US to Test Sea-Based Missile Defence: Challenge to European Security

US to Test Sea-Based Missile Defence: Challenge to European Security

The US Navy held missile defense drills in Europe on October 20.

USS Ross (DDG 71) successfully intercepted a ballistic missile in the North Atlantic Ocean during the Maritime Theater Missile Defense (MTMD) Forum's At Sea Demonstration.  The Forum was created in 1999 to include Canada, Australia, Spain, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Italy alongside with the US.

For the scenario, a short-range Terrier Orion ballistic missile target was launched from Hebrides Range and was inflight simultaneously with two anti-ship cruise missiles fired at the coalition task group. Ross fired a SM-3 and successfully engaged the ballistic missile target in space. In its air defense role, USS the Sullivans (DDG 68) fired a SM-2, which is the first time a SM-2 was fired on the Hebrides Range.

The last sea-based missile defense test was conducted in September 2013 near Hawaii. 

The event marked a new milestone in the development of the ballistic missile defense system in Europe. On September 25, the US navy completed the deployment of its Aegis-equipped naval group with its fourth and final destroyer “Carney” being stationed in the Spanish port of Rota. It was part of the US-developed missile defense system in Europe known as the European Phased Adaptive Approach.

The plans include ground-based interception sites to be built in Romania and Poland. On September 25, Polish lawmakers approved a technical agreement with the US concerning an anti-missile base in Redzikowo. The facility is expected to be operational by 2018.Moscow has repeatedly stated that the US anti-missile systems pose a threat to Russia’s national security.Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that the US missile defense system was in the final stages of its development and it would have a «certain devaluating effect concerning Russian strategic forces».«We don’t see any reasons [the missile defense system] should continue, especially at such a rapid pace and with a clear ‘projection’ on Russian territory». The official stressed that «the US administration is making up artificial excuses to justify their decision – made under the influence of other motives – to continue the creation of a missile defense system in Europe».

The session of United Nations General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security kicked off on October 8 to last till November 9, 2015. This event attracts little attention of world media, no matter it stands out for heated debates. Russia and the United States accuse each other of violating the INF Treaty (the Intermediate-Range Nuclear ForcesTreaty -INF).Russian participants point out that Mk-41 launchers are used to fire Tomahawk intermediate range cruise missiles. The treaty does not include sea-based systems, but stationing the launchers on the ground is an outright violation. Not the SM-3 missiles, but the launchers. It’s important to emphasize this fact. In the INF Treaty the USSR and the USA agreed to ban all ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The document also bans possession or production of launchers for such missiles. 

Let me cite the Code of Conduct on Military-Political Aspects of Security adopted by the OSCE in December 1994. Item 3 says «security is indivisible and that the security of each of them isinseparably linked to the security of all others». It also prescribes (item 13) that «Each participating State will determine its military capabilities on the basis of national democratic procedures, bearing in mind the legitimate security concerns of other States as well as the need to contribute to international security and stability. No participating State will attempt to impose military domination over any other participating State».

The Code emphasized (item 39) that «the provisions adopted in this Code of Conduct are politically binding». 

U.S. plans to modernize B61 nuclear munitions in Europe also run contrary to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

For instance, Article 1 states, «Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices».According to Article 2 «Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices».

The United States has raised its concerns about Russian compliance with the INF Treaty in a number of meetings during the past few years. The United States officially charged Russia with violating the INF Treaty in late July 2014, when the State Department released the 2014 edition of its report Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments (the Compliance Report).The Obama Administration repeated its accusation of Russian noncompliance in the 2015 edition of the State Department Compliance Report. The report adds a little detail to the 2014 version.

The discussions have made little progress as no evidence has ever been produced by the US to corroborate the affirmations.


It’s very important that these issues are being discussed at the UNGA First Committee session. The Russia-US relationship as at its lowest ebb. A security dialogue is indispensable as tensions run high. It’s also important that the Committee participants agree to discuss the proposal to establish an UN Open Ended Working Group to take forward multiple nuclear disarmament negotiations. If approved, there will be a legal instrument to address the issues concerned. There is ground to believe the group won’t be just another talk shop. The OEWG established by the UNGA in 2008 to address the arms trade is a good example.It was tasked to further consider elements required for control of the arms trade for their inclusion in an eventual legally binding treaty on the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.By 2009 the OEWG had built sufficient agreement on the general elements for a legal instrument that the UN General Assembly was able to establish a negotiating conference. The process succeeded in the adoption of an Arms Trade Treaty in 2013. The OEWG could serve as a preparatory process for the High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament that the UN General Assembly has decided will be held no later than 2018. The Conference should aim to adopt one or more nuclear disarmament measures. The OEWG in 2016 could identify which measures could be adopted in 2018.

 The First Committee session is a good chance for Russia and the USA to hold a dialogue on security issues that divide them. But the upcoming missile defense test may be a spoiler to negatively affect the atmosphere of bilateral talks. The event will be perceived as a challenge by Russia displaying US reluctance to seriously tackle the burning issues. A wrong step taken at the inappropriate time.