European-Based Missile Defense

Nicolas Gros-Verheyde cites two prominent EU diplomats (here and here) to the effect that the Obama administration has pulled the plug on European-based missile defense, even if it will languish away quietly to deny the Russians a victory lap. That was before the Iranian launch of a satellite, however, that could theoretically put Israel and Europe in range of its missiles.

Of course, Iran has everything to gain from keeping the wedge between the U.S. and Russia firmly in place. So the timing of the launch isn’t surprising.

The intelligent response would be to invite Russia into the European missile defense program, were it not for the fact that the program is based on unproven and costly capacities. But any security cooperation with Russia also raises the question of under whose auspices (NATO or U.S.), since the possibilities for the transatlantic security architecture seem pretty wide open these days.

On that subject, this New Atlanticist post by Sven Biscop proposing a two-pillar U.S.-E.U. security partnership is worth a read. A lot depends on Europe’s political willingness to embrace a role of independent global security actor. A lot also depends on the Obama administration’s success at winding down the Bush legacy, which would offer the Europeans the option of maintaining the status quo for quite a bit longer.

But as the Iran missile threat makes clear, a three-pillar Euro-Atlantic partnership between the U.S., EU and Russia, makes sense as well. So far Obama has kept his Russia posture pretty close to the vest. But Joe Biden will be in Munich next week, and Obama will attend the April NATO summit, so I don’t think we’ll be waiting much longer for some indications of what to expect.