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International Missile Defence: Challenges for Europe

John Rood, Assistant Secretary for International Security and Non-Proliferation
Remarks to the 8th Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Missile Defense Conference
London, United Kingdom
February 27, 2007


Today's conference is aptly named "International Defence: Challenges for Europe" and it is well timed as it occurs at a key juncture in the political debate internationally over missile defense in Europe. It's also fitting that we convene in London to discuss this issue for it is in this city that missile defense began.

Although missile defense gained prominence with President Ronald Reagan's 1983 speech announcing the start of the SDI program, and some critics would have you believe the idea was cooked up in his so-called "kitchen cabinet," in fact the idea was really born here, just over 62 years ago. On September 8, 1944 at 17 minutes to 7:00 in the evening to be precise, the city of London fell victim to ballistic missile attack, when a German V-2 fell at Cheswick, and a second struck Epping some 16 seconds later.

In fact, only 10 days after the start of these attacks, a V-2 which struck within sight and earshot of where we sit today, just across the Thames River in Lambeth.

These strikes were part of what Sir Winston Churchill called "the pilot-less bombardment." Starting three months earlier, London had been bombarded by the world's first cruise missile, the V-1. By the time the last V-2 fell, about 500 had hit the United Kingdom, killing over 2,700 people and seriously injuring nearly 6,500. The toll from the deadly V-1 attacks was even greater, killing and injuring nearly three times that number.

Churchill would later express how these terrible new weapons gave those who used them a powerful psychological tool to use against civilians. He wrote in his history of the Second World War:

"This new form of attack imposed upon the people of London a burden perhaps even heavier than the air raids of 1940 and 1941. Suspense and strain were more prolonged. Dawn brought no relief, and cloud no comfort. The man going home in the evening never knew what he would find; his wife, alone all day or with the children, could not be certain of his safe return. The blind, impersonal nature of the missile made the individual on the ground feel helpless."

This unacceptable feeling of helplessness that came from vulnerability to missile attack motivated Mr. Churchill to create a committee charged with the responsibility for reporting upon the effects of the flying bomb and the flying rocket and the progress of countermeasures and precautions to meet it."

There is a proverb that we often use in the United States that "necessity is the mother of invention." And the necessity of dealing with this threat over six decades ago, led the British government to attempt to devise the world's first ballistic missile defense system. The concept developed by British planners involved the use of radar to predict where a V-2 might impact, and highly-concentrated anti-aircraft fire over that point to create a "field of fire" of exploding shells that the missile would hopefully fly through and be destroyed by. Anti-aircraft batteries positioned in zones around London would be synchronized for this purpose.

This concept was never fielded because the technology of the day made the concept infeasible. British planners of the 1940s determined that an extremely large number of shells would be required to achieve a reasonable probability of kill, and the small percentage of shells that were duds would fall back on London, perhaps causing more damage than the incoming V-2.

We've come a long way in the 60 years since that time. Military technology today is obviously much different and more advanced. For example, the B-2 stealth bomber of today bears little resemblance to the B-17 Flying Fortress that American servicemen like my uncle flew on missions out of Great Britain during World War II.

Over 60 years ago, British military planners thought about adapting anti-aircraft artillery to knock down missiles. In recent days the technology envelope has been stretched as demonstrated by the many recent tests that show the surgical precision of today's missile defense intercepts at extremely high speeds. In fact, the test record of the U.S. missile defense program has been very good, with 14 successful intercepts in the last 18 such tests conducted since October 2004.

In this world capital, the need for missile defense took firm grip on the imagination of Britain's leaders. Over 20 years ago, a new imaginative and innovative approach challenged and pushed the limits of science, technology, and policy in the U.S. Today, what was only imagined is real. Moreover, it is now embodied in many international efforts, many in cooperation with the United States.


From the outset of this administration, President Bush has talked about the importance of working with friends and allies on missile defense. Accordingly, the Department of Defense has worked to develop and deploy missile defenses capable of protecting not only the United States, but those same friends and allies. And we've taken this spirit of cooperation one step further, by structuring our missile defense program in a manner that encourages industrial participation by other nations.

It is regrettable that recent public remarks from Russian officials and other critics would have you believe that the very topic of missile defense is controversial -- perhaps even destabilizing. But missile defense has been embraced and its value is increasingly recognized.

A wide range of missile defense-related efforts are currently underway with foreign governments as well as with foreign industry, involving,

  • conducting joint missile defense requirements and architecture analyses on a country-by-country basis;
  • joint modeling and simulation exercises;
  • joint research & development projects;
  • co-production;
  • joint testing;
  • joint training and/or interoperability exercises;
  • foreign military sales as well as commercial sales to friends and allies; and
  • deployment of missile defense assets on their territory.

