May 5, 2010 / 3:24 PM / 9 years ago

NATO says missile defense cost small price to pay

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The head of NATO Wednesday put the cost of linking up the alliance’s missile defense systems at less than 200 million euros ($260 million), and said it was a small price to pay to protect citizens.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has been urging the 28 NATO states to agree to the system at a summit in Lisbon in November, citing an increased threat from Iran, but alliance members have questioned the cost. The project envisages creating an alliance command and control system to link existing national missile defenses and extend NATO-wide protection beyond that which the alliance already provides to its armed forces.

“The cost of expanding that system to protect not only our soldiers, but our populations, is less than 200 million euros over 10 years spread among 28 allies,” Rasmussen told a regular news conference.

“How could we not agree to build defense for all our citizens against missile attacks? Why would we protect our soldiers — and we should — but not everybody else?”

NATO SEES REAL IRANIAN THREAT

Rasmussen said the alliance had sufficient information and intelligence to know that Iran posed a real threat in terms of its missile technology and nuclear program.

“It is not a big cost to get real protection against a real threat,” Rasmussen said, adding he believed there was an “emerging consensus” among allies on the nature of the threats.

The West suspects Iran of developing nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic program, something Tehran denies.

In March, French Defense Minister Herve Morin expressed doubts over the NATO push to join up missile defense, pointing to tight military budgets and arguing that European forces sometimes lacked even basic equipment such as helicopters.

Last year, President Barack Obama scrapped the previous U.S. administration’s project to install a land-based missile shield in NATO members the Czech Republic and Poland.

Under his revamped plans, Washington will deploy missile interceptors in NATO member states Romania and Bulgaria in a system supposed to link with existing NATO hardware.

NATO has also called on Russia, the alliance’s old Cold War foe, to cooperate in missile defense.

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