“We hope that President Obama after his re-election will be more flexible on the issue of taking into the account the opinions of Russia and others regarding a future configuration of NATO’s missile defense,” he said.
While President Obama never offered detailed clarification about what his comments meant, it is important that the United States does not take any steps that would compromise its ability to defend itself and its allies.
Russia demands that the U.S. limits its missile defense system geographically, qualitatively, or quantitatively. Such limitations would ultimately weaken the system against Iranian or North Korean ballistic missiles. The U.S. should pursue a robust comprehensive ballistic missile defense program, including space-based systems, as part of a “protect and defend” strategy, which would be comprised of effective active and passive defenses and credible conventional and nuclear weapons options.
The Budget Control Act and the sequestration process are going to make the execution of such a strategy impossible if the law doesn’t change. The law mandates cuts of nearly a trillion dollars from the defense budget in the next nine years. These cuts will be devastating to U.S. military, security, and missile defense plans. According to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s November 2011 letter, the Department of Defense could “terminate European missile defense” under sequestration.
It is essential that Congress and the President work together to avoid these devastating cuts and advance the missile defense programs that contribute to U.S. and allied security.