Today, more than 15 countries (including nearly 10 in NATO alone) are engaged in missile defense efforts of some kind, whether by hosting key facilities or assets on their territory or actively discussing this possibility, pursuing R&D programs, signing cooperative agreements with the United States, or maintaining capabilities. The list includes the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, India, Japan, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Ukraine, and Poland and the Czech Republic. And I would point out that Russia clearly believes in the value of missile defense as it continues to maintain a missile defense system around its major population center, Moscow and has developed defenses against shorter-range missiles.

Allow me to briefly summarize a few of these efforts:

  • We have concluded Memorandum of Understanding's with the UK, Japan, Australia, Israel, Italy, and Denmark to facilitate government-to-government and industry-to-industry missile defense cooperation.
  • Germany, Italy, and the U.S. are jointly pursuing the Medium Extended Air Defense System, or MEADS. This R&D project is intended to develop a highly mobile missile defense system for defense against short- to medium-range threats. MEADS is scheduled to be fielded in 2014 and would be a replacement for Patriot systems.
  • Japan is currently funding the deployment of a multi-tiered missile defense system composed of the Patriot PAC-3 and the Aegis Standard Missile-3, or SM-3. Japan also hosts a forward-based X-band radar on its territory, which is now operational. Recently, the U.S. deployed a PAC-3 battery to Kadena, Japan. Finally, Japan and the United States also agreed, last year, to jointly develop a 21-inch diameter SM-3 interceptor, capable of intercepting long-range ballistic missiles.
  • In December 2003, Australia announced its decision to participate in the U.S. missile defense program. Subsequently, the U.S. and Australia signed in July 2004, a framework MoU on missile defense cooperation, and a Research and Development MoU was signed in October 2005.
  • The U.S. and Israel have cooperated on the Arrow missile defense system, which has been developed and fielded for the sole purpose to defend heavily populated areas in Israel against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.
  • A new joint U.S.-Israeli project is the Short-Range Ballistic missile defense program. Its purpose is to develop systems capable of intercepting much shorter range missiles.
  • A few years ago, both the United Kingdom and Denmark agreed to the U.S. request to upgrade the early warning radars at Fylingdales and Thule, respectively for missile defense purposes. The upgrades for Fylingdales were completed in 2006. The upgrades for Thule are currently planned to be completed in 2009.
  • The Netherlands, Germany, and the United States utilize their jointly developed Extended Air defense/Theater Missile Defense for integration and interoperability efforts, including through the Dutch-hosted Project Optic Windmill Joint Exercise.
  • France is also working on its own short-range ballistic missile defense system, the SAMP-T.
  • And, as I mentioned Russia currently operates missile defense system with nuclear-tipped exo-atmospheric and endo-atmospheric interceptors to protect the region around Moscow, and has developed defenses against shorter-range missiles.


The NATO Alliance has been exploring the requirements for missile defense for over a decade. Through the Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defense - ALTBMD - program, NATO is working toward fielding a capability to defend NATO military forces from short- and medium-range ballistic missile attack in non-Article V situations, that is, for the protection of NATO military forces operating outside of NATO territory. The feasibility studies for ALTBMD were completed in 2003 and the missile defense technical blueprint was approved by NATO defense ministers in June 2004. The Alliance expects to have this capability in place by 2010.

Additionally, at the November 2002 Prague NATO Summit, Member States agreed to study how best to protect our cities and our people from ballistic missile attack. This follow-on feasibility study of the best architecture to defend NATO populations and territory from the threat of ballistic missiles of all ranges was completed in July 2005. Recently, at the November 2006 Riga Summit, Heads of State and Government acknowledged the completion of the Feasibility Study, as well as its finding that missile defense for the Alliance was technically feasible. The Heads of State and Government also tasked continued work on the political and military implications of missile defense and an update on missile threat developments. While this clearly shows progress at NATO as a whole, it is important that NATO transition from studying the options to implementing the options.


It is of course no secret that we are talking with the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic about locating missile defense capabilities in central Europe. Currently, it is the U.S. preference to field in Poland ten fixed, ground-based, missile defense interceptors similar to those currently fielded at Ft. Greeley Alaska. It is also the U.S. preference to construct in the Czech Republic an X-band radar for the midcourse tracking and discrimination of ballistic missile threats launched out of the Middle East. In mid-January of this year, the Bush Administration decided to initiate formal negotiations with Poland and the Czech Republic on this issue.

The rationale for such possible deployments is detailed U.S. Defense Department analysis has concluded that Poland and the Czech Republic are the good locations to provide protection for much of Europe and the United States from the evolving Middle Eastern ballistic missile threat. Assuming our negotiations are successful, we hope to begin major construction in these countries in 2008 and to begin missile defense operations by 2012. These missile defense assets would be integrated with existing radars in Fylingdales U.K. and Thule, Greenland, as well as, the U.S. ground-based midcourse defense system, consisting of, for example, existing missile defense interceptors located in California and Alaska.

