Nato in con­trol of mis­sile shield de­spite suspicion

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

A Nato sum­mit got un­der way in War­saw yes­ter­day.

Nato of­fi­cials con­firmed “the con­di­tions are met” to put the shield sys­tem un­der a Nato flag. Wash­ing­ton hopes hand­ing over con­trol to the multi­na­tional Nato al­liance will calm Rus­sia, Europe’s 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 Baltic states fol­low­ing Rus­sia’s 2014 an­nex­a­tion of Crimea. In re­sponse, Rus­sia is re­in­forc­ing its west- ern and south­ern flanks with three new di­vi­sions.

France, which is lead­ing diplo­matic ef­forts with Rus­sia and Ger­many to bring peace to east­ern Ukraine, needed as­sur­ances that con­trol of the shield was be­ing trans­ferred to Nato, not kept un­der the com­mand of US gen­er­als.

Mil­i­tary com­man­ders will have only sec­onds to de­cide whether to use the shield to try to shoot down a bal­lis­tic mis­sile.

France was re­luc­tant to al­low US gen­er­als too much au­thor­ity to act in such a mis­sile cri­sis.

Gen­eral De­nis 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 rock- ets, fol­low­ing last year’s his­toric nu­clear deal with Tehran and world pow­ers, which Rus­sia helped to ne­go­ti­ate.

The US switched on the $800 mil­lion (R11.7 bil­lion) 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. – Reuters

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