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former IAEA Director-General

Theater Missile Defense

Moon Orders THAAD Deployment Review

Moon Orders THAAD Deployment Review

A South Korean protester wears a ‘No THAAD’ face mask during an April 28 rally in Seoul against the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. (Photo credit: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)New South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced on June 7 that deployment of four additional U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile launchers would be suspended pending an environmental review. After taking office May 10, Moon said he had not been informed of the presence of the launchers on South Korean soil for weeks and ordered an investigation into why the Defense Ministry withheld this information. Moon has been critical of the rushed deployment of two launchers before his predecessor’s impeachment earlier this year, arguing that the decision should have been left for the incoming administration. Although the four additional launchers would have brought the battery to full strength, the two initial launchers will continue to function. Each launcher is equipped with eight interceptors designed to defend against incoming missiles.

Moon, who campaigned on fostering dialogue with North Korea, sought to ease concerns about diverging policies with Washington. “My order for a probe on THAAD is purely a domestic measure, and I want to be clear that it is not about trying to change the existing decision or sending a message to the United States,” he told U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) during a May 31 meeting in Seoul. U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis recently expressed confidence that the United States could address Moon’s concerns.—TYLER ROGERS

Posted: July 10, 2017

The Complex and Increasingly Dangerous Nuclear Weapons Geometry of Asia

Description: 

Asian states Pakistan, India, China, and North Korea comprise four of the world's nine nuclear-armed states. The interconnections of these countries must be considered to fully understand how nuclear nonproliferation can be influenced.

Body: 


By Greg Thielmann
July 2016

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While much of the world’s attention is focused on efforts to halt the nuclear and missile tests of North Korea, the nuclear arsenals and ambitions of India, Pakistan, and China also pose significant dangers and deserve more attention.

The complicated nuclear weapons geometry of Asia extends from the subcontinent to the other side of the world. While Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is designed to counter India’s conventional and nuclear forces, New Delhi measures its own nuclear weapons program against that of China. Beijing, in turn, judges the adequacy of its nuclear arsenal against the threat it perceives from the United States’ strategic offensive and defensive capabilities. And in its efforts to mitigate the ballistic missile threat from North Korea, the United States and its allies in the region are expanding their strategic and theater missile defense capabilities.

In order to fully understand how the pace and direction of nuclear proliferation can be influenced, the interconnections of these countries must be considered, along with the kinds of nuclear weapons they have at their disposal.

Posted: July 27, 2016

Mixed Messages on Missile Defense

The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff delivered an unusually clear and coherent speech on U.S. missile defense polic y at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) May 19 in Washington. Although Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr. emphasized in his remarks that U.S. missile defenses should be of no concern to Russia or China, it is easy to see how parts of his comprehensive presentation could be viewed from Moscow or Beijing as hypocritical, or at least deeply ironic. Not About Russia and China During his presentation, Winnefeld reiterated the long-standing position of the...

Removing the Missile Defense Obstacle to Deeper Nuclear Cuts

It has been obvious for decades that advances in strategic ballistic missile defenses can complicate efforts to maintain a balance in strategic offensive forces while reducing overall nuclear arsenals. The two Cold War superpowers addressed this problem by negotiating the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 1972, which limited the breadth and scope of ballistic missile defense (BMD) deployments. But U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002 and enthusiastic pursuit of BMD by the United States has again brought the negative impact of missile defense on nuclear arms control efforts to the...

Shorter-Range Missile Defenses Show Progress

Despite continuing concerns about the capability and testing of Pentagon efforts to develop and deploy anti-missile systems to protect against long-range ballistic missiles, less controversial programs to counter shorter-range missiles are enjoying some success. (Continue)

Wade Boese

Despite continuing concerns about the capability and testing of Pentagon efforts to develop and deploy anti-missile systems to protect against long-range ballistic missiles, less controversial programs to counter shorter-range missiles are enjoying some success.

The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced June 5 that it had conducted the second successful intercept test of a Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Block IV interceptor. Fired from the USS Lake Erie stationed off Hawaii, that missile destroyed a descending target approximately 19 kilometers above the Pacific Ocean.

The Aegis SM-2 Block IV interceptor program differs from the more established Aegis SM-3 project. Both can be fired by the same ships out of the same launching tubes at shorter-range ballistic missiles. But the SM-2 Block IV is designed to counter missiles inside the atmosphere in the final moments of their flight, while the SM-3 is focused on destroying missiles in the exoatmosphere. In addition, the SM-2 Block IV employs a blast-fragmentation warhead that explodes near its target as opposed to the SM-3 interceptor, which releases a kill vehicle that is supposed to seek out and smash its target through a direct collision.

