Proliferation Press

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Archive for the ‘missile defense’ Category

Blog-On-Blog: Obama’s Missile Defense Shift

Posted by K.E. White on September 18, 2009

Nukes of Hazard and PONI offer fresh analysis on Obama’s bold move to scrape missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Both blogs show how the move isn’t that drastic. Nukes of Hazard emphasizes that Poland and the Czech Republic face no greater susceptibility to Russian aggression owing to Obama’s missile shield shift. PONI, on the other hand, emphasizes the alternate methods America holds to provide missile security to Poland and the Czech Republic. Both are, in effect, saying ‘chill out’ to critics who see Obama’s shift as abandoning Eastern Europe to menacing Russian designs. (And so is the White House, releasing their four-phase plan for European missile defense)

While I agree with tboth blogs, neither pay much attention to the greatest consequence of Obama’s missile shield shift. The Bush administration pursued a policy of nuclear dominance, pushing for American arms superiority as the best way to promote American security. The Bush White House viewed other powers security interests chiefly determined by their own needs, not contingent on US actions. As such any attempt to scale back nuclear superiority only put American security in the untrustworthy hands of nuclear rivals.

Obama has—to some degree—rejected nuclear dominance as a workable approach to America’s security concerns. Instead he seems to see cooperation with nuclear rivals like Russia and China key to preventing further nuclear proliferation and WMD terrorism. As such, placing bounds on America’s power projection—to allay Chinese and Russian security concerns—is actually in the interest of the United States. Why? Because we can’t have it all: without convincing—i.e. brokering a deal—with other nuclear powers (read: China and Russia) to isolate nations (read: Iran and North Korea) pursuing nuclear programs, stopping these nuclear aspirants will be impossible.

Now, of course, Obama isn’t ushering in complete restrictions on America’s nuclear hand. (Just like Bush didn’t simply reject international cooperation, as shown by PSI) Obama still supports the US-India nuclear deal, and is still willing to push back on creeping Russian influence in Eastern Europe. But he is making it clear certain U.S. actions are off the table.

Will this foster great power cooperation on today’s global dangers? Or merely be used to scale back American influence while yielding no progress towards nonproliferation? Only time will tell.

From Nukes of Hazard:

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.

And from PONI, who just unveiled a snazzy new website:

Therefore, the effect of Obama’s decision on our alliance commitments is still up in the air.  If Russia becomes more assertive and bullies our allies (as described in the Reuters article above), without any response from the US, then certainly, our commitment to defending allies will be questioned.  However, if Obama takes other actions to show that the US is committed to the defense of Eastern European allies, it could easily reverse the perception.  This won’t be an easy task…

US commitments to reestablish assurance are underway.  First, Obama’s speech mentioned that the US would continue to work on advancing NATO missile defenses. In the future, this could include NATO capabilities placed in countries like Poland and the Czech Republic.  Second, the United States is not withdrawing all missile defense systems…

According to Lukasz Kulesa of the Polish Institute of International Affairs, these are the types of commitments that the US has to make to assure Poland that we are committed to their defense:

From the perspective of Central Europe’s, the greatest danger…would be to create the impression that NATO has somehow gone soft where its primary function of defending the territories of the member states is concerned…Therefore, such a move it is – if it is agreed within the alliance, would probably need to be somehow balanced by a set of decisions giving credible reassurances on the value of Article V…it’s about putting the physical infrastructure of the alliance within the member state…some of the allies would most probably expect the United States to increase its presence on their territory, though not necessarily by building new bases or new installation. I think the arrangements might be made between Poland and the United States on the nonpermanent deployment of the Patriots anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems in Poland… is an example of such an approach of seeking additional U.S. presence

Kulsea also argues that shifting control of missile defense to NATO could reduce the stigma attached to the system and reduce Russian objections.

The US could make similar commitment [Patriot anti-aircraft] to the Czech Republic or explore other options such as NATO exercises or temporary deployments of US troops that would provide tangible evidence of our commitment to their defense.

The point is that there are still options for assurance.  Obama is already starting to make commitments to make up for the “scrapped” installations.  In the next few weeks and months, Obama must continue to take concrete steps.  The US will need to make other tangible commitments and prevent Russian bullying.  If Obama follows this course, the US will appear as resolved as ever.

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Obama Scales Back on European Missile Shield, Repudiates Bush Administration Policy

Posted by K.E. White on September 17, 2009

Today President Obama quashed Bush era plans for constructing long-range missile defense stations in the Czech Republic and Poland. Instead the White House has opted for a system aimed at preventing short-range missles through the Navy’s Aegis system.   The decision follows the recommendations of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen

The move brings back the traditional liberal-conservative divide over the merits of missile defense.

The decision, while ostensibly based on technological considerations, will be seen–by supporters and detractors alike–as a significant policy decision. Long-range missile defense, while offering the greatest security pay-off, also antagonize other nuclear powers–particularly Russia. Focusing on a short-range system suggests a security focus on emerging nuclear threats such as North Korea and Iran.

