“The Arms Control Association and all of the staff I've worked with over the years … have this ability to speak truth to power in a wide variety of venues.”
– Marylia Kelley
Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
June 2, 2022

Europe Anti-Missile Plan Faces Hard Sell

Wade Boese

The Bush administration had envisioned 2008 as the year construction would begin on U.S. long-range anti-ballistic missile bases in Europe, but it still must convince others to go along with its plan. Moscow vigorously opposes the move and recently accused Washington of backsliding on proposals to ease Russia’s concerns, Warsaw and Prague have yet to agree to host sites, and Congress recently denied funding to start building the potential bases.

Although the United States engaged in missile defense cooperation discussions with the Polish and Czech governments as early as 2004 (see ACT, July/August 2004 ), official negotiations on the initiative, as well as intense scrutiny of it, did not begin until early last year. Russia immediately denounced the proposal, 10 interceptors in Poland coupled with a precision tracking radar in the Czech Republic, as targeting its missiles.

The Bush administration claims that the system is designed to counter what it says is a growing ballistic missile threat from Iran. It further contends the proposed defense poses no threat to Russia and last November presented the Kremlin with proposals that the administration said were intended to alleviate Russian anxieties. The offers followed on October talks involving Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and their Russian counterparts. (See ACT, November 2007. )

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov charged Dec. 5, however, that the written proposals fell short of what had been previously discussed. He told reporters, “[U]nfortunately, a serious rollback from what we had been told occurred.”

Lavrov argued that the United States reneged on an idea not to operate the radar or install interceptors in their silos until a threat materialized. He also contended the United States balked on permitting a permanent Russian presence at the European sites and backed off a commitment that Russia would have input on activating the system.

A U.S. government official knowledgeable of the talks and the draft proposals told Arms Control Today Dec. 21 that Russian officials appeared to have “overly interpreted” the earlier remarks of Rice and Gates. The official noted that both secretaries personally approved the document delivered to Russia.

The U.S. official contended that Rice and Gates talked about stationing U.S. and Russian personnel at each other’s sites related to missile defense, but made clear that any Russian visits or presence at European bases would depend on a host nation’s consent. Lieutenant General Henry Obering, head of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA), made this point publicly several times last year.

Obering, Rice, and other senior officials also repeatedly have declared that Russia would not be given a veto over U.S. missile defense plans. Indeed, shortly after Rice and Gates visited Moscow last October, Reuters quoted Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian affairs, as explaining, “[W]e will not ask Russia’s permission to turn [the system] on.”

Gates, however, volunteered to Russia that the United States might postpone activation of a system until there is clear evidence of a threat. U.S. and Russian officials further agreed to discuss their separate criteria for assessing potential dangers. But the U.S. official said it was never suggested that there had to be consensus on the criteria or on the existence of a threat for either side to act.

U.S. and Russian officials met again Dec. 13 in Budapest without resolution. The U.S. official said the two sides plan to continue talking early this year but that no date has been set.

The Bush administration has emphasized that it will move forward without the Kremlin’s consent if negotiations with the Czech Republic and Poland are completed. Early last year, U.S. officials suggested talks with the two potential host countries might take a matter of months, but they have lagged longer.

Moreover, October parliamentary elections in Poland resulted in a new government that is taking a fresh look at the proposed project. Led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk, the government has made improving relations with Russia a goal and will meet in late January with Russian officials to discuss a variety of issues, including missile defense. The next formal round of U.S.-Polish missile defense talks has not been scheduled, but the new Polish defense minister, Bogdan Klich, is scheduled to visit Gates in mid-January, when the topic is expected to come up.

Radek Sikorski, the new Polish foreign minister, previously has criticized the U.S. approach as clumsy and insufficient, suggesting that Poland should receive additional benefits and weapon systems for hosting a site that might anger Russia. Writing March 21, 2007, in The Washington Post, Sikorski argued the proposed system could “generate a new security partnership with the countries of the region” or “provoke a spiral of misunderstanding, weaken NATO, deepen Russian paranoia and cost the United States some of its last friends on the continent.”

Similar concerns have nagged some U.S. lawmakers. Indeed, the defense appropriations act, signed into law by President George W. Bush Nov. 13, 2007 (see page 36 ), cuts $85 million from the administration’s original $310 million request for work on the system during fiscal year 2008, which began Oct. 1, 2007. The cut funds had been allocated to construction activities in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Pending host-nation agreements, MDA spokesperson Rick Lehner told Arms Control Today Dec. 18 that construction on the two sites could begin in early 2009. The goal, he said, would be to put the first interceptor in its silo in 2011.

Before any interceptors are emplaced, however, Congress maintains they must be proven “through successful, operationally realistic flight testing.” MDA has yet to flight-test the proposed European interceptor, which is a modified version of the 24 U.S. long-range interceptors currently deployed in Alaska and California.

As part of the defense authorization bill, which Bush and Congress are still contesting, legislators have included a provision calling for a $1 million independent study of the missile threat to Europe and an analysis of alternative or complimentary anti-missile systems to the administration’s proposed defense. The report would be due within 180 days after the legislation becomes law.

Click here to comment on this article.

CFE Treaty Regime Remains Vital to Europe, Russia, and the United States



For Immediate Release: December 12, 2007
Press Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107 and Wade Boese, (202) 463-8270 x104

(Washington, D.C.): The nonpartisan Arms Control Association (ACA) is disappointed today that Russia followed through on its threat to suspend implementation of the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. ACA calls on all other states-parties to continue adhering to the accord and for Russia to renew its participation as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, ACA urges all 30 CFE states-parties, including Russia, to take the necessary actions to bring into force a 1999 updated version of the treaty, which would help ensure that dividing lines do not again descend across Europe.

Negotiated near the Cold War’s end, the CFE Treaty capped the amount of battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, and other heavy armaments that its states-parties could deploy between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. The agreement led to the destruction of more than 60,000 weapons and effectively eliminated the possibility of large-scale surprise attacks in Europe. It also established an extensive verification regime that fosters transparency and trust throughout Europe.

The 1999 Adapted CFE Treaty aims to extend and enhance this invaluable regime while updating some treaty limits and rules to account for the significant military and political changes that have occurred since the original treaty’s negotiation. All of the 1990 treaty states-parties must ratify the revised accord for it to take effect, but the United States and other NATO members are conditioning their approval on Russia fulfilling military withdrawal commitments from Georgia and Moldova.

Daryl G. Kimball, ACA executive director, recommended that “Russia must withdraw its residual forces from Georgia and Moldova, which are not vital to Russia’s security or security in those regions.” He suggested that Moscow seriously explore options to replace Russian personnel with international peacekeepers and use foreign assistance to help facilitate withdrawal activities.  

At the same time, Kimball urged NATO members to start their national ratification processes to demonstrate their commitment to the adapted treaty. Moreover, he called upon NATO countries to pursue future reductions in their permitted weapons limits, which in most cases far exceed actual arms holdings. Such a move, he said, could help ease Russian concerns about future NATO force buildups.

The Arms Control Association cosponsored a November international appeal to bolster the CFE Treaty regime. That appeal is at http://www.armscontrol.org/pressroom/2007/20071204_CFE_Appeal.asp, and a current list of signers can be found at the websites of the two appeal cosponsors: the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt and the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg.  

Additional information on the CFE Treaty and the Adapted CFE Treaty can be found at ACA’s CFE Treaty resource section at http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/ct/. In particular, an analysis of the Adapted CFE Treaty is available at http://www.armscontrol.org/act/1999_11/wbno99.asp.               

Country Resources:

Europe Eager to Preserve CFE Treaty

Wade Boese

Many European governments are increasingly anxious about the future of a treaty limiting conventional arms in Europe, but officials say there should be no cause for immediate alarm if Russia suspends implementation of the accord. The Kremlin maintains support for an updated version of that treaty and, in a related move, recently withdrew some Russian military forces from Georgia.

Completed the year before the Soviet Union’s 1991 disintegration, the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty placed equal caps on the battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters that the two superpowers and their allies could deploy between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. Aiming to avert massive surprise attacks by either bloc, the treaty limited how many forces could be stationed in central Europe and concentrated in Europe’s northern and southern regions, the so-called flanks.

Referred to as a “cornerstone” of European security, the CFE Treaty is typically hailed for leading to the destruction of more than 60,000 weapons and building confidence and trust among its states-parties through an extensive verification regime. Last May, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice deemed the accord “one of the most important treaties of the 20th century.”

But with the Soviet Union’s collapse and NATO’s expansion to include 10 new members, including former Soviet allies and republics, the treaty’s value has waned in some eyes, most notably in Moscow. Consequently, CFE states-parties in 1999 negotiated an adapted version of the treaty, which among other things replaces the bloc arms limits with national weapons ceilings. (See ACT, November 1999. )

All 30 of the original treaty’s states-parties must ratify the adapted treaty for it to take effect, but only four have done so. The 22 CFE Treaty states-parties that are NATO members have been linking ratification of the adapted treaty to Russia fulfilling military withdrawal commitments regarding Georgia and Moldova. Russia made those pledges at the same summit at which the adapted treaty was completed.

Moscow contends the issues should not be linked and that the adapted treaty must be brought into force as quickly as possible to supplant the original treaty. One of Russia’s many criticisms of the older pact is that four NATO members (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia) are not party to it and therefore do not have any arms limits. The four cannot join the original treaty because it lacks an accession provision, but they will be able to accede to the adapted treaty after it enters into force.

With U.S.-Russian tensions escalating over a Bush administration plan to install strategic anti-missile systems in Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin in July announced Russia would stop implementing the original CFE Treaty in six months unless NATO addresses Russia’s raft of concerns with the accord. In November, the Russian parliament’s two chambers approved the possible Dec. 12 suspension.