Based on Navy demands for an interceptor that could deal with ballistic missiles in their so-called terminal stage, the MDA and Navy agreed in 2006 to cooperate on the SM-2 Block IV project. A similar program, the Navy Area Theater Ballistic Missile Defense, had been cancelled in December 2001. The MDA is paying for modifications of the Aegis system to enable the firing of the new interceptor, and the Navy is supporting the necessary technical changes to an inventory of approximately 100 SM-2 Block IV missiles so they can perform the required mission.

Meanwhile, the older SM-3 interceptor program has scored 12 hits in 14 intercept tests, including the first-ever experiment last December by a Japanese ship. (See ACT, January/February 2008 .) A second Japanese vessel is expected to conduct another SM-3 intercept test later this year.

Japan is working with the United States to develop a longer-range version of the SM-3 intended to be more capable against long-range ballistic missiles that can travel further than 5,500 kilometers. That system is expected to be available for potential testing in 2014.

By that time, the MDA is hoping to have a fleet of 18 ships capable of launching the SM-3 as well as the SM-2 Block IV. Roughly a dozen ships can currently launch the SM-3, and the MDA is planning to have 38 of those interceptors available for potential use by the end of this year.

The MDA also is pushing ahead with development of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), which is intended to counter missiles with ranges of less than 5,500 kilometers both inside and outside the atmosphere as they descend. On May 28, the MDA announced that the Army had activated the first unit that will operate the land-mobile THAAD system once it is ready for deployment in 2009 or 2010. Currently undergoing training through 2009, the unit will be responsible for three THAAD launchers and 24 interceptors. Current MDA procurement plans call for 96 total interceptors, but the agency has been pushed by lawmakers and the services to buy more of the interceptors, as well as Aegis SM-3 missiles. (See ACT, June 2008 .)

After failing in six of eight intercept tests between 1995 and 1999, the THAAD system went through an extensive program redesign. Since a 2006 return to intercept testing, THAAD has destroyed five targets in five attempts, including a June 25 test. In that experiment, the THAAD system achieved its first intercept of a separating target; previous tests involved missiles that remained in one piece during their flights.

Posted: August 7, 2008

Missile Defense Budget Boosts Requested

Heading into its final year in office, the Bush administration is asking Congress to give a spending boost to anti-missile systems, particularly a controversial project to extend systems to Europe. Although missile defenses have been a constant funding favorite of the administration, a recent Pentagon report found capabilities remain limited. (Continue)

Wade Boese

Heading into its final year in office, the Bush administration is asking Congress to give a spending boost to anti-missile systems, particularly a controversial project to extend systems to Europe. Although missile defenses have been a constant funding favorite of the administration, a recent Pentagon report found capabilities remain limited.

All told, the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2009 baseline budget request of $515.4 billion contains approximately $12.7 billion for anti-missile programs, a $1.9 billion increase above the previous request. Fiscal year 2009 begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2009.

The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) accounts for the greatest share of the funding, with requests totaling some $8.89 billion. It is also slated for an additional $445 million in military construction and Base Realignment and Closure spending. Congress granted the agency $8.7 billion last year, which is approximately $185 million less than the amount originally sought by the administration.

Major slices of the proposed missile defense funding are slated for programs directed by the Army and the Air Force. The Army is seeking nearly $986 million for developing and procuring the Patriot and related systems. More than half that total will go toward buying 108 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors, which are designed to counter short- and medium-range missiles near the end of their flights. The Patriot anti-missile system is the only one that is battle-tested, and the results were mixed. (See ACT, November 2003. )

The Air Force is asking for $2.3 billion to advance its Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellite constellation for pinpointing ballistic missile launches worldwide. Nearly $1.8 billion of that total is to go toward procuring the first two of four geosynchronous satellites in time for the proposed fall 2009 launch window. A satellite in geosynchronous orbit matches the Earth’s rotation speed.

MDA Programs

SBIRS is supposed to help cue the raft of anti-missile systems under development by the MDA. Major programs are the long-range Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD), the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), the Airborne Laser (ABL), and the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI). The systems are in various stages of development and have different capabilities and missions, although some overlap.

Since its 2002 establishment, the MDA has overseen the deployment of two dozen total GMD interceptors in Alaska and California and 21 Aegis Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptors to counter short- to intermediate-range missiles. Ten ships have been converted to fire the SM-3s. The first THAAD fire unit, designed to defend against short- to intermediate-range missiles as they descend toward their targets, is slated for fielding in 2009. THAAD scored three hits in three intercept trials last year, maintaining its perfect record since going through a redesign in the late 1990s.

