"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
June 1, 2018
October 2007
Edition Date: 
Monday, October 1, 2007
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Reported Incidents of Trafficking Up in 2006

Peter Crail

In 2006, 150 incidents of unauthorized activities involving nuclear and other radiological materials were reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Of these incidents, 14 involved unauthorized possession and related criminal activities, including attempts to sell such materials on the black market. Other incidents entailed thefts, losses, misrouted material, and other unauthorized activities.

The reported incidents were included in the 2007 update of the IAEA’s Illicit Trafficking Database (ITDB), which was released Sept. 11. The ITDB is a collection of information regarding incidents of illicit trafficking and unauthorized activities involving nuclear and radioactive materials provided or confirmed by states. There are currently 96 states participating in the ITDB program.

The ITDB notes that the number of reported incidents of theft or loss “increased significantly” in 2006. It explains, however, that this increase “reflects improvements in reporting procedures rather than an actual increase in reported incidents.” The majority of the reported incidents involved sealed industrial radioactive sources, but there were some reported incidents involving small quantities of nuclear materials, including natural uranium, depleted uranium, and thorium. Two incidents involved highly enriched uranium (HEU), which at sufficient enrichment levels can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons. German authorities reported in March 2006 that trace amounts of HEU were detected on scrap metal entering a steel mill. A more alarming incident was reported by Georgia in February 2006 in which individuals were arrested attempting to sell nearly 80 grams of 89 percent-enriched HEU. Uranium enriched to 90 percent and higher is considered weapons-grade. The IAEA says that 25 kilograms of HEU is sufficient for a nuclear weapon, while others estimate that as little as half that amount is needed.

Since 2000, no incidents have been reported involving plutonium, the other fissile material commonly used in nuclear weapons.

The report also indicated that about 27 percent of the 275 reported incidents to date involving unauthorized possession and related criminal activities occurred in 1993-1994 and thereafter reported incidents averaged about 16 each year. The 14 reported for 2006 falls just below this average. A total of 1,080 incidents have been reported to the agency between 1993 and 2006.

Russia Offers to Jump-Start IAEA Fuel Bank

Miles A. Pomper

A senior Russian official made an offer Sept. 18 that could help establish an international fuel bank under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia’s nuclear agency, also announced several other initiatives in September aimed at furthering Russia’s nuclear industry.

Kiriyenko told the IAEA General Conference that Russia planned to put under IAEA control a reserve of $300 million worth of low enriched uranium (LEU). Such a reserve would be sufficient for two reactor loads of LEU, the fuel for most modern power reactors. The fuel would be stored at a multinational uranium-enrichment facility Russia is establishing in the Siberian city of Angarsk.

“We should carry out the preparatory work required for the IAEA Director-General to propose to the IAEA Board of Governors that they consider Russia’s plans for establishing guaranteed nuclear fuel reserves in the first half of 2008,” Kiriyenko said.

Such a donation would jump-start an effort by IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei and the private Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) to establish a fuel bank that could guarantee that states without fuel-making facilities can turn to the international body if their supplies are cut off for reasons other than commercial disputes or nonproliferation violations. Last year, U.S. billionaire Warren Buffet offered to donate $50 million through the NTI to establish an LEU stockpile owned and managed by the IAEA under two conditions: that, within two years, one or several IAEA member states contributed an additional $100 million and that the agency took the necessary steps to establish it. (See ACT, November 2006. )

ElBaradei, the United States, and other nuclear fuel producers have urged the creation of such a facility because many of the facilities used to produce nuclear fuel can also provide the fissile material (highly enriched uranium and plutonium) used in nuclear weapons. ElBaradei issued a report to the IAEA board on the subject in June proposing several options. Meanwhile, Congress is considering appropriating $50 million dollars for the establishment of such a fuel bank. (See ACT, July/August 2007. )

In another step that should make it easier for the Angarsk project to advance, the Russian Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, Sept. 14 approved an additional protocol to Russia’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA. Once ratified by President Vladimir Putin, the protocol would grant the agency wider powers in Russia. With nuclear-weapon states such as Russia, however, such protocols are largely symbolic because safeguards are primarily intended to guard against the misuse of nuclear fuel and technology for weapons.

