When is a Missile Defense not a Missile Defense?

Still fighting Star Wars.

Probably at the point where Russia agrees to it. Russia’s representative to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, spoke to Izvestia in advance of the NATO summit convening on Friday in Lisbon. According to excerpts from the Izvestia interview, cited in Bulgarian media:

Rogozin reveals that Russia insists on certain restrictions to the future missile shield, and that Russia’s potential inclusion in the system will require serious concessions on part of the North Atlantic Alliance.

“We tried to convince the Americans that it is necessary to agree on restrictions about the missile defense system – on the zones for locating elements, the number of the interceptor missiles, and the speed of the interceptor missiles,” Rogozin says.

These factors add up to a Russian insistence that NATO’s missile defense be effective only against slower, older-technology missiles approaching NATO territory from a limited sector of the compass.

The Russian posture has always been that NATO should have no defense against a ballistic-missile attack from Russia. The Russians view the U.S. national missile-defense (NMD) program with disfavor too. Although the NMD leaves the East coast of North America without dedicated, well-positioned interceptors, it would provide some cover for U.S. and Canadian territory against missiles launched from Asia. The view from Moscow hasn’t changed since the MAD era: any interference with Russia’s ability to hold NATO at risk with nuclear missiles is “destabilizing.”

As Emanuele Ottolenghi points out today (and I discussed here), NATO is already busy imposing limits on itself by declining to name Iran as a source of missile threats. Pleasing both Turkey and Russia could, in theory, leave NATO solemnly designating Syrian Scuds as its defining missile threat. Even if it doesn’t actually commit that absurdity, what NATO will probably do this weekend is agree to ambiguous language in the broad outlines of its much-anticipated new security concept. The language will be enough to undermine a focused consensus on what the threat is. As other heroic defense projects have demonstrated, that lack of consensus doesn’t just produce ineffective systems: it’s costly and it wastes time.

But there’s a more fundamental point to be made. NATO is allowing itself to be trapped with false premises. The alliance’s missile-defense concept need not be limited by any set of contingent political factors. NATO is a military security alliance. It should build a missile shield capable of defending against any missile system developed and produced by a non-NATO nation. That principle gets back to Ronald Reagan’s original premise: that the purpose of missile defense is to render intimidation with nuclear missiles obsolete.

J.E. Dyer blogs at Hot Air’s Green Room and Commentary’s “contentions.” She writes a weekly column for Patheos.

17 thoughts on “When is a Missile Defense not a Missile Defense?”

  1. I can’t say I’m surprised with Biden being the elder statesman in this organization, showing his cluelessess on September 10th, and subsequently,
    we ‘really dodged a bullet there’

  2. Isn’t it time to recognize that NATO is akin to the Monty Python parrot, only more obviously decayed?

  3. A couple of questions

    Why does not using iran’s name in public impose a limit on what we do?


    Why is it a problem to limit the resources going into building present-day or near-term defenses when, at present, we can not build really reliable or completely effective missile defense systems?
    Why isn’t the correct posture to evaluate the likelihood of near-term threat, slap up what we can, and spend money on developing systems that would serve?
    Resources, of course, are not infinite and redistributing our wealth must have limits.

  4. ” That principle gets back to Ronald Reagan’s original premise: that the purpose of missile defense is to render intimidation with nuclear missiles obsolete”

    What could be more basic than that? Who could possibly deny the legitimacy of that premise except the direct descendants of the paranoid Soviets? That any truly defensive measure should be considered destabilizing is an insult to logic that even a hockey player can understand.

    1. I think that the Soviets saw it as quite destabilizing. If the US could build a defense against Soviet missiles while the Soviets couldn’t build one, it clearly meant that the deadlock between the two powers would be resolved in the favor of the US and that we would be free to topple their regime.

      1. The cure for that fear is quite simple. Merely cease the essentially public relations oriented effort to reduce the number of warheads. Neither side is ever going to agree to cut the final number below that necessary to thoroughly destroy the other side, so in the event of war the cut in the number of warheads will make no difference.

        What the two sides are willing to give up are the overkill numbers that make missile defense impossible against one another. It’s almost inconceivable that either side will practice brinksmanship based on a belief it can intercept one warhead on one missile aimed at each of its cities. It’s completely inconceivable that either side will practice brinksmanship based on the promise of a general that his system can intercept 40 warheads carried on 10 missiles aimed at each of its cities.

  5. That’s really funny, Lagushka, yes the Iranians are working on the regional theatre
    threat, and we’d rather not have to answer to ‘duck and cover’ in Farsi

    1. I’m not real sure as to which part of which comment of mine your not understanding. If you can focus a bit and help me to do the same, it might help.

  6. The START treaty was good in 1990, now it’s totally irrelevant in this new world, Iranian nuclear weapons with delivery systems like the Sahab are the real problem

    1. THe NEW START treaty is something else and is relevant. It’s not impossible to understand why some of the Republicans want to scuttle it, but it’s also clear that they’re playing politics by doing that.

  7. There are those who argue that a missile defense shouldn’t be built because it’s not guaranteed to intercept all missiles. That’s one of the main arguments the left will posit. However, I think it misses a big point. The Soviets in the 80’s (or whoever now) Weren’t *sure* that it *wouldn’t* work. That kernel of doubt likely would be sufficient enough in and of itself to deter a would be missile attack. Who would want to risk a missile attack if there was a possibility that none of them would get through, but would nevertheless earn a massive counter attack?

    1. Ritchie, i don’t think that the argument against building now hinges on present capabilities don’t allow for intercepting ALL the missiles.
      It’s more like we’re not likely to get more than 20%.
      Or, in the case of that system that we didn’t build in Europe, it was designed to defend against a total of 10 missiles.

      I tend to argue along the line of using the money for research to improve our capability instead of putting the cash into what we know doesn’t much work.

      It would be swell to build something that DOES work, but we don’t yet have that.

  8. Our stimulus money should go to build a great national circus. Instead of diplomats, we should send dogs and ponies and clowns to these solemn meetings, if we really do wish to communicate reality. instead of playing along with a make believe, meaningless enterprise.

    Seriously, does it make sense to continue spending money and time on organizations such as NATO & the UN when these organizations have not only outlived their usefullness, they have pretty clearly become absurd and counterproductive tools for corrupt and brutal totalitarians such as Putin?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: