(Editor's note: Adds comment from NATO official)
(CNSNews.com) – Ahead of a key summit this week, NATO’s secretary-general has confirmed that the alliance will not identify
Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s comment indicates that
NATO decisions require consensus, and
As part of the Strategic Concept, NATO leaders are expected to agree that a core mission should be defending the alliance’s territory against the threat of ballistic missiles, paving the way for
That threat has long been seen – by Washington and European allies – as emanating from
Turkish foreign ministry officials told media organizations last month that neither Iran nor Syria should be cited as threats in official NATO documents relating to the missile shield, because doing so would cause problems between Turkey and those neighbors.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul reiterated that stance this week, telling the BBC’s Turkish service that
Two weeks ago, Turkish media reported that the government in
Potential Article 5 threat
The Strategic Concept to be adopted in
The report warned that
“Defending against the threat of a possible ballistic missile attack from
“The fact is that more than 30 countries have – or are aspiring to get – missile technologies with a range sufficient to hit targets in the Euro-Atlantic area. And we want to protect ourselves against any such threats,” he told reporters.
“So there is no reason to name specific countries because there are already a lot of them.”
The Obama administration also appears to be backing away from mentioning
U.S. envoy to NATO Ivo Daalder – a foreign policy advisor to the 2008 Obama-for-president campaign – presented “The case for NATO missile defense” in a New York Times op-ed published Monday, referring numerous times to the missile “threat” and “danger” but not identifying its source by name.
Until recently, Rasmussen appeared content to ascribe the principal threat to
“It is a fact and based on public information from Iran herself that Iran has at her disposal missile technology with a range which make it possible for them to hit targets in Europe if they so wish,” he told a Brussels press conference on June 10.
“We face a common threat,” he told reporters in
During a speech in
But the references to
During a speech in
Similarly, Rasmussen raised missile defense but made no reference to Iran during a monthly press briefing at NATO headquarters on Oct. 11; in an Oct. 12 New York Times op-ed; at a press conference in Brussels on Oct. 14; and at a press conference in New York on Sept. 22.
‘More than 30 countries’
On several of those occasions, Rasmussen reiterated that “30 countries” or more posed a potential threat to NATO territory. The assertion also appears on a document recently posted on the NATO Web site, which devotes almost 2,000 words to the need for NATO missile defense – but does not mention
At a press conference last Wednesday, NATO spokesman James Appathurai was asked about the evident reluctance to name
“There are at least 30 countries, more than 30 countries, acquiring, that have or are acquiring ballistic missile capability,” he replied. “So this is not just about one country. It’s about a growing and, in essence, generic potential threat to our territory.”
Again without naming Iran, Appathurai said NATO allies “are not ignoring specific countries, because they exist, but as I say it’s 30-plus countries, and I think allies want to look at it in that sense.”
NATO’s press office would not provide a list of the countries.
“It is clear that the threat is real, therefore we don’t see a need to list them all,” a NATO official said Tuesday. “Obviously there are classified NATO reports with more detailed information but these are not open to the public.”
The Claremont Institute’s missile threat database lists only 19 countries that possess ballistic missiles. Excluding NATO members and allies, countries too far away to pose a threat (Taiwan, South Korea), and countries whose missile programs are obsolete (Iraq, Serbia), the number drops to nine – China, Egypt, India, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and Syria.
Data compiled by the Center for American Progress (CAP) comes a little closer to the “more than 30” cited by NATO, listing 28 countries with ballistic missile capabilities.
But 17 of them are countries possessing Scud or similar weapons with a maximum range of 300 kilometers (186 miles). Eliminating NATO members or aspiring members and countries that are too distant to pose a potential threat to NATO territory reduces those 17 to just six – Armenia, Belarus, Egypt, Iraq, Libya and Syria.
The other 11 countries cited by CAP are those with medium- and long-range missiles capabilities. Once NATO members (the U.S., Britain and France) are discounted, the number drops to eight – Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Iran.