Contemplating a Suspension

The United States and its European allies are urging Russia not to carry out its threat. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier co-authored an article published Oct. 29 in the newspapers Le Figaro and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung warning that “an erosion of the CFE Treaty could spark new arms races and create new lines of confrontation.”

Several government officials from different European states told Arms Control Today in November interviews that the two foreign ministers’ concerns were principally of a long-term nature and that NATO members would work to prevent further confrontation even if Russia ceased implementing the CFE Treaty. Almost all of the officials asked not to be named and requested their country not be identified because of the sensitivity of the current situation.

All the officials agreed that the best result would be if Russia opted to “suspend its suspension.” A minority expressed hope that Russia might not act on its threat, but a majority seemed resigned that Moscow would not apply the brakes.

Russia has not been clear on what a suspension might entail. Russian officials have suggested that participation in inspections and data exchanges would cease, but they have not said whether Russia will stop attending meetings of the Joint Consultative Group, the treaty’s Vienna-based forum for implementation discussions. Moreover, Kremlin officials previously stated a suspension would not lead Russia to exceed its limits or redeploy its forces, but more recent media reports have quoted General Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of the general staff, as saying that such options would be kept open.

All the European government officials interviewed by Arms Control Today said NATO members likely would continue initially to provide data exchanges and notifications if Russia stopped. The purpose of doing so, they said, would be to maintain those channels for Russia to resume cooperation and to signal to other countries that one country’s choice not to abide by the treaty does not provide leeway for other states-parties to eschew their legal obligations. Aside from Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and Ukraine are the other seven non-NATO CFE states-parties.

The officials generally downplayed possible Russian force buildups, at least in the short term, but acknowledged that concerns are greater for countries nearer Russian borders, such as the three Baltic countries, Norway, and Turkey. Several of the officials stressed, however, that “security cannot be divided.”

A Norwegian official interviewed Nov. 19 by Arms Control Today said his country has both “political and practical reasons” for preserving the CFE framework. But he noted that if Moscow were to increase its forces anywhere, it would most likely be in southern Russia.

A prolonged Russian suspension, some of the officials said, eventually could compel NATO countries to re-evaluate their defense planning. Michael Wyganowski, a former Polish diplomat who worked on CFE Treaty issues and is now executive director of the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis, told Arms Control Today Nov. 15 that absent data from Russia and arms limits on Russia, other European military planners would have to alter their “assumptions.” He speculated that if Russia walks away from the CFE regime, it could be a sign that Moscow sees military power playing a bigger role in its policy “toolbox.”

Still, the European government officials stressed the importance of not overreacting to a Russian suspension. In such a case, one official stated there would be no need to “panic,” while another official said it would be crucial to keep the “dialogue and doors open” with Russia.

During the past several months, the United States and its NATO allies have sought to persuade Russia to stave off the suspension, but some say the dialogue has been mostly one way. At multilateral meetings near Berlin and in Paris and at U.S.-Russian bilateral meetings in Moscow and Geneva, U.S. and European officials say the West offers proposals while Russia reiterates its problems and adds to its demands. One European official familiar with the talks told Arms Control Today Nov. 15 that there was “no sign that the Russians were seeking solutions to avoid a suspension.”

Georgia and Moldova

NATO members maintain they have insisted on conditioning the ratification of the adapted CFE Treaty in order to avoid having Georgia and Moldova feel abandoned. Both those governments want Russia’s forces to depart their two territories, and a key principle of the adapted treaty is that foreign deployed troops must have host-state consent.

Russia’s withdrawal from Moldova stalled in 2004, leaving approximately 1,200 Russian troops and about 21,000 metric tons of ammunition behind. But the Kremlin has been slowly reducing its forces in Georgia. In mid-November, Russia finished withdrawing its forces from the second of two bases it promised in 2005 to vacate. (See ACT, July/August 2005. ) With that step, only about 200 Russian troops, which Moscow says are peacekeepers, remain in Georgia.

A complicating factor in completing the withdrawals from Georgia and Moldova is that the remaining Russian forces are located in separatist territories. NATO members have volunteered financial assistance to facilitate the withdrawals and proposed that international peacekeepers replace the Russian troops. Moscow has declined these offers, claiming in part that the local ethnic Russian populations would not feel as safe with non-Russian soldiers.

Some NATO members in recent months have suggested starting ratification of the adapted treaty in conjunction with continued Russian withdrawal activities. On Nov. 5, David Kramer, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, testified to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe that the “goal” would be to “send a constructive signal to Moscow that NATO stands by this treaty.”

The Flanks

Despite its discontent with the original treaty, Moscow also is not entirely happy with the adapted treaty. For instance, Russia dislikes provisions that would allow some NATO members to host temporary deployments of foreign forces above their arms limits.

Another top Kremlin complaint is that the adapted treaty maintains modified versions of the original treaty’s flanks limits on Russia. Those caps constrain the amount of forces that Russia can deploy on its own northern and southern territory, including the unstable Caucasus region. Moscow is calling for the abolishment of its flanks limits.

There is no consensus among NATO members about what should be done with the flanks. But many of the officials interviewed by Arms Control Today said it would be impractical to “open up” the adapted treaty to deal with the flanks before the agreement entered into force. One official volunteered that a potential compromise could be a pledge by NATO to review the flanks issue after the adapted treaty’s entry into force.

Kouchner and Steinmeier appeared to hint at this option. Contending that all the current CFE Treaty disputes cannot be resolved in the short term, the two foreign ministers suggested governments should “proceed on the understanding that even after the entry into force of the Adapted CFE Treaty, the door will remain open for further amendments.”

The CFE Treaty and European Security

Daryl G. Kimball

A mere 20 years ago, massive numbers of conventional and nuclear forces stood poised for attack on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain. NATO and Soviet bloc countries were finally able to draw down their arsenals, ease tensions, and build trust with verification through a series of landmark arms control agreements concluded in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Much attention has been focused on the impact of the treaty eliminating intermediate-range nuclear forces and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in solidifying the end of Cold War hostilities. No less important is the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, which slashed NATO and Warsaw Pact armies and their equipment and effectively eliminated the possibility of a blitzkrieg-style land attack across the East-West frontier.

Over the years, the CFE Treaty has provided an unprecedented level of transparency, predictability, and stability to European security and the U.S.-Russian relationship. The treaty has led to the destruction of more than 60,000 heavy conventional weapons and more than 4,000 on-site inspections. The resulting post-Cold War military balance has erased the old rationale for maintaining tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, which was to counter the Soviet bloc's conventional military strength.

All of this may soon change, however, if CFE member states do not abide by core treaty principles, adopt an updated version of the treaty, and avoid confrontational steps that put the treaty in jeopardy. The Bush White House and the Kremlin are already at odds over U.S. plans to deploy strategic missile interceptors in eastern Europe, and they disagree about the future of START.

Now, Russian President Vladimir Putin is poised to suspend implementation of the CFE Treaty Dec. 12 unless the United States and its NATO allies address Russia's concerns. Moscow's key grievance is that NATO countries have failed to ratify a 1999 adapted version of the treaty, which would relax some arms limits on Russia and open up the treaty regime to additional members, including new NATO members Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia.

Led by the United States, NATO members have maintained they will not ratify the updated treaty until Russia completes military withdrawal commitments from Georgia and Moldova made in conjunction with the adapted treaty. A core element of the adapted CFE Treaty is that individual states give their consent to any deployment of foreign military forces within their territory. Approximately 1,200 Russian military personnel and massive ammunition stockpiles remain in Moldova, and another 200 personnel remain in Georgia.

To convey its goodwill and support for the adapted CFE Treaty, the United States reportedly has endorsed a more flexible course of action, allowing individual NATO members to start some ratification steps but not complete the process. They have reiterated their support for replacing Russian forces in Moldova with international peacekeepers.

Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has said that the U.S. proposals represent "a step to the right direction." Yet, after the latest round of talks in November, Lavrov said, "[S]o far there is no progress." Russian officials have been vague about what the threatened suspension of treaty implementation might entail, but they have hinted that it might unilaterally redeploy some of its forces and end participation in inspections and data exchanges.

Such a course of action would be counterproductive. Other states may be tempted to unilaterally interpret the 1990 treaty, and some legislatures might slow, not hasten, their consideration and ratification of the adapted treaty. Over time, the absence of good information about Russia's capabilities may lead some Western military planners to adjust their calculations, which could lead to new conventional force buildups in Europe.

Key players must now take the right steps to avoid confrontation between former adversaries. Putin must resist internal pressure to undermine the CFE Treaty as a means to lash out at the United States over what Russia perceives as a lack of respect for its interests. The CFE Treaty still serves Russia's vital interests, particularly because it maintains reasonable limits on NATO forces. The Kremlin must also do its part and finally fulfill its commitments to withdraw its residual forces in Georgia and Moldova, which are not vital to security in those regions.

For their part, NATO member states should initiate the process of ratifying the adapted CFE Treaty within the next several weeks. If Russia suspends implementation of the 1990 treaty, other CFE member states should continue to abide by their treaty commitments. Doing so would avoid a total unraveling of the CFE regime and keep the door open for Russia to return to the treaty. CFE members should also strengthen the regime by agreeing to even lower force limits.

Moscow and Washington have enough troubles to solve without provocative new actions that further undermine the international arms control framework. It is time for renewed leadership to bring the adapted CFE Treaty into force in order to maintain security and cooperation across Europe's old dividing lines.

