In his recent article former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Keith Payne offers a unique perspective on the U.S. missile defense program and exploits the rationale for taking a more aggressive approach to U.S. defensive measures.
The issue of missile defense in particular has recently occupied a prominent position in the debate about U.S. national security and the future of U.S.–Russian relations due to Russia’s adamant opposition to the European Phased Adaptive Approach. While the Russians continue to threaten U.S. allies with nuclear attacks on their soil if they accept U.S. missile defense installations on their territory, President Obama seems to believe that Russia’s opinions are more important than making sure that the U.S. and allies are less vulnerable to a ballistic missile attack.
The U.S. should not cave in to Russian demands to restrict its missile defense system, because any limitations would ultimately make the U.S. and its allies vulnerable to a ballistic missile attack. Yet President Obama recently demonstrated his willingness to be more “flexible” regarding Russian demands after the November election. President Obama’s commitment to missile defense cannot be trusted past November.
Vulnerability is not inevitable, but it is a consequence of government’s policy choices. The Cold War notion that missile defenses and other passive defense measures are “destabilizing” (meaning incentivizing the opponent to strike first) and not worth pursuing (because they would not save a significant majority of the population) is no longer applicable in the post–Cold War environment, writes Payne.
Today, the U.S. faces new types of threats from many difference sources: terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction, electromagnetic pulse attacks, and ballistic missile attacks from Iran or North Korea. As Payne concludes, “The Cold War is over, and U.S. officials need not accept its legacy of uncontested vulnerability. The price of continuing adherence to that old, dubious tenet of the balance of terror is now too high.”