Friday, October 2, 2009

Missile Defense of Central Europe?

A reader sent me the above which is essentially a petition sent to Obama entitled, “Foreign Policy Experts urge Obama to Recommit to Central Europe.”

The main concern of the signatories is the Obama decision not to install fixed missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic.

I have written some notes on this subject. I’m not convinced that the issues are as clear-cut as the signatories describe in their letter. For starters, did we really intend the missile defense system to guard Eastern Europe against Iran? Russia doesn’t think so and I’m afraid I don’t either. I have a low opinion of the leadership in Iran, but even if they had missiles to spare, I can’t believe that Poland and the Czech Republic would be very high on their “hit list.” In fact I can’t imagine why they would be on Iran’s list at all. Also, please note, Iran has no missiles that can travel all the way to Poland or the Czech Republic.

Surely, one of the reasons for the fixed Missile Defense system was to protect Poland and the Czech Republic against Russia. It wasn’t the only reason, but it had to be someplace on the list of reasons for installing them there. Maybe reason one was to protect everyone everywhere from Rogue States. But placating Poland’s and the Czech Republic’s fears of Russia had to be on the list someplace. They have been victims of Russian aggression in the past and do not trust Russia to never invade them again. The petition doesn’t discuss this fear.

Even if Russia did have imperialistic designs on Poland and the Czech Republic, which I don’t believe, they are in an extremely poor position economically and militarily to do anything about them. Oh yes, they do have missiles and they could, theoretically, bomb both Poland and the Czech Republic, but why would they?

Moving on to another issue, what if Russia developed its own missile defense system and launched a missile to stop an incoming missile from a Rogue State. Would the Polish Missile defense system shoot down the Rogue-State’s missile or the Russian missile intended to stop it?

Also, another thing not discussed in the above petition is that we intend to protect both Poland and the Czech Republic with our new plan. Consider the following article published today: It is entitled “A Better Missile Defense.” It states what I would say is my understanding of the new plan: “The administration’s move came in response to new US intelligence assessments that Iran’s progress in developing ICBM capabilities has been much slower than had previously been thought, while its short- and medium-range missile arsenal advances more rapidly than estimated.

“This makes an attack with hundreds of smaller missiles against US troops and allies in the Middle East and Europe the most likely near-term threat scenario – a scenario in which Bush’s proposed missile defense, yet to be tested under real world conditions, would have been useless.”

Does Obama’s new plan render Eastern Europe defenseless? I can’t see that it does. This article provides a good description of the Obama plan:

“Phase one of the new plan envisions a sea-based missile defense by 2011 with the much smaller standard SM-3 missiles available today, which are designed to intercept shorter-range missiles typically flying slower and closer to the ground than ICBMs. Improved sensor technologies stationed in Southeastern Europe will complement the system, offering a variety of options to detect and track enemy missiles.

“By 2015, a more advanced version of the system would be deployed, including defense missiles that could be launched from both sea and land, while in phase three and four, further improved SM-3 missiles would, after extensive testing, address the potential Iranian ICBM threat to the US by 2020.”

“. . . First and foremost, the new system is based on current or soon available technologies and consequently will be operational six to seven years sooner than the previous program, and at less expense. According to General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, two to three ships would suffice to protect Europe from shorter-range Iranian missiles. The use of the comparatively cheap SM-3 missile makes it a relatively inexpensive defensive system.

“It is also a more survivable system and offers a high degree of flexibility in terms of geographical deployment and adaptability to growing threats as it would allow the US to deploy potentially hundreds of SM-3 missiles to sites in Europe and American ships in nearby waterways, thus exceeding the interception potential of the 10 ground-based defensive missiles in Poland envisioned in the previous program by far.

“Furthermore, it offers the flexibility to adjust and technologically upgrade the architecture according to the current threat situation, while still leaving the door open to deploy long-range interceptors once that technology is proven to work and the Iranian ICBM threat advances beyond the merely theoretical.’”

I hate to disagree with the luminaries who signed the petition, and perhaps I my habit of reading widely rather than concentrating on such subjects as this one has put me at a disadvantage, but I still need to see sound arguments favoring the position of the signatories, and I haven’t seen them.

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