An Update on NATO's Shared Ballistic Missile Defense Agenda

This week, leaders from the 28 member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will convene in the Polish capital of Warsaw to discuss a number of shared security challenges. One of the many challenges the leaders will address during the 2016 NATO Summit is how to confront the threat posed by ballistic missiles. The Summit is an opportunity to take stock of the progress on the European Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense (EPAA) since it was unveiled nearly seven years ago.  The Summit also serves as an important platform for us and our partners to discuss ways to strengthen the missile defense architecture to best defend the North Atlantic Alliance (the Alliance) against ballistic missile threats originating from outside the Euro-Atlantic region.

Recent Aegis Ashore Site Events

In May, I had the pleasure of attending events at the NATO ballistic missile defense Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland.  previously served as the lead U.S. Government negotiator with the Romanian and Polish Governments for the establishment of both sites.

The operational certification of the site in Romania, as well as the groundbreaking of the Polish site, each fulfill commitments the United States made in 2009 with the EPAA to ballistic missile defense in Europe. At the November 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon, Allies welcomed the EPAA as the U.S. voluntary national contribution to NATO's ballistic missile defense architecture, and corresponding efforts have been underway since.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, Robert Work, participates in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Phase 3 site of the EPAA in Redzikowo, Poland, May 13, 2016. [Photo Courtesy of Department of Defense]


Phase One of the EPAA consisted of a deployed ballistic missile defense-capable Aegis ship and the deployment of an advanced radar system in Kurecik, Turkey. The site at Deveselu, Romania, is part of our implementation of Phase Two, along with the forward deployment of four U.S. Aegis ballistic missile defense-capable ships home-ported in Rota, Spain. 

The May 12 ribbon-cutting ceremony at Deveselu was the result of years of successful coordination between the United States and Romania on construction, legal agreements, and military cooperation. In six short years, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and the Romanians took a concept and transformed it into an operationally deployed capability. 

The May 13 ceremony in Redzikowo, Poland, marked the official groundbreaking for the Phase Three site of the EPAA. When this site is integrated with other EPAA assets, NATO’s entire European territory will have coverage against ballistic missile threats originating from outside the Euro-Atlantic region.

Both the ribbon cutting event in Romania and the groundbreaking event in Poland illustrated the Alliance's desire to field state-of-the-art responses to meet 21st century challenges. The U.S. capabilities contributed under the EPAA illustrate the Alliance's unbreakable commitment to NATO’s founding Washington Treaty -- an attack on one is an attack on all.

NATO Ballistic Missile Defense – Coverage and Protection

From the beginning, we have been clear that NATO’s ballistic missile defense capability is being developed and scaled in response to the proliferation of ballistic missile threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area. The aim of NATO ballistic missile defense is to provide coverage and protection of NATO populations, territory, and forces, and is purely defensive in nature.

To be clear, NATO ballistic missile defense is not designed to, nor is it capable of, undermining Russia's strategic deterrent capabilities. Geography and physics make it impossible for these systems to shoot down Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) from sites in Romania and Poland. Rather, the Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland are in the optimal locations to defend NATO Europe against missile threats emanating from outside the Euro-Atlantic region.

Aegis Ashore site in Devesulu, Romania. [NATO Photo]

NATO has made multiple offers to Russia to cooperate on missile defense, including two NATO-Russia Centers and a NATO-Russia Transparency Regime. Russia unfortunately rejected all proposals that could have fostered cooperation and transparency, and it was Russia who unilaterally terminated the cooperative NATO-Russia dialogue in 2013.

Efforts in Ballistic Missile Defense by NATO Allies 

Several NATO allies are also taking steps to strengthen NATO’s ballistic missile defense architecture. Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, France, and Italy have mobile theater ballistic missile defense capabilities. Poland and Turkey are planning on procuring these capabilities as well. The Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Spain, Norway, and Denmark are developing sea-based radar capabilities. Lastly, NATO continues to make improvements to its missile defense command and control system and operational arrangements, all in accordance with agreements made by the North Atlantic Council.

A view of a ballistic missle defense capable Aegis ship deployed at Rota, Spain. [NATO photo]

It is clear that the NATO Alliance has made significant progress in the area of ballistic missile defense in recent years. In doing so, we are fulfilling President Obama’s commitment of nearly seven years ago when he said, “our new missile defense architecture in Europe will provide stronger, smarter, and swifter defenses of American forces and America's allies.”

About the Author: Frank A. Rose is Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance at the U.S. Department of State.  

For more information:

A Raytheon Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Is Launched From an Aegis Cruiser. [NATO Photo]
Posted by Frank Rose
July 7, 2016


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