Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NATO Agrees to Build Missile Defense System

November 19, 2010

NATO Agrees to Build Missile Defense System

New York Times

LISBON — NATO leaders agreed on Friday evening to establish a missile defense shield that would cover all NATO member states, and on Saturday they expect Russia to agree to discuss the possibility of cooperating on the system’s development.

President Obama, who has promoted a less costly, more flexible missile defense system that will have components in Europe and at sea, praised the day’s work, saying that for the first time “we’ve agreed to develop a missile defense capability that is strong enough to cover all NATO European territory and populations as well as the United States.”

Turkey, which had seemed to present a potential sticking point, dropped its objections to a common missile defense system when it was satisfied that no country, particularly Iran, would be named as a principal threat. Turkey also wanted money to buy antimissile components.

Missile defense has long created tensions between NATO and Russia, but American officials were optimistic that the meeting on Saturday would prove more productive than earlier ones with the Russian president at the time, Vladimir V. Putin, who made no secret of his mistrust of the alliance.

In general, senior NATO officials note a welcoming Russian tone under President Dmitri A. Medvedev to the idea of cooperation with NATO on missile defense and European security, and they also note the general silence of Mr. Putin, now prime minister.

On Saturday, Russia will be formally invited to take part in the missile defense system, especially with intelligence and radar sharing. Moscow has indicated that it is interested but has questions, and wants to ensure that the system is not aimed at countering Russian missiles.

The missile defense system approved Friday is different from the fixed-missile defense that President George W. Bush initiated and that proved controversial. The idea is to have a phased system of radars and antimissile missiles that would be less expensive than the Bush system. The NATO spokesman, James Appathurai, said the nearly $1.5 billion cost could be managed over 10 years.

American officials hailed the agreements as a victory for Mr. Obama and his efforts to strengthen the alliance and improve relations with Moscow. They said the agreements showed that Mr. Obama retained influence and credibility among the allies despite his party’s drubbing in the recent midterm elections and his inability so far to overcome Senate Republican objections to a revised nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

Mr. Obama has been seeking support among the allies here for the treaty, known as New Start, both to reassure Senate Republicans and to increase pressure on them.

The snag for the treaty clouds the broader efforts to “reset” relations with the Kremlin. Russian officials have said that they understand the domestic political situation, but that a failure to ratify the treaty would have some impact, at least, on the warmth of future relations.

The White House distributed remarks by Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general of NATO, supporting ratification of the treaty. Mrs. Merkel said no one was so naïve as to believe immediately in a world without nuclear weapons. The White House distributed a column by the Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, who wrote that “the senators’ decision will inevitably have an impact beyond their country’s borders. It will be particularly significant for Poland, a staunch ally.”

Mr. Obama told American reporters, “Just as this is a national security priority for the United States, the message that I’ve received since I arrived from my fellow leaders here at NATO could not be clearer: New Start will strengthen our alliance, and it will strengthen European security.”

The NATO leaders also signed off on a broad new strategic doctrine, the first since 1999, intended to explain to their citizens why the alliance still matters after the cold war. The accord ends weeks of negotiations among the 28-member alliance over how to deal with Russia and to decide what role disarmament and nuclear weapons will play in the alliance.

Mr. Rasmussen said the strategic concept, a sort of mission statement, meant that NATO would “continue to play its unique and essential role in ensuring our common defense and security.”

The document is an effort to define the broader threats to NATO and its populations, which now include terrorism, cyberwarfare and failed states, while reconfirming the idea of collective defense. It promises to work to “prevent crises, manage conflicts and stabilize postconflict situations,” and pledges closer cooperation with the United Nations and the European Union.

The document also commits the alliance, for the first time, “to the goal of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons,” while reconfirming the centrality of nuclear deterrence “as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world.”

Saturday will mark the beginning of NATO’s own reset with Russia. Although some countries, particularly the Baltic states, are skeptical about warming relations between NATO and Russia, Mr. Rasmussen said the alliance and Russia shared many common threats, like terrorism and drug trafficking.

Mr. Medvedev was invited to the NATO summit meeting Friday night, a major change from two years ago, when Mr. Putin crashed the NATO dinner in Bucharest, Romania, to lecture Mr. Bush about the dangers of NATO expansion to Georgia and Ukraine.

Russian and Georgia fought a small war later that year, and Russian troops still occupy two provinces of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. NATO officials contend that a closer relationship with Moscow is the best way to make progress on Georgia.

But Mr. Obama made a point on Friday of meeting the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, to show American support for Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity.

On Afghanistan, there is general agreement that NATO will begin next year to hand over responsibility for security to the Afghan government and its troops and police officers, a process that is supposed to be finished by the end of 2014. European nations that have troops in Afghanistan are eager to shift to noncombat roles, so there will be much discussion down the line about which provinces are handed over first.

While the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has annoyed American and European officials with criticism of American military tactics there, he met on Friday for an hour with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a discussion American officials called “candid and friendly.” The Americans and other NATO allies are hopeful that Mr. Karzai will be careful in his comments here.

Mr. Obama told the Spanish daily newspaper El País that he expected the allies to pledge additional trainers for Afghan security forces. “This effort is going to take time, and our commitment to Afghanistan and the Afghan people is for the long-term,” he said. “We cannot turn our backs on the Afghan people.”

Judy Dempsey contributed reporting.

No comments: