Global Insights: The Case Against Prioritizing BMD Cooperation with Russia

Global Insights: The Case Against Prioritizing BMD Cooperation with Russia

Almost everyone would welcome greater cooperation between Moscow and Washington on ballistic missile defense. But decades of frustrating experience have taught us that this is precisely the wrong issue to make the centerpiece of the U.S.-Russia reset, notwithstanding what Andrew Futter argues in his WPR Briefing from last week. Rather than waste additional time and goodwill on the endeavor, we need to think more creatively about deepening bilateral collaboration regarding other issues, including promoting regional security in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Nevertheless, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's statements during her visit to Poland last weekend show that the Obama administration largely supports Futter's approach, at least at the rhetorical level. On July 3, Clinton joined Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski in Krakow to witness the signing of a protocol amending the Ballistic Missile Defense Agreement signed by the two countries in 2008. Rather than deploying the 10 newly designed long-range ground-based interceptors in Poland that were initially planned by the Bush administration, the Obama administration's European-based Phased Adaptive Approach relies more on already existing SM-3 interceptors.

Certain U.S. Navy ships that sail near Iran and North Korea currently operate these missiles. The Pentagon plans to adapt the SM-3 for land-basing in Poland and other NATO countries near Iran, while also upgrading both the sea- and land-based versions with additional capabilities. According to the administration's Ballistic Missile Defense Review, the Defense Department also intends to develop and deploy more advanced BMD interceptors over time. The Krakow Protocol signed over the weekend allows the new SM-3 site to become operational by around 2018 if necessary, to counter anticipated improvements in Iran's ballistic missile capabilities.

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