The Arms Control Association, a fierce critic of the Bush administration’s missile defense policies, welcomes the move and offers this backgrounder. The Heritage Foundation blasts Obama’s move as one of “surrender and betrayal.”

Secretary Gates today responded directly to such criticism:

“Those who say we are scrapping missile defense in Europe [as opposed to re-orientating] are either misinformed or misrepresenting the reality of what we are doing…The security of Europe has been a vital national interest of the United States for my entire career. The circumstances, borders and threats may have changed, but that commitment continues.”

From the New York Times:

President Obama announced on Thursday that he will scrap former President George W. Bush’s planned missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic and instead deploy a reconfigured system aimed more at intercepting shorter-range Iranian missiles.

Mr. Obama decided not to deploy a sophisticated radar system in the Czech Republic or 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland, as Mr. Bush had planned. Instead, the new system his administration is developing would deploy smaller SM-3 missiles, at first aboard ships and later probably either in southern Europe or Turkey, officials said.

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Blog-On-Blog: Nukes of Hazard on Missile Shield

Posted by K.E. White on October 9, 2007

Good stuff from Nukes of Hazard.

Nukes of Hazard brings attention to a new rationale for missile defense (aka BMS/’Star Wars’): satellite protection:

(Senator) Kyl’s case for funding the project was that it was a step towards the development of active defenses for American satellites against anti-satellite weapons, and that it was not necessarily a missile defense project. However, an examination of the budget request for the test bed casts serious doubt on Kyl’s argument, indicating that the test bed is quite simply a missile defense program.

Nukes of Hazard also bring attention to a Ivo Daalder and John Holum’s Boston Globe op-ed that defends the goal of eventual nuclear abolition.

Posted in missile defense, Nuclear, nuclear abolition, Nukes of Hazard | 1 Comment »

Russia Up-Date: New Air Defense System Can’t Stop Missile Miscues

Posted by K.E. White on August 7, 2007


Summary: Russia shows off new missile defense, but perhaps we shouldn’t be too impressed: Russia may have just shot a dud-missile at Georgia. And Russia tightens the nuclear screws on Iran.

The International Herald Tribune reports on Russia new S-400 air defense hardware:

Vadim Volkovitsky, the deputy air force commander in charge of antiaircraft defense, told NTV television that the system contained “not only the functions of air defense but also antimissile defense.”

The new unit, called the S-400, can destroy targets traveling five kilometers, or three miles, per second, which would include aircraft and medium-range missiles, he said.

But he added that it was not able to stop intercontinental missiles, which travel faster.

But this scripted expression of Russian military prowess has been mucked up a bit:

Georgia accused Russia on Tuesday of firing a guided missile into its territory near a village about 65 km (40 miles) west of its capital, but Moscow denied any involvement.

Georgia‘s interior minister said the missile was launched by jets that crossed the border from Russia in an “act of aggression.” In Tbilisi, Russia’s ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry where he was handed a note of protest.

The missile did not explode, instead burrowing into a field of corn and potatoes near the village of Tsitelubani, a Reuters reporter at the scene said. An interior ministry official said it would have caused a “disaster” if it had detonated.

But, in a undoubtedly welcome development from the American perspective, Russia is pushing Iran for greater nuclear transparency:

Moscow has warned Iran that it will not deliver fuel to a nearly completed Russian-built nuclear reactor unless Tehran lifts the veil of secrecy on suspicious past atomic activities, a European diplomat said Tuesday. (AP)

Posted in Georgia, Iran, missile defense, Russia, Tsitelubani | 1 Comment »

Russia Roars: Putin Blasts NATO Missile Defense; Diplomatic Combat Over Kosovo

Posted by K.E. White on April 27, 2007

Numerous news-sites commented on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to withdraw from The Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe arms treaty (CFE), voiced during his final annual address to the Federation Council (Russia’s upper house of Congress).

Reuters offers a succinct summary of what such a diplomatic withdrawal would mean. The treaty restricts armaments throughout Europe–from Atlantic and Russia’s Ural mountains. But more important is the treaty’s symbolic significance: to foster a cooperative security environment between Europe and Russia.

Putin’s move signals to Europe and America his unhappiness with the geopolitical status quo, and perhaps a willingness to shake that norm up.

PutinReuters points out that lately Russia has felt the CFE has become a diplomatic tool to box Russia in and accept pro-West policies.

But Putin pointed specifically to NATO’s missile defense plans—spearheaded by the United States—as a reason for possible CFE withdrawal.

This issue directly relates to speculation over the possibility of a new nuclear arms/war technology race.

If large regional powers—China and Russia—feel their nuclear deterrents are no longer effective, their security concerns could derail cooperation with the United States and their allies on a host of over issues.

And Kosovo may be the first casualty. Russia is currying opposition to Kosovo independence, contrary to American and European aims. While Russian opposition has other–and more substantial–roots, the feuding over missile defense certainly does not help.

And to top things off, a WWII monument is severely souring relations between Russia and Estonia.

The Russian bear is roaring, and putting the world community on note.

Posted in Kosovo, missile defense, NATO, Putin, Russia | Leave a Comment »