- - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

“GOP senators back Bush-era missile defense system to punish Putin” (Web, March 30) notes that a senior congressional aide claimed the interceptors have the advantage of being able to defend the United States from intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) launched from Iran or North Korea.

Another unnamed senior official suggested that a reason for strengthening European missile defense would be to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for his actions in Ukraine.

These explanations sound good, but unfortunately neither of them accurately describes the situation. Neither the Bush-era proposals nor the current Obama administration plans for placement of anti-ballistic missile (ABM) components in Europe would have reinforced the ground-based National Missile Defense system defending the United States because neither of the defensive missiles currently available has the capability to intercept ICBMs overflying Europe en route to the United States.

The limitations of the defensive missiles coupled with the comparatively small numbers available has always meant that the defensive systems would have virtually no effect on a Russian ballistic-missile attack. Mr. Putin has railed against the European deployments since they were first proposed by President George W. Bush, but from the outset his protestations were designed to try to drive a wedge between NATO allies.


For decades, European and other allies have sheltered under the umbrella of American extended deterrence. This was the promise that deterrence through the threat of overwhelming retaliation for an attack was applied to allies as well as to American soil and deployed forces. Now that ABM has provided an addition to the concept of deterrence, it is reasonable that allies, too, should have missile defense.

This provides a real case for deploying a European ABM defense rather than suggesting that it is a means of poking Mr. Putin in the eye. We look forward to the time when enhanced-capability interceptors in Europe can reinforce the abilities of the American National Missile Defense.

STANLEY ORMAN

Rockville

MAJ. GEN. EUGENE FOX

U.S. Army (retired)

Plano, Texas