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NATO?€™s Common European Roof

The New START, signed two weeks ago by Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama, is a historic achievement and an inspiration for further progress in global arms control. But at the same time, we must also prepare to defend against another, less encouraging trend.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery is a threat to both the NATO allies and Russia. A look at current trends shows that more than 30 countries have or are developing missile capabilities. In many cases, these missiles could eventually threaten Europe’s populations and territories.

Iran is a case in point. It has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is developing a nuclear program that it claims is for civilian purposes only. But Iran has gone far beyond what is necessary for a purely civilian program.? It has concealed several nuclear facilities from the International Atomic Energy Agency, played hide-and-seek with the international community and rejected all offers of cooperation from the United States, the European Union and others. Most recently, Iran’s government announced plans to enrich its uranium to levels that appear incompatible with civilian use and that defy several UN Security Council resolutions.

Iran also has an extensive missile development program.? Iranian officials declare that the range of their modified Shahab-3 missiles is 2,000 kilometers, putting allied countries such as Turkey, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria within reach.

In February, Iran introduced the SAFIR 2 space-launch vehicle. This is a key stage in the development of intermediate- and intercontinental-range missiles. If Iran completes this development, the whole of Europe — as well as all of Russia — would be within its range.

Proliferators must know that the NATO allies are unwavering in their commitment to collective defense, including nuclear deterrence. Confronted with the spread of missile technology and unpredictable regimes and leaders, we owe it to our populations to complement our deterrence capabilities with effective missile-defense capabilities.

We are not starting from scratch. NATO allies have been looking at various missile-defense options for some time. NATO itself is developing protections for our deployed troops. But with the new U.S. approach to missile defense, there are now much better opportunities for an effective NATO-wide system that would enhance the territorial defense of our populations and nations.

A true joint Euro-Atlantic missile defense would demonstrate NATO’s collective will, not only to defend against the new threats of today and tomorrow, but also to send a clear message that there is nothing to be gained from missile proliferation. It can also provide an opportunity for Europeans to demonstrate again to the United States their willingness to invest in self-defense capabilities and to play an active role in a process that, until now, has been conducted largely over their heads by the United States and Russia.

But there is another reason for developing missile defense: to create a new dynamic in European and Euro-Atlantic security. There is? much talk these days about the Euro-Atlantic security architecture. Russia, in particular, has focused on treaties, conferences and political arrangements.

Clearly, these things can be useful and important. We should talk. We should look for common political approaches, many of which we have already agreed to and could easily endorse again. But a joint security architecture must move beyond blueprints. It needs to be built. And missile defense is a concrete way to do that.

In this respect, the news that the United States and Russia have agreed on the New START, which will substantially cut both countries’ nuclear arsenals, provides a good backdrop. This new agreement makes the world safer, and it will give impetus to cooperation with Russia in other fields, particularly NATO-Russia relations.

Since taking office last summer, I have invested considerable time and effort in revitalizing the relationship between NATO and Russia, with progress made in several areas, including a joint review of common threats and challenges. But it is time to look at missile defense as another opportunity to bring us together.

We need a missile defense system that includes not just all NATO countries, but Russia, too. The more that missile defense is seen as a shared security roof — built, supported and operated together — that protects us all, the more people from Vancouver to Vladivostok will know that they are part of one community. Such a security roof would be a strong political symbol that Russia is fully part of the Euro-Atlantic family, sharing the costs and benefits.

Of course, there are practical challenges. We would have to make our systems interoperable, share intelligence assessments and link sensitive technologies. But such cooperation is a concrete way to build mutual trust and confidence.

For these reasons, the time has come to move forward on missile defense. We need a decision by NATO’s next summit in November that missile defense is an Alliance mission and that we will explore every opportunity to cooperate with Russia.

But Russia also must decide to view missile defense as an opportunity, rather than a threat. If that happens, we can move forward to create a missile defense system that not only defends the Euro-Atlantic community, but that also brings it together.

The end of the Cold War has given us an enormous opportunity to achieve our goal of a Europe whole, free and at peace. We are not quite there, but we are getting there. Missile defense can be part of that positive trend.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen is secretary-general of NATO. © Project Syndicate

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