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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 53, December 2000 - January 2001

Transatlantic Security: US Defense Department Report

'Strengthening Transatlantic Security: a US Strategy for the 21st Century,' US Department of Defense (DoD), December 2000.

Chapter IV: Building Blocks of a Transatlantic Security Beyond NATO

"Engaging the Russian Federation

... In the bilateral arena, the US commitment to stabilizing reductions in each side's strategic nuclear forces testifies to our desire not to return to the dangerous nuclear competition of the Cold War era. These reductions will be accompanied by nuclear-related confidence building measures...that demonstrate our desire to work with Russia to avoid possible misunderstandings. ... While we strive to reach a common understanding with Russia, we must also underscore that it is in Russia's own national interest to broaden security-related cooperation with the United States, NATO, and Partners. Here, as well, we have an excellent foundation upon which to build. For example, under the Expanded Threat Reduction Initiative, the United States is enhancing and enlarging existing programs that over the past eight years have helped the Russians to: deactivate thousands of nuclear warheads; destroy hundreds of missiles, bombers and ballistic missile submarines; improve security of nuclear weapons and materials at dozens of sites; prevent the proliferation of biological weapons and associated capabilities; begin safe destruction of the world's largest stocks of chemical weapons; and provide opportunities and inducements for thousands of former Soviet weapons scientists to participate in peaceful commercial and research activities. Several NATO and EU countries are engaged in related bilateral and multilateral efforts to assist Russia in dealing with the WMD-related legacy of the former Soviet Union. ...

In the final analysis, our ability to work with Russia to reduce Cold War arsenals, prevent the proliferation of WMD, and ease the transformation of its political, economic and social institutions toward more democratic and free market practices will depend heavily on decisions made by Russia. Because progress in each of these areas likely will be subject to occasional set backs, our long-term success is not assured. That said, taking a 'wait-and-see' attitude toward Russia is not an option for Allies, partners, or the United States."

Chapter V: The Role of US Military Forces in Europe

"Deterrence and Collective Defense

... In addition to its formidable conventional capabilities to respond to any aggression against NATO, the United States maintains non-strategic nuclear weapons, under highly secure conditions, at storage sites in several NATO countries. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States, in consultation with its Allies, has dramatically reduced the numbers and types of US non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe. For example, all nuclear artillery and ground-launched short-range nuclear missiles have been eliminated. Together with Allies, we also have modified the readiness criteria for forces with a nuclear role and terminated standing peacetime nuclear contingency plans.

The fundamental purpose of US nuclear forces based in Europe is - and will remain - to preserve peace and prevent coercion. They provide an essential political and military link between the European and North American members of the Alliance, as well as linkage to US strategic nuclear systems. They make the risks of aggression against NATO incalculable and unacceptable in a way that conventional forces alone cannot. The participation of non-nuclear Allies in NATO's nuclear posture demonstrates Alliance solidarity, determination, and willingness to share the risks and responsibilities of collective defense. The circumstances in which any use of nuclear weapons might have to be contemplated by NATO are extremely remote, but prudent security planning dictates that we maintain an appropriate mix of conventional capabilities for the foreseeable future."

Chapter VI: Improving Transatlantic Cooperation to Face Global Challenges

"Security Threats Posed by Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons

NBC weapons and their delivery systems pose a major threat to international security. Over 20 countries - several of which are virtually on Europe's doorstep - already possess or are developing such weapons and/or delivery systems. The continued proliferation and potential use of NBC weapons directly threatens the United States, its Allies and friends, and could destabilize other regions of crucial importance to us.

American military superiority cannot shield us completely from this threat. US dominance in the conventional military arena will likely encourage potential adversaries to resort to asymmetric means for attacking US forces and interests overseas and Americans at home. US defense planners must assume that use of NBC weapons to disrupt US operations and logistics is a likely condition of future warfare. To address the NBC weapons threat, the United States pursues a multi-dimensional strategy. ...

Export control regimes. ... Through international regimes such as the Missile Technology Control Regime, Australia Group, and Nuclear Suppliers Group, the United States works with a number of European and other states to limit the transfer of sensitive 'dual-use' items to states posing a proliferation concern.