Intended to destroy missiles during the first few minutes after their launch, the ABL is a modified Boeing 747 armed with a powerful chemical laser, and the KEI is a fast-accelerating interceptor. Both programs are at earlier stages in their development and face crucial tests in fiscal year 2009 that could determine their fate. The ABL is supposed to be tested against a target in flight for the first time that year, while the KEI is scheduled for its inaugural flight.

The MDA envisions that by 2013 the United States will have deployed 54 total GMD interceptors, 147 SM-3 interceptors, and four THAAD fire units with 96 total interceptors. Future procurement plans for ABL and KEI systems have yet to be made.

Congress in recent years has urged the MDA to focus attention and resources on the systems ready for more immediate deployment rather than programs that are more futuristic and technically riskier, such as the KEI. In the latest budget request, the agency apportions almost half its proposed spending to the more established programs: $2.3 billion for the GMD project, just more than $1 billion for Aegis, and $811 million for THAAD.

Still, the agency trimmed its THAAD request by $47 million from last year while bumping up the KEI request by $159 million, to $386 million. The deployment of the third and fourth THAAD fire units also were postponed a year each, until fiscal years 2013 and 2014.

Those actions seemingly contradict congressional wishes as well as those of Lieutenant General Kevin Campbell, the head of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command. Last April, Campbell testified to the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee that moving ahead with THAAD deployments was “vitally important” while suggesting that the KEI and ABL programs were less urgent, describing them as a “hedge against future threats.” In another hearing that same month, Campbell also reported on a study by his command that recommended doubling proposed purchases of THAAD and Aegis interceptors. The MDA, which is charged with developing systems but not operating them in the field like the Army Space and Missile Defense Command, did not change the production plans for either system.

Meanwhile, the MDA ratcheted up its funding request for multiple kill vehicles, a more novel concept. The agency wants to develop smaller, generic kill vehicles, the component that maneuvers into a collision with an incoming threat, so a single interceptor can carry several at once to engage multiple targets. The latest budget request of $354 million for the program is approximately $83 million higher than that previously requested. But Congress last year cut nearly $63 million from the program to signal its displeasure with the MDA for unilaterally planning to mount multiple kill vehicles on a longer-range version of the SM-3 without consulting Japan, which is co-developing the modified interceptor.

Although Congress has repeatedly denied MDA requests for money to explore space-based anti-missile system options, the agency has resurrected that bid this year. It is seeking $10 million to start creating a space-based test bed. Projected costs for the test bed rise annually to $123 million by fiscal year 2013.

The agency, however, seems to be a little more sensitive to congressional complaints about the status of its testing and target programs. In a report on last year’s defense authorization bill, lawmakers expressed “disappointment” that the MDA “has failed to ensure an adequate testing program.” The MDA’s current request for testing and target activities is $79 million higher than last year’s request of $586 million.

The European Option

The MDA is seeking its biggest budget boost to deploy 10 strategic ground-based interceptors in Poland and an associated missile tracking radar in the Czech Republic to defend against what the Bush administration says is a growing Iranian missile threat. The agency more than doubled its request of $310 million last year to approximately $719 million in the Feb. 4 budget submission.

Last November, Congress denied $85 million to begin system construction this year because no hosting agreements had been reached with the Czech Republic and Poland. But Reuters Feb. 21 quoted John Rood, acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, telling reporters in Budapest that “very significant progress” had been made in recent talks with the two potential host governments. Rood was visiting the Hungarian capital to meet with Russian officials to try and soften their opposition to the proposed system.

A few weeks earlier, Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski visited Washington and said that a Polish-U.S. agreement had been reached in principle, but he cautioned, “[W]e are not at the end of the road…we are in the middle of the road.” Warsaw has made clear that it wants Washington to help bolster Polish military capabilities, particularly air defenses, as part of any hosting arrangement.

Russia’s hostility to the U.S. project is a key factor behind Polish demands for additional U.S. assistance and weapons systems. Moscow, which perceives the proposed system as directed against Russia, has threatened to target the potential interceptor and radar bases.

Washington has engaged in talks with Moscow to allay its concerns but to no avail. Speaking Feb. 8 to Russian legislators, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States of being disingenuous. “It is with sorrow in my heart that I am forced to say that our partners have been using these discussions as information and diplomatic cover for carrying out their own plans,” Putin said. Russian officials warn that deployment of the systems will trigger a new arms race.

U.S. officials have been dismissive of the Russian fears and threats. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Feb. 1 argued, “There is no way that a few interceptors in Poland and radars in the Czech Republic can degrade the thousands of nuclear warheads that the Russians have, and there is no intent to do so.” Pending congressional approval, Rice and other administration officials insist the United States will go ahead with its plan once agreements are reached with the Czech and Polish governments.

