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NATO Unveils 'Working' European Missile Shield At Chicago Summit

U.S. President Barack Obama (center) speaks during the heads of state and government's North Atlantic Council meeting on day one of the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20.
U.S. President Barack Obama (center) speaks during the heads of state and government's North Atlantic Council meeting on day one of the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20.

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European Missile Defense: What's On The Table At NATO Summit?

Despite increasingly vociferous objections from Russia, this weekend's NATO summit will announce the next steps in European missile defense, including an "interim capability" that is being hailed as the first step toward fully protecting NATO populations from limited missile attacks.
By Heather Maher
CHICAGO -- NATO has announced that its long-planned European missile shield is up and running, with a basic capability to shoot down incoming missiles.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made the announcement at the end of the first day of the NATO summit in Chicago.

Rasmussen said the shield's "interim capability" stage is the first step in the goal of providing full coverage and protection for all NATO Europe populations, territory, and forces from threats outside the Euro-Atlantic area by 2022.

Russia has vociferously opposed the missile shield, calling it a national-security threat despite U.S. insistence it is meant to defend against missiles from Iran or other rogue states.

A look ahead at what leaders are discussing at the NATO summit

With the missile-shield announcement, leaders crossed off one of their three stated priorities for the two-day meeting. The other two include a plan to keep the military alliance strong and relevant in the 21st century and, more immediately, agreeing how NATO will help Afghanistan attain peace and stability after combat operations end in 2014.

'We Will Stand Together'

Summit host U.S. President Barack Obama officially opened the gathering by welcoming hundreds of foreign leaders and their delegations to his hometown of Chicago, the first place in the United States outside Washington to host a NATO summit. Fresh off a morning meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Obama set the stage for what the leaders hope to accomplish.

"Over the next two days we'll meet -- first as allies and then with President Karzai and our international partners -- to chart the next phase of the transition in Afghanistan," Obama told participants. "Just as we've sacrificed together for our common security, we will stand together, united in our determination to complete this mission."

Following his meeting with Karzai, Obama said that "the world is behind the strategy" that the alliance agreed to in Lisbon 18 months ago to end the war. The main work at the summit will involve deciding how to implement it, he said.

Obama also warned of "hard days ahead" but said he and the Afghan leader agreed that the end of the war is in sight and things are on the right track.

'Resilient Opponent' In Afghanistan

For his part, Karzai thanked the American people for their "taxpayer dollars" that have paid for his country's multiyear battle against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and looked ahead to a day when the fighting ends.

"We have had a good meeting today in which Afghanistan reaffirmed its commitment to the transition process and to the completion of it in 2013 and the completion of the withdrawal of our partners in 2014 so that Afghanistan is no longer a burden on the shoulders of our friends in the international community."

But between now and then, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan warned, fierce fighting lies ahead.

General John Allen said he did not want to "understate the challenge" ahead, adding, "The Taliban is still a resilient and capable opponent."

European Anxiety

Battlefield injuries and deaths, along with the economic crisis, have made the war deeply unpopular in many European countries, including France, where newly elected President Francois Hollande has promised to end the country’s combat involvement two years early.

On day one of the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reminded allies of the NATO credo "In together, out together."

But Hollande said his decision to bring France's 3,400 troops home this year was a "pragmatic" decision based on a pledge made during his campaign. The current international fighting force stands at 130,000, including 98,000 U.S. troops.
Policemen in riot gear clash with protesters outside the site of the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20. Scores of demonstrators were arrested.
Policemen in riot gear clash with protesters outside the site of the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20. Scores of demonstrators were arrested.

The first day of the summit also saw Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to discuss efforts to reopen major roads used to supply NATO fighting forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan closed the supply routes in November after a U.S. air strike killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers. White House officials said no deal was reached on May 20 but that there were "positive" signs.

May 21 will kick off with an early morning meeting on Afghanistan.

Outside the gathering, 45 demonstrators were arrested and four police officers reported injured when police clashed with antiwar protesters who marched on the summit. Police estimated about 3,000 people attended the protest on May 20, although many participants estimated that the crowd was larger. Organizers had been hoping to attract 10,000 people.

With additional reporting by AP, dpa, and Reuters
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Comment Sorting
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
May 21, 2012 19:02

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
May 21, 2012 20:10
(Some of this was posted in earlier report)

Have you ever gone to a dinner at a fancy restaurant with a group of friends (and some others who you are not so sure about), and then begin to wonder who is going to pick up the tab when the meal is done? $4 billion annually to support the Afghanistan charade? Hate to be so skeptical, but when push comes to shove, the countries of NATO always place their individual national interests above those of the bloc. The writing has been on the wall for the last five years. The mission in Afghanistan is headed south, the soldiers on the ground understand that there is no military solution and that the Karzai government enjoys little legitimacy outside of Kabul. If this meeting was to have been a success, NATO should have invited reps from the Taliban to participate. By escalating the withdrawal date, this meeting proved to an acknowledgement of failure.

And with regard to Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD)-what a waste! Some of the protesters in Chicago make the argument that NATO has become the corporate protection service for the wealthy 1%. I know that it is more complex than that, but when I read about these gold-plated plans to create a BMD system, I think that the protesters may be on to something. This virtual ‘Maginot line’ is a goldmine for those involved in the military-industrial complex, and will likely prove to be totally ineffectual. A tragic waste, since the bomb that does reach the US or Europe, will likely arrive disguised in a rusty shipping container, delivered by some of the disgruntled the US/NATO have helped to create.
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
May 21, 2012 23:18
Hi Ray, there would be nothing for the Taliban to gain by attending the summit - things are going well for them as it is - plus they have standard regarding the type of characters they dine with :-)

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