The Obama administration’s decision to adapt U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans in response to the threat posed by North Korea’s long-range missile and nuclear programs provides an opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to set aside the protracted, debilitating, but unnecessary dispute with the United States and its NATO allies over missile defense.
On Friday, the administration announced that it would deploy an additional 14 interceptor missiles in Alaska to address North Korea’s recently demonstrated capabilities to launch a long-range missile as far as North America and Pyongyang’s refusal to cease testing nuclear weapons. The administration also decided to cancel the program to design and deploy advanced interceptor missiles in Eastern Europe in the next decade, which would have represented the fourth phase of its so-called phased adopted approach to European missile defense announced in 2009.
U.S. officials justified the decision by citing an increased threat from North Korea and a combination of technological difficulties and congressional budget cuts to the planned fourth phase. They said they would use the money saved by ending the program to deploy the new advanced interceptors, based loosely on the Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) currently found on some U.S. Navy ships, to help pay for the $1 billion enlargement of the Alaska missile field.