Published letter to RUSI Journal – Feb/March 2012

Letter to RUSI Journal – Feb/March 2012 – Published

MADAM, in his recent RUSI Journal article (‘The Strategy of Missile Defence’, June/July 2011) Jeremy Stocker failed to consider some aspects of missile defence:

First, initial costs are high, and will mount up as those against whom the defensive systems are being erected increase and diversify their weapons.

Two: missile defences contribute to arms races. US MD projects in East Asia have already prompted an increase in Chinese mobile ICBMs and warships – China can perhaps afford new arms races, the United States perhaps not.

Three: Russian objections continue unabated: in November Foreign Minister Lavrov stated that

If our partners … continue to ignore our position, we will have to ensure our own security interests by other methods. Concrete and, I will stress, forced retaliatory military-technical measures may be needed.

And in February, the Deputy Defence Minister pointed out that, as they saw it,

The European segment of the US missile defence means wanting to change the strategic balance of forces in Europe.

Russian responses already announced include placing more tactical nuclear weapons along NATO’s eastern borders and the continued development of their Bulova missile, now successfully tested: New START is at risk

Fourth, the role of missile defence is to nullify minimum deterrence: ‘pre-emptively’ you attack your opponents’ retaliatory forces, to reduce them to something your missile defences can cope with.

The Chinese have long been pointing this out. Today the most conspicuous MD deployments are in Israel, where systems including ‘Iron Dome’ and ‘David’s Sling’ (all largely US-financed) are reputedly operational. Because the Israelis consider Iranian nuclear activities unacceptable, today they appear tempted ‘pre-emptively’ to use ‘block busters’ – even a small nuclear weapon perhaps? – on Iranian nuclear facilities, before actual ‘weaponisation’, relying on their defence systems for protection against Iranian non-nuclear retaliation.

Fifth, cyber-vulnerability: cyber-warfare is already confusing traditional assumptions. How could a system necessarily computerised, substantially automated, be guaranteed clean, say, of Trojans?

Sixth, there is no possibility of ‘command and control’ of European Missile Defences being NATO-communal: response has to be instant, therefore automatic.

Seventh: the political implications of Euro-MD being part of a US global system remain unexamined. These systems are US devised, funded and controlled: three US MD Command Centres are currently activated – the European in Germany, the Northern in South Carolina, the Pacific in Hawaii: all to be commanded with American interests to the fore. Republican Congress and Presidential candidates see no reason to respect European views or to limit Missile Defences.

Has NATO actually agreed to participate in America’s global missile defence system? If so, insufficient account has been taken of the costs incurred when we have over-obligingly followed US military activities in recent times – Iraq, Afghanistan…

Last – and quite new: we need to see how missile defences – and indeed nuclear deterrence – may fit with Mr Panetta’s new strategy, with its emphasis on CIA-type capabilities and performance. This was not the context of NATO’s Missile Defence decision at Lisbon.

Contributing funds to missile defence would be spending money we do not have, on something neither we nor the wider world need, which could not guarantee 100 per cent security where only 100 per cent is acceptable (even if the purpose itself were considered acceptable – which it is not.

Any suggestion, any implied belief, that nuclear war may safely be engaged upon, because our missile defences will protect us, is hugely irresponsible.

Elizabeth Young
Lady Kennet

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