Russia also signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Australia Sept. 7 that could provide it with additional uranium for nuclear power programs. Australia has the world’s largest reserves of uranium and has already signed a controversial supply deal last year with China. Moreover, Canberra indicated earlier this year that it would be willing to conclude such a negotiation with India if certain conditions were met. (See ACT, May 2006 and September 2007 .)

Kiriyenko said Russia is ready to process 4,000 tons of Australian uranium a year. Putin said Russia has “a sufficient” and even “excessive supply of weapons-grade uranium, but plans to build 30 nuclear power stations in the next 15 years and needs…Australian uranium to ensure their operation.”

U.S. Pledges Cuts in Plutonium Stockpile

Miles A. Pomper

Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman announced Sept. 17 that the United States would remove an amount of plutonium from its nuclear weapons stockpile sufficient to make at least 1,000 nuclear weapons, likely surpassing a 2000 U.S.-Russian agreement that called for the two Cold War superpowers to shrink the military stocks of this fissile material. A day before, U.S. officials won the support of 11 additional countries for a controversial program that they claim will both reduce nuclear waste and decrease nuclear weapons proliferation.

Excess Plutonium To Become Fuel

Speaking Sept. 17 in Vienna before the International Atomic Energy Agency general conference, Bodman announced that the United States would remove nine metric tons of plutonium in the coming decades from retired, dismantled nuclear warheads. The material would be combined with depleted uranium to form mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for nuclear reactors in a plant under construction at Savannah River, South Carolina.

The plutonium would be added to a 52.5-metric-ton stockpile of weapons plutonium that the United States declared as excess in 1994. Not all of the existing stockpile comes from the pits of nuclear weapons, nor is all of it sufficiently pure to be made into MOX fuel.

With the announcement, the United States would still retain 38 metric tons of military plutonium, potentially enough for nearly 10,000 nuclear weapons, about the current size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The Bush administration has pledged that this arsenal would be cut almost in half by 2012. (See ACT, July/August 2002. ) It takes between four and eight kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium to make a modern nuclear weapon.

Depending on the purity of the new and previously declared material, Department of Energy officials said, the United States is likely to be able to have ready for disposal sufficient plutonium to well surpass the terms of the 2000 agreement under which the United States and Russia each agreed to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium.

“The 9 tons will be likely be in addition to the 34 metric tons,” William Tobey, deputy administrator for nuclear nonproliferation at the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, told Global Security Newswire Sept. 19.

The Bush administration had pushed construction of the Savannah River facility as its means of meeting that goal. Yet, funding has only trickled out for years as some lawmakers, particularly in the House of Representatives, have said other strategies should be employed because of the project’s costs, safety concerns, potential proliferation risks, and the failure of Russia to move forward on its end of the deal. (See ACT, April 2007. )

Moreover, much of the plutonium to be turned into MOX fuel at Savannah River is likely to come from the pits of the nuclear weapons, but the United States does not yet have a large-scale capability to dismantle plutonium pits (see above article).

GNEP Grows, but Direction Unclear

The day before his announcement, Bodman shepherded a Vienna meeting of the U.S.-led Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). U.S. officials won additional support for the program, but the outcome raised questions about whether GNEP was conforming to one of its stated rationales.

The Bush administration launched GNEP in February 2006, portraying it in part as a practical means of reinforcing President George W. Bush’s call two years earlier to halt the spread of uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing facilities to new countries. Such facilities can provide fuel for nuclear power or fissile material (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) for nuclear weapons.

The effort has been gaining new adherents abroad. Ministers from the initial members of the partnership—China, France, Japan, Russia, and the United States—met Sept. 16 in Vienna for their second high-level meeting. They were joined by representatives from 11 other countries who signed the partnership’s nonbinding statement of principles that day. The new partnership states are Australia, Bulgaria, Ghana, Hungary, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and Ukraine. The ministers also established two lower-level working groups for implementing the partnership. 

