Thoughts on Ballistic Missiles and the 21st Century

I was reading some of the postings on the forum, World Security Network, and I came across a piece written by George Friedman on the START treaty. He briefly mentioned the Cuban Missile Crisis and the global secuirty apparatus as follows:

Until the 1960s, the United States had an overwhelming advantage. Its bomber force gave it the ability to strike the Soviet Union from the United States. The Soviets chose not to build a significant bomber force, relying instead on a missile capability that really wasn’t in place and reliable until the mid-1960s. The Cuban missile crisis derived in part from this imbalance. The Soviets wanted Cuba because they could place shorter-range missiles there, threatening the B-52 fleet by reducing warning time and threatening the American population should the B-52s strike the Soviet Union.

A complex game emerged after Cuba. Both sides created reliable missiles that could reach the other side, and both turned to a pure counter-force strategy, designed to destroy not cities but enemy missiles. The missiles were dispersed and placed in hardened silos. Nuclear submarines, less accurate but holding cities hostage, were deployed. Accuracy increased. From the mid-1960s on the nuclear balance was seen as the foundation of the global balance of power.

I wanted to briefly share this because it definitely strikes a necessary chord in the current status of global security, but also greatly demonstrates the urgent need to committ to either of the following regarding US-Russian affiars:

(a) committ to a ballistic missile defense policy that exlcludes full Russian cooperation and knowledge of such systems in order to undermine their relations with countries that have helped  establish the emerging threat, such as with Iran. We committ to this by utilizing the following strategy,

  • reformulate a ballistic missile defense system that is similar to the 2007 bilateral agreement process proposed by the Bush administration,
  • re-evaluate and reform the inter-agency process of security institutions that would oversee the development and implementation of the ballistic missile defense system; with particular attention shifted toward: inter-agency coordination and communication; cost-control, and joint US-European cooperation and organizational capabilities for facility maintenance and upkeep over the future years of operations,
  • increase investments in the ballistic missile defense programs,
  • establish international forums with other strategically important countries regarding ballistic missile defense such as Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Japan, South Korea and Turkey,
  • continue to apply UN pressure of Russia for assisting Iranians regarding their nuclear program  such as with the Russian completion of the Bushehr reactor on the Persian Gulf.


(b) recognize the Cold War politics has greatly transformed with the arrival of the 21st century security paradigms and to pursure, based on current economic and political trends within Russia, a course that incorporates Russia more into a cooperative and forumalted security approach regarding emerging threats, which is primary centered around ballistic missile defense.

Achieveing proposal (b) would incorporate best within the plan currently under review and proposed by the current administration called the Phased Adaptive Approach plan (PAA). The plan envisions the following:

  • Phase 1 (2011 time frame): existing missile defense systems will be
    deployed to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. Phase 1 will focus on the protection of portions of southern Europe by utilizing sea-based Aegis missile defense-capable ships and interceptors (the SM-3 Block IA).
  • Phase 2 (2015 time frame): our capabilities will be enhanced by the fielding of a more
    advanced interceptor (the SM-3 Block IB) and additional sensors. Phase 2 will include landbased SM-3s in southern Europe, in addition to their sea-based locations, expanding coverage to additional NATO allies.
  • Phase 3 (2018 time frame): coverage against medium- and intermediate-range threats will be improved with a second land-based SM-3 site, located in northern Europe, as well as an upgraded Standard Missile 3 (the SM-3 Block IIA, which is already under development) at seaand land-based sites. These changes will extend coverage to all NATO allies in Europe.
  • Phase 4 (2020 time frame): an additional capability against a potential ICBM launched from the Middle East against the United States will be available. This phase will take advantage of yet another upgrade to the Standard Missile 3, the Block IIB. All four phases will include upgrades to the missile defense command and control system.

