For Immediate Release
(202) 546-0795 ext. 2105
Arms Control Group: Obama's Revamped European Missile Defense Offers Better Security
to modify plans for the U.S. missile defense system in Europe, experts
at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation concluded that the
decision is technically and politically wise.
The Obama administration intends to use SM-3 interceptors, at
first based on Aegis destroyers and later based from ground-based
sites, instead of going forward with the Bush administration's plan for
ten ground-based interceptors in Poland along with a radar system in
the Czech Republic.
"The decision to revamp the missile defense plan in Europe is based on technological reality rather than rigid ideology," said John Isaacs, executive director of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. "The Obama administration's proposal is a better choice for U.S. and European security."
The Bush administration's proposed Poland-based interceptor, which
would have been a two-stage variant of the three-stage U.S. interceptor
already deployed in Alaska and California, has not yet been built and
would not even undergo its first test until 2010. The Bush
administration's proposed configuration would not have protected NATO
members Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania from current Iranian
missile threats because the system was not designed to cover this area.
On the other hand, the Obama administration's SM-3 configuration is
designed to protect all of Europe by approximately 2018.
"The proposed interceptors for Poland have not even been
built, much less tested. The Obama administration is killing an idea,
not a program, and replacing it with a more technologically-promising
system," remarked Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
Aegis destroyers are already deployed worldwide and the SM-3 interceptor has proven successful
in 19 of 23 tests since 2002. The SM-3 interceptor is also specifically
designed to counter short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, which
are the most dangerous near-term threat posed by Iran. As Missile
Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly said earlier this year, "ninety-nine percent of the threat today" is from short- and medium-range missiles.
Iran is years away from possessing the type of long-range ballistic
missile that could threaten most of Europe and the continental United
States. Though intelligence estimates vary, the broad consensus
is that Iran, without substantial foreign assistance (which Western
intelligence would likely detect), is not likely to possess a ballistic
missile topped with a nuclear weapon capable of threatening all of
Europe and/or the United States until 2015 at the very earliest. Under
the Obama administration's plan, upgraded SM-3 interceptors that are
more capable of defending against intermediate- and long-range missiles
will be deployed as they become available over the next decade. Thus,
as the Iranian threat potentially evolves, the U.S. missile defense
evolve along with it.
While supporters of the European proposal are attempting to
characterize the Obama administration's decision as a sign of a
slackening U.S. commitment to Eastern European allies or NATO, this is
false. First, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen labeled the
Obama administration's decision "a positive first step." The U.S.
relationship with its NATO allies is crucial for European security,
restraining Russian aggressiveness, and retaining support for U.S.
military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States is not
abandoning missile defense in Europe; it is restructuring capabilities
to better counter threats that currently exist.
Second, while Poland and the Czech Republic sought the system in order
to secure U.S. support in the face of recent Russian assertiveness, the
system was not designed, and the Bush administration reiterated over
and over again that it was not intended, to defend these countries
against Russia. The United States pledged earlier this year to provide
Poland with a Patriot missile battery that will help defend against
Russia. The United States also has agreed in recent years to provide
Poland and the Czech Republic with F-16 fighters and unmanned aerial
vehicles, a sign of Washington's commitment to their security.
"The U.S. security commitment to Poland and the Czech Republican remains as steadfast as ever," added Isaacs. "Framing
this decision, which was based on technical factors, as a litmus test
of whether the United States is committed to Eastern Europe or willing
to stand up to Russia represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the
KEY FACTS ON MISSILE DEFENSE IN EUROPE
The proposed U.S. missile defense system in Europe was designed to
protect Europe and the United States from intermediate- and long-range
missile threats from Iran which do not currently exist.
-- The Congressional Budget Office projected that the Bush administration's proposal would cost between $9 billion and $14 billion over 20 years.
-- Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, the Director of the Missile Defense Agency, noted in a recent interview that 99% of the ballistic missile threat today is from short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.
-- U.S. analysis of Iran's ballistic missile programs have
consistently overestimated the speed of Iran's development of new, more
advanced missiles. As Gen. James Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, stated last
month, "We believed that the emergence of the intercontinental
ballistic missile would come much faster than it did...The reality is,
it has not come as fast as we thought it would come."
-- An April 2009 report of the U.S. Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Center stated that "With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015."
-- In a Joint Threat Assessment of Iran's nuclear and missile
potential released in May 2009, a team of U.S. and Russian scientists estimated that
if Iran decided today that it wanted to develop an ICBM, it "will not
be able, for at least ten to fifteen years, to master independently the
'critical technologies' for advanced...[intermediate range ballistic
missiles] and ICBMs because it does not have the scientific, economic,
and industrial infrastructure for developing these critical
The proposed interceptors for Poland have not even been built, much
less tested. The Obama administration is killing an idea, not a program.
-- In October 2007, Dr. Charles McQueary, the Department of Defense's
Director, Operational Test & Evaluation, issued a report on the
proposed European missile defense system. The report concluded that "the effectiveness of the European assets cannot be assumed."
-- In 2008, Dr. McQueary stated that
the missile defense capabilities upon which the European interceptors
would have been based "will not support a high level of confidence in
its limited capabilities...additional test data under realistic test
conditions is necessary to validate models and simulations and to
increase confidence in the ability of these models and simulations to
accurately predict system capability."
-- According to the final report
of the bipartisan Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, which
included such conservatives as former Secretary of Defense James
Schlesinger and former FBI Director James Woolsey, missile defenses
designed to counter long-range threats have "demonstrated some
capability against unsophisticated threats," but "this...system is now
incapable of defending against complex threats." The Commission
encouraged "a substantial role for defenses against short- to
medium-range missiles," but warned that "defenses against longer range
missiles should be based on their demonstrated effectiveness and the
projected threat from Iran and North Korea." The Obama
administration's plans for missile defense in Europe are in keeping
with the Commission's recommendations.
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The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)3 non-profit, non-partisan research organization dedicated to enhancing international peace and security in the 21st century. The Center is funded by grants from private foundations and the generosity of thousands of individual donors.