Yet, the signature of principles signed by the members says that participating states “would not give up any rights,” implicitly referring to rights under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty for peaceful cooperation in nuclear energy. Many countries say such rights include the right for all countries to have enrichment and reprocessing capabilities. Australia, which has the world’s largest reserves of uranium, has indicated its interest in developing enrichment facilities. So have several other states that sent observers to the meeting, including Argentina and Canada.

South Africa, however, announced Sept. 18 that it would not participate in GNEP, saying that, despite the new language in the statement of principles, it feared that the partnership’s push to renounce fuel capabilities would dash its hopes of enriching its own fuel for nuclear reactors from domestically mined uranium. South Africa had previously developed an enrichment capability as part of its nuclear weapons program but shuttered it when the weapons program ended in 1994.

“We were concerned that some aspects of the GNEP declaration would conflict with our national policy,” Buyelwa Sonjica, the country’s minerals and energy minister, told reporters in Vienna Sept. 18.

“It is a sovereignty issue, to deal with our own nuclear fuel reserves and fuel supply,” Tseliso Maqubela, the ministry’s nuclear program director, told reporters the same day. Nonetheless, Maqubela said that South Africa is seeking foreign partners for its enrichment efforts. “We would prefer to do it with partners,” Maqubela said. “The timeline that we have is going to depend on how much progress we have in attracting partners.”

In Washington, Congress is poised to slash the administration’s funding request for GNEP for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, and lawmakers are raising fundamental questions about the program’s direction. Both the House of Representatives and a Senate committee have slashed funding for the program and hampered the administration’s goal of advancing it beyond the research and development stage.

The administration had requested $395 million for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, which underpins the GNEP program, and an additional $10 million to fund GNEP as a nonproliferation effort. But the House would only provide $120 million in its version of spending legislation for fiscal year 2008, while the Senate would provide $242 million.

The House has been particularly critical of the program. In its June report, the House Appropriations Committee said it “does not support the Department’s rushed, poorly-defined, expansive, and expensive [GNEP] proposal, particularly the administration’s intention to move quickly to commercial-scale reprocessing facilities.” Both the House and the Senate reports called for the administration to focus instead on research. The House panel also said that the nonproliferation aspects of GNEP are “unpersuasive and largely contradictory.”

Report: No Progress on Missile Defense, Nukes

Wade Boese

Russian and U.S. officials in September meetings failed to resolve disputes over measures to succeed an expiring nuclear arms reduction treaty or U.S. plans to base anti-missile systems in Europe. The two sides vowed to continue meeting.

Paula DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation, led a U.S. team to Rome Sept. 10-11 to meet with Russian experts headed by Anatoly Antonov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department of International Security and Disarmament. The two sides continued discussions over their earlier proposals on follow-on arrangements to the 1991 START agreement, which is scheduled to expire Dec. 5, 2009.

START required the two countries to cut their deployed strategic nuclear forces of more than 10,000 warheads apiece to 6,000 or less each. It also established an extensive verification regime that the two governments still employ to conduct inspections and exchange data on each other’s nuclear forces.

Without that regime, the U.S. intelligence community warns it would not be able to confidently assess Russia’s future compliance with the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, which obligates each country to reduce its operationally deployed strategic nuclear forces to less than 2,200 warheads by the end of 2012. In a July 2007 report to Congress, DeSutter’s office noted that the U.S. total as of Dec. 31, 2006, was 3,696 warheads. That unclassified report also stated that a secret version had an “estimated” tally for Russian holdings.

The Bush administration has maintained that intrusive verification measures or arms limits are unnecessary for what it claims is an improving relationship with Russia. In Rome, Antonov and his delegation did not persuade the U.S. side to agree to the Russian alternative: negotiating a post-START accord that mandates new warhead and delivery vehicle caps.

Russian experts headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak similarly failed Sept. 10 in Paris to convince U.S. experts to shelve plans to deploy 10 missile interceptors and an associated radar to Europe. John Rood, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, led the U.S. delegation.

