Updated: 14-Jun-2002 NATO Speeches

Dallas, Texas
3 June 2002

Missile Defence: A View from NATO

An Address by Robert G. Bell,
NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defense Support


General Kadish,

It is a great pleasure to be with you today here in Dallas and to have this opportunity to give you a view from Brussels (and from Paris, Bonn and London, you might say) on current issues related to missile defence. I only regret that my Dan Post cowboy boots are locked away in State Department-contracted storage somewhere back in Maryland, together with the other household goods I left behind when I moved to Belgium in 1999.

Last Fall, standing with President Bush in the Rose Garden only a few weeks after September 11th, the Secretary General of NATO, Lord George Robertson, said that "defense against ballistic missiles is here to stay".

And just two months ago, when the Secretary General was back in Washington to confer again with the President, he said in an important speech to the Council on Foreign Relations that NATO needs to give "new emphasis" to missile defence, together with other critically-needed warfighting capabilities, at its historic summit in Prague this November.

I agree with both statements. In this context, my intention today is to share with you what I see as the new, post September 11th missile defense landscape in Europe. By way of preface, let me first recall for you where NATO stands formally on this issue, as Heads of State and Government agreed in the Alliance's "Strategic Concept", signed at the 50th Anniversary Summit in Washington in April, 1999.

The 1999 Strategic Concept

It is interesting to note that despite all the ink that has been expended on the subject of missile defense over the past decade, the words "missile defence" appear only once in the Strategic Concept (paragraph 56). Let me quote the exact text;

The Alliance's defence posture against the risks and potential threats of the proliferation of NBC weapons and their means of delivery must continue to be improved, including through work on missile defences. […] The aim in doing so will be to further reduce operational vulnerabilities of NATO military forces while maintaining their flexibility and effectiveness despite the presence, threat or use of NBC weapons.

There is both "good news" and "bad news" here. The "good news" is that "work on missile defenses" is enshrined in this fundamental document which still today, and certainly beyond Prague (since no nation is recommending NATO re-write its Strategic Concept), lays out the Alliance's basic missions. Moreover, this "work" is not formally delimited to theater missile defenses (TMD): the language employed in the Strategic Concept reads…"work on missile defenses". I am tempted to say that NATO took the "N" out of "NMD" ahead of the Bush Administration - but I won't.

The "bad news", if you will, is that as you can see, the stated aim of missile defense in NATO's Strategic Concept is restricted to the protection of NATO military forces, and not the protection of population, cities or territories. This is a fundamental distinction, which I believe NATO will need to erase as it focuses its capabilities initiative on responding to the full spectrum of WMD threats, and their means of delivery, against our nations' territories and populations.

That said, I would maintain that since 1999, NATO has done very well indeed in meeting this tasking. By any objective standard, the Alliance is far from being a "BMD-free zone", at least at the level of theatre ballistic missile defenses. A remarkable number of national, multinational, and even NATO-wide TMD programs and exercises, are being pursued, developed and even fielded, and the Alliance is working hard to provide for, and demonstrate, the interoperability of these various capabilities. The range of the current efforts underway is pretty impressive. For example:

  • The United States, Germany and the Netherlands have deployed the improved PATRIOT TMD system, known as PAC-2, and are working together to deploy the more advanced PAC-3 system;
  • Germany, Italy and the United States have entered a new "risk reduction" phase in the development of the mobile MEADS TMD system;
    · France and Italy are cooperating in the development of the Aster, or SAMP/T TMD programme;
  • The United States is pursuing the so-called "upper level" TMD programs known as THAAD and Navy Theater Wide, as well as the Boeing 747-mounted boost-phase intercept laser system known as the Airborne Laser, or ABL;
  • In September last year, NATO allies participated in the sixth edition of the annual Dutch/U.S. TMD exercise programme known as Joint Project Optic Windmill (I really do not know where they get these names!). This programme was the first exercise of TMD operations at the tactical/operational level in an "out of area" scenario;
  • And last, but not least, all 19 NATO members are undertaking, with common NATO Security Investment Programme (NSIP) funding, a major new initiative to examine how a layered TMD capability could be overlaid on top of the planned deployment later this decade of the new NATO extended air defence system, known as ACCS (or Air Command and Control System), which will replace the old, Cold War-era NADGE integrated air defense system.

In the summer of 2001, two Feasibility Study contracts were let to two transatlantic consortia. As a result, and with accompanying analysis by the NATO C3 Agency, NATO should be in a position by 2004 to decide whether to field, by 2010, a layered TMD system using ACCS's BMC3I capabilities that could protect NATO military forces in a future conflict with an adversary possessing ballistic missiles of short- or theatre-range. I am not presuming that a go-ahead decision will be taken in 2004; I am simply underscoring that NATO is diligently "teeing up" such an option.

