|GISA 104 Comment paper
Name: SeungJu Kim
During the Cold War, MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) apparently made for a stable and peaceful conflict between the US and the USSR. MD (Missile Defense) initiative that the current US administration is pursuing may disrupt the nuclear parity that might have been the foundation of stable superpower relations. Do you believe the US MD to be a wise policy? What might be an alternative strategy for the US?
It is widely said that nuclear weapons were essential to maintaining international security during the Cold War because they were a means of deterrence. However, the end of the Cold war made the doctrine of mutual Soviet-American deterrence obsolete. This essay consists of three sections. The first section of the essay will explain how possession of nuclear weapons by super powers maintained stable international politics during the Cold War and the second section of the essay will explain the U.S Missile Defense initiative and discuss whether it is a wise policy choice. The third section of the essay will discuss alternative strategy.
During the Cold War, a stable and peaceful conflict between the US and the USSR was maintained through Mutually Assured Destruction and bipolarity. The approximate military balance between the two superpowers and the presence of large number of nuclear weapons on both sides has resulted in peaceful conflict.
During the Cold War, both superpowers, the United States and Soviet Union were armed with a large nuclear arsenal. Nuclear weapons favour peace and they are a means of deterrence. The possession of nuclear weapons by both superpowers created Mutually Assured Destruction, making conquest more difficult for both sides because full-scale use of weapons of mass destruction by two or more opposing sides would cause the complete annihilation of both the attacker and the defender. Therefore, Mutually Assured Destruction during the Cold War created peace by moving power relations between the United States and the USSR toward equality.
However, the Missile Defense initative that the current United States administration is pursuing may disrupt the nuclear parity that might have been the foundation of stable super
power relations during the Cold War. Due to the possibility of nuclear disparity and other issues surrounding the implementation of the initiative, I personally believe that the Missile Defense policy is not the best policy that the United States can adopt.
On 13th December 2001, despite Russia’s objections, the former US president George W Bush officially announced that the US will withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty with Russia, thus allowing the United States to pursue development of Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense. He said “I have concluded the ABM treaty hinders our government’s ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue-state missile attack.”
The U.S ballistic missile defense system is said to be designed to protect the U.S homeland, deployed forces, and its allies from limited attacks. A major U.S military strategy in missile defense is partnering with allies around the globe to expand their ballistic missile defense capabilities. The Aegis BMD system is Obama administration’s deployment of a missile defense umbrella in Europe to protect U.S forces and NATO allies from regional threats like Iran. NATO leaders adopted missile defense as a principle alliance objective at their 2010 Lisbon Summit and approved the integration of U.S and allied Ballistic Missile Defense system.
The U.S Missile Defense Agency is developing a number of systems that could offer multiple opportunities to defeat limited ballistic missile attacks. There are four primary Ballistic programs which are Ground –based midcourse defense, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and Patriot Advanced Capability. The Ballistic Missile involves four functions; detection, discrimination (separating missile from everything else), fire control (determining exactly where to intercept) and killing (hitting the missile with some type of interceptor).
The United States rationale behind the Missile Defense initiative is the potential threat of terrorist possession of nuclear weaponry. Furthermore, the possession of nuclear weapons by North Korea and Iran’s possession of large ballistic missile arsenal is said to pose threats to the United Nations national security.
However, I believe the current U.S-NATO Missile Defense initiative causes more trouble than good.
Experts say Iran’s ability to strike U.S and U.S allies in the region is limited because they would need to be launched from vulnerable positions along the Persian Gulf and these missiles are not very accurate. In the case of North Korea, they are developing intermediate-range missile that would be able to hit the continental U.S when it becomes operational. In theory, this can deliver a nuclear payload to the United States, but noted that without further testing, the potential for this is very low in the near future. In addition, even they are able to strike U.S with nuclear missile, it is unlikely that North Korea will attack U.S. North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons is more for protection of their sovereignty and survival.
In addition, there are various problems surrounding the implementation of the policy initiative.
Firstly, there have been doubts about its reliability and high costs. The U.S Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has spent approximately 100 billion dollars on missile defense since 2002, and it plans to spend roughly eight billion dollars per year until 2017. Furthermore, the reliability of the system has also been questioned. In 2013, the Missile Defense Agency made mixed progress in achieving its goals and develop test. There have been some failures in Aegis BMD and GMD testing 2013.
Secondly, the most critical issue of U.S missile defense initiative is the tension with Russia. The NATO-U.S Missile defense plan to deploy Ballistic Defense Missile assets in the former Soviet bloc has aggravated U.S- Russian relations in recent years. Despite the repetitive statement by United States stating that the system is only designed to guard against limited attacks from regional actors like Iran and terrorists, the Kremlin believes the technology could be updated to intercept their missiles and may eventually tip the strategic balance towards West. In February 2014, Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov stated that “when a nuclear shield is added to a nuclear sword, it is very tempting to use this offensive defense capability.”This can be interpreted as Russia is facing security dilemma, feeling insecure about their national security; destabilizing the relationship between Russia and the U.S.
I believe alternative strategy that the U.S can adopt is a long term strategy of cooperative Non-Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction which is already in progress. I believe the only way for U.S to be safe from terrorist nuclear attack is elimination of the possibility of terrorist possessing nuclear material through cooperative non-proliferation act. I believe U.S should continue to cooperate with other countries through constantly addressing the importance of the non proliferation for collective security and preventing illicit acquisition of nuclear material by terrorist groups through international organisations.
In conclusion, possession of nuclear weapons by the two superpowers maintained stable international politics, however, in contemporary world politics, the possession of nuclear weapons by states and possibility of possession of nuclear material by terrorist groups pose great threat to the security of international system.
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