US axes European missile defence system

The White House will axe plans to deploy a theatre missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic concluding that the limited technical capabilities of the Iranian missile programme to date do not justify the costs in terms of both strained budgets and strained relations with Russia.

The White House will axe plans to deploy a theatre missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The deployment in that region was viewed with great hostility by Moscow and marked skepticism on grounds of efficacy by defence analysts.

The Bush Administration viewed the missile shield as a strategic response to possible nuclear threats from Iran or other potential adversaries in the Middle East. The Obama Administration has however concluded that the limited technical capabilities of the Iranian missile programme to date do not justify the costs in terms of both strained budgets and strained relations with Russia.

The Administration is now likely to look favorably on cheaper, less ambitious defence requests by the Polish government, such as its desire for the deployment of the Patriot missile battery system. The move follows previous Obama Administration defence cuts in high cost, high technology areas such as the F-22 programme. In the context of budget stresses and changed threats, the move is sure to re-open the debate on Britian’s own nuclear weapon needs and defence budget priorities.

6 Responses to “US axes European missile defence system”

  1. Will Straw

    As the debate on Trident rumbles on, Obama axes defence missile system. http://bit.ly/gtrzB

  2. Anthony Painter

    RT @wdjstraw: As the debate on Trident rumbles on, Obama axes defence missile system. http://bit.ly/gtrzB

  3. Shamik Das

    RT @leftfootfwd: As the debate on Trident rumbles on, Obama axes defence missile system. http://bit.ly/gtrzB

  4. rwendland

    They are not axing missile defence, but planning to use the already tested SM-3 missiles from Aegis Cruisers in Europe instead. This is a good technical decision, which happens to be sound politics as well. (SM-3 was the missile they used to knock down a sateliite last year.)

    Check out the actual Robert Gates announcement, and the technical discussion on the ArmsControlWonk blog:

    http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4479

    http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/2465/a-sensible-missile-defense-architecture-for-nato

  5. willstraw

    Thanks for this. We’re satisfied that this was the axing of the European weapons system in its present form. I have amended the headline accordingly.

  6. rwendland

    Will,

    I actually meant the U.S. was not axing European missile defence, just changing the technology to SM-3 (less capable against ICBMs, but already developed and effective for MRBM and SRBM). In fact this enables the U.S. to deploy the missiles 6 or 7 years earlier than the previous plan. Here are a few Robert Gates quotes from the announcement link above:

    “In the initial stage, we will deploy Aegis ships equipped with SM-3 interceptors [in Europe], which provide the flexibility to move interceptors from one region to another if needed.”

    “The second phase, about 2015, will involve fielding upgraded, land-based SM-3s. Consultations have begun with allies, starting with Poland and the Czech Republic, about hosting a land-based version of the SM-3 and other components of the system. Basing some interceptors on land will provide additional coverage and save costs compared to a purely sea-based approach.”

    “Over time, this architecture is designed to continually incorporate new and more effective technologies, as well as more interceptors, expanding the range of coverage, improving our ability to knock down multiple targets and increasing the survivability of the overall system.”

    “Perhaps most important, though, we can now field initial elements of the system to protect our forces in Europe and our allies roughly six to seven years earlier than the previous plan, a fact made more relevant by continued delays in the Czech and Polish ratification processes that have caused repeated slips in the timeline.”

    “Those who say we are scrapping missile defense in Europe are either misinformed or misrepresenting the reality of what we are doing.”

    From the U.S. military point of view this is a sound technical decision. Ready now and much more flexible, and the SM-3 Block 2 developments (higher velocity) will make the missile more capable against ICBM. The military companies will not like it as it is cheaper (and more effective) than the expensive land based missiles they are developing in Alaska (with lots of problems).

    Much as we might not want it, BMD does seem to be progressing, bringing with it all the problems for the current deterrence regime. It seems inevitable that China will have to improve its small number of ICBMs to maintain a credible deterrent, which will have an unfortunate knock-on effect amongst many Asian states.

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