As the Obama Administration continues to pursue what can at best be described as a tepid commitment to missile defense, it nonetheless continues to draw condemnation from Russian and Chinese officials who describe U.S. and NATO plans to enhance missile defense capabilities throughout Europe as “destabilizing.”
All the while, Russia is testing a new long-range intercontinental ballistic missile capable of evading missile defense systems, and Iran is flaunting itself as among the world’s ballistic missile leaders.
Rather than back away from previous commitments to European allies, as President Obama did by pulling away from formerly negotiated deployment agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic, the Obama Administration should embrace opportunities to work with our friends and allies toward providing a blanket of missile security as a hedge against rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea.
Poland, for one, has openly proclaimed its commitment to overhaul and update its missile defense infrastructure. The Obama Administration should not acquiesce to Russian objections regarding increased U.S. alliances with nations such as Poland but rather move toward promoting our mutual security objectives.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, upon a recent visit to Beijing, proclaimed Russian objections to the “attempt by some states to ensure security at the expense of other states.” Lavrov was speaking of the U.S.’s interest in promoting missile defense systems in portions of Europe that Russia considers to be within its sphere of influence.
But such deployments are necessary if the U.S. and its allies are to seek an effective means to protect against the possible acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran. If Iran becomes a nuclear-capable nation, protection against such a scenario will require the deployment of short, intermediate, and long-range missile defense capabilities.
The dangers of an emboldened Iran in possession of nuclear weapons far outweigh Russian objections to the establishment of U.S. and NATO missile defense systems in Europe.
Irrespective of statements to the contrary, no clear-headed observer of Iran can conclude that its long-term nuclear intentions do not include the production of nuclear weapons. In fact, Iran has become less coy about its intentions as of late, touting itself as among the world’s leaders in the development of ballistic missiles.
Iranian Assistant Defense Minister Ali Shamshiri recently stated:
Due to the blessing of the Islamic Revolution, the Islamic Republic of Iran is now the fifth or sixth greatest missile power in the world.… Today, from a defense perspective, the Islamic Republic is really in a superior position.
Although Iran is known to crow over its supposed ascendancy into the upper echelons of global military dominance, these statements cannot be dismissed out of hand. Once Iran develops a nuclear weapon, the region’s threat dynamic will dramatically change—and with it the means by which the U.S. can protect its regional interests.
The Obama Administration should recommit the U.S. to the development of a global missile defense infrastructure that preserves our national security interests and those of our allies.
Objections from Russia or China notwithstanding, the Obama Administration should place the security interests of the U.S. above its desire to promote the questionable, and often ephemeral, benefits of a singular focus on diplomatic relations.