SEA | Missile Defense: Toward a New Paradigm
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Missile Defense: Toward a New Paradigm

Missile Defense: Toward a New Paradigm

Propozycja grupy Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative (EASI) na 46. Konferencji Polityki Bezpieczeństwa w Monachium.
Janusz Onyszkiewicz – Przewodniczący Rady Wykonawczej SEA, członek EASI.

I Contribution of missile defense cooperation to the strategic objectives for a common security space

The Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative (EASI) seeks to create a Euro-Atlantic security community: “an inclusive, undivided security space free of opposing blocs and gray areas.”1   Such a security community requires a shared understanding and expectation that within this security space disputes will be resolved by diplomatic, legal, or other non-violent means and not by recourse to military force or the threat of its use. It also requires that its members have a shared strategic understanding that they face common threats from outside this security space, and that the best and most efficient way to tackle those threats is cooperatively.

The days of the Cold War are long gone, but the strategic relationship among the states in the Euro-Atlantic space has not fully reflected that change.  To operate as a Euro-Atlantic security community, these relationships must be transformed. Historically, missile defense has been a source of tension and a barrier to transforming the strategic relationship among the states of the Euro-Atlantic security community. It has often been perceived as destabilizing the strategic balance and threatening strategic stability.

Successful cooperation on ballistic missile defense would be a game changer. It would go a long way toward overcoming the legacy of historical suspicion and achieving the strategic transformation that is needed. The Euro-Atlantic nations would be cooperating to solve a common security threat faced by all states. Cooperation on missile defense would establish a pattern for working together, build trust, and encourage further cooperation in other areas. It would lay the foundation for the Euro-Atlantic states to lead the broader international effort to meet the global threats posed not only by ballistic missile proliferation but also by nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

II Basic principles and concepts on which successful missile defense cooperation could be based.

For cooperation on ballistic missile defense to succeed, it must meet two principles. First, the parties must share a common assessment of threats against which the missile defense system is conceived, must believe that these threats are real, and must be convinced that their own security interests require development of an effective response. And second, the parties must believe that cooperation will make a real contribution to the effectiveness of that response.

The Working Group on Missile Defense (WGMD) believes that cooperation on missile defense meets this shared understanding:

First, there is sufficient consensus regarding the threat risk from non-strategic ballistic missiles to begin now to develop a response, with deployment commensurate with the progression of the threat.

There has been growing concern about the threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles, especially when coupled with efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. The WGMD assesses that the most serious and near-term ballistic missile threat is from medium- to intermediate- range missiles (up to 4500 kilometers). While there is disagreement within the WGMD on the exact timeline of the progression of the threat, the WGMD believes these differences can be accommodated by adjusting the pace of the deployment of a ballistic missiles defense system. The WGMD agrees that the Euro-Atlantic states should begin now to develop a common program for meeting this threat.

Second, there is consensus that cooperation would enhance the effectiveness of the response to the threat over what any of the states could develop on its own. The cooperative approach we have in mind would have the following characteristics:

(i) Data and information from sensors, radars, and satellites would be pooled and shared in one or more operations centers staffed by US/NATO and Russian officers working together to provide a common threat picture and notification of missile launches.

Under a cooperative approach, NATO and Russia would pool data and information derived from a network tying together their respective sensors, satellites, and radars and those of other participating states. This sharing of data and information could give all participants a more transparent and more complete picture of the threat environment and notification of ballistic missile launches.

NATO and Russia already have operational experience in this type of cooperation. Before 2008, the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) led several missile defense simulations, each designed to test techniques of data exchange. In the conventional air safety and security domain, there is the Cooperative Airspace Initiative under the NRC. It prescribes an air surveillance system that ties parallel data coordination centers (in Warsaw and in Moscow) with six data nodes (three in Russia and three in NATO countries). Similarly, information and data on medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles could be brought together in one or more common data centers staffed jointly by military officers from Russia, NATO, and other participating states.

(ii) There would be no compromise of sovereignty. But separate protocols could be negotiated in advance to allow one party to intercept a missile flying over its territory aimed at the territory of another party.

The sovereignty of all participating states would be respected. While each party would still have the responsibility for defending its territory from ballistic missile attack, a cooperative approach would make an enormous contribution to that end. Cooperative measures, such as information and data exchanges in the data centers, would enhance the effectiveness of those defenses.

A closer and deeper cooperation could be developed in working out the architecture of the missile defense system. NATO, Russia, and other participating states might develop protocols that would allow the ballistic missile defense interceptors of any one of the parties to be used to intercept and shoot down ballistic missiles aimed at another party (if the trajectory of the incoming missile and the technical capabilities of the interceptors made such an intercept possible). But this would only be done if the targeted nation had consented in advance to a protocol that authorized such action automatically. In any case, Russia, NATO, and other participating states would retain the ultimate responsibility for defending their respective territory against ballistic missile attack.