Deterrence. The United States deters threats and potential threats to its national security, including those from NBC weapons states, by maintaining powerful nuclear and conventional forces. Those who would threaten America or its allies in Europe or elsewhere with NBC weapons should have no doubt that any attack on us would meet an overwhelming and devastating response. DoD also has undertaken a comprehensive program to equip, train, and prepare US forces to prevail in conditions in which an adversary threatens to use or actually uses these weapons against our populations, territories, or military forces. This combination of offensive and defense capabilities both strengthens deterrence and ensures that we will prevail should deterrence fail.

As previously discussed, our Allies contribute - for example, through basing, infrastructure, and overflight and transit rights - to US capabilities to project our forces, if necessary, beyond Europe. Moreover, the independent British and French nuclear forces play an important role in deterring any attack on their respective vital national interests. Our Allies and potential coalition partners also must be prepared to counter NBC threats or attacks to ensure that we maintain a cohesive political and military front during a crisis. ...

At the 1999 Washington Summit, Alliance leaders took increased note of the NBC threat and agreed, in response, that NATO capabilities, doctrine, training, and exercises must be improved to better deter and defend against the use of such weapons. ... As a result of the Washington Summit WMD Initiative, several complementary efforts are underway. NATO's Senior Politico-Military Group on Proliferation has expanded its discussion of non-proliferation issues in support of the Alliance's primary prevention goal. At NATO headquarters, there is a newly established WMD Center, comprised of political, defense, military, and intelligence experts, to integrate and coordinate intra-Alliance work on a wide range of NBC-related issues. ...

The United States continues to work to enhance cooperative efforts with our Allies, and we are extending these activities where appropriate to Partner countries. We complement these activities through bilateral programs of information exchange and technical cooperation with Allies. As we do so, the United States is likely to encounter differences with some nations over the assessment of capabilities and intentions of any given state of concern. We will do our best to prevent such disagreements from blocking needed improvements to Alliance capabilities.

Ballistic Missile Defenses

For America and Europe, the threat posed by ballistic missiles capable of delivering NBC weapons from several states of concern is substantial and increasing.

  • Iran is buying and developing long-range missiles. It has flight tested a 1,300-km Shahab-3 missile and, within a decade, could test a missile capable of reaching all NATO territory and much of the United States. Iran has chemical weapons, and is seeking nuclear and biological capabilities.
  • Before the Gulf War, Iraq had loaded chemical and biological weapons into missile warheads, and was close to achieving a nuclear capability. UN sanctions have slowed, but probably not stopped, Iraq's efforts to produce NBC weapons and develop or buy long-range missiles to deliver them.
  • Libya has chemical weapons capabilities and is trying, as well, to acquire long-range missiles.
  • North Korea is building and selling long-range missiles and has assembled an arsenal with chemical, biological, and probably nuclear capabilities. It has developed and may soon test the Taepo Dong 2 missile that could reach US territory.
We project that all of the above states will have missile forces in the next 5 to 15 years that could be used to threaten the homelands of all NATO members.

Theater Missile Defense (TMD)

As part of broader efforts to enhance the security of the United States, Allied and coalition forces against ballistic missile strikes and to complement our counterproliferation strategy, the United States is pursuing opportunities for TMD cooperation with NATO Partners. The objectives of United States cooperative efforts are to provide effective missile defense for coalition forces in both Article 5 and non-Article 5 operations against short to medium range missiles. In its Strategic Concept, NATO reaffirmed the risk posed by the proliferation of NBC weapons and ballistic missiles, and the Alliance reached general agreement on the framework for addressing these threats. As part of NATO's DCI, Allies agreed to develop Alliance forces that can respond with active and passive defenses from NBC attack. Allies further agreed that TMD is necessary for NATO's deployed forces.

Several Allies currently field or will shortly acquire lower tier TMD systems. For example, Germany and the Netherlands both field the PAC-2 missile and naval forces of several Allies are considering cooperation with the United States to field maritime missile defenses. An important development in the operational TMD area was the creation in December 1999 of a trilateral US-German-Dutch Extended Air Defense Task Force.

The Alliance is undertaking a feasibility analysis for a layered defense architecture. As the ballistic missile threat to Europe evolves in the direction of longer ranges, the Alliance will need to consider further measures of defense incorporating upper-tier TMD and/or a defense against longer-range missiles.

