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Missile Defense Enters the 2012 Presidential Campaign

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

In an interview broadcast last week on a Kremlin-bankrolled television channel, Russian President Vladimir Putin re-introduced high-tech and high-stakes defense policy to the U.S. presidential election.

After assuring the audience that Russia will work "with whichever president is elected by the American people," Putin turned to the issue of missile defense and declared that if Mitt Romney became president, "the (U.S. and NATO) missile defense system will definitely be directed against Russia."

Putin then slipped in a plug for President Barack Obama's re-election, saying that "in principle" he and Obama could resolve U.S.-Russian missile defense (MD) disagreements. However, he opined that American militarists and "State Department" conservatives would limit Obama's ability to strike a deal.

Yes, Romney is a conservative warmonger and liberal Obama is an oh-so-sensible soul. Fits right into an old and slanderous frame tale. See, Ike was a golf-playing dummy and Adlai Stevenson, so eloquent and polished! Hack blarney. And for that matter, Cold War blarney repackaged.

Putin's plug may be the "space" (or quid pro quo) Obama requested last March in Seoul when an open mike inadvertently captured Obama telling then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that if Putin would give him (Obama) "space," he would have "more flexibility" on issues like MD "after my election."

However, the plug and re-introduction of MD as an issue comes at an awkward time. This Tuesday, Sept. 11, the 11th anniversary of 9-11, the highly respected National Research Council (of the National Academy of Sciences) released a detailed study of U.S. missile defense technology and plans.

The report is extensive (a pdf of the 239-page document is at, but the NRC believes the U.S. needs to upgrade and expand its force of Ground Based Mid-Course Defense interceptor missiles (GMDs, also know as GBIs, ground based interceptors). GMDs intercept in space, mid-course in a missile's flight. The Obama administration disdains GMDs and in September 2009 nixed their deployment in Poland as part of its "reset" of U.S.-Russia relations.

Obama's nix chagrined Poland. The NRC study recommends deploying GMDs on the U.S. East Coast. This would enhance North American defense against a North Korean and an Iranian missile attack but also provide some coverage for Europe -- in other words, truly sensible souls understand European MD must include long-range interceptors and sensors. That's buried in Chapter 3, where it says, "The engagements needed for regional (Europe) defense will in virtually all cases be in midcourse ... ."

The report finds shortcomings in the Obama administration's Phased Adaptive Approach to European missile defense, promulgated in September 2009 as a palliative for Europeans who might think Obama had traded NATO MD for political favors from Moscow. NATO will need more sites for the U.S. Navy's Standard 3 (SM-3) anti-ballistic missile. The SM-3 can hit missiles at the edge of space. The report also suggests that Turkey receive the Army's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile to protect eastern Turkey from Iranian missiles.

The NRC report clinically and quantitatively demonstrates that Putin's portrayal of post-Cold War Western MD systems as "directed against Russia" is a false. Putin knows the times, technology, international political contexts and threats have changed. He and his strategic advisers are well aware of the facts.

The U.S. thin-shield, layered system and the proposed NATO/European regional system are not armed and configured to challenge Russia's still potent arsenal of ICBMs. The NRC report notes that the in-place U.S. system is built to intercept a ballistic missile fired by North Korea's nutcase regime. NATO's MD would protect Europe and North America from a missile salvo fired by Iran's nutcase regime.

Boom goes London and boom Paree? That's what truly sensible souls should try to prevent.

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