NATO and Russia used to plan missile attacks against each other, but now they are working together to protect against them. The former adversaries held their first exercise March 8-12 to test jointly developed procedures to defend against strikes from short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.
The exercise, which took place in Colorado Springs, Colo., did not involve actual military systems or troops but was done using computer simulations. It focused on how NATO and Russian commanders would communicate with each other and direct their troops if they came under missile attack during a joint operation. Nearly 60 representatives from Russia and nine NATO members participated in the “command post exercise.”
A NATO official said March 23 that the exercise went “very well,” although some “refinements” to the prepared procedures would be needed. Another exercise is expected before the end of 2005.
NATO and Russian officials jointly worked out the test procedures through a working group on theater missile defenses established in June 2002. That group is also conducting a study on how various air and missile defense systems might operate together.
NATO-Russian cooperation on theater missile defense follows earlier U.S.-Russian efforts initiated in September 1994 by then-Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin. The two countries have conducted a series of joint theater missile defense exercises since 1996. (See ACT, March 2001.)
Western cooperation with Russia on missile defenses has not involved building actual weapons. Washington and Moscow undertook a 1992 project, the Russian-American Observation Satellite (RAMOS), to build two satellites for detecting ballistic missile launches worldwide, but the Pentagon cancelled it earlier this year. No alternative has been proposed.