We are deeply disappointed with the recent Cold War rhetoric from some quarters on this issue, such as troubling statements by General Solovstov, Commander of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, indicating Russia may target Poland and Czech Republic if they host this purely defensive system. As U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, it is "unfortunate that the Russian Commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces would come out and say that somehow Poland and the Czech Republic would now be on the target list of Russia. We will continue to talk to Russia about these issues and I think everybody understands that with a growing Iranian missile threat, which is quite pronounced, that there needs to be ways to deal with that problem."

The limited, small number of missile defenses the United States is talking to our allies about deploying clearly pose no threat to Russia and are not intended to counter its strategic rocket forces. This is a purely defensive system. We do not view Russia as an enemy or adversary and any missile defense capabilities deployed in Europe would simply not be directed against Russia.

We have been transparent with Russia with our plans and capabilities and encourage their cooperation against a common threat in the Middle East. It really is just that simple.

Furthermore, we are disappointed that Russia has chosen to link possible withdrawal from the INF Treaty with our discussion with NATO Allies about a missile defense system to address a shared threat from the Middle East. The chilly rhetoric and threatening statement seem to be a clumsy attempt to drive a wedge between NATO allies.

I would add that Russia's potential interest in withdrawing from the INF Treaty is not new. Russia discussed possible withdrawal from the INF Treaty with us in the United States two years ago, well before the President's decision in mid-January to initiate negotiations regarding missile defense facilities in Europe. And, we in the United States have declined to withdraw from the INF Treaty.

Senior State, Defense, and MDA officials have frequently briefed senior Russian counterparts, as well as their experts, on the proposed U.S. European missile defense deployments in numerous locations in Washington, D.C., Moscow, Brussels, and elsewhere. For example, Lt. General Obering, the Director of the Missile Defense Agency, Under Secretary of State Robert Joseph, and I - have on many occasions briefed Russian MFA and MoD officials and their experts. Senior Russian officials as well as their experts understand the limited capabilities of the interceptors and the X-band radar, including why the European-based assets would have virtually no capability against Russian ICBMs launched at the United States, and how it is optimized for engaging ballistic missile threats launched out of Iran. Russian officials, and their experts, fully understand the technical limitations and parameters of the proposed defensive capabilities. There is a huge discrepancy between the tone of the conversations with Russians officials in private consultations and their recent public statements.

Providing Russia transparency and predictability in our missile defense policy, plans, and programs is certainly in the interest of the United States. We will continue to keep Russia informed about the status of our programs and decisions, and to explore the possibility of additional confidence-building measures that the United States, Russia, and the Host Nations might be able to agree to.

I would simply point out that ten ground-based missile defense interceptors and an X-band radar for midcourse tracking and discrimination of warheads located in central Europe would have little or no capability against an ICBM launched out of Russia at the United States in a one-on-one engagement. Furthermore as Secretary Rice has said, there is no way these interceptors "are a threat to Russia or that they are somehow going to diminish Russia's deterrent of thousands of warheads."

Obviously, the United States also has no interest in an arms race with Russia. I firmly agree with Secretary Gates that "[o]ne Cold War was quite enough."


In Churchill's day they had the will, but not the technology to field a system to predict where a V-2 might impact and concentrate and synchronize anti-aircraft fire to destroy the incoming rocket, thus providing a point defense. Today, not only do we have the technology, not only have we demonstrated we can destroy an incoming missile. We no longer have to worry, as the British planners did, that the shells used to defend against the incoming V-2 might do more damage to us than the incoming rocket. Today, we can destroy the missile in mid-flight and are working at being able to destroy it closer and closer to its point of origin.

Looking at the events of just the last year, the threat is real. Last July, North Korea launched multiple short and medium-range missiles, as well as the Taepo Dong-2 long-range missile. Despite international condemnations, they followed up these threatening events with an underground nuclear explosion. Just prior to the North Korean missile tests, Iran also tested its short- and medium-range Shabab-2 and Shabab-3 ballistic missiles in their continuing and aggressive missile development program. Iran not only is building missiles, but pursuing a nuclear weapons program in defiance of the international community including the UN Security Council. Just last week, the IAEA reported that Iran had not suspended its uranium enrichment efforts as required by the Security Council.

Combine this troubling situation with the missile proliferation behavior of North Korea, including sales and assistance to Iran.

Also according to the U.S. intelligence community, Iran continues to modify its Shahab-3 medium range ballistic missile (MRBM) in order to extend its range and effectiveness. In October 2004, Iran claimed it had successfully extended the range of the Shahab-3 to 1,900 km. If true, Iran can today target large portions of the Near East and Southeastern Europe, including U.S. bases and deployed forces in Turkey and Central Asia. And Iran appears to have greater plans for even greater capabilities with its Shahab-4 and 5 systems, and the aspiration to threaten the United States with ICBMs.