The MDA budget request is prepared for that eventuality and contains $238 million for starting construction on the interceptor base, according to Rick Lehner, a spokesperson for the agency. Speaking Feb. 13 with Arms Control Today, Lehner also noted that the MDA plans to conduct the inaugural flight test of the interceptor model planned for the base in 2009, a year earlier than previously scheduled. The proposed interceptor is a modified version of the type fielded by the United States in Alaska and California.

But Do Missile Defenses Work?

After the United States used a modified SM-3 interceptor to destroy a crippled U.S. satellite on Feb. 20 (see page 50 ), reporters the next day quizzed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about whether that event proved missile defense can work. In addition to citing past successful tests of the various systems, Gates contended that the fact that lawmakers in recent years have approved billions of dollars to support missile defense “is testimony to the fact that I think the issue of whether it will work is behind us.”

An annual report released a month earlier by the Pentagon’s independent weapons-testing assessor, the Office of Operational Test and Evaluation, offered a less sanguine appraisal. The report described U.S. capabilities against shorter-range missiles as improving but rated capabilities against longer-range missiles as “very basic.”

Many of the report’s criticisms focused on the GMD system, which the testing office stated was “the least mature missile defense capability against its strategic threat set.” Although assessing that the system presents a “limited capability against a simple foreign threat,” the report stated that flight testing of the system “is not sufficient to provide a high level of statistical confidence in its limited capabilities.” The report also characterized past testing as “relatively unchallenging” and “representative of an unsophisticated threat.” The system has scored seven hits in 12 attempts against targets since 1999.

The MDA has announced plans to raise the degree of difficulty in its future GMD tests by reintroducing countermeasures, such as decoys, alongside mock warhead targets. (See ACT, November 2007. ) An attacker could employ countermeasures to try and confuse or circumvent anti-missile systems. Lehner said two GMD intercept tests are scheduled this year.

The testing office gave higher marks to the Aegis and THAAD systems. The recent report assessed Aegis as including a “good degree of operational realism in its flight test program” and concluded that THAAD “will provide a significant increase in capability against short- to intermediate-range threats.”

The MDA contends that it has answered affirmatively the basic question about whether missile defense can work. In its Feb. 5 budget overview, however, the agency acknowledges that “the technical challenges that remain today lie in predicting the location of the enemy missiles, differentiating the missiles from countermeasures, communicating this information rapidly and accurately to the defensive system, and destroying multiple enemy missiles launched within seconds and minutes of each other.”

 

Posted: March 1, 2008

More States Step Up Anti-Missile Work

As the United States struggles to establish a toehold for long-range ballistic missile interceptors in Europe, countries in other regions are showing greater interest in shorter-range anti-missile systems. Japan and India recently reported successful tests of separate systems, and two Persian Gulf states are on the verge of spending billions of dollars on U.S. systems. (Continue)

Wade Boese

As the United States struggles to establish a toehold for long-range ballistic missile interceptors in Europe, countries in other regions are showing greater interest in shorter-range anti-missile systems. Japan and India recently reported successful tests of separate systems, and two Persian Gulf states are on the verge of spending billions of dollars on U.S. systems.

On Dec. 17, Japan, which has partnered with the United States on missile defense research since 1999, carried out its first intercept of a ballistic missile target using the U.S.-developed Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system. Designed to counter ballistic missiles with ranges of less than 5,500 kilometers, the Aegis system involves a ship-fired interceptor that releases a kill vehicle meant to seek out and collide with a target. With Aegis, the United States has scored 11 hits in 13 test attempts, the most recent of which occurred last November.

In the December experiment, a Japanese destroyer, the JS KONGO, detected and tracked a target missile launched from Hawaii for about three minutes before firing a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor. Approximately three minutes later, the interceptor’s kill vehicle struck the target roughly 160 kilometers above the Pacific Ocean. Rick Lehner, a spokesperson for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, told Arms Control Today Jan. 2 that another U.S.-Japanese intercept test could occur before the end of this year.

Japanese plans call for a fleet of four Aegis-armed destroyers, and Tokyo is currently teaming with Washington to develop a more powerful version of the SM-3 interceptor. (See ACT, April 2006.) Japan’s interest in anti-missile capabilities is primarily a reaction to North Korea’s ballistic missile developments, including an August 1998 missile flight over Japanese territory.