So, as my French - speaking NATO colleagues would say, "il y a du pain sur la planche", which roughly translated means " we have bread on our plate". In other words, there is a lot of action going on!

NATO's efforts in the TMD area are being pursued within a clear policy context. In addition to paragraph 56 of the 1999 Strategic Concept, several Defense Capabilities Initiative (DCI) action items require expanded efforts in the TMD area, and TMD is an integral element in the Alliance's approved doctrine for modernising its Extended Air Defence posture. And just last week in Rome, NATO Heads of State and Government, meeting with President Putin, agreed that the United States and Russia will, within the framework of the new NATO-Russia Council, explore opportunities for intensified practical cooperation on missile defence for Europe. The objective of this joint work is, first, to enhance consultations among the 20 nations on TMD concepts, terminology, systems and systems capabilities; second, to analyse and evaluate possible levels of interoperability among respective TMD systems; and third, to explore opportunities for intensified practical cooperation, including joint training and exercises.

Options for the Allies

Under the Bush Administration, the United States has laid out a strategy and a program to implement its fundamental belief that ballistic missile defenses must be deployed globally that are capable of defending the United States, its friends and allies, and their military forces around the world. In other words, that missile defense - at least against small-scale or limited proliferation threats --should be seamless, both with regard to removing the old distinctions between "theater" and "strategic" capabilities and with regard to global geography. To accommodate this reorientation of past efforts, the Administration in December gave formal six-month notice of its withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, a withdrawal which will take effect on June 14.

With regard to its European allies in NATO, the Administration has begun to encourage the Alliance to consider how it might best engage itself in the development and deployment of missile defences capable of providing protection for forces, populations and territory in Europe or North America against current or future ballistic missiles of intercontinental range. In this respect, the United States has argued that the allies should draw on what it has termed "established models" of past US-NATO weapons deployment experience.

  • The first option would be a "division of labour" model. In this scenario, NATO would focus on TMD, but not cross over formally into the strategic defense realm. In short, NATO would take the lead responsibility, at least in Europe, for the TMD element of a global allied BMD architecture in a sort of "low-end/high end" division of labor approach.
  • A second option would draw on the "GLCM experience". Under this option, European allies would accept the deployment, on their bases, of U.S.-owned and operated strategic-capable mid-course intercept missiles or radars.
  • A third option would be the "F - 16 model", where NATO allies would participate in developing or co-producing individual BMD elements in a cooperative hardware fashion, along the lines of the F-16 multinational programme; for example, by joining the United States in deploying sea-based boost-phase intercept-capable BMD systems on allied surface warfare ships capable of intercepting either theater-range or intercontinental ballistic missiles.
  • At the high end of the scale, a fourth option would draw on the NATO AWACS model - NATO allies could join together, to deploy NATO's own core-owned and operated, and commonly-funded, ABMs and radars in Europe.

I want to stress that at this stage, these are models, and that the options to which they give rise are strictly hypothetical. As a practical reality, I think it extremely unlikely that the Alliance could, by Prague, establish a consensus position on any, except perhaps the first, "division of labor", option. In the meantime, a number of the leading European defense consortia have already opted to detail employees to join the new US "national team" that has been established by General Kadish to integrate the missile defense effort. Certainly Ambassador Galbraith deserves credit for his diligent efforts in this regard.

In my judgement, how NATO will, in the longer term, address and hopefully act on these options will depend on how at least five important overarching questions are answered in the months and years ahead. A few months ago, I would have said "six" questions. But I believe the first question: "what will be the outcome of the U.S.-Russia discussion on a new Strategic Framework?", has now been answered, and indeed answered quite positively.

There is no question most European leaders had hoped, if not prayed, during 2001, that President Bush and President Putin could reach an agreement on a new stability regime. This was certainly a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for any realistic trans-Atlantic progress on strategic missile defense. And the hopes and prayers were answered. The strategic arms limitation treaty signed in Moscow last week was a landmark agreement, one for which both Presidents deserve great credit. One can speculate whether this extraordinary act of cooperation and partnership would have been likely absent the new cooperative relationship that was ushered in by the horrific events of September 11th - but such speculation now would be idle.

But, as I said, I believe that while resolving the ABM Treaty question without upsetting strategic stability or rupturing strategic relations was a necessary condition for Europe's going farther on missile defense, it is not necessarily a sufficient condition. Several other questions must still be answered.

First: are there new "surprises" or "shocks" in store for us with regard to future ballistic missile proliferation trends and evolutions in the WMD threat; for example: a nuclear-armed missile exchange on the Subcontinent of India?

