Missile Defense Is Necessary But Raises Thorny Issues
The Missile Defense Agency has signed a contract with Raytheon from January 2013 through May 2015 increasing funding for modification of the AN/TPY-2 radar, a critical part of the ballistic missile defense system, which is deployed on land and at sea. The contract is one facet of a broader effort to deploy effective theater missile defenses around the world as new, unpredictable nuclear powers emerge.
While U.S. intelligence agencies have reported that Iran would be able to test-fly an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by 2015 if it receives “sufficient foreign assistance,” the Congressional Research Service has expressed uncertainty concerning whether the capability will actually materialize by that date. Whether or not Iran will have ICBM capability by 2015, the US-led NATO missile shield was conceived with the purpose of defending against Iranian missiles.
U.S.-Russian relations have been tense due to the planned missile defense, which Moscow leaders suspect may marginalize their nuclear deterrent forces in later stages of the Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA). According to Russian Strategic Rocket Forces commander Colonel General Sergei Karakayev the creation of the global missile defense system may provoke an arms race.
Russia is not the only concern. North Korea and Iran continue to move forward with their missile and nuclear programs in violation of international treaties. Some experts say that North Korea’s recent missile launch success and the placement of a satellite into orbit demonstrates that it has the range to hit Hawaii and parts of the west coast of the U.S. With Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, Pyongyang and Tehran may soon be equipped with the capability to strike regional neighbors and the U.S. unless their programs are stopped.
The bottom line is that that the U.S. must respond to the threat posed by emerging, unpredictable nuclear powers without antagonizing older nuclear states such as Russia. Although Russia’s fears about how missile defense might undermine the credibility of its deterrent might seem exaggerated, Moscow’s leaders appear sincere in their concerns and the U.S. must therefore find some way of allaying Russian worries.