A mere 20 years ago, massive numbers of conventional and nuclear forces stood poised for attack on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain. NATO and Soviet bloc countries were finally able to draw down their arsenals, ease tensions, and build trust with verification through a series of landmark arms control agreements concluded in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Much attention has been focused on the impact of the treaty eliminating intermediate-range nuclear forces and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in solidifying the end of Cold War hostilities. No less important is the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, which slashed NATO and Warsaw Pact armies and their equipment and effectively eliminated the possibility of a blitzkrieg-style land attack across the East-West frontier. (Continue)

Experts Support European Conventional Arms Regime: Urge Governments to Prevent Treaty Collapse and Avoid New Arms Dangers



For Immediate Release: November 30, 2007
Press Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107 and Wade Boese, (202) 463-8270 x104

(Washington, D.C.): In an international appeal published recently, U.S., Russian, and European former government officials and independent arms experts are urging their governments and others to bolster a treaty limiting conventional weapons in Europe and avoid actions that might imperil the regime, which fosters confidence, security, trust, and transparency across the continent. The independent Arms Control Association partnered with the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt and the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg to draft the appeal.

The appeal states that current disputes between NATO and Russia are endangering the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. Indeed, Russia is moving toward a Dec. 12 suspension of the accord, which is often referred to as a cornerstone of European security. A Russian suspension would further forestall entry into force of a 1999 updated version of the CFE Treaty and, the appeal warns, could “lead to new dividing lines and confrontation.”

Negotiated near the Cold War’s end, the CFE Treaty capped the amount of battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, and other heavy armaments that its states-parties could deploy between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. The agreement led to the destruction of more than 60,000 weapons and helped eliminate the possibility of large-scale surprise attacks in Europe. It also established an extensive verification regime, which the appeal notes has shown “confidence and security can be better achieved through cooperation and openness than by competition and secrecy.”

The appeal calls on CFE states-parties to “preserve the CFE regime and bring into force the Adapted Treaty as early as possible.” NATO members have conditioned ratification of the Adapted Treaty on Russia completing unfulfilled commitments to withdraw its military forces from Georgia and Moldova. The appeal recommends that “ratification by those who have not yet done so should go hand in hand with constructive new approaches to resolve current disputes,” and urges all states to “abide by core CFE principles,” which includes host-nation consent for foreign deployments.

Nearly 50 former government officials and nongovernmental arms experts have signed the appeal and the number of endorsers is growing. Signers include current and former ambassadors and arms negotiators from Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

An English copy of the appeal with a list of signers is available on the Arms Control Association’s website at www.armscontrol.org. German and Russian versions of the appeal, as well as a current list of all signers, are available on the websites of the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt and the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg. More information on the CFE Treaty and the Adapted CFE Treaty can be found at the Arms Control Association’s CFE Treaty resource section at http://www.armscontrol.org/subject/ct/.

Country Resources:

U.S., Russia Swap Arms Ideas

Wade Boese

Senior U.S. officials recently offered proposals to their Russian counterparts to ease escalating bilateral tensions, particularly on U.S. plans to base strategic anti-missile interceptors in Europe. The Kremlin said it would study the offers but indicated they were inadequate. Russia’s government also warned it might leave a bilateral treaty limiting certain classes of missiles if other countries remained free to acquire the proscribed weapons.

In July, Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin had agreed to pursue high-level talks on a raft of arms issues dividing their countries. Carrying out that charge, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traveled Oct. 12 to Moscow to meet with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov.

The discussions yielded no agreements, except that the two sides will meet again in six months at the same high level and work on a “strategic framework” aimed at tackling all of their ongoing arms disputes. Differences include competing U.S. and Russian ideas for a successor arrangement to the expiring 1991 START nuclear reductions accord, Russian opposition to U.S. missile defense plans, and quarrels over a treaty restricting the amount and location of major conventional weapons, such as battle tanks, stationed in Europe.

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

At Russia’s urging, the quartet also added to the package the future of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The Kremlin claims the accord, which forbids Washington and Moscow from possessing ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, disadvantages Russia vis-à-vis its neighbors, such as China, that lack the same constraints.

Before meeting with Rice and Gates, Putin said Oct. 12 that the INF Treaty should be made “global in scope.” Lavrov further spoke of the “universalization of the INF Treaty.” 

On Oct. 25 at the United Nations General Assembly, Russia and the United States issued a statement reaffirming their support for the INF Treaty and calling upon other governments to renounce and eliminate their ground-launched missiles with ranges banned by the accord. The statement declared U.S. and Russian intentions to “work with all interested countries” and “discuss the possibility of imparting a global character to this important regime.”

Missile Defense

The sharpest clash between Russia and the United States stems in part from missile developments by third countries. The Bush administration asserts its proposed deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic of 10 long-range ballistic missile interceptors and a radar to guide them is intended to counter Iran’s growing missile capabilities. Russia contends it is the system’s true target, asserting a long-range Iranian missile threat is at least 15 years away.

U.S. officials arrived in Moscow with proposals that they said would help relieve Russian angst. General concepts, they said, include stationing U.S. and Russian personnel at each other’s missile defense-related facilities and sites, increasing intelligence sharing, assessing missile threats jointly, and establishing a “joint regional missile defense architecture.” That architecture supposedly would link U.S., Russian, and European missile defense components. Gates later revealed to reporters that the United States also offered to possibly postpone activating the proposed system pending “definitive proof of the threat.” He noted Oct. 23 that “we have not fully developed this proposal.”

Lavrov and Serdyukov welcomed the U.S. proposals and said Russia would consider them. The two governments assigned their experts one immediate task: to devise common criteria for evaluating whether a missile threat exists. Lavrov remarked, “[I]f we succeed in hammering out these criteria, it will become clear that there is no need” for the U.S. system.

The two sides remain in a standoff over what should be the status of the U.S. deployment as they entertain each other’s proposals. Russia demands a halt to the effort, including ongoing U.S. negotiations with the two potential host countries.

Rice and Gates ruled out that possibility, claiming the evolving Iranian threat is dictating the pace of the plan. The Bush administration envisions installing the first missile interceptor as early as 2011, but lawmakers in pending legislation have cut or restricted funding for the project. The Pentagon warns such moves could delay the fielding of the system. U.S. intelligence estimates that Iran might acquire long-range ballistic missiles before 2015.

If Washington pushes ahead with its plan, Moscow warns all cooperation would be jeopardized, including Putin’s earlier proposal to share Russian radar data with the United States to assess Iran’s missile capabilities. (See ACT, July/August 2007. ) Putin stressed this point to Rice and Gates, saying “we could decide some day to put missile defense systems on the moon, but if we concentrate solely on carrying out our own plans, we could end up losing the opportunity for reaching an agreement.”

Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty

The disagreement over missile defense garnered most of their attention, but U.S. and Russian officials also touched on the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty and START I. The two sides announced no progress on either issue, despite some reported recent U.S. initiatives regarding the conventional arms pact.

Russia is threatening to suspend implementation of the CFE Treaty Dec. 12 unless the United States and its NATO allies remedy several Russian concerns. (See ACT, July/August 2007. ) Moscow’s key grievance is that NATO countries have failed to ratify a 1999 adapted version of the treaty, which would relax some arms limits on Russia and open up the treaty regime to new members. This latter point is important to Moscow because NATO members Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia do not belong to the treaty and have no arms restrictions.

Led by the United States, NATO members have maintained they will not ratify the updated treaty until Russia completes military withdrawal commitments from Georgia and Moldova made in conjunction with the adapted treaty. In recent months, the United States reportedly has endorsed a more flexible course of allowing individual NATO members to start some ratification steps, but not complete the process, to show goodwill to Russia.

Washington and other Western capitals also have reaffirmed offers to support replacing Russian forces in Moldova with international peacekeepers. Moscow contends such an approach would be unacceptable to the ethnic Russian population where Russian troops currently reside.

Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, stated Oct. 5 that the United States wanted to “work as fast as possible so that the Russians don’t suspend their obligations.” Although stating that U.S. proposals represented “a step to the right direction,” Lavrov Oct. 12 proclaimed them “insufficient.”


Lavrov further noted that the two governments “haven’t finalized…work” on what will follow START, which is scheduled to expire Dec. 5, 2009. The treaty required Washington and Moscow to cut their deployed strategic nuclear warhead levels from more than 10,000 each to fewer than 6,000 apiece. Neither country supports exercising the treaty’s five-year extension option, but both want to maintain certain treaty elements, such as some inspection and data exchange measures.

Russia favors codifying those provisions in a legally binding accord with new warhead and delivery-vehicle limits. The Bush administration does not, arguing such agreements are no longer needed because the Cold War arms race is in the past. (See ACT, July/August 2007. )

Some lawmakers, including a leading Republican voice on U.S. relations with Russia, are urging the administration to rethink its position. Speaking Oct. 8, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), ranking member of the foreign relations panel, said he was “hopeful the administration will ultimately abandon anxieties about legally binding commitments.” Lugar contended treaties “reduce the chances of misinterpretation, miscalculation, and error.” He added, “[T]he current Russian-American relationship is complicated enough without introducing greater elements of uncertainty into the nuclear relationship.”

European Missile Defense: The Technological Basis of Russian Concerns

George N. Lewis and Theodore A. Postol

The Bush administration is proposing to deploy a missile defense that it claims would protect most of Europe and the continental United States against potential long-range ballistic missile attacks from Iran. The proposed system would have its major components at three sites. One unidentified site would host a radar in a forward position close to Iran to provide early-warning and cueing information.

That information would then be transferred to a large X-band radar, known as the European Midcourse Radar (EMR), designed to allow U.S. defenses to discriminate, track, and identify a target cluster. The EMR, planned for a site near Prague in the Czech Republic, would be built by upgrading and moving an existing X-band radar from the Pacific Missile Test Range at Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. The other site, a farm of 10 missile interceptors, would be located in the north of Poland. According to statements made by the United States, this proposed deployment is not only “optimal,” thereby providing redundant protection of the continental United States and basic protection of European NATO allies against postulated future ballistic missile attacks from Iran, but also has absolutely no capabilities against Russian ICBMs.

The Russian reaction to the proposed deployment has been sharply negative. President Vladimir Putin has expressed alarm that “the [nuclear] balance will be upset,” and although the Russians have gone into little detail about how they arrived at their conclusions, U.S. descriptions of talks with Russian officials indicate that the Kremlin perceives the U.S. deployment to be at least in part aimed at Russia.

