NATO takes command of US-built missile shield


 © Wojtek Radwanski, AFP | Soldiers stand guard during ground breaking ceremony of the northern section of defence anti-missile shield in Redzikowo military base in northern Poland, May 13, 2016.

© Wojtek Radwanski, AFP | Soldiers stand guard during ground breaking ceremony of the northern section of defence anti-missile shield in Redzikowo military base in northern Poland, May 13, 2016.
NATO took command of a US-built missile shield in Europe on Friday after France won assurances that the multi-billion-dollar system would not be under Washington’s direct control.

The missile shield, billed as a defence against any strike by a “rogue state” against European cities, is one of the most sensitive aspects of US military support for Europe. The Kremlin says the system is in fact intended by Washington to blunt Russia’s nuclear arsenal, which the US denies.

“Today we have decided to declare initial operational capability of the NATO ballistic missile defence system,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference.

“This means that the US ships based in Spain, the radar in Turkey and the interceptor site in Romania are now able to work together under NATO command and control,” he said, adding that the umbrella was “entirely defensive” and “represents no threat to Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent”.

The US military also announced on Friday that it would deploy 1,000 troops to Poland as part of NATO’s plan to reassure allies who were once part of the Soviet bloc.

Russia is incensed at the show of force by the United States, its Cold War rival in ex-communist-ruled eastern Europe.

Washington hopes handing over control to the multinational NATO alliance can calm Russian fears. Furthermore, European NATO members states are seen as having nothing to gain by provoking Russia, their major energy supplier.

European nations will be responsible for some funding and adding assets to the shield over time.

The system comes as NATO prepares a new deterrent in Poland and the Baltics following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. In response, Russia is reinforcing its western and southern flanks with three new divisions.

France, which is leading diplomatic efforts with Russia and Germany to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, required assurances that control of the shield was genuinely being transferred to NATO, and not kept under the command of U.S. generals.

Seconds to decide

“The key is political control because of the consequences of any interception,” General Denis Mercier, a former chief of France’s air force who now heads NATO’s command, told Reuters. “The leaders have found a good compromise.”

Military commanders will have only seconds to decide whether to use the shield to try to shoot down a ballistic missile. Officials say NATO will follow rules set down by alliance ambassadors in Brussels.

France was believed to be reluctant to allow US generals too much authority to act in such a missile crisis, fearing that would escalate tensions, although its concerns were never enunciated publicly in detail.

Mercier said the decision to hold another meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, a forum bringing together NATO envoys and Russia at NATO headquarters in Brussels, allowed the alliance to better explain its position to the Kremlin.

“The second thing is dialogue with Russia, to say clearly that this shield is against the proliferation of missile threats, not against one country and especially not against the nuclear capabilities of Russia,” Mercier said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he doubts NATO’s stated aim of protecting the alliance against Iranian rockets, following last year’s historic nuclear deal with Tehran and world powers, which Russia helped to negotiate.

The United States switched on the $800 million missile shield base in Romania in May and will break ground on a final site in Poland due to be ready by late 2018, completing the defence line first proposed almost a decade ago. When fully operational, the defensive umbrella will stretch from Greenland to the Azores.




2 responses to “NATO takes command of US-built missile shield”

  1. Hind Abyad Avatar
    Hind Abyad

    How Bilderberg Plans to Defeat Brexit

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    Hind Abyad

    Jean-Paul Sartre 1946

    “The Time of the Assassins

    This war will be the war of fear. It is in fear that it is being prepared. People are allowing it to come on slowly, with a kind of ecstasy. They believe in it like they believe in chiromancy, like a confessor, like everything that releases them from forging their own destiny. They love their fear; it reconciles them with themselves, it suspends the faculties of the soul in the same way as sneezing and diarrhoea. And that threat that weighs on their heads conceals from them the empty heavens: it’s a roof. And in the meanwhile, the terrorized governments observe each other. When in a panic a nation will make too abrupt a gesture, the others will leap at its throat.

    Then the abstract massacre will begin. Once we risked our lives against that of others; we saw the enemy dead up close, we could touch their wounds; from further away we fire without any risks, we’ll die for nothing. Technicians in Washington, in Texas, will prepare the mass graves of Baku and Leningrad without seeing them. Without even imagining them. No heroes, no martyrs: a cataclysm falling on panicked beasts.

    I don’t believe in the end of the world, and I don’t even know if I believe in this war. Twenty years, perhaps fifty years will pass before it occurs. But if throughout this time we continue to expect it, if for fifty years we have to marinate in fear, if we convince ourselves that in order to live we have to await the end of the next conflict, we will then have rendered the atom bomb three quarters useless. There will no longer be any men to kill; it will already have been done”

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