On June 3rd, the Council for a Livable World coordinated writing and gathering signatures for a letter to President Biden from 65 national security leaders urging the President to include missile defenses in strategic stability talks with Russia and China.
This is likely to lead to absolutely nothing, but the semblance is important here.
“We urge you to demonstrate U.S. openness to including missile defenses in strategic stability talks with Russia and China. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, meant to defend the U.S. homeland, is already “on hold” because of its failures, and so at this time, is not a current threat to Russia or China. This presents an opportunity to halt the current arms race between U.S. missile defense systems and new offensive systems being built by Russia and China to overcome U.S. defenses.”
The letter specifically targets the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, which saw a plan to upgrade its interceptors cancelled amid technical problems in 2019.
The usual suspects, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Gunman were selected to compete for a next-generation interceptor to be fielded in 2028, and the Missile Defense Agency’s FY22 budget request last week included $926.1 million for the program.
Since the U.S. withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 ― a move Biden opposed as a senator ― “the GMD system has proceeded in a rushed, chaotic and ultimately counter-productive manner that has resulted in a failed test record, wasted billions of dollars, and accelerated an arms race with Russia and China, leading both adversaries to expand their offensive nuclear weapons programs to counter U.S. missile defenses,” the letter reads.
Signatories include former Defense Secretary Bill Perry; Obama-era Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes; former Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman ― and several former lawmakers who served with Biden in the Senate, including Tom Harkin and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
They are calling for Biden to put his money where his mouth is, basically.
They urge Biden to delay new work on the Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system by capping production of the Aegis SM-3 Block IIA interceptors and BMD-capable vessels, “as a first step to restoring strategic stability and stopping a nuclear arms race.”
The letter flags a 2001 speech from then-Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Biden that blasted the absurdity of a “theological allegiance to missile defense” in Washington.
“You were right then, and you have the power to walk us back from the brink now,” the letter reads.
Despite these expectations by the signatories, Biden’s budget proposal moves in the exact opposite way, increasing funding.
Any such decision would be opposed by many Republicans and Democrats, that is beyond a doubt.
Rebecca Heinrichs, a missile defense analyst at the Hudson Institute was cited by Defense News on the matter.
“It makes no sense to put on hold the U.S. homeland missile defense system to try to please Putin when the immediate effect would be to leave Americans exposed to Kim Jong-Un’s always-improving missiles,” she said.
“The argument to drop our defenses to placate our enemies by giving them a wider open shot at us has always been foolish, but it’s hard to overstate the madness of making that argument at a time like now when the result is to give Pyongyang that wide open shot.”
As such, it is a benevolent notion and such discussions would be fruitful, especially if US suggests to take lead in reducing investment and focus on these technologies. That is highly likely not going to happen.
“Since the 1950s, the United States has spent more than $400 billion on various missile defense programs. Today, you have inherited the long-range GMD system that is currently “on hold” because of its repeated failures. The Government Accountability Office in 2020 found serious problems with the Missile Defense Agency’s testing program: “it only completed about a third of its planned flight tests each year between FYs 2010-2019.”
Furthermore, of the tests that have been performed, the system has only been successful in 11 of its 19 tests, including three of its last six, under highly-scripted conditions and without the inclusion of even basic enemy countermeasures. Test results are not improving over time as one might expect.”
Essentially, since the US is mostly failing in developing these weapons, it might as well involve itself in dialogue on the matter, since Moscow and/or Beijing may feel inclined to save some money and not pull too far ahead.
After the renewal of the New START, Russia said that future arms control treaties should also include missile defense clauses, and as such any such decision is expected to internationally be met with positive attitudes.
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