I say this because although most of us in the United States were all taken off-guard by the North Korean three-stage missile test over Japan in 1998 (excepting, of course, the members of the Rumsfeld Commission and some other like-minded analysts), and moved quickly to respond to this development, Europe is not yet convinced that the compelling evidence with regard to rogue - state long range missile capabilities is matched by rogue - state intentions. For example, in a Joint Memorandum to the House of Commons' Defence Committee from the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of February this year, the UK government stated that;

"We currently assess that at present there is no significant threat to the UK from ballistic missiles."

Second, what BMD architecture will the United States eventually downselect for its global, layered BMD capability: mid-course, boost-phase, space-based, or some combination of the above? Obviously, it will be some years before testing will allow such decisions to be made. But I am sure you appreciate that asking Europe to participate in strategic-capable space-based defenses is a far different, and more daunting, proposition than asking Europe to participate in land or sea-based deployments of a more "traditional" kind.

Third, can Europe find extra funding, that is, the "incremental defense Euro or dollar", for BMD? This question is directly related to the previous question, since at present spending on enhanced BMD programmes in almost all European allies could only occur at the expense of already-inadequate spending on conventional capability improvements demanded by the DCI and the Helsinki Headline Goal - spending that has already been further strained by the necessity of supplemental spending on internal security and Afghanistan-related operations tied to September 11th.

Fourth, will the United States Administration act decisively to overhaul its export licensing and technology transfer regulatory regimes? There is a question in my mind whether an enhanced transatlantic industrial partnership for enhanced BMD, to include strategic-capable systems, can be forged under any ground rules acceptable to Europe absent much-needed and overdue reforms in these regimes and their underlying legislation. But is there a chance that BMD cooperation could be the "cutting edge" issue that might just persuade Congress to join consensus?

Last, but not least, how will the current war on terrorism end? It is one thing to try to forge a new cooperative partnership between Europe and the United States on global BMD capabilities in a scenario where Operation Enduring Freedom ends, at least in its military phase, with the dismantlement of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the capture or death of Bin Laden and Omar, the settling in of a reasonably viable interim government in Afghanistan, and a the establishment of a broad pattern of sustained alliance cooperation globally in dealing with terrorism through enhanced intelligence sharing, banking, and diplomatic controls. It would be another, altogether, in a scenario where the alliance was badly fractured over a U.S. decision to initiate large-scale military hostilities against another rogue state if the United States can not point to a "smoking gun" connecting that country to the attacks of September 11th.

The Way Ahead

In posing these questions, it is not my intention to obliquely suggest that Europe cannot be expected to "do more" on missile defense than its current TMD efforts. In fact, I believe there is a way ahead under which current NATO efforts could be expanded, at least incrementally, to produce what the US could view as a "downpayment" at Prague toward broader collective cooperation on missile defense.

I believe such a "Prague deliverable" could encompass three elements: First, the contract teams conducting the Feasibility Studies already believe that the NATO Staff Target is sufficiently flexible and broad in its wording to allow them to examine the feasibility of TMD defense of "wide - areas" against theatre - range ballistic missile threats. NATO Heads of State and Government should approve a tasking to the NC3A Agency to ensure the current work addresses the full spectrum of SRBM and TBM threats, including threats to populations and cities, and to direct that the NATO staff requirement (NSR) we draft beginning next year specifically include this objective.

Second: the NATO TMD Project Group is facing a gap of at least one year after the two Feasibility Studies are submitted before NATO decides whether to launch the development phase of an actual layered TMD system to be operational by 2010. Rather than disbanding the industrial multinational teams, a second step could be to contract them to study options for an eventual expansion of a future NATO layered TMD to give it intercept capabilities against longer-range ballistic missile threats. In other words, to study how best a NATO layered TMD system could be expanded to contribute to a US-led global, integrated strategic intercept - capable architecture.

Third: NATO could note, favorably, the decision by leading European defense industries to join General Kadish's "National Team".

Ladies and gentlemen, this set of "next steps" would admittedly be only an incremental advance. But it does reflect my sense of the outer limit of the degree to which the current envelope can realistically be stretched. And it is also entirely consistent with the direction which I believe the US Administration intends to pursue on the issue. In a speech on May 30 to a EUCOM Conference in Germany, Assistant Secretary of Defense Crouch said that;

"Once the ABM Treaty's proscription against cooperation on defense against longer - range threats falls by the wayside, we will initiate more detailed studies of how the United States and its allies can deal with the longer- range threats to their population centers. As important, we will seek government and industrial cooperation in acquiring the appropriate defense capabilities."

I am by nature an optimist. I have always believed, as William of Orange once reminded us, not in Spanish or in English, but in French that,

"Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer." ("One need not have hope to begin an undertaking, nor a guarantee of success to persevere").

Or, ladies and gentlemen, as Colin Powell once said: "Optimism is a force multiplier".

Thank you.

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