NATO must develop new capabilities against ballistic missiles

One of the major challenges facing NATO and the transatlantic community after 2014 is the development of new capabilities against the proliferation of ballistic missile, a high-ranking NATO official said on Monday.

Alexander Vershbow, the deputy secretary general of NATO, made the remarks at the 30th International Workshop on Global Security in Paris. Vershbow discussed multiple challenges facing NATO after 2014, but he particularly emphasized the organization's need to defend against ballistic missile proliferation. He said NATO is working toward full coverage and protection against ballistic missiles for all NATO European populations.

"As far as protection against potential attacks from missiles is concerned, we are already making good progress," Vershbow said. "Just over a year ago, in Chicago, we declared an interim capability for our NATO missile defense. This protects our allies in Southern Europe. Within a few years, we will expand the system to include missile defense interceptors in Romania and Poland, and achieve full operational capability for NATO's command and control system. This will then ensure the full coverage and protection for all NATO European populations, territory and forces that our leaders pledged to provide three years ago."

Vershbow made two main points about missile defense. One point was that missile defense can complement the deterrent role of nuclear weapons without replacing them. The second was that work on missile defense requires transatlantic teamwork.

"Many different assets are being brought together with sizable U.S. assets to deliver a common, integrated and shared NATO capability," Vershbow said. "Several European nations are providing Patriot units, and others are adding missile defense radars to their ships. France's plans to develop an early-warning capability and long-range radar will play an important part in our overall system. In sum, our work on missile defense demonstrates a strong commitment, on both sides of the Atlantic, to address this particular emerging security challenge."

Vershbow also said cooperation between NATO and Russia on missile defense could significantly improve the relationship between the organization and the country.

"In this regard, all of us at NATO believe that cooperation on missile defense could be a real game-changer for our relationship with Russia," Vershbow said. "We both face the same dangers from the proliferation of missile technologies and WMD to states like Iran and North Korea. It makes eminent sense - for political, practical and military reasons - to combine our missile defense capabilities and thereby protect our territories and populations more effectively. Moreover, by building a cooperative missile defense system, Russia could see - from the inside - what our leaders have said at the highest level: that NATO's missile defense system is not directed at Russia, and is incapable of undermining Russia's strategic deterrent. Missile defense would, in short, transform the NATO-Russia partnership, and bring greater stability and security to the entire Euro-Atlantic area."