In order to understand Russian concerns, it is useful to examine how Russian military analysts might assess the capabilities of the proposed U.S. system. They would assess both the initial technical capabilities of the U.S. system and its potential capabilities as it matures. They would look twice at U.S. decisions to site the system as the Pentagon intends and rightly conclude that the system might be designed to counter Russia’s deterrent in addition to a nuclear attack from Iran.

Current and Potential Capabilities

The clearest high-level statement with regard to U.S. missile defense programs is Presidential National Security Presidential Directive 23 (NSPD-23), signed by President George W. Bush on December 6, 2002. The directive stated that the United States would begin to deploy missile defenses in 2004 “as a starting point for fielding improved and expanded missile defenses later.” NSPD-23 was preceded in January 2002 by a memorandum from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The Rumsfeld memo directs the Missile Defense Agency to develop defense systems by using whatever technology is “available,” even if the capabilities produced are limited relative to what the defense must ultimately be able to do.

The Rumsfeld mandate and NSPD-23 would make it clear to Russian analysts that anything they see now will surely be upgraded to something far more capable as U.S. missile defense activities advance.

Russian analysts would surely know that the U.S. missile defense could be readily defeated by very simple countermeasures, such as decoys that would look much like basketball-sized balloons. The analysts and their political leaders also would rightly ask why the Americans are doing this.

What is the U.S. intent? How will Russia have to modernize its ICBMs and attack plans to keep up with the constantly changing character of the defense and the uncertainties created by it? What are the political motivations for the relentless U.S. efforts to build defenses obviously aimed at Russia? What is the relationship of the U.S. missile defense efforts to the constant push to expand NATO and encircle Russia with U.S. bases?

Russian analysts examining the system would also conclude that, at some unforeseen future time, under highly unpredictable and very specialized conditions, the European defense might be able to engage many hundreds of targets, thereby, in conjunction with other U.S. systems, threatening Russia’s nuclear deterrent. Such possibilities, however remote they would seem, would certainly conjure up apocalyptic threats to Russia’s national survival.

The source of these concerns would be basic scientific facts that could be used by the Department of Defense in the relentless and unpredictable modernization effort foretold by NSPD-23. The location of the radar in the Czech Republic and the interceptors in Poland, both close to European Russia, would make it possible, at least in principle, for the radar to track Russian ICBMs very early after a launch and to guide interceptors against them. Although the radar currently proposed for deployment will not have the capability to track hundreds of targets at long ranges simultaneously and the number of interceptors in the initial deployment would be small, Russian analysts would expect that the capabilities of the radar and interceptors could be substantially improved at a later time.

In particular, the limits of the radar’s abilities to track large numbers of targets simultaneously are determined by the antenna’s effective size and average radiated power. The Pentagon could enhance both of these variables, boosting the system’s capabilities.

Currently, the effective size and power of U.S. X-band radar antennas are limited by the number of transmit/receive modules that are mounted in their faces. Initial plans call for the EMR radar antenna to have roughly 20,000 such transmit/receive modules thinly distributed over its 100- to 120-square-meter antenna face, each capable of radiating 2 to 3 watts of average power.

Yet, the maximum number of transmit/receive modules that could be placed on an antenna face of 120 square meters is well more than 300,000. Such a modernization would require the complete replacement and reconstruction of the antenna, but it would result in a vast increase in the number of targets that could simultaneously be engaged by the radar because the “effective area” of the antenna is proportional to the number of transmit/receive modules. If the number of transmit/receive modules were to be increased by a factor of 16 to 17, then both the effective area of the antenna and the radiated power would increase by the same factor. The two factors combine to provide a nearly 300-fold (17 x 17 = 289) increase in capability.

Currently, the ability to build X-band radars is limited by the rate at which transmit/receive modules are being manufactured. The modules are also expensive, currently about $1,000 each. The current limits on manufacturing, however, can be expected to change over time as techniques improve. In addition, as the missile defense program moves forward, the manufacturing base for these modules might grow. Thus, Russia fears that the X-band radar could target 300 times more missiles when a mature capability becomes available.

Russian analysts would also be concerned that the United States might expand the number of interceptors in Poland to take advantage of such an EMR’s prodigious abilities to guide numerous interceptors simultaneously. Indeed, unless one believes Iran will stop building long-range missiles once they get to 10, such an expansion must be expected. Once interceptor manufacturing facilities are operating, additional interceptors could be obtained by extending manufacturing runs, by expanding manufacturing facilities, or both. The primary obstacle to an expansion would be political: increasing the number of interceptors would require modifications to an existing agreement with Poland. If Poland is already hosting U.S. interceptors, the biggest political obstacle would already have been overcome.

Threat to Russia’s Deterrent

The location of the radar in the Czech Republic and missile defense interceptors in Poland, close to European-based Russian ICBM installations, would raise questions among Russian analysts about the potential threat to Russian ICBMs based in European Russia.

The ground-based interceptors in some ways resemble ICBMs themselves. They are extremely large, two-stage ballistic missiles, weighing roughly 21,500 kilograms each, with the two stages derived from the Minuteman series of ICBMs. They boast the same diameter as the Minuteman III’s two upper stages and even use the same shroud. Indeed, if an interceptor were armed with a typical 1,100-kilogram Minuteman III payload of a missile bus and three nuclear warheads, it could carry that payload more than 6,000 kilometers. The interceptor would only have to carry a kill vehicle weighing 70 kilograms, allowing it to achieve a speed 40 percent faster than an ICBM on a trajectory from Russia to the United States and permitting the interceptor to catch a nuclear-armed Russian ICBM from behind.

Despite claims to the contrary, U.S. interceptors launched from a Polish site could intercept the 18 to 25 Russian SS-25 ICBMs based in Vypolzovo, roughly 340 kilometers northwest of Moscow. Furthermore, missiles launched from all of the other European-based Russian ICBM fields would be much easier to engage. The 40 percent faster speed of the defense interceptors relative to the ICBMs and the early-tracking information provided by the EMR in the Czech Republic would allow the defense system to engage essentially all Russian ICBMs launched against the continental United States from Russian sites west of the Urals. It is difficult to see why any well-informed Russian analyst would not find such a potential situation alarming.

It would also be clear to Russian analysts that the placement of the EMR and interceptor sites is not optimal for the defense of Europe. Under the current plan, part of Europe is not covered and must instead be covered by additional shorter-range defenses such as Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Aegis. A European system covering more of Europe could provide greater redundancy by using these shorter-range ground- and sea-based systems as a second layer. Ground-based interceptors positioned in Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, or Albania; Aegis sea-based interceptors; and a radar closer to Iran would be better positioned to defend Europe from an Iranian attack and would be too far from Russia to pose a threat to Russian ICBMs. To a Russian analyst, the only obvious technical reason for choosing the Czech Republic for the EMR and Poland for interceptors would be to provide interceptors close to Russia that can be guided by the nearby EMR, making it possible for the European-based radar and interceptors to be added as a layer against Russia to the already developing U.S. continental defense.

Concern about possible future U.S. missile defense capabilities would be amplified by knowledge among Russian analysts that U.S. Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), as well as U.S. Minuteman III ICBMs, are each capable of destroying Russian silo-based ICBMs. Internal documents produced by high-level technical experts in the Soviet Union during the late 1980s[1] unambiguously show that Russian technical analysts had concluded that Russian silo-based missiles could be wiped out by then-existing U.S. forces. Today’s U.S. SLBM and ICBM forces are yet more capable and pose an even more overwhelming threat to Russian ICBMs. Russia has been reducing its arsenal of ICBMs and converting those that remain to single warhead missiles, but an increasingly capable U.S. defense will create strong incentives for the Russians to reverse this process. The concern of Russian military analysts would be that a future crisis between Russia and the United States might lead to U.S. strikes on Russian ICBMs followed by the use of a mature missile defense to reduce or eliminate the consequences of Russian efforts to retaliate.

Putin’s Alternative

Putin certainly would have been briefed by Russian analysts about their concerns. Plus, he could not have missed the remarks of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who, while in Oslo in April, described as “ludicrous” Russian statements of concern about the potential threat to Russia from the U.S. missile defense system.

In late May, during the Group of Eight conference in Europe, Putin surprised Bush by proposing that Russia would be willing to make the data from an early-warning radar in Azerbaijan available to the United States. One month later in a meeting at Kennebunkport, Maine, Putin significantly widened the scope of his proposal.

Putin offered to make available data from a second, much more modern Russian early- warning radar at Armavir, Russia. He also stated that Russia would not object to U.S. missile defense interceptors being stationed in Iraq or Turkey or other appropriate southern European locations nor to the United States using Aegis ship-based interceptors as part of a missile defense for Europe. He suggested that Russia would be willing to jointly man early-warning centers in Moscow and in Brussels. He also made it clear that Russia was willing to discuss further possible ways to address the impasse with the United States over the location of the X-band radar and interceptors.

His initial proposal mostly focused on Russia and the United States cooperatively monitoring and assessing the Iranian missile threat. His later additions and modifications make it unclear how far Putin might be willing to go with regard to a European missile defense in the future.

Placing missile defense radars and interceptors south and west of Russian ICBMs would eliminate any potential future missile defense threat to Russian ICBMs from U.S. interceptors based in Europe. Missile defense radars would not be able to observe and track Russian ICBMs early after launch, and interceptors would be too far from Russian ICBMs to catch them after a launch.

Moreover, early-warning radars in Armavir and Azerbaijan would be a great benefit to a U.S. missile defense and would achieve U.S. goals of having such radars close to Iran. At such close ranges, the radar signals from targets would be very strong and the line-of-sight to targets would not be significantly obstructed by the curvature of the earth. They would be an ideal complement to a Forward Based X-band (FBX) radar in Turkey or Azerbaijan and interceptors placed in Turkey or other southern European locations.

