The 28 countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will make a decision in Lisbon, Portugal in November this year between protecting its territory and populations from ballistic missiles or to continuing the status quo of protecting only forward deployed NATO troops. A decision in favor would change Article V to add missile defense to the NATO mission. A decision against would bring a significant challenge to President Obama’s Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) in Europe.
There are dissenting views and unpredictability within NATO countries on the upcoming decision in Lisbon due to the current European economic crisis, the unknown cost of missile defense and the priority of NATO defense dollars. It is of note only 8 of the 28 NATO countries are up to date with their contribution to NATO. Two other disruptive forces will play into the NATO decision process; France who is not a proponent due to its small nuclear force and independence and Russia who does not view the threat from Iran as real but as a challenge nor does Russia trust the NATO rules of engagement on missile defense which are yet to be developed. Russia will not cooperate with the United States on missile defense until there is a mutual agreement on understanding the threat from Iran and what the NATO rules of engagement are against ballistic missiles. Turkey also provides an enigma while as they may want NATO territory missile defense they do want U.S. missile defense systems deployed in their country.
The U.S., the largest contributor to NATO at 23 percent, has considerable military forces deployed in Europe as well as American citizens there will lead NATO for territory defense. Alongside the U.S. for this vote will be the Eastern European countries such as Romania, Czech Republic and Poland who want U.S. cooperative relationships and a significant role within NATO for their own national security.
The U.S. current policy is focusing on three concerns for NATO and the PAA:
- Cost, of which they are expecting no contributions from Europe for the upper tier missile defense of Europe which would be for all intent and purposes the entire PAA except the integration of European existing and future sensors as well as command and control.
- Not allowing missile defense to be viewed as a substitute for nuclear deterrent by Europe
- Command and control of missile defense for Europe to be the same as NATOs air defense and use of nuclear weapons command and control
Though each of those concerns are extremely challenging with the complexity and politics within NATO, the overall driver remains Iran.
The current ballistic missile threat to NATO territory from Iran, excluding Turkey, is the Sejil-2, a solid fueled two-stage missile that has the potential range of 2000 kilometers delivering a 750 kilogram warhead. NATO countries Romania, Greece and Bulgaria are vulnerable. Future longer range threats from Iran to Europe will rapidly continue to develop as U.S. estimates are at 2015 for much longer range Iranian missile that can strike U.S. homeland.
Iran’s continual vigilant statements of intent aligned with their overt visible transparency on displaying their missiles and their capabilities to the world and Iran’s belief of attrition and persistence with seemingly little fear of being deterred against the western powers, who they believe are weak, makes them formidable in their intent and political will.
If the Europeans don’t vote for territory defense in November, the U.S. will have to rethink its approach towards bilateral agreements and adjust the PAA towards protection of selected prioritized areas of both force and population that would be threatened first by Iran. Thus leaving territory defense of Europe and projected deployment sites with future SM-3 Block 2A and SM-3 Block 2B defensive missiles in Romania and Poland delayed until the collective political will of Europe is convinced of Iran’s capability, their intent to strike Europe and delegating the burden of the command and control as well as sharing the cost.
The PAA in Europe must remain flexible and adaptive.
MDAA was in London this week attending a missile defense conference where members of NATO, Russia, France, Romania, Poland, Czech Republic, the United States and others were presenting.
Chairman and Founder
Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance