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Bloomberg News
August 27, 2018
Missile Defense Report Aims for Trust

Tom Z. Collina

Seeking to break the logjam in U.S.-Russian efforts to cooperate on missile defense deployments in Europe, a group of retired senior national security officials released a report in February offering an approach to building greater confidence between Moscow and NATO.

The study calls for cooperation on intercepting medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles to “build an important foundation for future cooperation against longer-range threats,” such as strategic missiles, which the report does not specifically address.

The report was produced by the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative, created in 2009 by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and co-chaired by former German Ambassador to the United States and United Kingdom Wolfgang Ischinger, former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.).

The missile defense section of the study, led by former U.S. national security adviser Stephen Hadley, former German Defense Minister Volker Rühe, and former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov, lays out a plan for coordinating proposed U.S. and Russian interceptors and missile tracking systems. The report recommends that information from radars and satellites be shared at one or more jointly staffed centers with U.S.-NATO and Russian officers working together “to provide an enhanced threat picture and notification of missile attack.” This is similar to the U.S. proposal for “joint data fusion centers” made by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in March 2011. (See ACT, April 2011.)

The report notes that Moscow “continues to worry about the impact of strategic ballistic missile defense on its strategic nuclear deterrent.” Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin said on Russian television Feb. 3 that NATO’s planned missile interceptor system “is certainly aimed at neutralizing Russia’s nuclear missile potential,” according to RIA Novosti. The report sidesteps Moscow’s concerns, however, and recommends starting with cooperation on shorter-range missiles (up to 4,500 kilometers) to build a foundation for future efforts on strategic missiles.

Russia has rejected this approach in the past and is asking instead for legally binding assurances that U.S. interceptors would not be used against Moscow’s strategic forces. The Obama administration has refused to provide such assurances.

The United States is planning to deploy missile interceptors in Europe in four phases over the next decade. The last phase, expected to start in 2020, is planned to have some capability against long-range missiles.

Ischinger, Ivanov, and Nunn presented the report at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 4. Current Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking at the same conference later that day, did not responded specifically to the report, but said, “We are not overdramatizing the situation, but if everything goes ahead with missile defense as is planned in Washington and Brussels, then we would have to take measures.” The Kremlin recently threatened to deploy short-range Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad to target planned U.S. missile interceptors in neighboring Poland if Russia and the United States do not reach a compromise. (See ACT, January/February 2012.)

The United States and NATO are expected to announce at the May NATO summit in Chicago that the first phase of the system, consisting of an Aegis-equipped destroyer in the Mediterranean armed with Standard Missile-3 IA interceptors and a tracking radar in Turkey, has become operational. There had been expectations a year ago that a U.S.-Russian deal on missile defense cooperation would be announced there as well, but that is looking increasingly unlikely.