Thursday, 3 April 2008

Missile Defence Decision in 2009 (or later)

Despite claims by the Bush administration that NATO endorsed its plan to deploy elements of strategic missile defence in Europe, NATO will actually not offer such an endorsement before 2009. An official report from the Summit organizers on the Romanian Summit website says:

The North-Atlantic Alliance leaders underlined on Thursday in Bucharest that the security of the state members must be an indivisible one and acknowledged the "significant" contribution this can have to the anti-missile shield USA intends to install in Central Europe. The Secretary General of the Alliance, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, mentioned in a press conference that the allied leaders decided for NATO to develop "options for a defense architecture" that should cover the states which are not in the protection range of the USA project. These options are to be discussed in 2009, explained Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The attendants of the Bucharest Summit confirmed the role played by NATO in protecting the energetic infrastructure and the key informatic structures against cybernetic attacks, added the Secretary General of the Alliance.

This falls short of actual endorsement by the Alliance of the system, and represents "the best we could get and short of what we wanted", according to Czech government sources speaking a few weeks ago when the formula was put to Foreign ministers. It is supportive enough, in all likelihood, for the Czech parliament to ratify the missile radar site deal that will be signed in early May.

Many countries have taken note of the US Congress' failure to fund the deployment this year, and their policy that the system must work under operationally realistic testing before it would be funded. With that language, and the impending end of the Bush administration, many Europeans are content to wait and see what happens next year before actually committing themselves.

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