On a separate but complementary track, ongoing US TMD cooperation with Russia is an excellent example of how cooperative approaches to dealing with new regional security challenges of mutual interest, such as the proliferation of ballistic missiles, can advance US and transatlantic security interests.

Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea do not need long-range missiles to intimidate their neighbors; they already have shorter-range missiles to do so. Instead, they want long-range missiles to coerce and threaten more distant countries in North America and Europe. They presumably believe that even a small number of missiles, against which we have no defense, could be enough to inhibit US actions in support of our Allies or coalition partners in a crisis.

Based on our assessment of these trends, the United States has concluded that we must counter this threat before one of these states attempts to blackmail the United States from protecting its interests, including commitments to our Allies in Europe and elsewhere. Thus, the United States is developing a NMD system that would protect all 50 states from a limited attack of a few to a few tens of warheads.

NATO's Strategic Concept recognizes that '(t)he Alliance's defense posture against the risks and potential threats of the proliferation of (nuclear, biological, and chemical) weapons and their means of delivery must continue to be improved, including through work on missiles defenses.' As the US NMD effort progresses, we need to continue close consultations with our Allies on relevant policy and technical issues.

Although Moscow argues to the contrary, the limited NMD system the United States is developing would not threaten the Russian strategic deterrent, which could overwhelm our defense even if Russian strategic forces were much lower than levels foreseen under existing US-Russian strategic arms reduction agreements. Moreover, the US proposal to modify the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty include measures of cooperation and transparency that would give Russia confidence that the NMD system was not being expanded beyond its limited scale.

China has a more modest nuclear force than Russia, but has a multi-faceted nuclear modernization program that predates NMD. Our NMD system is not designed to neutralize China's strategic capabilities. [Footnote in Report: 'Similarly, the independent British and French nuclear deterrents would not be undermined by the NMD capabilities allowed under the US proposals to modify the ABM Treaty.']

NMD is a complement to our policies of deterrence and prevention, not a substitute. We will continue to rely on diplomacy, arms control and traditional deterrence - the credible threat of an overwhelming and devastating response - to dissuade states of concern from attacking or coercing their neighbors or anyone else. But today, when a state of concern might attempt to coerce the United States or it Allies, it is not prudent to rely exclusively on deterrence by overwhelming response, especially when we have the option of a limited, but effective defense.

The NMD we envisage would reinforce the credibility of US security commitments and the credibility of NATO as a whole. Europe would not be more secure if the United States were less secure from a missile attack by a state of concern. An America that is less vulnerable to ballistic missile attack is more likely to defend Europe and common Western security interests than an America that is more vulnerable.

As consultations proceed with our Allies on NMD, we realize that Allies will continue to consider the appropriate role of missile defenses in their respective national security strategies. In keeping with the fundamental principle of the Alliance that the security of its members is indivisible, the United States is open to discussing possible cooperation with Allies on longer-range ballistic missile defense, just as we have with our discussions and cooperation in the area of TMD. As President Clinton said in May 2000, 'every country that is part of a responsible international arms control and non-proliferation regime should have the benefit of this protection.'

In September 2000, President Clinton announced that while NMD was sufficiently promising and affordable to justify continued development and testing, there was not sufficient information about the technical and operational effectiveness of the entire NMD system to move forward with deployment. In making this decision, he considered the threat, the cost, technical feasibility and the impact on our national security of proceeding with NMD. The President's decision will provide flexibility to a new administration and will preserve the option to deploy a national missile defense system in the 2006-2007 time frame."

Notes: the full text of the report is available from the Department of Defense at http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/eurostrategy2000.pdf. On January 10, the Department released a report, Proliferation: Threat and Response http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/ptr20010110.pdf), reinforcing and detailing the major assessments set out below. In his Preface, Secretary Cohen wrote: "At the dawn of the 21st Century, the United States now faces what call be called a Superpower Paradox. Our unrivalled supremacy in the conventional military arena is prompting adversaries to seek unconventional, asymmetric means to strike what they perceive as our Achilles heel. ... Fears for the future are not hyperbole. Indeed, past may be prologue. Iraq has used chemical weapons against Iran and its own people. Those behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing also were gathering the ingredients for a chemical weapon that could have killed thousands here in the United States. ... Completely halting proliferation is not possible, but stemming it is both vitally important and achievable. ... The race is on between our preparations and those of our adversaries. There is not a moment to lose."

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.