India also claimed a recent successful missile defense test. India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) reported Dec. 6 that a single-stage missile “intercepted” a ballistic missile target at an altitude of 15 kilometers. A video of the experiment, however, appears to show the interceptor and the target missile trajectories continuing after they crossed, suggesting the target was not destroyed.

Uzi Rubin, who headed Israel’s anti-missile program for several years, told Arms Control Today Jan. 8 that it appeared from the DRDO video that the test was a “flyby intercept, not a kill intercept.” He stated such practices are common early in developmental programs and that if the flyby was within “the designed miss distance” and generated data for the Indian program to continue, then it could be counted as a “success regardless of the nonkill of the target.”

The DRDO has not provided much information about the interceptor missile, such as whether it is a hit-to-kill system or carries a warhead of some type that explodes near its intended target. The interceptor reportedly was tested once previously against a simulated target.

India media reports quote V. K. Saraswat, the head of the anti-missile project, as predicting a fully operational system within four years. The system apparently would be intended to protect against short- and medium-range ballistic missile attacks by China or Pakistan. Pakistani officials have previously warned that India’s acquisition of missile defense capabilities would upset the military balance in the region. (See ACT, April 2003. )

Washington has engaged New Delhi in missile defense discussions for several years. As part of those talks, the United States unsuccessfully has urged India to acquire U.S. short- and medium-range Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) systems.

The United States has sold earlier Patriot models to Germany, Greece, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Taiwan. Last fall, the U.S. PAC-3 manufacturer, Lockheed Martin Corp., delivered its first batch of the interceptors to a foreign country, the Netherlands. Japan also is on tap to receive PAC-3 interceptors.

In addition, the Pentagon notified Congress in December of potential sales of PAC-3 systems to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Lawmakers did not block the proposed deals during a 30-day review period. Therefore, Kuwait is now cleared for a $1.36 billion purchase of up to 80 PAC-3 missiles, and the UAE is slated to acquire up to 288 PAC-3 interceptors and nine firing units worth $9 billion.


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Posted: January 28, 2008

U.S. Reaffirms Europe Anti-Missile Plan

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s June 7 proposal to share radar data on missiles with the United States might be an earnest offer, a cynical ploy to undercut U.S. plans to base anti-missile systems in Europe, or both. Regardless, U.S. leaders say they will continue their current missile defense approach despite strong Russian opposition. (Continue)

Wade Boese

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s June 7 proposal to share radar data on missiles with the United States might be an earnest offer, a cynical ploy to undercut U.S. plans to base anti-missile systems in Europe, or both. Regardless, U.S. leaders say they will continue their current missile defense approach despite strong Russian opposition.

Meeting with President George W. Bush in Heiligendamm, Germany, Putin volunteered the “joint use” of the Russian-leased Gabala radar in Azerbaijan. Putin implied the radar could be used to peer south into Iran, which the United States estimates could develop long-range missiles to strike all of Europe or the United States before 2015. Washington claims its plan to station 10 strategic ground-based midcourse interceptors in Poland and an X-band radar in the Czech Republic is to protect against a growing Iranian threat and poses no danger to Russia.

Putin further suggested that if an actual threat materialized, interceptors could be deployed in southern Europe, Iraq, or on naval ships instead of in Poland, where Moscow contends interceptors could reach into Russia. The interceptors endorsed by Putin would be technically different than those planned for Poland. Instead of aiming to collide with warheads in space, the alternative interceptors would be designed to destroy missiles in their boost phase, when a missile’s rocket engines are still burning shortly after launch.

Although U.S. officials expressed surprise at Putin’s proposal, this is not the first time he has made it. Putin floated essentially the same concept in June 2000 when President Bill Clinton was weighing deployment of a nationwide U.S. defense. (See ACT, July/August 2000. )

Washington rejected the proposal then, in part, on the basis that the technology was not available. The United States currently has programs that might produce ship- and land-based interceptors for boost-phase testing around 2014. (See ACT, June 2007. )

Bush welcomed Putin’s ideas as “interesting.” The two leaders agreed experts from both sides will explore the Russian proposal.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials maintain they will not pause their current effort. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal June 8 that “we’re going to continue to work this with Poland and the Czech Republic.” Engaging with Russia, she added, “doesn’t mean that you are going to get off course on what you’re trying to do.”

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates informed reporters June 14 that the United States saw Putin’s proposal on the Gabala radar as “an additional capability” and not a substitute for the proposed Czech-based radar. The Gabala radar is a Soviet-era early-warning radar designed to spot and track missiles shortly after launch, while X-band radars are supposed to provide more precise flight-tracking data and pick a warhead out of a target cluster flying through space.

