The New York Analysis of Policy and Government concludes its report on American anti-missile defenses.
While former Presidents Clinton and Obama worked to halt missile defense, over thirty nations have acquired or seek to acquire ballistic missile technology, noted former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Ramussen.
In 2011, Rasmussen discussed NATO’s needs for missile defense.
“As we sit here discussing missile defense, some people elsewhere are discussing missile attack. Over 30 states already have, or are developing, missile technology. These missiles can be fitted with conventional technology, or with weapons of mass destruction. Some of them can already reach parts of NATO territory. Others can threaten NATO interests. And all the time, technology is advancing. Ranges are increasing. Accuracy and payloads are increasing. And the number of countries with proven capability is increasing. We cannot ignore these trends. We cannot afford to have even one of our cities hit. We cannot take the risk of doing nothing. Missile threats are real. And our defense must be real…At the same time, this will demonstrate that we will not be coerced or intimidated by proliferation programmes. This is why NATO needs missile defense. It is why we agreed that missile defence is a core element of our collective defence. And it is why we have decided to develop a missile defence capability to protect NATO European populations, territory, and forces.”
The ability to defend against an incoming missile by means other than the threat of launching a counter attack against an aggressor helps eliminate the threat of a nuclear exchange escalating out of control. Ellen Tauscher,who served as the State Department’s Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile defense, explained that “it presents an opportunity to put aside the vestiges of cold war thinking and move away from Mutually Assured Destruction toward Mutually Assured Stability.”
The threat comes from both long-range ICBMs and theater-range missiles. Frank Rose, who served as the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Arms Control, stated that “…The threat from short-, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles is likely to increase both in quantitative and qualitative terms in the coming years, as some states are increasing their inventories, and making their ballistic missiles more accurate, mobile, and survivable.”
The rapid and vast upgrading of the Russian and Chinese nuclear arsenals, at the same time that America’s deterrent has been allowed to age into unreliability, is also a threat President Obama chose to ignore.
The threat has clearly moved to an imminent stage. The Washington Free Beacon reports that “North Korea could soon have the capacity to launch an attack on Hawaii that would devastate America’s Pacific military bases, accelerating the need for the United States to upgrade missile defenses in the area…Defense officials have warned that North Korea is on the brink of producing an ICBM that could target the United States…Pyongyang has worked for years to improve its missile capabilities, launching an unprecedented number of ballistic missiles in 2016 while conducting its fifth nuclear test in September 2016.”
The United States has some anti-missile capability. According to the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency “Missile defense technology [is] being developed, tested and deployed by the United States … to counter ballistic missiles of all ranges—short, medium, intermediate and long. Since ballistic missiles have different ranges, speeds, size and performance characteristics, the Ballistic Missile Defense System is an integrated, ‘layered’ architecture that provides multiple opportunities to destroy missiles and their warheads before they can reach their targets.”
The problem is one of numbers. Limited by a lack of budgetary support, and in the face of increasingly large threats, America’s capability is not sufficient to meet the expanding threat.
America’s options against North Korea in particular may be growing more limited. The Pukguksong-2 missile tested on February 12 by North Korea utilized solid fuel and was launched from a mobile platform, the BBC notes. These two facts render the probability of a successful pre-emptive attack on a missile about to be launched highly unlikely. A comprehensive missile defense system, which former Presidents Clinton and Obama worked against, is urgently required.