LONDON — When defense ministers from NATO member states meet this week in Brussels, missile defense will be on the agenda. And while concrete decisions are not expected, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen hopes to be ready to declare some meaningful progress next year.
“Step by step, NATO’s territorial missile defense is becoming a reality,” he tells reporters in advance of the defense ministerial. He says he is hopeful that at the time the heads of government of NATO members meet next year in Chicago, the alliance will be ready “to declare an interim operational capability.”
Poland, Romania and Turkey already have agreed to host elements of the U.S.-European Phase Adaptive Approach — a key element of the NATO concept — and Rasmussen says others will be asked this week to prepare commitments.
More broadly, the ministers are likely to discuss the report from an Allied Command Transformation task force exploring potential areas of increased cooperation. Rasmussen has been pushing for more cooperation as part of his “Smart Defense” agenda and says he will work with governments in the coming months to identify projects they may be ready to lead. Program decisions are not expected this week, he notes.
Moreover, a decision by NATO to terminate military operations over Libya remains in limbo. Although Rasmussen says NATO is ready to stop its efforts as soon as the situation on the ground allows, he does not expect this week’s meeting to reach that conclusion.