Nato's missile defence shield 'up and running'


abercrombie saleAt its summit in Chicago this weekend, Nato is set to announce its new ballistic missile defence system has reached what it calls "interim operational capability".This means that the first phase of the controversial scheme to defend Nato territory against ballistic missile attack will be operational.But Nato's plans have many critics. Some wonder if the system will work - and question whether there really is a missile threat to Nato territory at all. Others fear it will poison relations between Russia and the West, delivering little real strategic benefit. Nato has watched the spread of ballistic missile technology with growing unease. If there is a potential ballistic missile threat to Nato countries then it can be summed up in one word - Iran.However, a leading expert on missile defence technology, Professor Theodore Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes that this potential threat has been much overstated."The fundamental long-term threat from Iran is from nuclear weapons. But for now Iran does not have the bomb. A ballistic missile without a nuclear weapon," he says, "is like a terrorist bomber without an explosive vest." For this reason, he believes, "there is no realistic threat to troops, cities, oil refineries, and the like from Iranian ballistic missiles. They can simply not carry large enough conventional munitions to do extensive damage on impact, and they lack the accuracy to hit prescribed targets with reliability". More hardware But Nato leaders and planners look at Iran's continuing nuclear programme - and the steady improvement it has made to the range and capabilities of its missile forces - and are convinced that missile defence is, at the very least, a prudent insurance policy.The initial defensive screen being unveiled by Nato this weekend rests upon: a network of US early-warning satellites; a new high-powered X-Band radar based in Turkey; and at least one Aegis-equipped US warship, deployed in the Mediterranean, capable of shooting down an incoming ballistic missile.

 abercrombie sale ukSome of Nato's European members will offer elements of their existing air defences - Patriot missiles in Germany and the Netherlands for example - to bolster the system.Over time Nato's missile shield will expand with more anti-missile warships. Two land-based missile defence sites are also planned - first in Romania, and later in Poland. Professor Sean Kay, an expert on the alliance, and Chair of International Studies at the Ohio Wesleyan University, believes that the Obama administration's phased approach to missile defence in Europe, which forms the basis of the Nato plan, is both prudent and sensible. But he believes that it also has a much broader political significance as well. "Missile defence," he told me, "is a very important step towards re-invigorating the core collective defence foundation of Nato, which all the allies should appreciate." Russia bristles But Nato's missile defence plans are not without their critics. Moscow has signalled its fundamental opposition to the scheme; with Russian generals even going so far as to threaten to deploy nuclear-capable Iskander missiles against Nato missile defence sites in Romania and Poland. So to what extent does Russia have a point? Dmitri Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Center in Moscow is one of Russia's most acute strategic observers. "Russia," he says, "sees US ballistic missile defence plans as global in scope". The concern, he believes, is that "strategic defence impacts upon strategic offence; devaluing the deterrent value of Russia's own nuclear arsenal."Mr Trenin accepts that the potential impact of the future system in Europe may initially be insignificant, but says that: "Moscow wants both formal assurances and an insight into the system's parameters, to be confident that the US has no intention of degrading Russia's own deterrent power, and that the Nato system has no capability against Russian strategic missiles. Washington's reluctance to give either raises Moscow's suspicions."

