Missile Defense: Road to Cooperation

Ellen Tauscher
Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense 
Missile Defense Conference in Russia
Moscow, Russia
May 3, 2012

It is a pleasure to be here today at this important conference on Missile Defense and to present the views of the United States on how cooperation can help establish a new security environment in Europe.

Let me start by thanking Minister Serdyukov (Ser-dyoo-koff) for inviting me to participate today in this conference. I also want to acknowledge my colleagues, Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov and Deputy Defense Minister Antonov, with whom I have had the privilege of working with over the last three years. Together we have worked cooperatively to improve the national security of both the United States and Russia.

That cooperation is the key point that I want to emphasize at the start of this speech. The United States and Russia are working closely together on a range of issues. We are working together to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and reduce global nuclear stockpiles—that includes implementing the New START Treaty, which has been in force for more than a year now. We are working together to move materials to and from Afghanistan. We are working together on counter-narcotic and counter-terrorism operations. And, the United States has worked hard to secure Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization.

The most recent report of the Bilateral Presidential Commission, established by Presidents Obama and Medvedev, highlights what our two governments are doing to broaden and deepen our cooperation and to advance our common interests. The photo on the report’s cover is actually a joint U.S.-Russian inspection mission under the Antarctic Treaty; the U.S. team is led by the Department of State. We’re not just working together in the capitals of the world, we’re actually working together at the ends of the world, too.

Cooperation on missile defense would also facilitate improved relations between the United States and Russia. In fact, it could be a game-changer for those relations. It has the potential to enhance the national security of both the United States and Russia, as well as build a genuine strategic partnership. It presents an opportunity to put aside the vestiges of Cold War thinking and move away from Mutually Assured Destruction toward Mutually Assured Stability.

As we think about the path forward, I want to reiterate a point that Madelyn Creedon just made and that Admiral Hendrickson will make later today. Phases 3 and 4 of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (as well as Phases 1 and 2, for that matter) will not undermine Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent. Nothing we do with respect to our missile defense plans will undercut Russia’s national security. It would not be in our interest to do so, would be expensive and technically extremely difficult.

I urge you to pay close attention to the detailed technical arguments that Madelyn and Randy make about why our system cannot do what the Russian Ministry of Defense says it can do. Russia’s analysis makes incorrect assumptions about the capabilities of our systems. It is these differences and misperceptions that are at the root of this issue. If we cannot agree on those perceptions and assumptions, then we need to figure out a path forward to bridge that gap between our two positions. And that is where cooperation comes into play.

Let’s set aside those misperceptions and look at areas in which we could cooperate, which would provide Russia insight into U.S. and NATO plans and programs that will refute the assumptions used in its models.

Sharing of sensor data, working on developing common pre-planned responses, conducting a joint analysis of missile defense systems, and working together on missile defense exercises will allow Russia to see how we do missile defense. Russia has observed our intercept tests in the past and the invitation to observe a future test still stands. By cooperating with us on missile defense, you will be able to see that the European Phased Adaptive Approach is directed against regional threats. Limited regional threats from outside of Europe… not Russia.

Right now, there are six years until Phase 3 of the EPAA becomes operational in 2018. During those six years, we will be testing an Aegis BMD site in Hawaii (that sounds to me like a nice place to visit). We will be developing and testing the SM-3 Block IIA and IIB interceptors. We will also be working with our NATO Allies to ensure how to best protect NATO European populations and territory. Beginning cooperation now will give Russia a chance to see… with their own eyes… what we are doing. And it will give us time to demonstrate how our missile defense systems operate.

I realize it takes time to build confidence. During that time, if you don’t like what you have learned from your experiences working side-by-side with us, then walk away. At least this way, you will be able to make decisions based on data you have collected and observed directly rather than on assumptions and perceptions developed from afar.

As it is, Russia today is in a position of strength that should allow you to explore cooperation. Our missile defense systems are not directed against Russia’s sophisticated nuclear deterrent force. We do not seek an arms race with Russia; we seek cooperation that can help convince you that your national security and strategic stability is not threatened. While Russia talks about countermeasures as a hedge against our defensive system, we hope that instead, through cooperation and transparency, Russia will conclude such development is unnecessary. So join us now, in the missile defense tent.