Given the current situation regarding ballistic missile proliferation and the necessary political realtions among the dominant players within this discussion, the PAA plan is most likely the more realistic and strategic options of the two. The 2007 bilateral plan proposed by the Bush administration was a good first step in the right direction, but had many shortcomings such as lack of adquate design plans never approved by the Army Engineer Corps before being proposed to Congress, poor cost analysis of construction costs and maintenance costs, as well as lack of agreement ratifications with Poland and the Czech Republic (the sites where the systems were to be built). Furthermore, the PAA would be involved within the NATO context and would seek to build a conensus with nations in the surrounding area, rather than private bilateral agreements that may make Russia even more wary.

The major grievances from Moscow regarding ballistic missile defense systems being pursued by American and European powers stem from the potential instability or immediate threat they would pose to the Russian capabilities to defend their territory with their nuclear ballistic missile arsenal. Or in other words, if the ballistic missile defense systems were completed in Eastern Europe by 2015, then the United States and Europe could be in the position to apply political pressure for some future cause toward the Russian state and it would most likely have to capitulate. Let it be remembered that the Eastern block, while it is traditionally in the regional sphere of influence to that of Moscow, the United States will continue to hold relations and discussions with independent and sovereign nations, and looks forward to Russia as a partner to interantional cooperation and peace. On this note, I will say that Russia has a lot of damage control to attend to when it comes to nations such as the Republic of Poland. The country is still very wary of Moscow ever since the joint Russo-German invasion of the country in 1939 and its subsequent division and inhumane submission to Nazi rule, just to name a few historical accords that make Eastern European countries more willing to rely on the security of the United States and Western Europe than of Russia.

It is highly unlikely that the United States or Europe would arbitrarily impose such political and military pressure upon Russia so close to their border, and what’s more is the ballistic missile systems are solely defensive in nature, in that, their designed purpose is to neutralize incoming ballistic missiles and its stated nature and goal has never been offensive at any stage of the process. Additionally, the European ballistic missile systems being proposed by the US is seeking to directly target the current situation in Iran, which has been advancing a secretive nuclear development program but also for the past thirty years has been developing ballistic missile capabilities that have recently demonstrated grave security concerns with Western officials for the substantial visible progress the country has been making on its Shahab-3, Shahab-4/5 missiles whos designs were derived from the North Korean No Dong missile prototypes.

Some Things to Think About Regarding US Concerns of Ballistic Missile Defense Initiatives:

(From Ballistic Missile Defense Review 2010) The threat posed by ballistic missile delivery systems is likely to increase while growing more complex over the next decade. This judgment by the Intelligence Community is borne out by recent events, such as Iran’s launch of a new mobile, solid-propellant medium range ballistic missile (MRBM) in December 2009. Ballistic missile systems are becoming more flexible, mobile, survivable, reliable, and accurate while also increasing in range. Pre-launch survivability is also likely to increase as potential adversaries strengthen their denial and deception measures and increasingly base their missiles on mobile platforms.
Key trends in the development of the threat include the following:

  • The threat is increasing both quantitatively and qualitatively.
  • Quantitatively, many states with missiles are increasing their inventories, at the same time
    that a growing number of states are deploying missiles with greater capabilities.
  • More states are moving to advanced liquid-propellant systems and even to solid-propellant
    systems, which increase flexibility, mobility, survivability, and reliability.
  • Ranges are increasing, putting ever more targets at risk.
  • Accuracy is increasing, making these systems more effective against point targets.
  • Some states are working to defeat missile defenses, through both technical and operational
  • Some states are also taking steps to increase the protection of their ballistic missiles from
    pre-launch attack, including through more aggressive denial and deception practices as
    well as a shift to mobile systems.
  • Some states are also developing nuclear, chemical, and/or biological warheads for missiles,
    and if they are successful in these efforts, the threat to others will be greatly magnified.
  • These technical capabilities could be significant sources of military advantage during a
    conflict. But they may be equally significant in times of peace or crisis, when they may
    undergird efforts to coerce other states.

 I am currently outlining a post I will committ to American and European Ballistic Missile Defense systems in the coming decade and so therefore regard this as a preliminary post to express some current thoughts on the issue.


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