The early-warning and X-band radars serve very different functions. Early-warning radars such as those in Azerbaijan and Armavir use an operating frequency (150 MHz) chosen to maximize the percentage of radar signal reflected by cone-shaped warheads. Such radars are not able to resolve details of a target much smaller than perhaps 10 to 15 meters. As such, while these radars could track warheads with sufficient accuracy to support homing of defense interceptors toward the general target cluster, they could not differentiate between numerous objects that are likely to be deployed by a long-range missile along with a warhead.

These limits could be addressed by placing an existing FBX radar at a site in Turkey or Azerbaijan. The United States has said that it will forward-deploy an FBX but has not stated where.

The operating frequency of X-band radars is about 70 times higher than that of the Russian early-warning radars. Because of this much higher operating frequency, X-band radars can resolve details of targets to within 0.2 to 0.3 meters. If an adversary takes no steps to disguise the warhead, this resolution is sufficient to identify warheads relative to other objects of comparable size. Because these radars would be relatively close to Iranian missile launch sites, they would detect targets early and receive relatively strong return signals, which is advantageous both for discrimination and tracking. Unlike the EMR, these radars have relatively small antennas that are nearly fully covered with modules and thus cannot readily be upgraded by orders of magnitude like the EMR.

Thus, one or two such forward-based X-band radars could play two important roles in defending Europe: first, to simply “inspect” objects launched by ballistic missiles and initially identified by the early-warning radars in order to determine whether they are likely to be warheads, debris, or decoys and further determine their trajectory; and second, to provide early and highly accurate tracking information to the numerous other elements of the defense system.

The high-quality radar data could be coupled with U.S. interceptors placed in Turkey or other southern European locations or at sea, which would be better positioned to intercept missiles launched toward southern and northern European targets, relative to interceptors sited in northern Poland. The availability of such early and high-quality radar tracking data from radars close to Iran would enhance the effectiveness of shorter-range missile defense interceptors in Turkey and on Aegis ships in the Mediterranean or Black Seas. Such a combination of longer- and shorter-range missile defense interceptors and timely warning and guidance information from nearby radars would make possible a more robust defense of all of Europe, including the southern regions not covered by the current proposal for the European midcourse system.


Clearly, Putin’s proposals open the door to potentially fruitful discussions that would lead to a missile defense configuration that would be far more robust than the configuration currently proposed for Europe by the United States. More of Europe could be defended and the system would have more reliability and redundancy. The reconfigured defense would pose no plausible threat of contributing to a U.S. continental defense aimed at Russian strategic ICBMs.

Thus, from a purely technical point of view, Putin’s proposal to Bush addresses both Russia’s stated concerns about future threats to its security and U.S. stated objectives to deploy missile defenses that protect its European allies while posing no threat to Russia. Nevertheless, policymakers must be aware of the costs and benefits of these two narrow policy choices. A serious discussion is under way about whether and how we could move toward a world free of nuclear weapons.[2] Because missile defenses and deterrent forces raise questions of national survival, activities in these areas create powerful inconsistencies in state behavior.

The Russians are deeply upset and suspicious of what appears to be a lack of candor, understanding and realism with regard to U.S. plans for missile defenses. U.S. political leaders relentlessly deny basic technical facts that show that the current U.S. missile defense might well affect Russia. The result of this standoff is clear and predictable: a world with expanded nuclear forces on high alert aimed at compensating for defenses, and defenses that will be so fragile to simple or inadvertent countermeasures that they will, at very best, have little or no chance of working in combat.

Any consideration of the potential costs and benefits of future missile defense systems either for Europe or the continental United States that ignores these technical realities in favor of political ideology is simply an invitation to disaster.

George N. Lewis has a Ph.D. in experimental physics and is associate director of the Peace Studies Program at Cornell University.  Theodore A. Postol is a professor of science, technology and national security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former scientific adviser to the Chief of Naval Operations.


1. Undated internal and untitled memo on mobile missiles from the archive of Vitalii Leonidovich Katayev at the Hoover Institution Archive, Stanford University.  The memo states that 80 to 160 US targets could be attacked with remaining Russian ICBM warheads after a U.S. strike on Russian land-based ICBMs.

2. See George P. Shultz et al., “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” The Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007.

European Missile Defense: The View From The Pentagon

Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering

When North Korea launched short- and long-range missiles last summer, we had for the first time the means to defend all 50 states and our allies in Japan and South Korea against a possible ballistic missile attack. For the first time, leaders in Washington had defense options available to them to protect American cities other than preemption, retaliation, or capitulation.[1]

The ballistic missile development and test efforts pursued by North Korea, combined with its nuclear program, generated an urgency earlier this decade to field an integrated, layered missile defense quickly. Mobile-land and sea-based interceptors could handle short- and medium-range threat missiles, but due to a long-range missile’s speed, altitude, and range, the only defense option available in 2002 when President George W. Bush ordered a system deployed was the silo-based midcourse defense element.

Concepts and development work for the ground-based midcourse defense element of the ballistic missile defense system were developed during the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. In other words, it required many years of development and more years of deployment on an intense schedule to field the limited defenses in place today, defenses capable of countering a long-range North Korean ballistic missile attack against our country.

Now, the United States is proposing to deploy long-range missile defenses in Europe to defend against a regime in Iran that is aggressively pursuing ballistic missiles capable of striking European capitals and the United States. Given the evidence of the emerging ballistic missile threat from Iran and given the lead times required to deploy even a basic defense against a limited threat, I would argue that there is no time like the present to prepare for an evolving Iranian threat. Failure to step up today could leave the United States and our allies in an intolerably vulnerable situation tomorrow.

The Threat

The last two major conflicts in southwest Asia involving U.S. armed forces featured several short-range ballistic missile launches by Iraq, demonstrating a growing reliance by our adversaries on standoff strike capabilities. With ballistic missiles and missile technologies widely available on the global market, we expect an acceleration of ballistic missile and nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons proliferation.

North Korea and Iran, in particular, continue investments in ballistic missiles, which are an increasingly attractive means of delivering a conventional or mass destruction payload. These two governments see tremendous value in developing more capable, more lethal missiles, which may be used to blackmail or deter the United States or its allies from defending their interests. Pyongyang and Tehran are striving to acquire longer-range ballistic missiles that will travel far beyond their borders, and they continue to rely on and receive foreign assistance for these development efforts. The U.S. intelligence community estimates that Iran could have a long-range ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States by 2015.

North Korea and Iran flew medium-range missiles in several demonstrations this past year. North Korea demonstrated improvements in targeting accuracy and validated the operational status of its short-range ballistic missile force. The July 2006 launches marked the highest number of missiles ever fired by North Korea in a 24-hour period.[2] In addition, as part of these launches, North Korea attempted to fly the Taepo Dong-2, which is projected to have an intercontinental range. Although North Korea’s long-range demonstration failed shortly after launch, there are signs that Pyongyang has not lost interest in developing a long-range ballistic missile capability. Importantly, Iran is following a similar development and acquisition pattern, using technologies and lessons learned from shorter-range systems to develop longer-range systems.

North Korea has demonstrated its capability to develop a nuclear device. When you combine this with its efforts to develop and operationalize ballistic missiles, it is not unreasonable to assume that North Korea is looking at ways to prepare a nuclear payload for missile delivery. We also need to be concerned about North Korea’s rather significant trade relationship with Iran. Iran is a concern, given Tehran’s growing involvement in nuclear enrichment, which could provide the fissile material for nuclear bombs. We must take this trend toward weapons proliferation seriously.

For many years, the international community and the United States have tried to limit the proliferation of these missiles using arms control measures, both positive and negative incentives, with some success, but the spread of these weapons continues. A major factor in this proliferation is the value countries place on these weapons, precisely because historically there has been no defense against them. Without a defense against these weapons, they will continue to be valuable as a means to coerce or intimidate the United States and our allies and friends around the world.

In addition, our adversaries are looking for ways to make their offensive forces more survivable using dispersal methods, concealment techniques, and deeply buried storage sites and command posts as well as tunnels to protect operational sites. In other words, reliance on preemption to deter an adversary’s use of nuclear ballistic missiles or retaliatory operations to destroy offensive assets after a devastating attack on our cities is increasingly becoming a high-risk approach to ensuring our defense. Although deterrence will always play an important part in U.S. defense strategy, robust counters to enemy ballistic missiles must include effective missile defenses.

Europe and Missile Defense

Today the United States has in place the most complex defensive weapons system ever fielded. Since June 2004, we have constructed new missile field complexes in Alaska and California, emplacing 21 long-range interceptors. We have also delivered 16 Aegis ships capable of providing long-range surveillance and tracking information to the system, with eight of those ships capable of firing sea-based interceptors that can destroy shorter-range missile threats. In addition, we have upgraded early-warning and tracking radars in Alaska, California, and the United Kingdom and deployed two very precise X-band radars, one in Japan and the other on a mobile platform in the Pacific Ocean, which may be used to cue early-warning radars and provide precise tracking data to the missile defense system. The command, control, and battle management infrastructure allows commanders to synchronize missile defense assets widely dispersed across multiple time zones.

We have demonstrated that this system works employing the same basic hit-to-kill technology in our short-, medium-, and long-range defenses. Overall, in our land- and sea-based interceptor test program since 2001, 29 of 37 hit-to-kill midcourse and terminal engagements have been successful, occurring in the lower and upper atmosphere as well as in space. None of the failures resulted from a flaw in the system’s basic design. We have conducted these tests in operationally realistic conditions using soldiers, sailors, and airmen. We are continually upgrading the algorithms and technologies in the system so that it will be capable of handling increasingly sophisticated threats.

The rate of this deployment has been unprecedented, and given the North Korean launch demonstration in July 2006, it was executed just in time. Now we must turn to a theater on the other side of the world. There is a shared threat perception among the allies that we must do something to counter the emerging Iranian threat. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer fully recognizes the indivisibility of security among all the NATO allies and has expressed the unity of the alliance with respect to the need for complementary long- and short-range defenses.

