Congress Examines Rationale for European Missile Defenses
Washington th Members of Congress are examining closely a U.S. proposal to extend limited missile-defense protection to Central Europe. The proposal, subject to negotiations with host governments, would put 10 missile interceptors in Poland and one radar unit in the Czech Republic to defend against a growing ballistic missile threat from the Middle East.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington – Members of Congress are examining closely a U.S. proposal to extend limited missile-defense protection to Central Europe.
The proposal, subject to negotiations with host governments, would put 10 missile interceptors in Poland and one radar unit in the Czech Republic to defend against a growing ballistic missile threat from the Middle East.
During an examination of the strategic rationale for elements of a limited missile defense in Europe, Senator Jeff Sessions in early April raised the vulnerability of U.S. and European assets to growing Iranian long-range ballistic missile development.
Sessions also pointed to Iran’s March capture of 15 British sailors and marines, who have since been released. “With ballistic missile armed with weapons of mass destruction,” he said, “Iran could hold entire cities, even nations, hostage.”
“A European continent vulnerable to Iranian ballistic missile threats could weaken the West’s resolve in what is shaping up to be a clash of wills with Iran,” Sessions said during an April 3 Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing on missile defense.
Air Force Lieutenant General Henry Obering, who directs the Missile Defense Agency, told the Strategic Forces subcommittee that Iran and North Korea are pursuing aggressive ballistic missile development and test efforts.
Obering said the global nature of the threat – with a projected doubling of foreign ballistic missile launches -- requires close cooperation among U.S. allies and friends. “We must meet the rising threats posed by ballistic missiles,” he said.
An increasing number of nations has joined the missile defense effort, with Japan being one of the United States’ closest partners. Obering said the two nations have flight tested new missile nose-cone technologies and plan to co-develop a larger version of the next generation Standard missile.
The United Kingdom and Denmark are working with the United States to upgrade existing early-warning radars. Cooperative agreements are in place with Australia and Italy. And Israel has been working on short- and medium-range missile defenses with U.S. support.
Sessions said missile defense investments by the United States and its allies likely will have a deterrent effect by devaluing hostile systems. Nations that might consider developing offensive missile systems, he said, may look at program test results ( 24 successful intercepts ), solid financial investment, as well as the application of emerging technologies and decide continued development would be futile “because we have a good system against it.”
BENEFITS OF EUROPEAN MISSILE DEFENSE DEPLOYMENTS
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Brian Green said unpredictable adversaries like Iran and North Korea “continue to challenge our notions of deterrence and defense.” With the intelligence community projecting that Iran could develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capability by 2015, he said “we must start now in order to address this threat in a timely manner.”
Green said the missile defense assets deployed in Europe would be capable of intercepting ICBMs and intermediate-range ballistic missiles launched out of the Middle East. Interceptors and radar would provide essential protection for Europe and redundant coverage for the United States.
“Strengthening our European allies and the NATO alliance … enhances U.S. security,” he said. Defending Europe against longer-range threats, just as the United States is defending itself, is an important way to keep alliance security “tightly coupled,” Green said.
Cooperation in this area is also a way to promote successful defense burdensharing and strengthen relationships. “When negotiations are successfully concluded,” Green said, “Poland and the Czech Republic would be providing a significant contribution to the collective security of the NATO alliance by hosting ballistic missile defense assets.” ( See related article. )
Several NATO members are involved in long-range missile defense activities and a number of others are engaged in activities associated with short- or medium-range defenses. “There is a natural complementarity between what we’re doing and what NATO is doing,” Green said.
In a March 27 House Armed Services hearing on missile defense, Representative Ellen Tauscher asked why mobile land- or sea-based missile defenses might not better serve Europe’s requirement.
“There is a persistence to land-based assets,” Obering said, because they are always there when needed. For protection and lower costs, he said, “land-based silos are the right way to go.”
U.S.-RUSSIAN STRATEGIC BALANCE UNDISTURBED
Russian opposition to any Central European deployment was raised repeatedly during presentations by missile defense experts.
Green took this up saying, “10 interceptors in Europe are simply not a threat to Russia and cannot diminish Russia’s deterrent of hundreds of missiles and thousands of warheads.”
Further, he said, geography and physics demonstrate that ground-based missile interceptors and radar in Central Europe “would have no capability against an ICBM launched out of Russia at the United States in a one-on-one engagement.”
Because the United States does not view Russia as a strategic adversary, he said, “there is no strategic balance to disturb.” ( See related article. )
( USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov )
By Jacquelyn S. Porth USINFO Staff Writer
This story was released on 2007-04-16. Please make sure to visit the official company or organization web site to learn more about the original release date. See our disclaimer for additional information.