The U.S. reaction was not what the Kremlin wanted. Talking to reporters June 8, Putin stated, “[W]e hope that no unilateral action will be taken until these consultations and talks have concluded.” Similarly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a Moscow press briefing the next day declared, “[I]t is necessary as a minimum to freeze all the actions in deploying missile defense elements in Europe for a period of at least the study of our proposals.”

Russian officials assert there is no urgency to field anti-missile systems in Europe. They project a long-range Iranian missile threat as at least 15 to 20 years away. Even if Tehran moved more rapidly, Putin claimed June 7 that a three- to five-year lag would occur between the initial test and deployment of long-range missiles, permitting time for defenses to be erected.

Indeed, Putin’s Gabala radar proposal is about sharing data with the United States in order to form a common or joint assessment of Iran’s capabilities. Before initiating any possible defense schemes, such as Putin’s boost-phase concept, there should be mutual agreement about the threat, a Russian government official told Arms Control Today June 14.

Putin suggested as much June 8. “We propose carrying out a real assessment of the missile threats for the period through to 2020 and agreeing on what joint steps we can take to counter these threats,” the president explained to reporters.

The same day, Anatoly Antonov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department of International Security and Disarmament, stated, “Only after concrete answers are obtained to questions about the nature and trends of missile proliferation should it be decided whether and what military-technical means are needed to repulse this threat.” He later noted that missile defenses should be “the last resort…when all the alternative measures have been exhausted.”

Moscow’s apparent assumption is that data from the Gabala radar will support their position that Iran poses no near-term threat, obviating U.S. plans. “Joint use of the information which this radar station obtains makes it possible…to give up the plans of deploying missile defense elements in Europe,” Lavrov said.

If the United States does not abandon or alter its current missile defense plans for Europe, Russian officials say there will be consequences. On June 8, Putin reiterated warnings that Russia would “target” the Polish and Czech anti-missile sites if they are built.

Putin’s comments followed a May 29 flight test of what Russian officials claimed was a new multiple-warhead ICBM capable of penetrating defenses. Referred to as an RS-24 by Russian officials, the missile is apparently a modified version of Russia’s most modern missile, the single-warhead Topol-M.

In a Jan. 1 data exchange, Russia claimed a total force of 530 ICBMs, of which 44 are silo-based Topol-Ms and three are mobile Topol-Ms. The United States currently deploys 500 silo-based ICBMs but plans to cut 50 of these missiles. (See ACT, May 2007.)

Washington has sought to soften Moscow’s hostility by publicly expressing interest in missile defense cooperation with Russia. But Putin June 4 derided U.S. offers as empty, saying they entail Russia providing missiles “as targets [that the United States] can use in training.”

Putin asserted that day that if Washington did not change course, Moscow would be bound to respond and could not be held responsible for the result. “We will absolve ourselves from the responsibility of our retaliatory steps because we are not initiating what is certainly growing into a new arms race in Europe,” Putin said.

 

Nuclear Talks Waiting on the United States

U.S. and Russian negotiators have put on hold talks on measures to succeed a landmark nuclear weapons reduction treaty while the Bush administration figures out its positions. But U.S. lawmakers are already starting to volunteer their advice.

The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is scheduled to expire Dec. 5, 2009. It slashed deployed U.S. and Russian strategic forces from more than 10,000 warheads apiece to 6,000 each and established an extensive verification regime. U.S. and Russian experts met for the first time in March to share ideas on what to do after START’s expiration. (See ACT, May 2007. )

Neither side is advocating exercising START’s five-year extension option. However, Moscow desires a new agreement capping both nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles, while Washington opposes such a formal approach, preferring a loose collection of confidence-building measures.

Arms Control Today has learned, however, that the two governments have agreed to prepare positions for future discussion on at least four issues: information exchanges, facility visits, missile launch notices, and noninterference with national technical means such as satellites. A second U.S. and Russian experts meeting reportedly is waiting on the Bush administration to complete this process and put together a proposal.

A June 18 McClatchy Newspapers report attributed the delay to Washington infighting. The U.S. intelligence community is keen on preserving intrusive mechanisms to keep tabs on Russia’s nuclear arsenal. But this position conflicts with that held by administration officials who say such measures are burdensome and unnecessary because Russia is no longer an enemy.

In a June 21 statement, Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, sided with the intelligence community. Recommending that START verification and transparency measures be extended, Lugar noted that “the predictability and confidence provided by treaty verification reduces the chances of misinterpretation, miscalculation, and error.”

Similarly, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), chair of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, stated at a June 11 Arms Control Association event that “the intelligence community has expressed concern with losing the verification component provided by START.” Tauscher recommended that U.S. and Russian leaders approve a “bridge agreement that will extend START” until a new agreement can be negotiated.

