Will Europe Invest in Missile Defense?

Article excerpt

With the U.S providing leadership within appropriate committees and in SHAPE headquarters, European nations continue to discuss ballistic missile defense (BMD) within NATO. Despite these ongoing discussions and studies, with the obvious exception of the MEADS program, none of the NATO allies yet show any willingness to invest in missile defense hardware. This article compares and contrasts American and European views of missile defense and examines the underlying reasons for European reluctance to acknowledge and plan to counter the growing missile and warhead threat. Suggestions are made as to how European efforts might be redirected into more profitable directions.

Key Words: Ballistic missile defense, National missile defense, European security and defense policy.

Several articles have been written exposing the proliferation of both missile and unconventional warhead technology.13 In this paper it is assumed that there is a missile and WMD (warheads of mass destruction) threat already in existence, that the threat is getting more severe and that the longer we delay in taking steps to counter the threat, the more this will encourage it's growth. If these statements have any validity, it is timely to question why has so little been done within Europe to negate this threat to security?

Simple questions usually beget complex answers, and BMD is no exception to this rule. There are several issues which contribute to the lack of investment in missile defense, and while they are certainly interrelated, they can be discussed separately initially.

Some three years ago we reported an analysis of the factors which contribute towards the decision whether or not to invest in new defense programs.4 At that time the major topics considered in terms of US National Missile Defense were:

An undisputed recognition of the threat

A military requirement to counter the threat

Public and Government support for the activity

The technical capability

Financial commitment to complete the work

Freedom to proceed under the national constitution, and international treaties.

After examining each of the topics in some depth a mark between one and ten was given to each, according to the assessed level of importance in terms of US defense policy. The conclusions were that only one of the six categories merited a mark exceeding 50%. That was "technical capability". The overall mark was 40%, indicating clearly that NMD was, at that time, still far from being a well supported concept, even in the US.

The passing of Missile Defense bills in March 1999 by both houses of Congress, with significant bipartisan support, has manifestly changed the political scenario in Washington.5 After threatening to veto any legislation on Missile Defense, the size of the favorable vote obviously modified the White House position, and it now appears likely that the policy to deploy a defense as soon as it is technically possible, will be accepted.6 Nonetheless budgetary and Treaty problems still remain to be resolved, so that while the overall mark for NMD has certainly risen, it still rests only at about the 65% level, until these outstanding issues are settled.

If the same exercise were to be undertaken now within a European context, the overall mark would be significantly lower, probably below 20 %, leaving no doubt that little if anything is going to be done there in the near future to counter this growing menace.

The contrast between the mark that would be given to any of the European nations as compared to Israel is really startling. Israel quickly learned the lesson of the Iran/Iraq war, when each side launched countless missiles at each other, some probably carrying chemical warheads. They recognized that missiles had become a means of power projection, and that if they were to survive in the hostile environment of the Middle East they had to provide protection for themselves. …