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Should Russia Worry Over the Proposed NATO Missile Defense Shield?

Should Russia Worry Over the Proposed NATO Missile Defense Shield?
05-26-2011

Author: Monica Amarelo

Type: Release


For interviews please contact: Dr. Yousaf Butt ([email protected]) and Prof. Ted Postol (po[email protected])

- More Thought Needed to Cost and Benefit to U.S. and NATO Security

Background Fact Sheet

The Obama administration is working with NATO to develop a missile defense shield to protect U.S. and European interests from ballistic missile attacks by Iran. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has expressed strong concerns over this shield and has warned of a return to Cold War tensions, as well as possible withdrawal from international disarmament agreements like the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

Today, the leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) will meet at a two-day meeting in Deauville, France that will address the missile shield issue in addition to the turmoil in the Arab world. On June 9, the NATO-Russia Council plans to meet with defense ministers to establish cooperation guidelines for the new European antiballistic missile system.

Dr. Yousaf Butt, Scientific Consultant to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), and Dr. Theodore Postol, Professor of Science, Technology and National Security Policy in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have produced a technical assessment about the Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) missile defense system proposed by NATO and the United States and analyzed whether the Russian Federation has a legitimate concern over the proposed NATO-U.S. missile defense system. 

The planned European missile defense system is based on a Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA). The PAA involves four phases. Dr. Butt and Prof. Postol find that a decision to proceed with Phases III and IV results in a paradox – defenses that will provide little or no actual combat effectiveness, but might still cause cautious Russian planners to treat them as if they might work. The Russian Federation might react by increasing the number or capabilities of their nuclear-armed missiles and/or by ending or blocking future nuclear arms reductions negotiations with the United States. This will have far-ranging implications for global security, and for President Obama’s goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. Before the missile defense system is implemented, Dr. Butt and Prof. Postol recommend a non-partisan peer-reviewed study of its costs and benefits to U.S. and NATO security.

In practice the PAA will provide little, if any, protection leaving nuclear deterrence fundamentally intact. While the PAA would not significantly affect deterrence, it may be seen by cautious Russian planners to impose some attrition on Russian warheads. While midcourse missile defense would not alter the fundamental deterrence equation with respect to Iran or Russia, it may, in the Russian view, constitute an infringement upon the parity set down in New START– especially with regard to the SM-3 Block II interceptors because of their theoretical capability.

Fact Sheet

Read more about New START on the SSP Blog.

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