America's Commitment to Ballistic Missile Defense and the European Phased Adaptive Approach

Rose Gottemoeller
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security 
Missile Defense Agency
Bucharest, Romania
November 18, 2014

As Prepared
Thank you, Rob, for that introduction. I am so pleased to be here in Romania and at this important time. We congratulate the people of Romania on their election yesterday. We look forward to working with the President-elect and the government of Romania, as we continue to strengthen our already close relationship. I would especially like to thank our Romanian colleagues for their generosity in agreeing to host this influential conference and especially for all of the support they have provided to the deployment of U.S. missile defense site at Deveselu. Thanks also to all of the people here that came from around the world. It is a true testament to our combined efforts that such a large and prestigious crowd has come to participate in this conference.
I know you have already heard from Admiral Syring, Principal Deputy Under Secretary Brian McKeon and Chargé d’Affaires Thompson about the ballistic missile defense systems the United States is deploying in Europe, here in Romania, and around the world. I am not going to re-tread that ground.
I will reiterate one point you have already heard today: The Obama Administration’s commitment to deploying missile defenses to defend the United States homeland, our Allies and partners never waivers. In Europe, we are on track for Phase 2 of the European Phased Adaptive Approach and we are committed to having Phase 3 in Poland completed in 2018. We are working closely across the board with our Israeli Allies on missile defense. We remain committed to missile defense cooperation among our Gulf Cooperation Council partners. In Asia, we also continue to deploy more and more capable missile defense systems and continue our efforts to enhance cooperation with allies and partners.
We are committed to these deployments in the face of constant criticism, particularly from the Russian Federation.
We often hear the refrain from certain corners that missile defenses are destabilizing. With an emphasis on transparency and confidence-building, we have explained that nothing that we are doing with respect to our missile defense plans will undercut international security. It would not be in our interest to do so, it would be prohibitively expensive and from a technical perspective, it would be extremely difficult. So let me take some time to again outline these points, based on logic, physics and math, to prove that our missile defense deployments are a benefit, not a threat, to global strategic stability.
First, the Cold War mindset about ballistic missile defenses is no longer valid. Limited ballistic missile defense capabilities are not capable of threatening Russia’s strategic nuclear forces and are not a threat to strategic stability.
Ballistic missiles during the Cold War were the tools the United States and the Soviet Union used to maintain the strategic balance between our two countries. Today, ballistic missiles are proliferated around the world and are seen as a common battlefield weapon.
That is why today’s limited missile defenses are essential to ensuring regional strategic stability. That is the one and only reason that the United States is pursuing regional missile defense capabilities.
Missile saber rattling is not particularly effective when there are defenses to protect against those missiles. Missile defense can also prevent a country or group from taking cheap shots of one or two launches that it thinks can be used to compel or deter a government. Instead these countries or groups would need to fire a much larger salvo to overcome missile defenses, thereby raising the stakes of entering into a conflict.
Further, missile defenses create uncertainty about the outcome of attacks, thereby increasing the costs to countries and groups attempting to overcome defenses. By reducing a country’s confidence in the effectiveness of missile attacks, we enhance deterrence and regional stability.
Missile defenses and missile defense cooperation also provides reassurance. Reassurance helps reduce a country’s vulnerability to ballistic missile attacks, as well as reassurance regarding the United States’ commitment to their defense. The last part is particularly important since it demonstrates that the United States will stand by our Alliance commitments, even in the face of growth in the military potential of regional adversaries.
Finally, when confronted with an attack, missile defenses can buy time for other courses of actions, such as diplomacy, to help resolve the crisis. All of you know, whether you are policy-makers or military planners, that time- and lack thereof – is one of the most important factors during a crisis.
These are the factors that drive our deployment efforts. Our efforts are aided by the increasing sophistication and accuracy of our ballistic missile defenses, as well as the experience that U.S. forces, our Allies and our partners have gained from being the targets of missile attacks.
Many of our regional defense deployments, like the Patriot system and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD system, are inherently designed for theater use. They are not capable of defending against ICBMs launched at the United States. THAAD, however, is capable of defending against the medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic missile that North Korea is deploying.
Yet despite our repeated attempts to convey these demonstrable facts, the Russian Federation continues to maintain that our global deployment of these systems is designed somehow to encircle Russia.