The ballistic missile defense system currently deployed to counter the North Korean long-range threat is not technically configured to protect cities in Europe. A number of our European allies have expressed interest in deploying defenses against this threat, and the United States has agreed with Poland and the Czech Republic to begin focused discussions on the deployment of interceptors (a two-stage configuration of our flight-proven, long-range ground-based interceptors) and a precision midcourse discrimination radar.

The European missile defense deployments would protect our European allies within striking range of emerging Iranian intermediate- and long-range ballistic missiles. Those countries more likely to face the shorter-range threats could be covered by shorter-range national or NATO-deployed missile defense systems. These additional regional assets can be tied into and incorporated in the overall system with significant focus on interoperability and data sharing. These deployments are in keeping with our obligation to work with our NATO allies for collective defense to ensure the missile defenses proposed for deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic will be complementary with national and NATO systems. It is important to stress that all European nations that would be threatened by longer-range Iranian ballistic missiles would be covered by the European site initiative.

Finally, I want to emphasize that the proposed deployments would not alter the strategic balance of power in the region. U.S. interceptors in Europe cannot catch Russian ICBMs because of the engagement distances and greater speeds of the Russian missiles. The proposed European ground-based interceptors would have no capability to defend the United States from Russian launches. They would be in a hopeless “tail chase” in spite of recent claims to the contrary, which do not account for actual interceptor speeds, tracking times, and several other critical factors. In addition, the proposed European interceptor site, with its 10 ground-based interceptors, would be no match for Russia’s strategic offensive missile force, which consists of hundreds of missiles and thousands of warheads.

Critics of the European site initiative need to stop this Cold War thinking and take steps to address the emerging threat to our country and allies in Europe. Now is the time to act in concert with our allied partners to develop and deploy long-range European missile defenses. By standing together, we can affect true arms control in the best sense of the word.

Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering is director of the United States Missile Defense Agency.


1. In fact, two weeks before the North Korea launches, two former Department of Defense officials from the Clinton administration recommended a preemptive strike against the North Korean launch site. See Ashton Carter and William Perry, “If Necessary, Strike and Destroy,” The Washington Post, June 22, 2006, p. A29.

2. Gen. Burwell B. Bell, Statement before the House Armed Services Committee, March 2007. General Bell is the commander of U.S. Forces Korea.

European Missile Defense: Assessing Iran’s ICBM Capabilities

Dinshaw Mistry

In 1999 and 2001, the National Intelligence Council stated that Iran could develop an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015. In recent years, U.S. government agencies have affirmed those estimates, arguing that “Iran could have long-range missiles capable of reaching the U.S. and Europe before 2015” and that “proposed U.S. missile defense assets in Europe would defend the U.S. and much of Europe against long-range ballistic missile threats launched from the Middle East.”[1]  Accordingly, Washington intends to build a missile defense system in Europe by around 2012.

Can Iran field an ICBM capable of striking the United States by 2012? Iran has more than a decade of experience with developing single-stage, short-range and medium-range missiles that can reach neighboring countries and Israel. It has yet to demonstrate a capability for a longer-range missile, although within a few years it may have the means to develop and deploy a 3,000-4,000-kilometer-range missile that can strike western Europe. Iran would find it difficult, though, to field a 10,000-kilometer-range ICBM that can strike the United States by 2012-2015 unless North Korea or another country successfully develops and tests such a system and transfers it to Iran. Even with such foreign assistance, it would likely take Tehran several additional years of development and testing before it could produce and deploy a modest number of such missiles.

Iran’s Missile Programs

Iran initially sought ballistic missiles during its war with Iraq, when hundreds of Iraqi missiles struck Iranian cities. Tehran’s missile program then developed in several phases. From the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, Iran purchased 300-kilometer-range Scud-B and 600-kilometer-range Scud-C missiles from North Korea, and it also indigenously assembled and built Scuds. Then Iran developed the single-stage, liquid-fuel Shahab-3 missile. This approximately 16-metric-ton missile has a range of 1,300 kilometers with a 750-kilogram payload and is derived from North Korea’s Nodong missile. The Shahab-3 was first flight-tested in July 1998 and reportedly completed its development test series after its sixth flight in July 2003.[2]

Since the turn of the century, Iran has pursued a number of other missile projects, although it has not yet flight-tested a new medium-range or long-range ballistic missile. One project involves modifications to the Shahab-3. In August 2004, Iran tested a Shahab-3 with a bulbous nose cone reportedly capable of accommodating a nuclear warhead.[3] In August 2005, Iran stated that it had increased the range of the Shahab-3 to 2,000 kilometers. Iran again tested the Shahab-3 in January 2006 and May 2006, and the January 2006 test may have involved a more advanced North Korean Nodong-B missile.[4]

 The Nodong-B reportedly uses technology from the Soviet-era SS-N-6 submarine-launched missile and has a range of 2,500-4,000 kilometers. It is reportedly shorter and wider than the original Nodong and has a dual-chamber control engine rather than the steering vanes of the original Nodong, which would make it more stable, more maneuverable, and more accurate than the original. Its Iranian derivative is sometimes called the Shahab-3B. Press reports in April 2006 noted that Iran had received this Nodong-B missile from North Korea, but it is unclear as to how many missiles were supplied and whether Iran is also indigenously building this missile.[5]

Another Iranian rocket project is the Shahab-4, which has not been flight-tested and may well have been terminated. Press reports in 1999-2000 mentioned that this rocket was powered by an RD-214 engine used in Russia’s liquid-fuel SS-4 missile and would be used to launch satellites. However, Iran has not launched satellites aboard such a rocket. Other reports noted that the Shahab-4 was based on the North Korean Taepo Dong-1 design. North Korea’s Taepo Dong-1 has only been tested once, in August 1998, and is based on a Nodong-derived first stage and a Scud-derived second stage. Neither North Korea nor Iran are known to have deployed this system.

Iran has long-standing plans to build and launch satellites using its own rockets. In 1999, press reports noted that Iran planned to launch three satellites by 2002-2003,[6] and Iran’s first two satellites were eventually launched aboard Russian rockets in 2005. In January 2007, Aviation Week quoted Iranian officials as saying that an Iranian satellite-launching rocket “has been assembled and will lift off soon.”[7] It added that this rocket weighed 22-27 metric tons and used a Ghadr or Shahab-3 missile as its first stage, a configuration that would be similar to the Taepo Dong-1.[8] In general, any Iranian satellite launcher derived from the SS-4/RD-214, Ghadr, Shahab-3, or Taepo Dong-1 would only be capable of placing a satellite weighing a few hundred kilograms into low-Earth orbit and would be the equivalent of a missile with a range of approximately 2,000-4,000 kilometers. It would not be able to reach the continental United States.

Another Iranian missile project involves a one-to-two stage solid-fuel missile, reportedly called the Ghadr, that would represent an advance from Iran’s prior liquid-fuel missiles. Solid-fuel missiles are better suited for military purposes because they can be launched instantly­. Liquid fuels are often volatile, so they are stored separately from missiles and take hours to load onto a missile. In May 2005, Iranian officials announced that they were testing a solid-fuel engine for this missile and that it would have a range greater than 2,000 kilometers. Iran displayed a Ghadr missile at a September 2007 military parade and announced that it had a range of 1,800 kilometers; it is not known if this missile had a solid-fuel engine as was reported in May 2005. 

Finally, Iran is believed to be seeking a longer-range Shahab-5 or Shahab-6 missile and satellite launch vehicle (SLV), which is reportedly based on North Korea’s Taepo Dong-2 or Taepo Dong-2C/Taepo Dong-3. No Iranian flight tests of this system have been reported, and North Korea’s single flight test of this system, in July 2006, failed.

In summary, as of mid-2007, Iran has only flight-tested one medium-range missile, the single-stage Shahab-3, having a range of 1,300-2,000 kilometers. Iran is reported to be developing or acquiring two more advanced missiles, a one-to-two stage solid-fuel missile and a 2,500-4,000 kilometer-range, liquid-fuel, Shahab-3B based on the North Korean Nodong-B. These would give Iran the capability to strike western Europe: a 3,000-kilometer-range Iranian missile could reach Rome and Berlin; a 4,000-kilometer-range missile could reach London and Paris.

An ICBM From North Korea

Iran has not yet tested an intercontinental-range missile capable of striking the United States. Major U.S. cities, such as New York and Washington, are 9,500-10,000 kilometers from Iran. But U.S. intelligence officials contend that Iran could quickly develop such missiles by acquiring Taepo Dong-2 technology from North Korea. They routinely note that “if Iran were to acquire complete [Taepo Dong-2] systems from North Korea, it could conduct a flight test within a year of delivery.”[9] Yet, North Korea itself has not successfully tested the Taepo Dong-2, and its range is uncertain.

Initial reports in the late 1990s and early 2000s noted that the Taepo Dong-2 had a first stage derived from China’s CSS-2 and a second stage derived from the Nodong, giving it a range of 4,000-6,000 kilometers.[10] Such a missile would not reach the continental United States from Iran, even with a third stage that adds 1,000-2,000 kilometers to its range. More recent reports suggest that North Korea may have developed an improved Taepo Dong-2C/Taepo Dong-3 missile with a more powerful propulsion system using UDMH fuel, which is superior to the kerosene-gasoline fuel used in the Taepo Dong-2. This missile reportedly has a first stage weighing more than 50 metric tons and a second stage weighing 15-20 metric tons.[11]

U.S. officials have stated that the two-stage version of this Taepo Dong-2C/Taepo Dong-3 missile has a range of 10,000 kilometers and a three-stage version can fly 15,000 kilometers, enabling it to cover all of the United States.[12] It is difficult, however, to verify the accuracy of the information in these reports. North Korea and Iran would only have confidence in the Taepo Dong-2 or an improved Taepo Dong-2C/Taepo Dong-3 after a few successful tests of the system.