One of the best ways to build that confidence would be to work with us on NATO-Russia missile defense Centers where we can share sensor data and develop coordinated pre-planned responses and reach agreement on our collective approach to the projected threat. This will give us collectively a common understanding and foundation. Furthermore, we have seen the positive benefit this cooperation could have on missile defense effectiveness at the recent NATO-Russia Council Theater Missile Defense Computer Aided Exercise.

While we undertake this missile defense cooperation, our two governments could do even more to prevent the proliferation of ballistic missile technology. We already cooperate in the Missile Technology Control Regime and in the Proliferation Security Initiative. We are working together in the UN to counter Iran and North Korea’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Just last month, we worked together in the UN Security Council to strongly condemn the DPRK’s missile launch and placed additional sanctions on transfers of nuclear and ballistic missile technology to and from North Korea. Working together on missile defense would also send a strong message to proliferators that Russia, NATO and the United States are working to counter their efforts.

Should the regional ballistic missile threats be reduced, our missile defense system can adapt accordingly. That is why it is called the Phased Adaptive Approach. It can and will be adapted to changes in the threat.

But let me be clear. While we can work cooperatively together, we cannot agree to the pre-conditions outlined by the Russian Government. We are committed to deploying effective missile defenses to protect the U.S. homeland and our Allies and partners around the world from the proliferation of ballistic missiles.

We will not agree to limitations on the capabilities and numbers of our missile defense systems. We cannot agree to a legally binding guarantee with a set of “military-technical criteria,” which would, in effect, limit our ability to develop and deploy future missile defense systems against regional threats such as Iran and North Korea.

We cannot accept limitations on where we deploy our Aegis ships. These are multi-mission ships that are used for a variety of missions around the world, not just for missile defense.

The United States and NATO also cannot agree to Russia’s proposal for “sectoral” missile defense. Just as Russia must ensure the defense of its own territory, NATO must ensure the defense of its own territory.

We are able to agree to a political statement that our missile defenses are not directed at Russia. I have been saying this for many, many months now. Such a political statement would publicly proclaim our intent to cooperate and chart the direction for cooperation.

The United States has also been transparent about our missile defense programs. We have provided Russia with a number of ideas and approaches for transparency. We are also committed to discussing other approaches to building confidence between our two countries. For example, we have also invited Russia to observe one of our Aegis SM-3 missile defense flight tests. Russia could operate in international waters and observe our missile defense test. This would provide Russia the opportunity to see for itself what we are saying about our system.

Russia is a major global power. European security is central to Russia’s security, as it is to the security of the United States and our European allies. Missile defense is the big new idea in European security. We don’t see any other comparable initiative with such potential to transform our relationship. If we can work together on European missile defense, and make this a subject for cooperation rather than competition, that would be a game-changer for our security relationship. We understand that there are risks involved, and it takes courage to move away from familiar ways. We believe those risks are manageable. We can begin now, and if the benefits we see are not realized, cooperation can be terminated at any time.

In a little over two weeks, President Putin and President Obama will meet in Washington. This is an important opportunity for the leaders of our two countries to chart the path forward on missile defense cooperation.

I continue to hope that my Russian colleagues see this as an opportunity that they should take sooner rather than later. I hope that they recognize we have no capability or intent to undermine strategic stability; that our objective is not about winning public relations points; and that cooperation is a much better approach than sticking to the previous patterns of competition.

The United States seeks genuine cooperation. Our objective is to create lasting cooperation and change outdated thinking. This is too important an opportunity to let it pass by.

So we will keep working to see if we can come up with a plan for cooperation. We will continue to press in the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Joint Staff channels, and we will keep moving forward in the run up to the May meeting of our two Presidents and we will keep going long after May.

And I hope, that someday soon, we can begin this important, gamechanging cooperation.

Thank you again for the opportunity to present the United States’ position on cooperation at this conference today. I look forward to continuing the discussion.