New Report: President Trump Should Rethink NATO Missile Defense

by Roger L. Hale Fellow Dr. Tytti Erästö
Washington, DC: As President Donald Trump meets for the first time with NATO leaders in Brussels, the global security foundation Ploughshares Fund today released a new report recommending that the United States rethink its strategy to buy new missile interceptors for Europe. Rather than field a new anti-missile system in Poland to counter Iranian intermediate-range missiles that do not exist, the report finds that the United States should put these plans on hold.
“The expansion of U.S. anti-missile systems in Europe should be paused,” said report author Dr. Tytti Erästö, the Roger L. Hale Fellow at Ploughshares Fund. “This would pose no risk to NATO security, as there is no nuclear missile threat from Iran to justify the new defenses,” she said.
Pausing the deployment of anti-missile interceptors in Poland would fulfill one campaign promise made by Mr. Trump, who said last year that “we’re paying too much” to defend NATO, which he called “obsolete.” Scaling back the missile defense deployment would also help improve U.S.-Russian relations, another goal of Mr. Trump’s. Russia has been clear in its opposition to U.S. plans to field anti-missile systems in Europe.
“The best way to reduce U.S. spending on NATO is to stop paying for things that NATO does not need,” said Tom Z. Collina, Policy Director at Ploughshares Fund. “Paying millions of dollars to defend NATO against a non-existent threat makes no sense.”
President Trump is implementing plans announced by the Obama administration in 2009 to defend Europe from the possibility that Iran would develop intermediate-range missiles armed with nuclear warheads. But the plans to deploy missile interceptors in Poland by 2018 have proceeded even though the threat from Iran has declined. The 2015 nuclear deal with Iran has verifiably blocked a potential Iranian nuclear bomb for at least 15 years, and Tehran has not developed intermediate-range missiles, which would require years of visible testing.
Earlier phases of the plan, called the European Phased Adaptive Approach, have already been deployed on ships in the Mediterranean Sea and on land in Romania against short and medium-range missiles.
“The nuclear and missile threat from Iran has been dialed back,” said Dr. Erästö. “The defense should now be adjusted as well.”

The report, Between the Shield and the Sword: NATO’s Overlooked Missile Defense Dilemma, is available here:

Report: Between the Shield and the Sword, May 25, 2017 (pdf)