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NATO’s Missile Defense Counteroffensive to Ukraine

Richard Weitz

In addition to imposing more Western sanctions on Russia and rotating more U.S. troops into Europe, the U.S. and its NATO allies are considering increasing U.S. ballistic missile defenses (BMD) based in NATO’s European member states as part of their response to Russian actions in Ukraine. Moscow clearly hates these U.S. systems, and placing them near Russia is sure to capture Moscow’s attention. A few weeks ago, a pair of Russian warplanes “buzzed” a U.S. missile defense ship that was on patrol in the Black Sea. That said, the U.S. missile defense response needs to be nuanced to yield net benefits to Western security.

In particular, it would be a mistake to resurrect the plan of the George W. Bush administration to base 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland and a powerful X-Band radar in the Czech Republic. The Obama administration canceled these plans in 2009 and instead rolled out a European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) that sought to respond more directly to Iran’s progress in developing shorter-range missile systems. In March 2013, the Obama administration canceled on technical and cost grounds the fourth and final phase of the EPAA, under which the United States would have designed new Standard Missile (SM) SM-3 Block IIB long-range interceptors and placed them in eastern Europe with the mission of intercepting Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) launched toward the United States. …

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