A mechanism for Europe which will link together the missile defence assets from different allies under Nato command has been declared operational by the organisation.
Announced by the alliance 18 months ago, the system has been termed by Nato director general Anders Fogh Rasmussen as a step towards the organisation's long-term goal of providing full coverage and protection for all its European partners.
"Our system will link together missile defence assets from different allies -– satellites, ships, radars and interceptors –- under Nato command and control. It will allow us to defend against threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area," Rasmussen said in Chicago yesterday after first session of the North Atlantic Council in Heads of State and Government format.
He also called the system an interim capability.
"We have decided to develop a Nato missile defence system because we consider the missile threat a real threat and against a real threat, we need a real defence to protect our population effectively," Rasmussen said, adding that Nato would continue to have dialogue with Russia in this regard.
"Of course that can't be blocked by Russia. It's a Nato decision. Having said that we have invited Russia to co-operate on missile defence and this invitation still stands, he said.
Rasmussen added that Nato will "continue" the dialogue process with Russia and hopes that at a certain stage, Russia would "realise" that it's in common interest to co-operate on missile defence.
The Nato chief also termed the initiative a true trans-Atlantic teamwork with the United States and European allies investing in common security.
Rasmussen said the move was an excellent example of the renewed culture of cooperation -- Smart Defence, with countries "working together" to develop capabilities which they "could not develop alone".
"We already have some good examples. In the Baltic States, Nato Allies take it in turns to patrol the airspace. This means our Baltic allies can focus their resources in other critical areas, such as deployable forces for Afghanistan. This is why we have agreed that Nato will provide continuous air policing for the Baltic States," the Nato chief said.