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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Missile Defense and NATO’s Lisbon Summit

Steven A. Hildreth
Specialist in Missile Defense

Carl Ek
Specialist in International Relations

For several years, the United States and NATO have pursued parallel paths to develop a ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability to defend U.S. troops and European populations against potential ballistic attacks from countries such as Iran. At the November 2010 Lisbon Summit, alliance heads of state approved a plan to integrate existing NATO member BMD capabilities as part of the overall alliance defense posture. NATO officials have placed the estimated cost of the new territorial BMD system at 200 million euros (approximately $260 million), to be borne among all 28 member states over the next 10 years. Industry analysts, however, believe that the cost could be significantly higher. The Obama Administration’s program to deploy a regional BMD capability in Europe, called the Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA), will now proceed with the NATO effort on an integrated basis.

The Lisbon Summit agreement is significant in that NATO officials identified territorial missile defense as a core alliance objective and adopted a formal NATO program in response. The agreement further outlined the development of territorial missile defense through an expansion of NATO’s ALTBMD (Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defense) program and its integration with the U.S. Phased Adaptive Approach. As a first step, alliance leaders tasked NATO staff “with developing missile defence consultation, and command and control arrangements” for NATO’s March 2011 Defense Ministerial. The next step will be to draft an implementation plan for missile defense for the June 2011 Defense Ministers meeting.

NATO decision makers took another significant step at Lisbon during the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) meeting, at which Russian President Dmitry Medvedev endorsed cooperation between the alliance and Moscow in the area of missile defense. Many observers believe that Russia’s pledge to participate removes a major stumbling block to the development of a European territorial missile defense program.

Analysts have noted the distinct advantages for NATO in adopting missile defense as a core alliance objective. Some of these include increased protection against potentially devastating ballistic missile attacks into Europe, strengthened relations with the United States, economic benefits that might flow from this effort, and opportunities to engage Russia constructively. Some have also questioned, however, whether this alliance effort is really necessary or whether such an effort is technologically feasible. Some are also concerned over the degree to which the United States will have command and control decision-making authority relative to others, and whether the combined NATO-U.S. programs might cause problems with how Russia views potential challenges to its own nuclear deterrent forces.

Congress has taken an active interest in missile defense, and has largely given bipartisan support to the Bush and Obama Administrations’ plans to guard against the threat of Iranian ballistic missiles through the deployment of radar and interceptors in Europe. NATO’s adoption of such a capability, and its close integration with the U.S. Phased Adaptive Approach, also will likely raise several issues that Members of Congress may choose to address, including command and control protocols, technology transfer, participation by Russia, and the extent to which European allies contribute to the common effort.

Date of Report: December 28, 2010
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: R41549
Price: $29.95

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