Further, even after regional powers test prototype ICBMs or equivalent SLVs, they only build one or two such systems each year, in part because international technology embargoes and economic constraints considerably limit their volume of missile production. Illustrating this, the historical record from the 1980s and 1990s shows that North Korea annually built 50-100 short-range, Scud-type missiles and 10-20 medium-range, Nodong-type missiles. Some reports note that Iran may have increased its production rate to perhaps five Shahab-3s each month.[13] Yet, regional powers have initially built only one or two long-range systems annually, such as the 130-metric-ton booster used on India’s polar SLV that flew six times in the eight years after its first launch in 1993.

Thus, any meaningful assessment of an Iranian ICBM capability must await a successful test of the improved 10,000-kilometer-range Taepo Dong-2C/Taepo Dong-3 missile. If North Korea successfully tests such a missile during 2008-2010 and these missiles or their major subsystems such as engines and airframes are transferred to Iran, then Iran could plausibly have a few ICBMs by 2012-2015. Even so, Iran might not build or acquire more than just a few such missiles.

Iran’s Indigenously Built ICBM

If Iran cannot acquire the Taepo Dong-2C or its major subsystems from North Korea, it would have to build this missile indigenously. Iran has an active missile research and development program based at the Shahid Hemmat Missile Industries Complex in Tehran. It also has considerable experience with missile development and production. It successfully developed the Shahab-3, albeit with initial North Korean and Russian assistance,[14] and is believed to have produced at least several tens of these missiles. This missile infrastructure could enable Iran to develop more powerful, intercontinental-range missiles, but it is unclear whether Iran could build and field many such missiles by 2012-2015 because missile development can take at least five years.

One missile study, the Rumsfeld Commission report of 1998, noted that “a nation with a well-developed, Scud-based ballistic missile infrastructure would be able to achieve first flight of a long-range missile, up to and including intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) range [greater than 5,500 kilometers], within about five years of deciding to do so.”[15] This estimate has been true for some regional powers but not for others. India actively began working on the 48-metric-ton, 3,000-kilometer-range Agni-3 missile around 2001[16] and first unsuccessfully tested it in 2006, with a successful test in 2007. Thus, India built an advanced, medium-range missile after five to six years of actively working on, rather than of simply making a decision to pursue, this system. Despite a decade of work, Brazil has not yet successfully flown its approximately 49-metric-ton SLV launcher, which is built around a cluster of four eight- to nine-metric-ton boosters in the first stage. The first flight tests of this rocket in 1997 and 1999 failed, and the rocket exploded on its launch pad some days prior to launch in 2003.

If Iran is in fact working on other missiles, such as the Shahab-3B and Ghadr, it may not be able to allocate significant resources toward a 10,000-kilometer-range missile. Iran would presumably be able to devote more efforts toward an ICBM only after completing the development of the Shahab-3B and Ghadr missiles, which could take a few years. However, if Iran is not developing a Shahab-3B or Ghadr and is instead allocating most of its missile resources toward an ICBM, then it might be able to test such a missile within a few years.

Iran also would have to perfect many critical technologies for an ICBM, a delay in any one of which would delay the entire ICBM program. First, Iran would have to master stage-separation technology. Iran has developed the single-stage Shahab-3 missile but has yet to test a multiple-stage missile successfully. Its only reported test of a multiple-stage rocket, a Shahab-3D with a liquid-fuel first stage and solid-fuel second stage, failed in September 2000. Second, Iran would have to develop a powerful propulsion system for an ICBM. The propulsion systems for Iran’s 1,300-2,000-kilometer-range Shahab-3 and the up to 2,500-4,000-kilometer-range Ghadr and Shahab-3B missiles are not powerful enough for an ICBM, and the option of stacking or clustering many of these systems to build an ICBM quickly is not generally viable for a missile. Therefore, Iran may have to develop entirely new, more powerful propulsion systems for an ICBM, which could take several years. Third, Iran would have to develop more sophisticated re-entry vehicles for ICBMs, because the re-entry vehicles on its intermediate-range missiles would be inadequate for the higher re-entry velocities and temperatures experienced by ICBMs. Fourth, Iran would have to develop advanced targeting and guidance systems for an ICBM and may be unable to do so without imports of critical foreign technology. This would degrade the performance of any Iranian ICBM because missile inaccuracy increases with distance. ICBMs without good targeting and guidance may not be able to hit a target city when fired from halfway across the planet.

A Concluding Word

As long as Iran remains in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and does not have nuclear weapons or the capacity for a quick nuclear breakout, its missile programs will be a less serious security threat. Iran’s medium-range and long-range missiles or equivalent SLVs would be most threatening if Iran is outside the NPT and has acquired nuclear weapons. Still, although Iran could develop a medium-range missile capable of striking western Europe by the end of this decade, it would take longer to develop a missile capable of reaching the United States. Iran could develop a 10,000-kilometer-range ICBM capable of striking the United States by 2012-2015 if North Korea successfully tests such a system and then transfers the technology to Iran. If North Korea cannot successfully test such a system or if it does not transfer much of the technology to Iran because of, say, improved political relations and a nuclear and missile agreement with the United States, then Iran’s ICBM program will be considerably hindered.

Iran has a well-developed technological and industrial capability to build short-range and medium-range missiles on a large scale, but it must still cross a number of technological thresholds concerning stage separation, propulsion systems, re-entry vehicles, and guidance systems before it could successfully test an ICBM. The development of these technologies and of a new long-range missile may take at least five years, as it took India for its Agni-3, but could possibly take longer. Assuming that Iran begins allocating significant resources toward an ICBM around 2010, after it has completed the development of its current medium-range Ghadr and Shahab-3B projects, it could possibly test its first ICBM by 2015. Iran would still have to flight-test any new ICBM at least a few times, over perhaps two to three years, before having confidence in this system. In addition, it would initially build only a small number of such missiles. Thus, although Iran might be able to test a rudimentary prototype 10,000-kilometer-range ICBM by 2015, it would still take a few additional years after its first test to perfect and deploy a modest number of such missiles that would be a more significant threat to the United States.

Corrected online August 29, 2008. See explanation.

Dinshaw Mistry is an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati and author of Containing Missile Proliferation (2005).


1. Office of the Press Secretary, U.S. Department of State, “Fact Sheet: Missile Defense Assets to Provide Protection in Central Europe,” April 16, 2007.

2. Andrew Feickert, “Missile Survey: Ballistic and Cruise Missiles of Selected Foreign Countries,” CRS Report for Congress, RL30427, July 26, 2005.

3. Craig Covault, “Iran’s ‘Sputnik,’” Aviation Week & Space Technology, November 29, 2004.

4. Charles Vick, “The Operational Shahab-4/No-dong-B Flight Tested in Iran for Iran & North Korea Confirmed” GlobalSecurity.org, April 10, 2007.

5. Zeev Schiff, “Iran Buys Surface-to-surface Missiles Capable of Hitting Europe,” Haaretz, April 27, 2006.

6. “Iran to Launch Three Birds in Two Years,” Space Business News, August 18, 1999, p. 7.

7. Craig Covault, “Iran Appears Poised To Try Satellite Launch,” Aviation Week and Space Technology, January 27, 2007.

8. In February 2007, Iran announced that it launched a suborbital rocket to an altitude of just higher than 100 kilometers. Such a rocket would be much less powerful than one derived from the Shahab-3 or Ghadr missiles.

9. National Intelligence Council, “Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015,” p. 9.

10. The liquid-fuel CSS-2 weighed 54 metric tons and had a range of approximately 3,000 kilometers with a two-metric-ton warhead or 4,000 kilometers with a one-metric-ton warhead.

11. Charles Vick, “Taep’o Dong 2,” found at www.globalsecurity.org.

12. Bill Gertz, “How the Axis Seeks the Killer Missile,” The Washington Times, January 30, 2007.

13. Louis Charbonneau, “Iran Said to Step Up Plans for Shahab Missiles,” Reuters, March 6, 2006. This claim has not been independently verified.

14. For example, press reports note that North Korea supplied 12 Shahab-3/Nodong engines to Iran in November 1999. Bill Gertz, “N. Korea Sells Iran Missile Engines,” The Washington Times, February 9, 2000.

15. See “Report of the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States: Executive Summary,” July 15, 1998, sec. II.C.4.

16. The Agni-3 project was given the go-ahead around 1999, but Indian missile scientists were then working on another missile, the Agni-1. They began actively working on the Agni-3 around 2001.

European Missile Defense: A Congressional Perspective

Rep. Ellen Tauscher

In January 2007, the Bush administration announced that it was beginning negotiations with Poland and the Czech Republic about the possibility of placing missile defense interceptors and a radar, respectively, on their territories. The administration argues that placing such capabilities in Europe will allow the United States to protect itself and its European allies against potential Iranian long-range ballistic missile threats in the future.

I believe Congress, on a bipartisan basis, strongly supports the need to work with our allies to defend against the mutual threats that we face, including ballistic missile threats. However, as Congress reviews the administration’s proposal, we will insist on several key principles before giving our approval to move forward with the project. First, NATO must play a central role with regard to future discussions on European missile defense. Second, any future long-range U.S. missile defense system deployed in Europe should be fully integrated with the missile defense systems that NATO is developing. We also need to ensure that the system protects all allies and does not leave certain allies unprotected against short- and medium- range missile threats from Iran. Third, the system must be properly tested to ensure that we have a high degree of confidence that it will work and thereby deter potential adversaries.

