|SLUG: 2-272195 NATO / Missile Defense (L)||DATE:||NOTE NUMBER:|
TITLE=NATO / MISSILE DEFENSE (L-ONLY)
INTRO: NATO Secretary-General George Robertson says U-S allies in Europe must accept the fact that President Bush is determined to develop and deploy a national missile defense to fulfill a promise he made during last year's election campaign. The U-S plan has caused concern in Europe, but Mr. Robertson says no disagreements with the U-S proposal emerged during a weekend security conference in Munich. VOA correspondent Roger Wilkison reports from Brussels.
TEXT: The Bush Administration's determination to develop an anti-missile defense has caused both alarm and reassurance among Washington's European allies. But it has been the alarm that has managed to garner most of the headlines. When U-S Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a Munich conference that Washington intends to go forward with the system despite objections from Russia, China and some NATO allies, news reports coming out of the conference stressed that the issue could lead to a trans-Atlantic split in the alliance.
Not so, says Mr. Robertson, who was present at the conference.
I think people wanted to find a splt between America and Europe on the issue of missile defense. But for those of us who were there, the atmosphere was calm. It was reasonable, and it looked forward rather than back. The United States has made it clear that it intends to deploy some effective missile defense system, and there has to be an acceptance that that was the decision made in the election campaign and we should treat it seriously and with some respect.
Mr. Robertson was addressing reporters after meeting with European Union officials over another hot topic in Euro-American relations: the development by the E-U of its own rapid reaction force that would act in peacekeeping and crisis management situations where NATO does not want to get involved. The two organizations are trying to work their way toward a deal that would allow the E-U to use NATO assets for such operations, but Mr. Robertson says there has been little movement since Turkey blocked such an agreement last December.
Mr. Rumsfeld expressed his concern in Munich that an autonomous E-U force might damage the NATO alliance, but Britain, France and Germany have all sought to reassure the new U-S administration that the force would help NATO by boosting European defense capabilities.
Mr. Rumsfeld told the Munich gathering that the anti-missile defense is also intended to protect U-S troops overseas and U-S allies. But the concern among the Europeans and the Russians is that it will violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. That concern was expressed again Monday by Sweden's ambassador to the E-U, Anders Bjurner. Sweden, though a neutral nation, holds the E-U's rotating presidency and is presiding over the E-U / NATO talks. (signed)