Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out

Georgia Fortunato Missile Defense The concept of missile defense


									Georgia Fortunato

                                         Missile Defense

         The concept of missile defense has its roots in the infamous Cold War, a conflict more of
mind rather than of action. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan proposed his oft ridiculed
Strategic Defense Initiative, which would employ lasers and spacecraft to shoot down
intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICM’s). Although Reagan’s proposal was scoffed at for being
too extreme, it underscored a theory that pervaded American foreign policy during the Cold
War: deterrence. During a tense period that spanned from the end of WWII to the fall of the
Berlin Wall, the U.S. and the USSR had amassed enormous nuclear stockpiles that if used would
inflict unparalleled devastation. A major component of both countries’ arsenals was ballistic
missiles capable of transporting nuclear warheads across the world. Reagan reasoned that the
mere deployment of technology capable of intercepting ICM’s would deter Russia from using
them. Ironically, Reagan’s call for a Strategic Defense Initiative was not officially heeded until
1999, eight years after the end of the Cold War. In a nearly unanimous motion, Congress passed
the National Missile Defense Act, asserting that, “It is the policy of the United States to deploy
as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of
defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether
accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate) with funding subject to the annual authorization of
appropriations and the annual appropriation of funds for National Missile Defense.” With the
passage of this act, a new era in American history, the era of National Missile Defense, was

         The progression of a National Missile Defense system has been tedious. The initiative
that had blazed through Congress in 1999 slowed to a smolder for the first decade after the
turn of the century. The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 dominated the
political spectrum and pushed missile defense off to the sidelines. However, the issue was
abruptly returned to public consciousness on September 13, 2011, when Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and Romania’s Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi signed a Ballistic Missile
Defense Agreement on behalf of the U.S. and Romania. Under the terms of the agreement, the
U.S. military plans to install a ballistic missile interceptor system in the Devesulu Air Base near
Caracal, Romania. Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin around 2015. U.S. military and
intelligence personnel would operate the facility, but the Romanian government would be
informed of all the proceedings there. Romania is a willing host to the system because its SM-3
interceptors, designed by Aegis Ashore, would protect Europe as well as the U.S. from missiles
launched from the Middle East. In theory, the presence of these interceptors would deter any
missiles from being launched, and thus serve as an intangible shield. However, due to the
superficial nature of theory, the system would be fully capable of protecting Europe and the
U.S. from incoming missiles.

         The U.S. and Romania are not the only countries to engage in a missile defense
initiative. Similar projects are already being conducted in The Netherlands, Ukraine, Germany,
and Israel. The latter is seeking to defend against missiles launched from Iran or Palestine.
Furthermore, many Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait,
and the United Arab Emirates have expressed interest in installing Ballistic Missile Defense
(BMD) and some have even requested interceptor technologies.

        The American-led BMD effort is not without its opponents. Russia is concerned that a
missile defense system in Europe would interfere with its ability to defend against nuclear
attack. The Russian government’s protest lies not in suspicion that the BMD shield’s ulterior
purpose is to defend against Russian missiles but rather that NATO refuses to collaborate with
Russia on missile defense. In response to NATO’s exclusiveness, Russian President Dmitry
Medvedev recently delivered a threatening ultimatum. He stated that “Either we reach an
agreement on missile defense and create a full-fledged joint mechanism of cooperation, or…a
new round of the arms race will begin.” Negotiating the terms of missile defense is not to be
taken lightly. One wrong move and U.S.-Russian relations could freeze once more.

To top