NATO Declares Missile Defense System Operational

CHICAGO, May 20, 2012 — Dur­ing its first ses­sion at the 25th NATO Sum­mit here today, the alliance’s senior gov­ern­ing body declared oper­a­tional the mis­sile defense sys­tem it endorsed at its Novem­ber 2010 sum­mit in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal, NATO’s sec­re­tary gen­er­al said.

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Dur­ing a news con­fer­ence fol­low­ing the North Atlantic Coun­cil ses­sion, Anders Fogh Ras­mussen char­ac­ter­ized the accom­plish­ment as true trans-Atlantic team­work.

“We call this an inter­im capa­bil­i­ty, … the first step toward our long-term goal of pro­vid­ing full cov­er­age and pro­tec­tion for all NATO Euro­pean pop­u­la­tions, ter­ri­to­ry and forces,” Ras­mussen said.

“Our sys­tem will link togeth­er mis­sile defense assets from dif­fer­ent allies — satel­lites, ships, radars and inter­cep­tors — under NATO com­mand and con­trol,” he added. “It will allow us to defend against threats from out­side the Euro-Atlantic area.”

The sec­re­tary gen­er­al described the cul­ture of coop­er­a­tion in NATO as “smart defense,” in which coun­tries work togeth­er to devel­op capa­bil­i­ties they could not devel­op on their own.

“We already have some good exam­ples,” he said, not­ing that NATO allies share the job of patrolling air­space in the Balkan states.

“This means our Baltic allies can focus their resources in oth­er crit­i­cal areas, such as deploy­able forces for Afghanistan,” he said. “This is why we have agreed that NATO will pro­vide con­tin­u­ous air polic­ing for the Baltic states.”

The coun­cil also agreed today to acquire an alliance ground sur­veil­lance capa­bil­i­ty that uses unarmed drones to pro­vide cru­cial intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance infor­ma­tion to mil­i­tary com­man­ders who must mon­i­tor devel­op­ing sit­u­a­tions and iden­ti­fy poten­tial threats.

“Dur­ing our oper­a­tion to pro­tect the peo­ple of Libya, we learned how impor­tant it is to have the best pos­si­ble intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance.” Ras­mussen said. “So we real­ized that we need more of this capa­bil­i­ty. We are now fill­ing that gap.”

Accord­ing to a White House fact sheet, a group of 14 allies has agreed to acquire five unmanned aer­i­al vehi­cles and their com­mand-and-con­trol ground sta­tions. Par­tic­i­pat­ing allies are Bul­gar­ia, Czech Repub­lic, Den­mark, Esto­nia, Ger­many, Italy, Latvia, Lithua­nia, Lux­em­bourg, Nor­way, Roma­nia, Slo­va­kia, Slove­nia and the Unit­ed States.

NATO will oper­ate and main­tain the sys­tem on behalf of the alliance, with com­mon fund­ing from all 28 allies, the fact sheet said.

The coun­cil also approved a pack­age of more than 20 multi­na­tion­al projects to pro­vide capa­bil­i­ties at an afford­able price for NATO, the sec­re­tary gen­er­al said. These include a project among sev­er­al allies to joint­ly acquire remote-con­trolled robots that can clear dead­ly road­side bombs, he said. Anoth­er group of allies will pool their mar­itime patrol air­craft to effi­cient­ly pro­vide more aware­ness of activ­i­ties on the sea.

“With­in NATO we have also agreed that our forces will step up exer­cis­es, train­ing and edu­ca­tion, includ­ing with our part­ners, so they can pre­serve the skills they’ve mas­tered in oper­a­tions,” Ras­mussen added.

At the 2010 Lis­bon sum­mit, NATO lead­ers adopt­ed a strate­gic con­cept that com­mit­ted NATO to meet­ing secu­ri­ty chal­lenges of the 21st cen­tu­ry, from ter­ror­ism to bal­lis­tic mis­sile and cyber attacks to nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion, White House offi­cials said.

At this sum­mit, NATO’s lead­er­ship out­lined a vision of how NATO will main­tain the capa­bil­i­ties it needs. A new doc­u­ment titled “NATO Forces 2020” helps to set NATO’s pri­or­i­ties for invest­ing in capa­bil­i­ties over the next decade.

The frame­work calls for real­is­tic efforts to main­tain and devel­op multi­na­tion­al capa­bil­i­ties despite defense bud­get cuts in the Unit­ed States and Europe, White House offi­cials said. It also insti­tu­tion­al­izes lessons learned from recent and cur­rent oper­a­tions, ensures that NATO can main­tain inter­op­er­abil­i­ty among allies and with part­ners, and iden­ti­fies crit­i­cal capa­bil­i­ties gaps.

“Our goal,” the sec­re­tary gen­er­al said, is … an alliance that deals with the eco­nom­ic chal­lenges of today and is pre­pared for the secu­ri­ty chal­lenges of the future.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)