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NATO’s Missile Shield to Keep Nations’ Nuclear Weapons

France and the U.K. will get NATO’s assurance that the European missile defense shield isn’t intended to take the place of their nuclear weapons, according to a European official with knowledge of the discussions.

NATO’s final statement will say the European missile defense shield, a project pressed by the U.S., will complement nations’ existing nuclear deterrence capabilities, the official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue while the talks are under way, said today.

France, the U.K. and the U.S. are the three NATO-member countries that have nuclear deterrence as a defense strategy. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization statement will include a sentence that will take note of the compatability of nuclear deterrence and the missile-shield system, said the official.

New French President Francois Hollande, who warned in March that he was “reticent” about the defense shield, put the protection of the nation’s nuclear deterrence as a condition for the missile shield program.

Hollande said today he would continue the discussion at the NATO meeting in Chicago to ensure that “all the precautions will be taken and the conditions respected” in the project. He was speaking to reporters in Chicago before heading to the NATO conference.

Laurent Fabius, France’s new foreign minister, said today four conditions were required for France to sign off on the project including the protection of French nuclear deterrent, balanced political conditions on the command of the project, no budgetary overrun and equal access for French and European companies to the industrial project along with U.S. companies.

Russian Objections

Fabius said France would “not be an obstacle but these four conditions are absolutely decisive.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who returned to the Kremlin for a third term this month, opposes the U.S. plans to house parts of a missile shield in eastern Europe. He said the shield would undermine Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

Russian threats to counter a proposed missile-defense system in eastern Europe are “completely pointless,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. He spoke today as the 28 members of the NATO and partner nations gathered for their summit in Chicago today and tomorrow.

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