And what are Iran's intentions? Well, what does their president have to say? The President of Iran has asked his audiences to realize a "world without America" and recommended "wiping Israel off the map." Is this mere rhetoric? Not according to Ahmadinejad himself. He claims, "...you had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved." Iran, he further claims, has developed a strategic "war preparation plan" for the "destruction of Anglo-Saxon civilization." And to Europe he has said, "We have advised the Europeans that the Americans are far away, but you are the neighbors of the nations in this region. We inform you that the nations are like an ocean that is welling up, and if a storm begins, the dimensions will not stay limited to Palestine, and you may get hurt."

In the cases of North Korea and Iran, missile defense is one component of a larger multi-faceted deterrence effort. It is also the only component that acts as insurance should diplomacy and deterrence fail. In the case of North Korea and Iran, the United States is pursuing a multifaceted approach in concert with friend and allies. For example, at the Six-Party talks with North Korea, we recently reached agreement on a set of next steps that we hope will lead to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the complete, verifiable, and irreversible end of the North Korean nuclear weapons program as required by UN Security Council Resolution 1718.

In the case of Iran, we are also pursuing multilateral diplomacy. Yesterday, I participated in talks among representatives of the U.S., UK, Germany, France, Russia, and China on next steps at the UN Security Council on this matter.

Despite the recent agreement in the Six Party Talks, I would nevertheless like to underscore that as we monitored North Korean launch preparations last July 4/5, I was heartened to know that our Ground-based Midcourse Defense system -- although still with limited capabilities - was on alert, operational, and prepared to defend us against any North Korean long-range ballistic missile launched at the United States. You may recall that some prominent former U.S. officials called for a preemptive military strike against the DPRK's missile launch facility. But I am pleased to say that missile defenses gave us another option beyond preemptive and/ retaliatory strikes. As we have long maintained, missile defenses contributed to stability.


In our comprehensive strategy to combat weapons of mass destruction, missile defense is just one element of our approach in addition to diplomacy, export controls, threat reduction assistance, non-proliferation regimes, and counter-proliferation programs such as the Proliferation Security Initiative under which states cooperate to disrupt trade in WMD and missile technologies, or our efforts to use financial tools to disrupt and block the finances used to facilitate proliferation. History teaches us that, despite our best efforts, there will be military surprises, failures in diplomacy, intelligence, and deterrence. Missile defenses help hedge against such possible failures. Also, over the longer-term, missile defenses discourage the proliferation of ballistic missiles as the means of delivering weapons of mass destruction by undermining the military utility of these weapons.

In terms of the key benefits of U.S. MD deployments in Europe: 

  • It would be capable of intercepting not only intercontinental ballistic missiles but also intermediate-range ballistic missiles launched out of the Middle East. The U.S. goal is to optimize the defensive coverage of both Europe and the United States.
  • With the protection afforded by these U.S. defensive capabilities in Europe, NATO Member States would have an answer to potential attempts by hostile states to intimidate or coerce the alliance or its members from taking actions in a coalition.
  • If, in the future, NATO approves a Military Requirement for defending NATO populations and territory against ballistic missiles of all ranges, the inherent capabilities of a missile defense site in Europe could potentially make an important military contribution to this collective security goal of the NATO Alliance. Generally speaking in my experience, NATO doesn't have a lot of hardware, they depend on the contributions of member countries. And these assets in Europe could be an important contribution to a larger NATO missile defense system.
  • By hosting, Poland and the Czech Republic would be providing a significant contribution to the collective security of the NATO Alliance.
  • A U.S. military facility on the sovereign soil of Poland and the Czech Republic -- even with a limited manpower "footprint" - is a deterrent against aggression that Warsaw and Prague fully appreciate.


In summing up, let me just say the events of the last year have underscored the real threat we face in this early part of the 21st century. A growing number of countries recognize the value of missile defense. These efforts are taking hold in an increasing number of countries, while others are pursuing larger scale missile defense efforts or deepening their current capabilities. More than ever missile defense is an imperative due to the current security environment, and there are tremendous benefits to international collaboration in this area.

Over 60 years ago, the world's first missile attacks showed the need for missile defenses. This past summer, we saw again the need for missile defense in Israel. In that conflict, a terrorist group, Hezbollah used rockets and missiles as its weapon of choice. Over 60 years ago here in London, the concept of missile defense was born, but the technology of the day prevented it from being a reality. Today, the threat is no less real, but technology of today has allowed missile defense to be a reality. Thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you today.

Released on March 1, 2007

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