO security is based on collective defense. And I assume that Russia, as a strong and independent nation, also wants to be fully in control of its own defense systems," Rasmussen stated (Xinhua News Agency, Jan. 20).

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