NATO will reach out to Russia in an effort to expand defense efforts against Iran’s growing missile capabilities.
“Why shouldn’t we?” asked Anders Fogh Rasmussen, chief of the military alliance. In Washington D.C. for a Tuesday meeting with President Obama, the NATO secretary general told reporters that missile defense would be a top priority at the organization’s November summit in Portugal and that cooperation with its Cold War enemy makes perfect sense.
NATO already has committed $1 billion for a “theater” missile defense system to protect military forces. Rasmussen said he saw no reason why it couldn’t spend another $255 million to expand to a “territorial” shield that could cover all 28 NATO members. It’s a small price to pay for the protection of 900 million citizens, he said.
A recent Pentagon report estimated that Iran could have up to 1,000 missiles with ranges of up to 1,200 miles. Some could target allied countries such as Turkey, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria. Iran’s missiles also can reach parts of Russia.
“We face a common threat,” Rasmussen said. “In the European neighborhood, we have at least one country, Iran, with ambitions when it comes to missile technology.” Iran could target Russia the same as any of the NATO countries, Rasmussen said.
NATO leaders plan to invite Russia to cooperate in missile defense plans, but the secretary general admitted he had no idea how the country will respond. NATO and Russia have been communicating on a number of issues, but differences over the current situation in Georgia have soured much of the discourse, Rasmussen said.
The main topic of discussion at NATO’s upcoming summit will be the war in Afghanistan. Rasmussen believes a partial drawdown of troops will begin in 2011, despite “tough fighting” ahead with an enemy that, he said, was grossly underestimated a decade ago.
“We didn’t realize that there is no military solution to the problems in Afghanistan,” he said. “In today’s world, security is much more than just military.”
The transition from allied soldiers to Afghan security forces must be irreversible and happen alongside economic development, social growth and a committed fight against government corruption.
NATO leaders hope to determine a more precise timeframe for the drawdown of troops at the November summit, Rasmussen said.