Moscow contends Washington is exaggerating the Iranian missile threat and has volunteered to share data from the Russian-leased Gabala radar in Azerbaijan to jointly assess the threat. The Kremlin, which asserts the proposed U.S. anti-missile systems are actually directed against it, says its offer is off the table if the United States proceeds with its current plans.

On Sept. 18, Brigadier General Patrick O’Reilly, deputy director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA), visited the Gabala radar to assess its capabilities. MDA spokesperson Rick Lehner told Arms Control Today Sept. 24 that the MDA is still putting together a report on the visit but, from a U.S. technical standpoint, the Gabala radar “cannot replace an X-band radar, but it could be an adjunct radar.”

An X-band radar is what the United States is proposing to deploy in the Czech Republic to provide tracking details to missile interceptors so they can seek out the correct target in space. The Gabala radar would not be able to provide such precise tracking, but it could help cue the Czech Republic-based X-band radar by directing where it should look for the target. Russia does not support cooperating in such a fashion.

U.S. and Russian experts are expected to meet again on missile defense before an Oct. 12 Moscow meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and their Russian counterparts. The quartet is expected to delve into missile defense and post-START arrangements.

Russian and U.S. officials in September meetings failed to resolve disputes over measures to succeed an expiring nuclear arms reduction treaty or U.S. plans to base anti-missile systems in Europe. The two sides vowed to continue meeting. (Continue)

U.S. Nuke Dismantlement: Modest Uptick

Wade Boese

The United States this June slightly lifted the shroud of secrecy covering its nuclear warhead dismantlement activities, claiming at least a 50 percent increase over its 2006 rate. Although the announcement elicited general praise, the amount of warheads dismantled annually remains unknown and is apparently significantly less than a decade ago, leading some lawmakers to press the Bush administration to do more such work.

Thomas D’Agostino, then-acting administrator of the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), told the House appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development last March that the United States has dismantled “more than 13,000 warheads since 1988.” On Aug. 30, D’Agostino was sworn in as the administrator of the NNSA, which manages the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

The Energy Department provided dismantlement details up until 1999 when the government decided that such information might give U.S. foes too much insight into the composition and size of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. That data reveals that the United States dismantled approximately 13,500 warheads between 1988 and 1999.

Citing anonymous congressional and administration sources, The Washington Post reported in May 2006 that “in recent years” the United States had annually disassembled “fewer than 100 warheads.” In a Sept. 19 interview with Arms Control Today, an NNSA spokesperson declined to comment on that article’s accuracy, citing the fact that dismantlement information is classified. Commenting on the NNSA’s recent announcement, however, a congressional staff member familiar with the issue told Arms Control Today Sept. 12 that “a 50 percent [increase] for a number that is already small is not a great claim to fame.”

Still, two other informed congressional aides interviewed in September by Arms Control Today commended the NNSA for recently making dismantlement a higher priority. Earlier this year, the NNSA declared it would accelerate the dismantlement of all currently retired warheads and those slated for future retirement in order to complete the elimination process by 2023 instead of 2034, as it had projected earlier.

The revamped dismantlement schedule includes the warheads that the Bush administration intends to retire under a June 2004 plan to cut the approximately 10,000-warhead stockpile almost in half by 2012. (See ACT, July/August 2004. ) Decisions by future administrations to cut or retain additional warheads from the stockpile—warheads that are classified as active or inactive but not those that are retired—could alter the schedule.

The congressional staffers say warhead dismantlement is important because it signals to the world that the United States is committed to reducing its nuclear weapons while it seeks to limit the global spread of nuclear arms. An advisory board to the secretary of energy also emphasized in a July 2005 report that dismantlement reduces the risk of nuclear accidents and terrorist theft.

Ambassador Linton Brooks, who was D’Agostino’s predecessor as head of the NNSA between July 2002 and January 2007, cautioned in a Sept. 17 interview with Arms Control Today that although safety is one motivation for dismantlement, that does not suggest that retired warheads are “unsafe.” He said that taking apart retired warheads is the “most sensible thing to do” because they are no longer needed.

