NATO Chief: Basic Components Of European Missile Defense To Be Ready By May

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that the initial components of the European missile defense system is expected to be in place by the time of the Chicago Summit in May.

He said this on Thursday, while launching NATO's first ever 'Annual Report,' which gives a brief overview of the Alliance's principal achievements and challenges in 2011.

The missile defense system to defend European Allies' populations, territory and forces against the growing threat of ballistic missile proliferation is "smart defense" at its best and it embodies transatlantic solidarity, the NATO chief said in his foreword to the annual report.

He said the Alliance had already made considerable progress, as along with a prominent and phased U.S. contribution, a number of Allies have made significant announcements, including Turkey, Poland, Romania, Spain, the Netherlands and France. These different national contributions will be gradually brought together under a common NATO command and control system. Key elements of it have already been tested successfully, Rasmussen added.

The Chicago Summit will be "an opportunity to renew our commitment to the vital transatlantic bond between us and to redouble our efforts to share the burden of security more effectively," according to him. He said important decisions will be taken at the summit "to keep NATO committed, capable and connected."

The assessment of Alliance activities in the annual report 2011 focuses on NATO operations, emerging security challenges, modernization of NATO - its structures and capabilities - as well as NATO's growing partnerships. These areas are examined against the backdrop of the financial crisis.

In 2011, NATO operations continued across three continents. In Afghanistan, greater stability and the beginning of transition characterized 2011. Although Afghanistan constitutes the Alliance's most significant operational commitment to date, 2011 was marked by the Alliance's Operation Unified Protector in Libya, which mobilized NATO forces for seven months to protect civilians from attack. Progress in Kosovo was marred by peaks of violence in the north, whereas counter-piracy efforts off the Horn of Africa and in the Gulf of Aden helped to reduce the pirate attack success rate in 2011. And NATO's training mission in Iraq was terminated on December 31 after eight years of operation.

The report highlights the key measures taken by NATO to tackle cyber attacks, to respond to the growing number of countries acquiring ballistic missiles and to counter terrorism. These are among the emerging security challenges that directly threaten the security of NATO's almost 900 million citizens.

The effects of the global financial crisis have accelerated a deep NATO-wide reform process that reflects austerity measures taken in member-countries and seeks to modernize the Alliance, making it more efficient and effective. Major institutional reforms of the military command structure, NATO agencies and NATO headquarters were actively pursued; while the notion of "smart defense" has been introduced to prioritize NATO's most pressing capability needs, set targets for forces and assess how and where Allies use their resources to help them ensure maximum value for money.

The year 2011 also saw significant changes in NATO's partnerships. Consultation and cooperation went beyond traditional formats. The Libya operation included direct partner involvement in decision-making for NATO-led military operations and saw consultation and cooperation with the United Nations and the League of Arab States, as well as with Libya and other countries in the region.

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