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Missile Defense Cooperation

U.S. Missile Defense Factsheet

One of the most direct threats to U.S. national security, and the security of U.S. friends and allies, is the threat of nuclear, biological, or chemical (NBC) weapons delivered by ballistic missiles.  Non-proliferation, counter proliferation, export controls, diplomacy, deterrence, and missile defense, are all part of a national security strategy to address this threat.

The Ballistic Missile Threat Today

The ballistic missile threat to the U.S., its forces deployed abroad, and allies and friends is real and growing.

  • Not only is the threat from numbers and capabilities of ballistic missiles growing, but the group of countries possessing ballistic missiles includes some of the world’s most threatening and least responsible regimes, such as North Korea and Iran.
  • Iran could have long-range missiles capable of reaching the U.S. and Europe before 2015.   Currently, Iran possesses many short to medium-range ballistic missiles.  Iran launched its Shahab 3 missile most recently in January 2007.  This missile is capable of hitting targets in Southeastern Europe.  Current NATO missile defense efforts provide protection against shorter range threats only, and would not be capable of defending against longer range missiles launched from the Middle East to Central or Western Europe.
  • North Korea continues to develop the Taepo Dong 2, which could reach parts of the United States and is capable of carrying a nuclear payload.  North Korea has successfully tested shorter range ballistic missiles, demonstrating the capability to target U.S. forces and our allies in South Korea and Japan.

Proposed Basing of U.S. Missile Defense Assets in Europe

The U.S. has agreed with Poland and the Czech Republic to begin formal missile defense basing negotiations, which if favorably concluded, would allow the fielding of ten U.S. long-range ground-based defensive interceptors in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic. 

  • The proposed U.S. missile defense assets in Europe would defend the U.S. and much of Europe against long-range ballistic missile threats launched from the Middle East.  The U.S. would benefit from greatly enhanced protection from attacks originating in the Middle East, while Europe would gain defenses where none previously existed.
  • Some southern European countries do not face long-range threats from Iran given their proximity to the Middle East.  NATO has focused its missile defense development efforts on countering shorter range threats.  The United States and NATO efforts are complementary and could work together to form a more effective defense for Europe.


Cooperation with NATO and Russia

The proposed placement of U.S. missile defense (MD) assets in Europe would not only contribute to the security of the U.S. and NATO allies, but would also provide a defense against long-range ballistic missiles to most of Europe.  The USG has informed both NATO and Russia of our plans, as well as offered opportunities for cooperation.  

Cooperation with NATO

  • The U.S. plans to design U.S. MD assets in Europe so that they could be complementary to any future NATO ballistic missile defense system.  
  • The proposed U.S. system in Europe is designed to counter long-range threats and would be able to protect all NATO countries facing a long-range missile threat from the Middle East.
  • Some southern European countries do not face long-range threats from Iran given their proximity to the Middle East.  For these countries to be protected, they require short and medium-range missile defense systems. 
  • NATO has focused its missile defense development efforts on countering shorter range threats.  The United States and NATO efforts are complementary and could work together to form a more effective defense for Europe.
  • The U.S. will retain command and control of our missile defense system assets in Europe and will be able to link to NATO systems to ensure interoperability with their shorter range systems.

Cooperation with Russia

  • The U.S. is willing to explore cooperation with Russia across the full spectrum of missile defense activities.  USG officials have discussed U.S. missile defense plans and offered to cooperate jointly since 2001.  These discussions have been transparent and conducted at all levels, including between the two Presidents, as well as at the NATO-Russia Council (NRC).
  • On March 29, 2007 USNATO released a public statement reiterating our previous offers of cooperation, as well as seeking enhanced cooperation with both Russia and NATO on missile defense. 
  • U.S. missile defense plans are neither directed at nor a threat to Russia.  Due to the location and capabilities of the European missile defense assets, the proposed system would have no capability against Russian ICBMs.

Technical Details

The United States is planning to field ten U.S. long-range ground-based missile defense interceptors in Poland and a mid-course radar in the Czech Republic in order to counter the growing threat of missile attacks from the Middle East.
Proposed Footprint of the System

  • The approximate size is 275 hectares (approx 680 acres) for an interceptor missile site and approximately 30 hectares (12 acres) for a single radar site.
  • The United States estimates approximately 200 military, Government civilians, and support contractors will be required to operate the interceptor site.  The United States estimates approximately 150 personnel will be required to operate the radar site. 

Technical Aspects of the Interceptor Site

  • A total of 10 interceptor missiles in underground silos would be located at the facility in Poland.  The interceptor base will require facilities for electronic equipment for secure communications, missile assembly, storage, maintenance and security.
  • The ballistic missile defense interceptors that would be installed are for purely defensive purposes and have no offensive capability.  They carry no explosive warheads of any type, relying instead on their kinetic energy alone to collide with and destroy incoming warheads.  Silos constructed for deployment of defensive interceptors are substantially smaller than those used for offensive missiles.  Any conversion would require extensive modifications, thus precluding the possibility of converting the interceptor silos for use by offensive missiles.

Debris Issues

  • Intercepts occur in space at very high altitudes (above the atmosphere).  The vast majority of the threat warhead and the interceptor are reduced to small pieces that burn up upon reentry.  A few small pieces may survive reentry, but pose little threat to people and property.
  • The odds of damage or injury from an intercept are very small.  European interceptors would not be used for flight tests, and would only launch during an actual attack on the United States or Europe.  The small risk of debris posed by an intercept pales in comparison to the alternative – which is a conventional or WMD missile attack on a populated area.

Technical Capabilities

  • The United States missile defense system has been proven effective through repeated testing.  Since 2001 the Missile Defense Agency has had 26 successful missile intercepts; fifteen of the last sixteen flight tests have been successful.