Brooks’ tenure overlapped with the reduced dismantlement rate of the past several years. Brooks attributed the slower pace in part to more stringent security and safety procedures at Pantex, the sole U.S. facility that carries out dismantlement work. “Striking the right line between safety and paralysis is very hard,” he said.

The warhead type being disassembled can also affect the speed of dismantlement. Pantex, located near Amarillo, Texas, reports that it may need “a few days to a few weeks” to take apart a warhead. Brooks noted, “[E]ase of disassembly was not an important design consideration during the Cold War.” The United States last assembled a new warhead in 1990.

Pantex also is where the United States conducts its surveillance and life-extension programs for stockpile warheads. At a Jan. 25, 2006, Washington event, Brooks stated that given the limited capacity of Pantex, he prioritized stockpile program activities and used dismantlement to “fill in the peaks and valleys…in order to keep a steady workload there.” Ultimately, Brooks contended in September, “within constrained resources, we did it right.”

Not everyone, including Brooks’ former boss, shares that assessment. Testifying March 6 to the House panel on energy and water development, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said that management of warhead dismantlement had been “very weak” and that the pace of disassembly had “fallen down.” The three congressional staffers also said the priority previously assigned dismantlement had been insufficient but that it is now improving.

The NNSA spokesperson asserted that the “primary reason” behind the announced 50 percent dismantlement jump was “increased attention and focus…since 2004.” That effort, according to a June 7 NNSA press release, involved “dramatic improvements in procedures, tools, and policies.”

The congressional staffers contend that pressure from U.S. lawmakers played a critical role in compelling the NNSA to devote more attention and resources to dismantlement. Since 2000, the NNSA reports that $387.5 million has been spent on dismantlement, but some of that total resulted from Congress increasing funding beyond the administration’s original budget requests.

Some lawmakers are again seeking to remedy what they perceive as the administration’s shortchanging of dismantlement in the latest budget request for fiscal year 2008, which begins Oct. 1. In February, the administration asked Congress for $6.5 billion in total nuclear weapons spending, of which $52 million is allocated for dismantlement. (See ACT, March 2007. )

The House in July passed an energy and water appropriations bill that included a $30 million net increase for dismantlement activities. Some legislators have suggested that the additional funds could be used to expand disassembly work to the Device Assembly Facility at the Nevada nuclear test site. That facility previously has not been used for dismantlement.

The Senate has yet to pass its version of the energy and water bill, but the committee with initial responsibility for the measure did not augment dismantlement funding. Legislators from the two chambers will need to reconcile any differences between their separate bills before sending a final act to the president.

Both bills currently match the administration’s requested $91 million for building a pit disassembly and conversion facility at Savannah River, South Carolina. A pit is the core component of a nuclear warhead that contains the plutonium that powers the nuclear explosion. The United States has no large-scale capability to disassemble the pits themselves, so they are stored in underground bunkers at Pantex. The Clinton administration envisioned the pit facility, which would turn plutonium metal into oxide for use as reactor fuel or for long-term waste storage, to be operating by 2006, but construction has not started.

Meanwhile, the NNSA “plans to maintain a robust pace of dismantlements,” its spokesperson said. Pantex is currently taking apart W62 warheads that previously armed Minuteman III ICBMs and two models of the B61 gravity bomb. Next in line, according to the spokesperson, will be B83 gravity bombs and W80 warheads that used to outfit submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

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.

Details Bedevil Libyan Grand Bargain

Alex Bollfrass

Almost four years after Libya first announced it would surrender its chemical and nuclear weapons programs in exchange for normalization of relations with the West, some weapons and materials officially renounced by Libya remain in the country, and Libyan frustration over “unmet promises” is growing.

In its trilateral agreement announced Dec. 19, 2003, with the United States and the United Kingdom, Libya pledged to eliminate all aspects of its chemical and nuclear weapons programs under international inspections and in line with applicable international accords. It further agreed to restrict the range of its ballistic missiles. (See ACT, January/February 2004. )

The most dangerous materials have been removed, and the weapon issue’s importance is fading in U.S.-Libyan relations. However, missiles and nuclear materials linger in Libya while plans for scientific cooperation have been derailed. Libyans no longer agree that their experience is a model of nonproliferation, despite public Bush administration claims to the contrary.

