“More than 30 countries in the world have missile technology, and some of them can hit targets in allied territory,” he said in an interview with The New York Times, published on Tuesday.
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 proposed missile defense system. Turkey, which has drastically expanded its economic and security cooperation with its neighbors under a policy of zero problems with neighbors in recent years, is especially concerned about an explicit reference to Iran, which is from where many in the West agree is where the threat comes. US officials have openly named Iran in 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 plans drafted by the George W. Bush administration, 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.
Rasmussen 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 on Nov. 19-20. “I would expect NATO allies to decide that we will develop a NATO-based missile defense system. But at the same time we will invite Russia to cooperate, and then, of course, we have to work out how to cooperate,” he told The New York Times.