NATO Steps Up Missile Defense Effort: Undermining European Security

NATO Steps Up Missile Defense Effort: Undermining European Security

On May 12, a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place in Deveselu, a US naval support facility in southern Romania, to mark the operational certification (initial operational capability – IOC) of the Aegis Ashore system, which comprises three batteries (24 missiles) of SM-3 Block IB interceptors.

The ground-based missile defense site is an element of a larger European shield and US global ballistic missile defense effort. Frank A. Rose, the US State Department's assistant secretary for arms control, said missile defense systems will be expanded to cover Europe, Turkey, Poland, the Middle-East, Japan and South Korea.

On May 13, another phase of the project was launched in Poland with a groundbreaking ceremony for a US-led missile defense site at Redzikowo, near the Baltic Sea. Local residents and anti-war activists protested against the plans.

The European Interceptor Site (EIS) in Poland will consist of 24 SM-3Block IIA middle range missile interceptors. Warsaw has declared its intention to create a national missile defence system to defend the country from short-range and mid-range missiles

The missile defense system in Europe also includes a radar in Turkey, a command center in Ramstein, Germany and interceptor ships. An early warning radar station in Malatya, Turkey, went into service in January 2012. The operational center became active the same year. Four missile defense capable Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers were deployed to Rota, Spain, in 2015 for rotational patrols in the Mediterranean.

The land-based missile defense installation dubbed Aegis Ashore is designed to detect, track, engage, and destroy ballistic missiles in flight outside the atmosphere. The Aegis Ashore structures are equipped with the same phased-array SPY-1 radars and Aegis Combat Systems as are installed on many of the Navy’s guided-missile destroyers. The SM-3 Block IB missile has a range of up to 1,200 km. It has a robust capability against short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

There is another aspect of the problem to be emphasized here. Aegis Ashore uses the naval Mk-41 launching system, which is capable of firing long-range cruise missile. This is a blatant violation of the INF Treaty

This fact has been emphasized by Russia’s officials.

It should be noted that the US BMD plans go much farther than just deploying Aegis systems in Europe and elsewhere as mentioned above. In August 2015, nearly a month after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran was reached, the US Defense Department awarded a contract to Boeing to "define a concept" for a multiple-kill vehicle or multiple-object kill vehicle (MKV).

The MKV will be able to engage multiple targets at once, useful if an enemy deploys missiles that can release multiple warheads as well as decoys. The vehicle fills a gap in US missile defense capabilities able to destroy both the decoy and the actual warhead. The Pentagon aims for the MKV to go online by 2020.

This force is added by Patriot missile defense capabilities and THAAD missile defense capabilities that are primarily in the Army and Air Force realm.

Russia has put forward a number of proposals related to cooperation with NATO in the field of missile defense making conditional the right of joint decision over the configuration and parameters of the system, as well as international legal guarantees that the system will not undermine Russia’s nuclear potential. It has also come up with the initiative on introduction of sectoral missile defense, in which the Russian armed forces would take responsibility for the defence of NATO’s eastern region.

All these proposals have been rejected.

The decision to continue with BMD plans is fraught with very serious consequences. Russia is taking retaliatory measures.

The deployment of the shore-based Aegis sites in Romania and Poland is turning these countries into platforms of aggression against Russia, said the leader of the National-European Communitarian Party Luc Michel.   

The countries which host BMD sites automatically become targets for Russia’s Iskander surface-to-surface missiles and aviation. 

The ballistic missile defense shield which the United States has activated in Europe is a step to a new arms race, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated  on May 13, vowing to adjust budget spending to neutralize «emerging threats» to Russia.

«Until now, those taking such decisions have lived in calm, fairly well-off and in safety. Now, as these elements of ballistic missile defense are deployed, we are forced to think how to neutralize emerging threats to the Russian Federation», he noted. The President emphasized that Russia would not be drawn into an arms race, but would continue re-arming its army and navy and spend the approved funds in a way that would uphold the current strategic balance of forces.

The US ongoing efforts at creating a global ballistic missile defense system, developing the Prompt Global Strike (PGS) precision conventional weapon program along with the sanctions imposed to weaken Russia’s military potential have a continued destabilizing effect on the situation in Europe and the world. The BMD deployment is dashing the hopes for achieving progress in nuclear disarmament talks. Russian officials say there is no «political logic and common sense in proposals 'to disarm' in conditions when the current US administration has been making concerted effort to undermine the defense and the military-industrial potential of Russia through its sanctions policy for a long time».

It was one of the reasons President Putin skipped the Washington Nuclear Summit in March. Virtually all negotiating tracks on arms control have been stalled.

There is still time to change the tide at the round table. The BMD issue could be tackled within the framework of Russia-NATO Council meetings. Europeans can exert pressure on their respective governments to suspend the implementation of the plans. The continuation of NATO’s missile defense efforts in Europe is the way to get Europe mired into the quagmire of uncontrolled arms race.