Disarmament’s Long Tail

The catalyst and centerpiece of the trilateral deal was Libya’s uranium-based nuclear weapons program, which Libya pledged to eliminate in its entirety. It has, but nuclear material of proliferation concern still remains in the country.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said Libya has been forthcoming, but the agency continues to investigate outstanding questions about the enrichment technology Libya acquired from the A.Q. Khan network. An IAEA official confirmed to Arms Control Today Aug. 16 that “verification of the correctness and completeness of Libya’s declarations related to its current and past nuclear-related activities is continuing.”

A version of the 1997 Model Additional Protocol, which substantially expands the IAEA’s ability to check for clandestine nuclear facilities or activities, has been in force in Libya since Aug. 11, 2006.

In March 2004, more than 15 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) were returned to Russia, and Libya’s 10-megawatt Tajura research reactor is being converted to operate on low-enriched uranium. However, an unknown amount of partially spent HEU from the reactor remains in Libya.

David Foley, a Department of State spokesperson, informed Arms Control Today Sept. 19 that, after the initial removal of nuclear materials to the United States, Libya “committed to sell its stockpile of approximately 1,000 metric tons of natural uranium yellowcake ore” but it has not done so. Yellowcake is a lightly processed form of uranium. Foley added, “We continue to encourage Libya to sell the yellowcake at the earliest possible date it can find a legitimate purchaser” and “Libya has been in discussion with potential buyers.” (See ACT, September 2007. )

Of its unconventional weapons programs, Libya’s chemical arsenal was the most advanced. In fact, Libya is widely believed to have used chemical munitions in 1987 during its lengthy war with Chad.

Having drained and destroyed its chemical munitions, Libya initially concluded an agreement with the United States to eliminate 23.6 metric tons of mustard gas and approximately 1,300 metric tons of precursor chemicals. However, Libya subsequently cancelled the contract. (See ACT, July/August 2007. ) Under its agreement with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, these chemicals must be eliminated by the end of 2010. Libya has yet to announce its plans for meeting this commitment.

In the trilateral agreement, Libya also obligated itself to a missile arsenal in conformity with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The regime forbids ballistic missiles capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload a distance greater than 300 kilometers, in order to prevent their use as nuclear-weapon delivery vehicles.

Libya has eliminated most missile systems that violate the MTCR restrictions on flight range, including Scud-Cs. The three states concluded an “Agreement on the Disposition of Scud-B Missiles” in September 2004, allowing Libya to postpone the destruction of its remaining Scud-Bs, which exceed MTCR payload weight limits, until September 2009.

According to a British diplomat, Libya agreed to an annual inventory check of these missiles as long as it was allowed to purchase Russian Iskander missiles. The United States initially opposed this request on nonproliferation grounds. After months of delay, which eventually yielded U.S. approval, Libya decided not to seek these Russian missiles.

Annual inventory checks, which would update and verify the initial 2004 missile declaration, have not occurred, according to the State Department’s Verification and Compliance Bureau. In a Sept. 19 statement to Arms Control Today, the bureau’s spokesperson, John Herzberg, nonetheless expressed confidence that Libya would honor the agreement: “We remain convinced of Libya’s commitment to retire and destroy these missiles. Libya’s Scud-B’s are nearing the end of their lifespan and Libya is actively seeking to procure a replacement missile system.” The destruction of the old system will occur with U.S. and British supervision.

Investigations by the United States and the United Kingdom into the Libyan biological warfare program yielded evidence of some limited research efforts. Libya has pledged to honor its commitments under the Biological Weapons Convention and has submitted information about its activities through the convention’s system of confidence-building measures.

In another commitment to gain U.S. favor, Libya announced in May 2004 that it would cease military trade with countries Libya deemed a proliferation threat. At the time, Libyan and U.S. officials issued conflicting statements on whether this applied to trade with Syria. State Department officials reiterated in recent interviews that it did, while Ali Aujali, Libyan ambassador to Washington, protested that “it would not be fair” to refrain from military cooperation with Syria.