 

Posted: July 1, 2007

Missile Defense Collision Course

When President George W. Bush withdrew from the 1972 U.S.-Soviet Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty five years ago, he asserted that “my decision to withdraw from the treaty will not, in any way, undermine our new relationship or Russian security.” Now, Bush’s latest proposal to site 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland and an advanced radar in the Czech Republic has severely compounded the Kremlin’s anxieties about growing U.S. offensive and defensive strategic capabilities.

President Vladimir Putin’s response to missile defense deployments in two former Warsaw Pact states has been hostile and counterproductive: he has threatened to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; to target the sites with Russian missiles; and to stop work on a Joint Data Exchange Center intended to help avoid an accidental or mistaken nuclear attack. (Continue)

By Daryl G. Kimball

When President George W. Bush withdrew from the 1972 U.S.-Soviet Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty five years ago, he asserted that “my decision to withdraw from the treaty will not, in any way, undermine our new relationship or Russian security.” Now, Bush’s latest proposal to site 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland and an advanced radar in the Czech Republic has severely compounded the Kremlin’s anxieties about growing U.S. offensive and defensive strategic capabilities.

President Vladimir Putin’s response to missile defense deployments in two former Warsaw Pact states has been hostile and counterproductive: he has threatened to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; to target the sites with Russian missiles; and to stop work on a Joint Data Exchange Center intended to help avoid an accidental or mistaken nuclear attack.

For some Americans and Europeans, a rudimentary defense against a potential long-range missile threat from Iran may seem attractive. But for now, it is a flawed idea whose time has not come.

Russia’s concerns may be exaggerated, but that does not alter the reality that the European anti-missile plan is premature and the technology unproven. And, if Washington presses ahead despite Russian objections, it could trigger the renewal of U.S.-Russian missile competition and hamper efforts to further reduce each nation’s still massive nuclear warhead and missile arsenals.

In recent weeks, U.S. officials have crisscrossed Europe to say the proposed system is not designed to counter Russia’s nuclear-armed missiles and therefore does not threaten Russia’s security. To be sure, 10 U.S. interceptors would only provide a rudimentary defense against a handful of incoming missiles, let alone Russia’s current force of some 500 land-based missiles. Highly scripted tests involving prototypes of ground-based interceptors now deployed in California and Alaska have failed three out of five times since 2002. The proposed system in Europe would use a new type of interceptor that has yet to be built, let alone tested.

But just as U.S. officials are seeking missile defenses against an Iranian missile threat that does not exist, Russian leaders are worried they cannot maintain their strategic nuclear retaliatory capability against a porous strategic missile defense that has not been built and a potential U.S. nuclear buildup that will not likely materialize.

Why? Because old habits die hard. Russia and the United States each still deploy approximately 4,000 nuclear warheads on delivery vehicles on high alert, and as a result, military strategists on both sides plan for the worst. Under the flimsy 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), the United States will be able to maintain a large “hedge” arsenal of reserve warheads and excess missile capacity. After SORT expires in 2012, the United States could increase its deployed strategic arsenal from 2,200 to well over 4,000 nuclear warheads.

Russia is on a path to maintain approximately 2,000 deployed strategic warheads by 2012. But the size of Russia’s long-range missile force would be relatively smaller. Independent estimates are that Russia’s land-based missile force could shrink dramatically, down to as few as 150 by the year 2015.

Russia’s fear is that the larger and more accurate U.S. missile arsenal would be capable of delivering a decapitating first strike. U.S. missile defense assets could then counter the few remaining missiles based in Russia’s European territory that might survive and be launched.

To avoid this scenario, Russia could slow its planned nuclear force reductions and accelerate deployment of new long-range missile systems, an option made easier if the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is allowed to expire in 2009. But dismantling strategic arms reductions pacts in order to preserve Russia’s ability to annihilate the United States does not make missile defense a better idea.

Unfortunately, Bush and Putin will not likely resolve their differences and avert a collision on missile defense any time soon. Putin’s offer to use the Russian-leased Gabala radar in Azerbaijan to evaluate Iran’s missile program and, if necessary, to use other basing plans that would not interfere with Russian missiles is worth exploring. Nevertheless, the White House seems determined to begin construction of the European system before Bush leaves office.

Such an approach is mistaken and reckless. There should be no rush to deploy an unproven system against a potential missile threat that will not likely materialize until 2015 or beyond. In any case, Congress is on track to cut the administration’s $310 million request for the European strategic missile defense project and focus U.S. efforts on more capable short- and medium-range interceptors.

