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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded in Washington, DC in 1949. The original purpose of the Alliance was for the guaranteed protection of Europe, by the American military, against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the main threat to the security of Europe is gone, but many other threats still exist.

Today NATO is comprised of 28 member states, all of which are still united for the common security of each member. In 1999, NATO’s Strategic Concept recognized the need for missile defense to counter nuclear, biological, and chemical threats.

At the Prague Summit in 2002 it was agreed that a new NATO Missile Defense Feasibility Study would explore opportunities to examine options for protecting its territory, forces and population against the wide scope of emerging threats. From this came the NATO Active Layered Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) for the protection of deployed forces, program to be launched in 2005.

At the  Bucharest Summit in 2008 , member states concluded that missile defense proliferation is an increasing threat and missile defenses are an important part of an effective response. The Alliance also considered the technical details and political and military implications of the proposed US missile defense system in Europe. Allied leaders recognized that the planned deployment of European-based US missile defense assets would help protect Allies, and agreed that this capability should be an integral part of any future NATO-wide missile defense architecture.

NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept is the key policy document providing the framework for NATO’s activities in the area of ballistic missile defense is NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept.

The Strategic Concept recognizes, inter alia, that “the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, threatens incalculable consequences for global stability and prosperity. During the next decade, proliferation will be most acute in some of the world’s most volatile regions.” Therefore, NATO will “develop the capability to defend our populations and territories against ballistic missile attack as a core element of our collective defense, which contributes to the indivisible security of our Alliance. We will actively seek cooperation on missile defense with Russia and other Euro-Atlantic partners.” As a defensive capability, BMD will be one element of a broader response to the threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles.

Current Developments

On June 24th, 2013 it was announced that NATO signed a €136 million contract with Thales-Raytheon JV to build and deploy a ballistic missile defense system for the alliance’s air command and control system. The project is expected to be completed by 2015.

6 Patriot PAC-3 Missile blocks are currently deployed to Turkey in response to the instability in Syria.The request was initiated over concerns that:

1) Syria's missiles and long-range artillery are inaccurate and unreliable and one could potentially go off course and land in Turkey

2) Syria could intentionally launch missiles and artillery at Turkey

3) Syrian fighter jets could threaten Turkish airspace.

On March 6th 2013, the first European theater missile interceptor system achieved NATO interoperability with the French/Italian surface-to-air missile system. This system successfully engaged and destroyed a theater ballistic missile target in a live-fire test at the French Firing Range in Biscarrosse and proved its ability to work with NATO's interim Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) command and control system.

Updated February 13, 2014


Ian Williams 

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