Several issues unrelated to Libya’s weapons activities that have obstructed relations in the past have moved toward resolution. The recent release of six medics from Libyan captivity and an agreed Libyan compensation to Lockerbie victims eased tensions, although it has not made the settlement’s final payments. The 1986 La Belle nightclub bombing remains a contentious point. So far, Libya has not agreed to compensate those victims.

Not a Model?

Libya has expressed dissatisfaction with the benefits it has received. Aujali complained to Arms Control Today Sept. 17 that “this is a great initiative, but it will not be a model for other countries [because] many promises were not met.”

Reports in the Arab press suggest Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi has refused to meet with visiting U.S. diplomats, including Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch in August, to signal his dissatisfaction with Libya’s treatment. Gaddafi did receive a letter in July from President George W. Bush through Frances Townsend, the chair of the U.S. Homeland Security Council, who remarked after the meeting that “the Libyans are frustrated and we’re frustrated because we both want more out of that relationship.”

Neither the United States nor the United Kingdom enunciated public promises to Libya beyond the prospect of better relations as long as Libya did not deviate from its disarmament plan. However, within the context of negotiations on the disarmament plan, the United States appears to have made some specific commitments.

For instance, in August 2005 the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced an arrangement promising cooperation “on research reactor applications, including nuclear medicine, and other applied scientific endeavors.” Two years later, the arrangement’s accomplishments enumerated by NNSA official John Broehm Aug. 13 are modest. The NNSA “has provided training, consultations, seminars, technical literature, and ‘train-the-trainer’ sessions through eight separate technical expert visits to Libya,” he said.

The State Department has rejected requests for comment on the lack of scientific cooperation beyond seminars and consultations that would engage former nuclear and chemical weapons scientists. State Department spokesperson Tom Casey announced this March, “We are in discussions with the Libyans regarding a project to help them develop a nuclear medicine center.” To date, these discussions have not yielded an agreement. Casey added that there are no plans for any agreements similar to those Libya signed with France, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom has been more forthcoming in rewarding Libya for forswearing weapons of mass destruction. It signed a security agreement with Libya in June 2006, promising to seek UN Security Council action if another state should attack Libya with chemical or biological weapons and to aid Libya in boosting its defense capabilities. (See ACT, September 2006. )

In March, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on scientific cooperation, outlining planned collaboration on issues beyond ongoing programs to redirect Libyan scientists to peaceful pursuits. Not all that was promised has been delivered. “We would of course say that we are paragons of virtue,” a British diplomat conceded Aug. 27, “but it’s no secret that this has not been a straightforward process.”

The bargain to usher Libya into the mainstream of states was struck by the United States and the United Kingdom, but others have been more enthusiastic in seizing the opportunities presented by it. France has signed arms deals and agreed to provide a nuclear reactor, and Russia has signaled strong interest in nuclear cooperation. (See ACT, September 2007 .)

Western diplomats have criticized what they described as the Libyan inchoate diplomatic style. One expressed frustration that “the United States and the United Kingdom have been wringing [their] hands over why the Libyans are not accepting money and then complaining about wanting more.”

The U.S.-Libyan relationship may also be hampered by a shortage of diplomatic representation. The U.S. embassy in Libya is temporarily housed in a hotel, and the nominated ambassador, Gene Cretz, has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. The Libyan embassy in Washington lacks a military attaché and other specialized staff knowledgeable about weapons issues.

Queried for details about the Libyan government’s unmet demands, Aujali asked for U.S. assistance in desalination, financing the destruction of weapons, and the easing of visa restrictions for Libyan nationals. If the United States did this, he observed, “the Western countries would find it a lot easier to talk to other countries like North Korea.”

Almost four years after Libya first announced it would surrender its chemical and nuclear weapons programs in exchange for normalization of relations with the West, some weapons and materials officially renounced by Libya remain in the country, and Libyan frustration over “unmet promises” is growing. (Continue)

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.


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