U.S. Missile Defense and the Theater-Strategic Nexus

Photo: Ringo Chiu / AFP / Getty Images
The Pentagon would be wrong to assume it can selectively counter Russian missile threats in Europe.

The United States is signaling a willingness to compete with its near-peer rivals in the realm of missile defense. Leaks about the forthcoming Missile Defense Review indicate the Pentagon is looking to counter burgeoning threats from Russia and China “in regional theaters such as Europe and Asia,” but not strategic threats to the U.S. homeland.1 There is consensus in Washington that it would be impossible to defend against the entire arsenal of Russian strategic weapons, because Russia can field warheads and decoys “at dramatically less cost than the United States can add missile defense interceptors.”2 So instead, the Pentagon is aiming to defend NATO forces in Eastern Europe that are vulnerable to Russian ballistic and cruise missile attacks without further fueling a competition for nuclear supremacy.3 To accomplish this, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) may expand the role of Aegis Ashore to include homeland missile defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs),4 deliver THAAD missile batteries to Germany,5 or deploy PAC-3 interceptors in Lithuania and Estonia.6

Read the full article in New Perspectives in Foreign Policy