By Steve Andreasen, a consultant to the Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington, DC. He teaches at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey school of public affairs and served as director for defence policy and arms control on the National Security Council staff at the White House from 1993 to 2001 (THE GUARDIAN, 26/03/11):
Since the late 1960s, missile defence has reliably reappeared at the nexus of defence and foreign policy for American and Russian leaders. Today, like the immortal phoenix bird, missile defence has risen again as a central issue in global security policy. For Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev – now joined by Nato – the stakes associated with finding a truly cooperative path forward on missile defence during crucial policy reviews over the next three months have never been higher.
The Obama administration has made commendable progress in retooling the Nato alliance, resetting US-Nato-Russian relations and reducing nuclear dangers. All three of these vital strands were woven together last November at the Nato Lisbon summit, where the alliance adopted a new “strategic concept” emphasising the need to both defend against ballistic missile attack and deepen security cooperation with Russia. President Medvedev was invited to attend the Lisbon meeting, where an agreement was reached in the Nato-Russia council to pursue missile defence cooperation. America’s Nato allies also spoke in unison of the vital importance of the New Start agreement cutting US and Russian nuclear forces for European security, a key factor in the Senate’s December vote to approve the treaty.
What is now clear is that further progress in transforming Nato, improving US-Nato-Russia relations and nuclear threat reduction is dependent in large part on developing a cooperative approach to missile defence, within Nato and between Nato and Russia. Unfortunately, the historic track record on missile defence cooperation is not promising.
First, political follow-through has been lacking. While US and Russian presidents have previously agreed in principle to pursue cooperation on missile defence, these agreements have rarely been followed by detailed accords. When agreements have been struck – like the one by Presidents Bill Clinton and Vladimir Putin in 2000 to establish a jointly-manned centre in Moscow to exchange data from US and Russian early warning systems – they have not been implemented. Second, identifying technical areas for cooperation on missile defence has been difficult, involving extremely sensitive technologies. Third, missile defence has historically been linked to nuclear deterrence; whether one accepts or rejects such a linkage, failure to develop a durable post cold war understanding of the offence-defence relationship has set back cooperation. Finally, there is a severe trust deficit, where each side suspects the others’ motives: Moscow fears Washington cynically seeks to co-opt Russia so America can deploy unlimited defences; Washington believes Moscow only wants to derail US missile defence programmes.
What are the key principles that need to be established now to ensure that these historic and persistent barriers to a truly cooperative approach to missile defence do not thwart the current effort?
As a first principle, as the Nato-Russia council undertakes to “develop a comprehensive joint analysis of the future framework for missile defence cooperation” in time for the June 2011 meeting of defence ministers, all parties should have realistic expectations, and focus now on those activities that lend themselves to near-term success and broader cooperation down the road. Updating the Clinton-Putin-era agreement to establish a joint data exchange centre in Europe to include all of Nato would be a good place to start. The new US-Nato-Russia centre could be expanded over time to include other nations facing missile threats, making it a truly global center for nuclear threat reduction.
A second principle should be to maximise transparency, coordination and integration with respect to all ballistic missile defence assets deployed from the Atlantic to the Urals. There have been periodic bursts of exchanging information on ballistic missile threats and missile defence programs, developing joint threat assessments, and cooperation on theatre missile defence, including joint exercises. These activities should be made routine.
More broadly, there should be an element of technology exchange and joint research and development, as well as inclusive, reliable and transparent arrangements relating to command and control. This does not mean designing and constructing from the ground up a missile defence architecture for Europe manned by joint US-Nato-Russia crews with multiple fingers on the button. But a series of pilot projects on joint development of early warning sensors and missile defence systems software and hardware could help to establish and deepen cooperation. A permanent US-Nato-Russia government-industry missile defence council could be established, similar to what was done in initiating the US-Russia nuclear lab-to-lab programme years ago, to identify promising avenues for cooperation. And as Nato moves forward in the months ahead to develop missile defence consultation, command and control arrangements, and steps to implement a Nato missile defence capability, the appropriate time to involve Russia is now.
Finally, a third principle: ensure missile defence cooperation is not rigidly linked with other issues. Conventional forces and tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, long-range conventional weapons, and further reductions in US and Russian nuclear forces are all vital, complex and related topics at the core of building a peaceful and secure Euro-Atlantic community. Mindful of the interrelationships, leaders can and should take further steps in each of these areas to improve security for all nations, recognising that nurturing the reborn Phoenix of missile defence cooperation is now imperative.
Fuente: Bitácora Almendrón. Tribuna Libre © Miguel Moliné Escalona