Obama Slow-Rolls European Ballistic Missile Defense

President Obama today announced the cancellation of the Bush administration’s plan to build ballistic missile defenses in Europe, a series of radars in the Czech Republic and ten missile interceptors in Poland.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates — the author of the Bush-era plan — spoke after the president. Gates said that the cancellation of the earlier plan was a reflection of cost savings and changes in technology.

Gates emphasized that these moves were in response to new intelligence reports that the Iranian long-range missile threat was years off and that the short-range missile threat, especially the Shahab-3 missile Iran is perfecting, was more immediate.

Instead of the Bush plan, Obama said he was negotiating with our NATO allies — and apparently Russia — to put in place a new plan in several parts. First, improved SM-3 interceptor missiles could be placed in Eastern Europe to answer the intermediate-range missile threat.  Second, U.S. navy Aegis destroyers equipped with phased-array radar and armed with SM-3 missile interceptors could be stationed in the waters between Iran and Europe.

Unanswered is the problem of delay, especially in the Aegis fleet.  We have too few Aegis-equipped and SM-3 armed vessels now to provide flexible missile defenses in areas such as Hawaii and Japan, under threat of North Korean missiles.  How many more Aegis ships can be built — and how quickly — to protect Eastern Europe?

That question remains unanswered. And that compels the conclusion that Obama is slow-rolling missile defense, with every intention of not completing it.  

Several Republican senators issued statements condemning Obama’s action.

"President Obama’s decision to abandon critical missile defense systems raises grave concerns," said U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), member of the Foreign Relations Committee and Chairman of the Senate Steering Committee. "Our top priority must be the security of America and our allies, not the appeasement of Moscow and Tehran. Breaking our word to friends in Poland and the Czech Republic in exchange for the supposed good will of Vladimir Putin is naive and sets a dangerous precedent. This action and others have signaled weakness to our friends and enemies.”
“Today, on the 70th anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Poland, President Obama has signaled to our European allies that the United States will suddenly and inexplicably walk away from our commitment, turning our back on our allies in an apparent effort to appease Russia,” said U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a member of the Armed Services Committee.  “This callous and cavalier decision leaves our friends out on a limb, high and dry. President Obama’s announcement is indicative of a larger hostility towards our nation’s longstanding missile defense plans.  Through a series of actions, the Obama Administration is dismantling this important program, and, in the process, undermining our national security and exposing our country to serious missile threats from foreign nations like Iran and North Korea.”  

“I have long viewed the deployment of a layered ballistic missile defense as an urgent priority, vital to the future of our country’s national security,” said U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Armed Services committee and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.  “The Obama… Administration’s decision to cancel the third missile defense site scheduled to be deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic is short-sighted and leaves America and our allies vulnerable to the growing missile threat from Iran.  Iran has developed short and medium range missiles capable of hitting targets in the Middle East and southeastern Europe.  Our only true defense is an effective layered defensive capability to shoot down ballistic missiles that threaten this country, our allies and our deployed forces around the globe.”

Obama’s decision to slow-roll BMD is a great opportunity for conservatives to lay out the many defects in Iraq, Afghanistan, the U.N. next week and missile defense today, and present a plan that defends America rather than appeases our enemies.

A FEW MORE THOUGHTS: Our intelligence on Iran is very thin and not very reliable. So Gates’ reasoning behind the conclusion that the threat has evolved so specifically is certain to be just as thin and just as unreliable.  Today’s leak from the IAEA – that an IAEA report, withheld from us and other governments, says that the Iranians have the ability to make a nuclear weapon now, and is rapidly advancing its ability to deploy it on a long-range missile – belies Gates’ statements.

The failure to protect ourselves and our allies – as quickly as possible from this threat — is simply immoral. Defenses such as BMD threaten only the ambitions of the aggressor.