ELN Research Director:

US missile shield in Romania ‘largely defensive’

News ID: 3666132 -
TEHRAN, May 24 (MNA) – Research Director of European Leadership Network has told Mehr News Iranian national security would not be affected by missile shield unless Iran attacks a NATO member states.

Mr. Lukasz Kulesa told Payman Yazdani of Mehr News International Service that the US missile shield in Romania would be of little impact on Iran’s national security. He also said that a possible Brexit would not drastically change NATO missions and visions.

After a decade of US plans to meet Iranian missile threats, and despite Russian threats still in place, on Thursday, a missile shield was erected in Romania after billions of dollars invested in attempts to address Russian concerns. US Mission to NATO Robert G. Bell ensured that the US had the capacity to defend Europe and that Iran had been developing its missile capabilities. “Russia is not a target for missile shield,” he added.

Can the deployment of anti-missile shield in Romania by the US be interpreted in line with NATO tendency to develop toward East?

The development of the missile defense site in Romania was decided in 2009, long before the current crisis in the East. Russia has criticized it from the very beginning, but the official mission remains unchanged: it is planned to protect the Alliance against the ballistic missiles coming from ‘outside the Euro-Atlantic area,’ Middle East (especially Iran) and not Russia. After the beginning of Ukraine war and the tensions with Moscow, there was actually no change of NATO’s missile defense policy. NATO is just finishing the implementation of the previous plans.

Missile defense is an ‘insurance policy’ against the possible Southern threats and it is separated from NATO increasing its defense potential in the East. These two policies (towards the East and towards the South) are not directed to address the same challenge.

 

How will this affect Russian and Iranian national security?

In Russia, many people think about missile defense in terms of worst-case scenarios. They suggest that after some time the ‘missile shield’ can be build further to provide defense against Russia. There is also a complete lack of trust between NATO and Russia. Unfortunately, there is no positive solution here. I think Russia will use the development of missile defense to increase its own nuclear and rocket forces, and that will fuel the confrontation with the West.

As for Iran, as long as it continues to develop ballistic missiles with longer ranges, NATO will invest in missile defense to protect its members in case of an attack. I hope therefore that Iran will at least announce a moratorium or a pause in developing its long-range missiles.  However, NATO systems prepared for defense, not for attacking Iran. As long as Iran does not initiate a war with a NATO country and attacks it with ballistic missiles (and I think this is extremely unlikely), Iranian national security is not affected.

 

Will Britain's possible exit from EU affect the NATO?

If the referendum ends with an EU exit decision, there will be no formal change for NATO. Britain will remain a very important and active member of NATO. It can even increase its involvement in NATO to prove that it still cares about protecting the European continent. At the same time, there will be several ‘ripple effects’, similar to throwing a big rock into a lake. Firstly, most of the European politicians and diplomats will focus on the UK exit and on negotiating the new terms of partnership, which can take years. This will draw the attention away from NATO and from security challenges. Secondly, many outsiders – including Russia – can think that Brexit is evidence that Europe is weak and that this may be a good time to challenge it. Thirdly, if after the Brexit vote there will be a referendum on Scottish independence, the UK will focus more on its internal situation and keeping the country together, than on NATO activities.

 

It is said that China benefits from the tensions between Russia and US because these tensions result in diversion of US focus from Asia to Europe and Eurasia. What do you think of this?

I think China does a much better job than Russia in building its global position, because it uses different instruments, including trade and infrastructure assistance to other countries – including Iran. Russia just creates too much tensions when it uses military force openly. Because Russia needs China more after a crisis in its relations with Europe, Beijing can now get more from Russia: of oil and gas contracts, arms deliveries, etc. Also, US needs to focus some of its attention on Europe again. So China definitely benefits.

At the same time, the US did not abandon its Asian ‘pivot’ and its partners there. It has enough capabilities and forces to be engaged both in Asia and in Europe (also in the Middle East). You can see that the United States strengthens partnerships with Asian nations, including Japan and South Korea, and also pushes back Chinese advances in the South China Sea. I think Asia still is the main focus area for the US, and will remain so in future.

 

Since 2014, Lukasz Kulesa is the Research Director of the European Leadership Network (ELN), a London-based, independent networking and research organization which works to develop European capacity to address foreign and security policy challenges. He had been working previously worked in Warsaw, Poland.

 

Interview by Payman Yazdani

 

 

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