abercrombie ukProf Kay says Russia has made threats against Nato assets before. "During Nato enlargement they talked of mushroom clouds over new allies' territory," he says. "In my view, they have enacted a fairly successful strategy over time of staking out an extreme position in order to complicate the decision process in Nato, and then reap some concessions. The problem now, though, is that we are getting all the negative and very little positive from that dynamic." Dmitri Trenin shares this concern. He says Russian threats are aimed "at waking the European publics to the dangers inherent in Nato's missile defence plans if no agreement with Russia is reached". He believes that for all the bluster Russia will act cautiously. But he insists that "a failure to engage Russia on missile defence will be a grave strategic blunder for Washington and its Nato allies. We have a couple of years, I think," he says, "to sort things out."'Worst of both worlds' Nato of course is confident that its new missile defence system will work. Earlier this month the US Missile Defense Agency conducted what it said was a highly successful test launch of a new and improved version of the Standard-3 missile (SM-3), which is a key component of Nato's future missile defence architecture. But not everyone is so confident. "The SM-3 missile interceptor," Prof Postol told me, "has only been tested under non-combat conditions. "All the tests have been characterised by extraordinary efforts to eliminate all objects that could possibly confuse the SM-3 kill vehicle. For these reasons and others, it is overwhelmingly likely that if the SM-3 is used in real combat, it will be total failure."And he echoes some of Dmitri Trenin's wider concerns.The paradox of missile defences, he told me, "is that even when they don't work, potential adversaries will treat them as if they do.

 abercrombie and fitch ukThus, producing the worst of both worlds - no defence but build-ups of offensive weapons to deal with those defences."US forces have destroyed a target missile in their first successful test of a new Raytheon Co interceptor.The Standard Missile-3 interceptor has been designed to play a central role in an anti-missile shield which is being built in Central Europe. It explained that the interceptor has a two-colour infrared seeker to improve sensitivity for longer-range targets and high-speed processing capabilities. Two more tests are scheduled to take place later this year. The question of an anti-missile shield in Central Europe has caused tension with Russia, which fears the interceptors will be a threat to its security. Russia says it is prepared to use "destructive force pre-emptively" if the US goes ahead with controversial plans for a missile defence system based in Central Europe.The warning came after the Russian defence minister said talks on missile defence were nearing a dead end.Moscow fears that missile interceptors would be a threat to Russia's security.But the US and Nato say they are intended to protect against attacks from Iran or North Korea."A decision to use destructive force pre-emptively will be taken if the situation worsens," chief of the Russian defence staff Gen Nikolai Makarov said. 'Flawed assumptions' Two days of talks opened on Thursday in Moscow between Russia, the US and Nato. Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said the talks were "close to a dead end", but Nato said it remained hopeful of reaching a deal. Nato Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow told the BBC that Russia's fears of a European missile defence shield were "based on some flawed assumptions" and did not weaken Russia's nuclear deterrent. Gen Makarov also said that if the European shield was built, Russia would respond by putting more powerful warheads on its own ballistic missiles.

 abercrombie clothingRussia and the US have been at odds over the issue of missile defence since 2000, ever since the idea was first put forward by then-President George W Bush. President Barack Obama, who succeeded Mr Bush in the White House in 2008, scrapped plans for a network of bases spread across Poland and the Czech Republic with the capacity to intercept long-range missiles. But in 2010, the US signed an agreement with Poland to use an old airstrip at Redzikowo, near the Baltic coast, as a missile defence base. For its part, Russia has put into commission a radar system in its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad which is capable of monitoring missile launches from Europe and the North Atlantic. It was never envisaged by the bright-eyed politicians who created the impetus for the currency, which debuted in 1999."The treaty doesn't foresee an exit from the eurozone without exiting the EU," the European Commission has said.This is the Maastricht Treaty from 1992, which led to the creation of the euro. The option of leaving the EU was only added in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in 2007.So under its current obligations, for Greece to exit the euro or be thrown out, it would have to leave the EU. Leaving is straightforward: it involves a member state notifying the European Council - that is, the leaders of EU countries - that it wants to go.The Council then agrees the terms of the exit via a qualified majority. Would leaving the EU be the end of the world for Greece? Probably not.The key part of Article 50 involves "setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union".Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway all do fine and they are not in the EU. They are part of the European Economic Area, meaning they get access to the single market.Switzerland is not even a member of the EEA and it trades with the EU with few problems - the odd tax dispute aside. But again, the chaos of going from inside the EU to a country outside of it, but still slap bang in the centre of Europe, could possibly be even worse than what it is going through right now.

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