Nato in control of missile shield despite suspicion
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