Understanding the universal truth of physics, we have also taken care to demonstrate how the systems we are deploying are located in places that are ideal for addressing regional threats. Based on the irrefutable laws of science, these systems cannot do the things the Russian government says they can. You may have seen the Russia trajectory maps that show how the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor could be used against Russian ICBMs. The problem with this argument is that it assumes that the instant – the very second – of a Russian ICBM launch, we would also launch our interceptor. The argument also assumes that we would have perfect knowledge of where that Russian ICBM is going and where it is going to be located several minutes from launch in order to strike the reentry vehicles.
As Admiral Syring attests and our flight tests clearly show, we cannot begin to consider launching an interceptor until well after a ballistic missile has finished its boost phase, the warheads have separated, and we have had time to develop a firing solution. We need considerable time to gather knowledge about where the missile is going before we can launch our interceptor. As a result, the physics just don’t add up. There is no way a U.S. SM-3 IIA interceptor can chase down Russian reentry vehicles.
At one point, we did explore the feasibility of a faster interceptor that had what we called “early intercept” capabilities, but that still relied on intercepting the reentry vehicles after burnout. Again, this was not a boost phase concept. In fact, there are many unclassified reports that discuss the challenges inherent in doing boost phase intercept.
Beyond our theater, capabilities, our Ground-Based Interceptors (known as GBIs) deployed in Alaska and California do not pose a threat to Russian strategic nuclear forces either. Our GBIs are designed to deal with rudimentary systems deployed in limited numbers and with simple countermeasures. Technologically, GBIs cannot counter Russia’s sophisticated ICBM capabilities and countermeasures.
In addition to our other efforts, we have also outlined the plain and simple numbers to the Russians. Our GBI numbers are nowhere remotely near their strategic offensive arsenal numbers. As of October 1st, Russia declared that under the New START counting rules, they were deploying 1,643 warheads on 528 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy Bombers. Let me say that number again: the Russian Federation currently fields 1,643 deployed nuclear warheads. Currently, the United States has 30 ground-based interceptors deployed in Alaska. So, hypothetically if all 30 of those GBIs performed perfectly and took out 30 Russian warheads, 1,613 Russian warheads would still get past our defenses.
We will deploy an additional 14 interceptors in Alaska and should we ever deploy an additional east coast site with 20 additional interceptors, Russia would still have 1,579 warheads that could get through our defenses. And while I am optimistic we will negotiate a future nuclear reduction Treaty after New START, even then, our limited numbers of defensive systems cannot even come close to upsetting the strategic balance.
Reversing this equation, I would note that we are not concerned about the impact to strategic stability of Russia’s deployment of 68 interceptors at the Moscow ABM system. Sixty eight deployed interceptors is 24 more than the United States even has plans to deploy. Further, Russia is very open about declaring that the Moscow ABM system is specifically designed against the United States. And just like the United States, Russia is modernizing its radars and interceptors as part of their system. However, that still hasn’t raised concerns in the United States about strategic stability.
Despite our best efforts, none of these facts has made any difference in our discussions with the Russian Federation. They continue instead to argue the system is designed against them. The bottom line is this: The United States will continue to deploy our missile defense systems around the world to defend against limited regional threats. We will continue to deploy the EPAA as our contribution to NATO missile defense. There should be no doubt about our commitment. Moreover, we will not accept any obligations that limit our ability to defend ourselves, our allies, and our partners, including where we deploy our BMD-capable Aegis ships. There is no reason why we should and no reason we would.
Further, at this time, we have serious concerns about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. We continue to work closely with our NATO partners on addressing the changes to European security brought about by the invasion of Ukraine and are seeking Russia’s return to compliance with the INF Treaty.
While Russia has accused the United States of being in violation of the INF Treaty, we are in complete compliance with the INF Treaty. We can describe, in detail, why each of our systems complies with the Treaty. One thing that the United States and Russia have agreed on is that this important Treaty remains in our mutual security interests. May it remain so. In the meantime, we will continue to make our case to the world about the important of limited missile defenses and continue our essential efforts to cooperatively deploy systems around the world.
Thank you for your support with these efforts and thank you again for the opportunity to speak here today.