US airbase in Germany to host missile shield command

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 02, 2012 1:04 PM
US airbase in Germany to host missile shield command

BERLIN (Reuters) - The command centre for a controversial missile defense shield in Europe will be housed at a U.S. air base in western Germany, a NATO spokesman said on Thursday.

Ramstein Air Base, which already houses the European headquarters of the U.S. Air Force and a NATO installation, will host the centre, which NATO says aims to protect Europe from potential attacks by so-called "rogue states" like Iran.

"The command and control element will be based at Ramstein," the spokesman for NATO's Allied Air Command said. "The implementation of the new command structure will take place in the next two years."

Russia opposes the shield, saying it upsets the balance of power in the region and weakens the deterrent of its nuclear arsenal, calling it a project imposed on allies by Washington.

The shield, which is expected to be fully in place by 2020, will include sites in Spain as well as two former Soviet bloc states, Poland and Romania.

Warsaw fears that planned U.S. defense cuts might stall the development of the anti-missile system on Polish soil and leave it more vulnerable to Russia.

Moscow has said it may take military counter-measures and could deploy Iskander missiles in its Kaliningrad enclave, a region separated from the rest of the country and sitting between NATO members, Poland and Lithuania.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers, writing by Brian Rohan)