US plans to site a missile defence system in Europe have been backed by Nato countries during a summit in Romania, started on Thursday.
The plan is to position a missile defence radar in the Czech Republic, and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. Member states will endorse that decision in a communiqué, according to US officials. This communiqué acknowledges ballistic missile proliferation as “an increasing threat to allied contribution forces, territory and populations.”
It says that the US-led System will make a “substantial contribution to the protection of allies.” And it calls for deployement of a parallel Nato system to defend any countries that will not be covered by the US scheme.
According to the US the system is needed in order to counter a potential threat from rogue countries like Iran, but Moscow fears it could be used againts Russia.
During this summit, Albania and Croatia were invited to join the 26-member alliance, while Macedonia was refused by Greece’s veto, which has a norther province also called Macedonia and fears that the former Yugoslavia republic,by keeping that name, would imply a territorial claim. Nato officials said Macedonia could begin talks on joining the alliance as soon as this dispute with Greece is solved.
A “huge disappointment” is what Macedonian officials called their rejection. They said it would undermine stability in the Balkans and left the three-day summit earlier.
Huge strategic mistake
Even though George W. Bush has been pushing for Georgia and Ukraine to gain Nato membership, the alliance said they were not ready to join in. But the door isn’t totally closed, they could join later, as the decision will be reviewed in December.
Russia said it would be “a huge strategic mistake, which would have the most serious consequences for pan-European security.”
Amid concerns from Russia over Nato’s eastward expansion, Germany and France had been opposed to accepting the two former Soviet republics as members.
French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, said a battalion of 800 extra French troops would be deployed to Afghanistan.
He also indicated that France would decide in 2009 whether to return to the Nato military command that General de Gaulle left in 1966, to protest at the dominance of US commanders.
The farewell meeting between George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin (photo, from republicanvoices.org), in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. “We agreed today that the United States and Russia want to create a system for responding to potential missile threats in which Russia and the United States and Europe will participate as equal partners” Mr Bush said.
Vladimir Putin said that he welcomed US willingness to hear and discuss Russian questions about missile defence. “I have a cautious optimism about agreement” he said. “The devil is as usual in the detail. It is important that our experts agreed what confidence-building measures there will be and how they will be carried out in reality.”
The Russian president also said after the meeting : “it won’t be our last meeting as people, it’s our last meeting as presidents of our country. And it’s a little bit nostalgic”.
But even though the two men seem to like each other a lot, they still have no trust for one another. In Sochi president Bush gave again his assurance that the proposed American missile shield, accepted by the alliance, was not aimed at Russia. But Vladimir Putin doesn’t seem to believe him, as he sees the missile shield and the Nato expansion as an attempt to contain Russia.
Today, many of the issues that divided Russia and the US in 2001, continue. But Mr Bush has had to take account of the fact that under Mr Putin presidency, Russia has become richer, and more assertive on the world stage.
But some time next year, the new presidents of Rusia and the United States will meet for the first time, and they will still have to discuss the thorny questions of Nato expansion as well as the missile defence shield.