In a recent National Journal article, three-quarters of defense experts interviewed opposed any attempt by the Obama Administration to scale back missile defense deployment in Europe in exchange for promises of Russian cooperation with Iran.
“If we drop these plans, we could witness the reemergence of Russia as a dominant force in Europe, and that would be antithetical to U.S. interests,” stated one expert.
Other experts offered the following critiques:
“Missile defense is more important than Russian intel. If we have to choose, we should pick the deterrence against Iran.”
“Rapprochement with Russia is important. Consistency before our friends and enemies is more so.”
The Obama Aadministration’s departure from resolutely pursuing missile defense capabilities throughout the world upends the Reagan vision of an enhanced national security model consistent with contemporary threats.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan ushered in a new era of thought on the topic of maintaining the national security of the U.S. Reagan spoke to the world’s evolving threat dynamic and the need for America’s defense capabilities to change as well:
There was a time when we depended on coastal forts and artillery batteries, because, with the weaponry of that day, any attack would have had to come by sea. Well, this is a different world, and our defenses must be based on recognition and awareness of the weaponry possessed by other nations in the nuclear age.
He further explained the need to adopt new and innovative ways to defend the American homeland, or our national security interests abroad, when confronting an enemy with ever more powerful weaponry. In this vein, Reagan introduced to the American public the concept of missile defense:
What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?
Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative would provide the catalyst for a new generation of thought on American missile defense, one that has seen its capabilities dramatically evolve from the first Gulf War to the present. A robust missile defense initiative should remain a bulwark of American national security policy.
President Obama does not appear to share this view. When Obama ceded to Russian demands in his first year in office that the U.S. halt deployment of missile defense and tracking capabilities in Poland and the Czech Republic, he only emboldened the Russians into demanding even more concessions.
Now, as Russia continues to pressure the U.S. to dramatically scale back its deployment of missile defense systems in Europe—ostensibly in return for Russian intelligence cooperation with Iran—the diplomatic and strategic achievements of past Administrations are rendered precarious.
The Obama Administration should be more forthcoming with its plans related to America’s missile defense strategies. Equivocation on this issue only renders uncertainty.
President Reagan’s vision for an American national security policy predicated upon a comprehensive missile defense capability should not be abandoned or scaled back at this time. Hostile and provocative regimes in North Korea and Iran only magnify this necessity and reinforce the prescience of Reagan’s vision.