The United States and its NATO partners should defer work on the European strategic missile defense project until Bush’s and Putin’s successors arrive. In the meantime, they should engage Russia in a meaningful dialogue to address its missile defense concerns, explore technical alternatives, and advance new proposals for deeper warhead and missile force cuts that would reduce tensions and erase Russian fears of U.S. nuclear supremacy.

Posted: July 1, 2007

U.S., Europe Anti-Missile Plans Upset Russia

A U.S. bid to base anti-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic is provoking strong reactions from Russia, including hints that it might abrogate a two-decade-old treaty restricting Russian missile holdings. (Continue)

Wade Boese

A U.S. bid to base anti-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic is provoking strong reactions from Russia, including hints that it might abrogate a two-decade-old treaty restricting Russian missile holdings.

Moscow has consistently opposed Washington’s proposal to base long-range ballistic missile interceptors in Europe since it first became public in 2004. (See ACT, July/August 2004. ) But January revelations that Washington has approached Prague and Warsaw to start formal negotiations over deployment options have reinvigorated the Kremlin’s denunciations.

Lieutenant General Henry Obering, head of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), told reporters Jan. 25 that the proposed stationing of 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a high-powered radar in the Czech Republic were not aimed at Russia, but primarily Iran. Tehran’s longest-range deployed missile, the Shabab-3, which some Iranian officials claim can fly up to 2,000 kilometers, could reach southern Europe. The MDA contends Iran might acquire a missile capable of striking the United States before 2015.

In a Feb. 10 speech blasting the United States at a high-level security conference in Munich, Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed Iran as a threat justifying the U.S. bases. Putin said the fielding of missile defenses in Europe “cannot help but disturb us.”

Days later, top Russian military officials, including General Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of Russia’s general staff, implied Russia could react to the U.S. interceptors by withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. This accord, which led to the destruction of 2,692 missiles, bans U.S. and Russian possession of ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

Putin also indicated Russia was re-evaluating the INF Treaty, although he attributed the deliberations to the accord’s inequity of forbidding Russia from having missiles similar to those being acquired by other countries. “It is obvious that in these conditions we must think about ensuring our own security,” Putin stated.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates registered concerns about the treaty’s possible abrogation. He told reporters Feb. 15 that it would be “a problem for us” and a “special problem” for European countries. Gates also said a Russian INF Treaty withdrawal could not be linked plausibly to the proposed European anti-missile units because they pose “no threat to Russia.”

Obering made a similar case Jan. 25, noting that Russia’s hundreds of ballistic missiles vastly outnumber the 10 planned interceptors. He further pointed out that the anti-missile systems would be physically incapable of stopping Russian missiles launched at the United States because the interceptors would be attempting to catch Russian missiles from behind as they fly away from, not toward, the interceptors.

The MDA chief also said he had kept Russian officials informed of U.S. plans and “will continue to work closely with the Russians.” Obering noted, however, that the United States would have to secure the agreement of host governments to permit Russian delegations to visit any future U.S. anti-missile sites on the continent.

If the Polish and Czech governments quickly consent to U.S. plans, Obering said construction could begin in 2008 and the sites could be operational as soon as 2011. He projected costs could total $3.5 billion and said that the United States would pick up the full tab.

U.S. lawmakers last year trimmed requested funding for exploratory site work from $56 million to $32.8 million and provided $63 million for initial work on 10 interceptors that could be deployed in Europe or the United States. MDA spokesperson Rick Lehner told Arms Control Today Feb. 20 that the administration’s February fiscal year 2008 budget request asks for about $225 million for the European sites. Fiscal year 2008 begins Oct. 1.

The United States is currently deploying and testing the ground-based interceptor model designated for Europe. The model scored its first intercept of a target last September, while earlier prototypes tallied five hits in 10 attempts during rudimentary testing. (See ACT, October 2006. )

Similar to the Fort Greely, Alaska, interceptor field, which totaled 14 interceptors at the end of February, no interceptors will be flight-tested out of the European site. Obering said that, during a real attack, there probably would not be time to consult a host government before launching an interceptor.

Sovereignty concerns, doubts about the system’s capabilities, and comments by Russian officials that they would target the anti-missile sites have caused mixed opinions among the Polish and Czech populations about the endeavor. Nevertheless, leaders in each country say they are inclined to engage in formal negotiations.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Forces Policy Brian Green told reporters Jan. 25 that the United States has been “very, very pleased” with discussions with the two governments and that Washington has “every expectation that our more intense discussions…will succeed.” Green and Obering said, however, that alternatives existed if negotiations with the two countries failed.

Posted: March 1, 2007

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