European Missile Defense Must Be “NATO-ized”

Our nation’s most important security relationship is with our allies in NATO. Over the past several months, my main concern about the administration’s proposal has been the impact it has had on our relations with NATO. Specifically, I have been concerned that the administration initially sought to bypass NATO on this issue and move forward on a bilateral basis with Poland and the Czech Republic. I thought this was a mistake and publicly voiced my concerns. As I said at a March 2007 hearing of the panel that I chair, “[S]ometimes it’s faster to work with a ‘coalition of the willing,’ but such coalitions usually don’t have strong foundations.”[1] Several of America’s best friends in Europe raised similar concerns. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “NATO is the best place for discussions on this issue [missile defense],”[2] and NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called for the discussion and debate on missile defense to be “NATO-ized.”[3]

I suspect that one of the reasons why the administration initially sought to move forward with a purely bilateral approach was that they were concerned that engaging NATO more fully in the program would require it to provide NATO allies with a major role in the command and control of the system. In my view, this was a false choice. There have always been asymmetries with regard to command and control within the alliance. An excellent example of this would be the alliance’s approach to nuclear weapons policy. Under the NATO nuclear model, command and control of nuclear weapons pledged to the defense of the alliance are under the exclusive control of the alliance’s nuclear powers, the United States and the United Kingdom. France, while a nuclear power, does not participate in NATO’s nuclear planning process. Although the decision to use nuclear weapons rests solely with NATO’s nuclear powers, the alliance has a framework, institutionalized through the NATO Nuclear Planning Group and High Level Group, that provides the non-nuclear members of the alliance insight and involvement into nuclear weapons policy, planning, and doctrine. This process has served the alliance well for more than 30 years, and the Bush administration and future administrations would be wise to use this as a model for future missile defense arrangements with NATO.

After a slow start and pressure from Congress, the administration has begun to engage NATO in a sustained fashion and at the appropriate level. This is encouraging. These consultations need to continue, and the administration needs to work with allies to establish a process that keeps them fully engaged on these issues.

Indivisibility of Alliance Security

The U.S. intelligence community assesses that Iran could potentially deploy a ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States by 2015. Iran is also continuing its efforts to develop a nuclear weapons capability. The U.S. intelligence community’s current estimate is that Iran is five to 10 years away from developing such a capability. The intelligence community is convinced that Iran is determined to acquire nuclear weapons. In January 18 testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte stated that “our assessment is that Tehran is determined to develop nuclear weapons. It is continuing to pursue uranium enrichment and has shown more interest in protracting negotiations than reaching an acceptable diplomatic solution.” Plainly, this is a very serious threat about which we must be vigilant. Furthermore, although Iran has not yet developed a long-range ballistic missile or nuclear weapons, it currently possesses the largest force of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in the Middle East. These missiles are capable of striking deployed U.S. forces and friends and allies throughout the region, including NATO allies such as Turkey.

The administration’s current proposal would leave parts of southern Europe vulnerable to Iranian short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. As de Hoop Scheffer said, “[W]hen it comes to missile defense, there should be no A-League and B-League within NATO.”[4] In my view, the indivisibility of alliance security is a principle on which there can be no compromise. At their June 2007 meeting, NATO defense ministers agreed to initiate a study to examine how the NATO Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (ALTBMD) program might be integrated with the proposed U.S. system to provide protection to areas of southern Europe that would not be defended by the proposed long-range missile defense interceptors in Poland. The ALTBMD program is a command-and-control system that will allow NATO nations to integrate various national weapons systems (e.g., PAC-3, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense) to defend alliance forces against ballistic missile threats of up to 3,000 kilometers. The system is currently scheduled to achieve an initial operational capability in 2010.

Given the existing short- and medium-range threat to Europe, I believe that NATO should accelerate its efforts to protect its territory and population centers against this current threat. This includes ensuring that the NATO ALTBMD system can be fully integrated with the proposed U.S. system and encouraging individual allies to acquire and deploy missile defense capabilities such as Aegis and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), which are designed to counter short,- medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

Need for an Independent Review

Before Congress agrees to authorize more than $4.0 billion in total funding over the next several years for the proposed European site, it is imperative that an independent review of the administration’s proposal be performed to determine whether it is the most effective way to provide missile defense protection to our NATO allies. In their respective versions of the fiscal year 2008 defense authorization acts, both the House and Senate armed services committees directed that the secretary of defense enter into an agreement with a federally funded research and development center to examine the political, technical, operational, and force structure options of the administration’s proposal, as well as examine other technical options (e.g., Aegis, THAAD, the nascent Kinetic Energy Interceptor program) for extending missile defense protection to Europe. The purpose of such a study would be to ensure that Congress has the necessary information to conduct its normal oversight responsibilities. I will not support moving forward with the proposed deployment until this independent review is completed and provided to Congress.

Deterring Potential Adversaries

We must have a high degree of confidence that any future missile defense system deployed in Europe will work effectively. I have continuing concerns about the testing record of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, which the administration is proposing to deploy in Europe.

This is not a partisan issue. Last year when Congress was controlled by Republicans, the House Armed Services Committee expressed its concern with the testing of the GMD system. The committee stated that it was “pre-mature to invest in the third site until the existing block 2004/2006 GMD configuration completes integrated end-to-end testing. Accordingly, the committee authorizes no funds for the third site.”[5]

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has raised similar concerns about the GMD system. In a March 2007 report, the GAO asserted that the GMD program has not completed sufficient flight testing to provide a high level of confidence that the system can reliably intercept ICBMs. The report stated, “In September 2006, the GMD program completed an end-to-end test of one engagement sequence that the GMD element might carry out. While this test provided some assurance that the element will work as intended, the program must test other engagement sequences, which would include other GMD assets that have not yet participated in an end-to-end test.”[6]

The Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation has also raised concerns about the testing program. In March 27 testimony before my strategic forces subcommittee, that office’s director, Dr. Charles McQueary, stated that, “to be confident in my assessment of the effectiveness [of the ballistic missile defense system], I need validated models and simulations.… They don’t exist today because [the Missile Defense Agency (MDA)] doesn’t have enough flight test data to anchor them.”[7]

What the MDA is proposing to deploy in Europe is a two-stage variant of the three-stage interceptor that is presently deployed in Alaska and California. In addition to removing the third-stage of the missile, the MDA plans to incorporate a number of changes to the missile’s avionics package, such as nuclear hardening. The first flight test of the two-stage missile is scheduled to occur in 2010. Therefore, it could be several years before we know whether the two-stage missile will work effectively.

Another area of concern that I have regarding the GMD system is the lack of reliable test targets, which is a problem across the entire missile defense program. For example, the scheduled May 2007 GMD test was aborted as a result of the failure of the target vehicle. The MDA must focus increased effort on improving the reliability of its targets program.

A GMD system deployed in Europe could help deter a potential Iranian long-range ballistic missile threat if one emerges. However, it would only serve as an effective deterrent if our potential adversaries believe that the system will work with a high degree of confidence. Based on the reports and testimony of the GAO and the director of the Pentagon testing office, I am not yet satisfied that it will. Although the successful GMD intercept test on September 28, 2007 was a step in the right direction, in my view, additional GMD system testing is required.

Managing Russia

Recent statements by senior Russian officials claiming that the proposed deployment of 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland is a threat to Russia’s strategic deterrent have no basis in fact. The system that the United States is proposing to deploy in Europe is for defense against current and future threats from rogue nations such as Iran. It is not aimed at Russia. Furthermore, Russia’s implied threats to target Poland and the Czech Republic with nuclear weapons if they host missile defense interceptors and radars are unnecessary and unwelcome.

Although I have been very disturbed by recent Russian statements, I nevertheless believe it is important that we continue to engage Russia on possible areas of missile defense cooperation. In June 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a proposal that deserves further review concerning the potential joint use of the Gabala radar located in Azerbaijan. I support the administration’s decision to engage Russia on this and other potential areas of missile defense cooperation. That said, Russia should not expect a veto over U.S. or alliance security and cooperation with Russia should not come at the price of cooperation with our NATO allies.

Engaging European Parliaments and Publics

Having just returned from a trip to Poland, the Czech Republic, and NATO headquarters, I am deeply concerned at how little agreement there is on the need for the administration’s proposed system. Simply put, the Bush administration’s public relations, or “roll out,” strategy for its proposed European sites leaves much to be desired. This has placed some very good friends of the United States, i.e., Poland and the Czech Republic, in a very difficult domestic and international political situation. Public opinion in Europe has been overwhelmingly opposed to the proposed deployment for a number of reasons. A much more sustained and coordinated effort is required to obtain parliamentary and public support on the need to defend NATO from current and future ballistic missile threats. As vice chairman of the U.S. delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I plan to do what I can to ensure that my European counterparts receive the appropriate information about the mutual threats faced by the United States and its NATO allies.


Congress is committed to working with the administration and our NATO allies to develop a missile defense system to defend against the mutual ballistic missile threats that we face. Any eventual missile defense system that the United States deploys in Europe must protect all NATO allies, be able to work seamlessly with missile defense systems being developed by the alliance, and have been sufficiently tested to ensure a high level of technical confidence that the system will work.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Strategic Forces Subcommittee.


1. Ellen Tauscher, Opening Statement at the Hearing on Ballistic Missile Programs, Strategic Forces Subcommittee, U.S. House Armed Service Committee, March 27, 2007.

2. The Financial Times, March 5, 2007.

3. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Remarks before the Munich Security Conference, February 9, 2007.

4. “NATO Warns U.S. Missile Defence May Divide Allies,” Reuters, March 12, 2007.

5. “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007: Report of the Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, on H.R. 5122,” H. Rpt. 109-452, 109th Cong., 2d sess., p. 244.

6. Government Accountability Office, “Missile Defense Acquisition Strategy Generates Results but Delivers Less at a Higher Cost,” GAO-07-387, March 2007.

7. Charles McQueary, Statement at the Hearing on Ballistic Missile Programs, Strategic Forces Subcommittee, U.S. House Armed Services Committee, March 27, 2007.


Subscribe to RSS - EU / NATO