NATO has confirmed the operational status of the US-built missile defense system in Europe, and announced today that it will take direct control over it, putting US ships involved in the operation under direct NATO command and control.
The shield was a long-term plan, which began under the Bush Administration, nominally to target Iran. The assets are positioned in places far outside the range of Iran’s best missiles, which led to Russian complaints that they are the real target. Though the US denied this publicly for years, during the activation of the system they were talking it up as a show of force against Russia.
The transfer of control to NATO came at the behest of several European members, particularly France, who objected to the idea of the US retaining full control over such a controversial, and Europe-centric, system.
Indeed, some nations appeared to be concerned that the US retaining the shield would be more likely alienate Russia, and saw the transfer as a “compromise,” putting the system under alliance control, and meaning European nations with a lot more to lose in a further escalation with Russia would have more say over the shield’s use.