Friday, April 4, 2008

Has NATO Really Endorsed U.S. Plans for Missile Defense?

Friday’s media reports out of Bucharest suggest a major triumph for President Bush on missile defense. According to the Washington Post:

President Bush advanced his plans Thursday to build a controversial missile defense shield in Eastern Europe by winning the unanimous backing of NATO allies and sealing a deal with the Czech Republic to build a radar facility for the system on its soil.

Bush’s success in winning over once-skeptical European governments bolsters his position heading into talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has denounced the shield as the start of a new arms race. The alliance said the system should be expanded, with participation of NATO countries and Russia, to protect all of Europe.
Yet the picture painted by the Post doesn’t comport altogether comfortably with what has actually transpired at the NATO summit.

According to global security consultant Martin Bucher, who is covering the proceedings in Bucharest and Sunday’s upcoming Bush-Putin meeting in Sochi for the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, NATO will not offer an endorsement of the Bush administration’s plan before 2009. The official report on the Romanian Summit website merely notes that:
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.
As Bucher aptly observes,
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… [M]any Europeans are content to wait and see what happens next year before actually committing themselves.

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