Ramussen's remarks on planned NATO missile shield jibe with Turkey's concerns
Speaking to The New York Times on NATO's planned missile shield earlier this week, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary-general of the security alliance, made comments in line with Turkey's concerns that a planned missile shield system should not name any country, particularly Iran, as a target. Rasmussen declined to name Iran as a potential threat that the proposed defense system for Europe is designed to counter, saying instead that there are dozens of countries in the world that could jeopardize the allies' security. "More than 30 countries in the world have missile technology, and some of them can hit targets in allied territory," he said. The remarks are expected to be welcomed by NATO member Turkey, which insists that no country should be singled out as a threat in the planned missile defense system. Turkey, which has drastically expanded its economic and security cooperation with its neighbors in recent years, is especially concerned about an explicit reference to Iran, which is where many in the West believe the threat lies. US officials have openly mentioned Iran on several occasions, but Ankara is adamant that no NATO document on the issue should include a reference to Tehran. Classifying Iran as a threat may also sour the political atmosphere at a time when the US and European countries are considering a new round of talks with Tehran on its contentious nuclear program. Russia, which opposed a previous version of the missile defense system, is also not mentioned as a threat, given the desire for a better relationship with Moscow and the willingness of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to come to Lisbon and discuss Russian participation in the new missile shield. Stating that he had discussed the matter with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Rasmussen said he expects that there will be a general agreement to build the alliance-wide missile defense system when the heads of NATO member states meet in Lisbon later this month. "I would expect NATO allies to decide that we will develop a NATO-based missile defense system," he said. "But at the same time we will invite Russia to cooperate, and then, of course, we have to work out how to cooperate."