Heralding a major breakthrough in US-Russian relations, President Obama has decided that the missile shield should be rolled back from Poland and the Czech Republic and away from Russia’s borders.
In today’s NY Times Op-Ed, Defense Secretary Gates explains the rationale for the move away from Russia and more towards hostile regimes. However, the bulk of his article actually entails a vast expansion of the US military presence abroad. This is not bad, if it delivers.
That is the elephant in the room, that no one really seems willing to address. Will this system actually work? Will it deter foes who would use missiles to attack US allies? Are there better, more cost-effective ways of addressing the problem? What nations actually threaten US interests?
Looking at the long-term, I have to question the overall effectiveness of the program. It is a European Missile Defense system. Why are the Europeans not paying for their own defense? By virtually any reasonable estimate, there are two countries who pose a credible ballistic / nuclear threat to the US: North Korea, and Russia. The latter, I do not view as a threat, as can be dealt with via the missile shield since their forces would completely overwhelm anything discussed. The North Korean regime, on the other hand, has engaged in unprovoked actions threatening South Korea, Japan, and the United States. Their limited diplomatic and economic ties greatly reduce any potential non-military pressure that could be brought to bear. In this instance, having a sea-based system makes much more sense than a static system. If North Korea persists in its actions of nuclear and ballistic threat, the system can be redeployed to provide an effective shield.
In the broader picture, it is good to see that the Russians immediately reciprocated the announcement by withdrawing their own missile deployment plans to the western border. It shows, that unlike many actors in the international scene that have made the news today, that rational behavior still has its rewards.