NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defense: A Promising Triumph of Prudence

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From Boyko Noev, the New Atlanticist:  At their Chicago summit, NATO heads of state and government declared that the Alliance had achieved an interim ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability. This political-military project is one the most important achievements in NATO’s post- Cold War history and goes far beyond the technical aspects of a very unique and complex defense system.

First and foremost. it proves the viability of the transatlantic link, based on the principles of indivisibility of Allied security and NATO solidarity.

Second, it proves that when common values are fused with shared threat perceptions, wise and fair leadership, and strong political will the Alliance is indeed an unbreakable, true coalition. The ballistic missile threat has been recognized at the Bucharest (2008) and Strasbourg/Kiel (2009) summits, but it has been the alternative Phased Adaptive approach to European BMD, adopted by the US in September 2009 and designed to cover the whole (not only parts) of the Alliance, that has been embraced by all Allies and boosted the process ahead.

Third, it proves the relevance of the Alliance as a credible political and military organization, capable of reacting in a timely manner and defending its populations, territories, and forces from emerging new threats. It took less than two years since the November 2010 Lisbon Summit to deploy the first stage of this capability, one directly relevant to NATO’s core task of collective defense. NATO’s leaders emphasized their determination to complete the full coverage of all Allies, providing the necessary flexibility through voluntary national contributions, including nationally funded interceptors and sensors, hosting arrangements, and the expansion of the existing Allied Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) capability.

Fourth, it proves that when another party questions or attempts to deny the Alliance the right to undertake justified, clear, unequivocal, and fair defensive steps, it only contributes to an enhanced cohesion of the Alliance and increases public support for its policies.

Ambassador Boyko Noev is a member of the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Advisors Group and director of the European Program at the Center for the Study of Democracy. This piece is part of a series of New Atlanticist pieces on NATO’s 2012 Chicago Summit

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