Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

The Future of European Missile Defense Systems

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

The Future of European Missile Defense Systems

Article excerpt

The reasons for the lack of interest of European allies in missile defense are reviewed. It is concluded that although previous analyses have indicated that there has been no desire to invest in such systems, a number of external triggering events have occurred which should cause them to re-examine their policies. The new Bush Administration appears ready to provide the necessary positive leadership and assistance required to draw European allies into a regional missile defense. Without agreeing to cooperate in such activities it is likely that the security policy of the European nations acting individually, or even cohesively outside of NATO, could become so severely constrained that Europe would cease to be a major force in international affairs.

Key Words: Missile Defense, BMD, ABM Treaty, Bush Administration, Europe, Russia, Israel

Broad Perspective

For the past 18 years Ballistic Missile Defense, BMD, has been a contentious subject. If there is to be any real progress from deterrence towards a more balanced offense/defense form of security, it will be essential to look back with the clarity of vision that comes from hindsight, and try to understand why BMD still remains so unpopular. Nearly sixty years have passed since cruise & ballistic missiles were used against Britain in World War 2 1, yet most governments remain opposed to the deployment of effective missile defenses.

There are alleged to be several interconnected reasons why missile defenses remain undesired in so many quarters. The most prominent amongst these are; a refusal by most nations to acknowledge a threat, an uncertainty of the quality of the technology to counter the threat, an unwillingness to allocate significant extra resources to new defense programs, and concern at the possible effect of BMD on arms control treaties and agreements 2. Some of these reasons are mutually exclusive, but that has not prevented their repeated use by advocates of arms control, who vigorously oppose investment in even purely defensive military equipment.

The Threat

A review of the facts underlying the disparagement of BMD, suggests that some of the claims against missile defense may be built on emotional rather than logical thought. For example, it is suggested that possession of a capability without clear hostile intent cannot be equated with a threat, even though it becomes more difficult to sustain this attitude as the well documented proliferation of offensive capabilities continues to be recorded 3. Ballistic missiles (BMs), cruise missiles (CMs), remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) and warheads of mass destruction (WMDs) are already in the arsenals of several nations, with a growing risk they could eventually become accessible to terrorist organizations. These systems have provided previously quite minor countries with the capability to threaten other nations well beyond their own borders.

Although possessors claim that the acquisition of these offensive systems provides them with deterrence against hostile actions, their possession also enables coercion of others in their region, and even the ability to modify the policies of more distant countries. Much more powerful nations could be intimidated if they have no defensive capability against missiles with a range to reach their centers of population. It is these issues that has finally forced NATO to acknowledge a threat, and will now force consideration of some form of missile defense on the proponents of the European Rapid Reaction Force, ERRF. In the absence of such protection the force could be rendered so vulnerable, as to be undeployable.

Status of Defensive Technology

The American program that has been pursued for 18 years under the SDIO and later the BMDO leadership provides a reference point for the status of the technology. Despite the hype that accompanied the start of the Strategic Defense Initiative, few really believed in 1983 that a defense sufficiently effective to provide national security against a massive Soviet nuclear missile attack could be achieved. …

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