(iii) Russia and NATO would develop together a system based on full partnership. While at least initially the contributions among the parties might not be equal (due to differences among the parties in their investments to date in missile defense), there must be an equitable sharing among the parties of risks and burdens.

The concept for cooperation would be based on full partnership between NATO and Russia – with Russia, the United States, Europe, and any other participating states operating as full partners in the architecture, development, and deployment of the system. The actual contributions to a deployed system are likely at least initially to vary among the partners, based on differences in the investments in missile defense that they have made to date and other factors. Given the need for an equitable sharing of risk and burdens, the expectation would be that cooperation over time would lead to more equal contributions to a deployed system.

(iv) We are addressing at this time only the threat from medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles (up to 4500 km).

Partnering on defense against these missiles could build an important foundation for future cooperation against longer-range threats as well. Therefore, for now, issues associated with long-range (or “strategic”) ballistic missiles and Phase IV of the U.S. Phased Adaptive Approach would be left for later consideration. Russia continues to worry about the impact of strategic ballistic missile defense on its strategic nuclear deterrent. Cooperation on the medium- and intermediate-range threat will build trust and confidence among the parties and should make it easier to resolve the more difficult issues associated with long-range ballistic missiles.

(v) This will be an open architecture.

Other countries could participate if they do not develop their own medium- or intermediate-range ballistic missiles and cooperate in efforts to prevent the proliferation or spread of these missiles.

III Public Case for Cooperation

To appeal to our broader and more youthful publics, as well as our political and expert communities, we must explain this cooperative effort as a new approach.

Cooperation on ballistic missile defense can rightly be framed as reflecting a 21st century approach to 21st century threats. Those threats include extremist elements and regimes able to get their hands on nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. There is increasing concern that these elements and regimes cannot be deterred by the threats of retaliation that are the basis of traditional deterrence theory. Defensive measures such as ballistic missile defense move away from deterrence by threat of retaliation toward deterrence by denial of objective.

This furthers the agenda of all those who seek to move away from traditional deterrence and particularly the reliance on nuclear weapons that was the hallmark of that theory. It also taps in to the aspirations and hopes of those who favor further progress toward disarmament generally. It holds out the prospect of dealing with ballistic missile threats from outlaw regimes at least initially without having to contemplate military engagements with combat forces to deal with these threats. Finally, the open architecture and information sharing that is at the heart of our cooperative approach resonates with an information-age culture that is built on these very principles.

Part of the difficulty in bolstering public support for cooperation in missile defense is that the threat is not “real” to the public. The challenge for politicians will be to frame the question of cooperation on missile defense in a way that brings home the seriousness of the missile threat to the public, the contribution that a cooperative approach can make to meeting this threat, and the broader contribution that such cooperation can make to creating a Euro-Atlantic security community for the 21st century.

From a national security perspective, there are compelling reasons to engage in missile defense cooperation. First, such cooperation would result in a more effective defense against ballistic missile threats to the territories of the parties while still respecting each party’s sovereignty and its right and responsibility to defend its own territory. Missile defense cooperation not only provides all participants with greater security but also is responsive to the need to conserve financial resources and reduce budgets and deficits. The cooperation the WGMD proposes will be based in significant part on assets that already exist among the parties. The pooling of assets will minimize duplication of capabilities while maximizing the security benefit to all participating nations. A cooperative approach should collectively be less expensive than if NATO, Russia, and the other participating countries each pursued a capability on its own.

Second, such cooperation will improve the strategic relationship between Russia and the United States and encourage cooperation in other security areas. Genuine cooperation will bolster the nuclear nonproliferation regime and add momentum to the already impressive achievements in securing nuclear weapons and materials. It will also help Washington and Moscow to render their nuclear relationship safer and more stable.
Third, such cooperation will contribute to the building of a Euro-Atlantic security community that is very much in the security interest of all nations in the region. Cooperation on ballistic missile defense substitutes collective action among former adversaries for destabilizing go-it-alone national security policies. Such a cooperative approach is at the heart of the European project that is producing a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. Missile defense cooperation can be seen as an extension of that concept to the entire Euro-Atlantic region that will offer greater security for the whole region.

IV The immediate steps towards the establishment of a common ballistic missile defense system should be:

(i) Creation of common centers pooling and sharing information and data from sensors, satellites and radars, which should be operated in real time to provide a common notification about missile attack.

(ii) Resumption of joint command-staff exercises on ballistic missile defense, with the expansion of their scope to include defense against medium-and intermediate-range missiles.

Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative (EASI)


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