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A Real Threat from Iran? The Status Quo of NATO Missile Defense in Europe

01.09.2014 - (idw) Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung

A recent study by the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) analyzes the current build-up of the U.S. missile defense system in Europe and of the existing programs by other NATO members. They aim at protecting Europe against missile strikes from Iran.
The author concludes: There are no convincing Iran-related threat scenarios that justify both the current U.S. programs and the additional and therefore redundant systems of European states now in place, especially given that the latter are extremely limited in terms of their technology. At the Alliance summit on September 4 and 5 in Wales, the heads of state and government want to demonstrate their capacity for building stability in an unpredictable world. This holds also true for the missile defense (MD) activities of the alliance and especially of the United States that are supposed to protect Europe from missile strikes by Iran U.S. President Barack Obama has referred to the Iranian arsenals as a real threat.

Against this background, the latest Policy Brief "U.S./NATO Missile Defense in Europe. Implications for Iran and the Two Major Conveners of the Helsinki Conference" by Adj. Prof. Dr Bernd W. Kubbig, Project Director at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF), examines U.S. and NATO missile defense activities in Europe and its impacts on Iran as well as on holding the Helsinki Conference as planned. For example Kubbig argues that according to the Pentagon the MD-equipped Aegis ship, the backbone of the American defensive shield to protect Europe from Iranian missiles, does not have to be on duty at all times, nor is it required to protect every place within NATO members territory in Europe. According to Kubbig, this underlines the surprising operational fact that even in the official view a real threat from Iran varies in its intensity.

Representatives of the Obama administration have repeatedly declared that the American MD activities in Europe will be able to protect the continent and its population from 2018 on. For Kubbig, this poses the question why the costly and technologically extremely limited programs of European NATO partners are necessary in addition U.S. programs in Europe. The current European programs are simply not suited for territorial protection even for Eastern Turkey, and the government in Ankara will deploy in the near future its own systems anyway, explains the author of the study. For the goal of protecting soldiers of member states against missiles on missions outside the alliance, there are no convincing scenarios involving Iran.

Furthermore, the Policy Brief emphasizes the decisive roles of the U.S. and Russia in working towards the Helsinki Conference being held before the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in New York in the spring of 2015. More than 20 years after the end of the Cold War, missile defense has not intensified cooperation between East and West, contrary to expectations of its advocates. Instead, missile defense has contributed to an increasingly confrontational atmosphere between states.
Nevertheless and despite the Ukraine crisis, according to Kubbig, it is not yet too late for an intensive joint effort by Washington and Moscow, the two major conveners of the Helsinki Conference, so that the international gathering in the Finnish capital in fact takes place. The determined and targeted bilateral actions of Russia and the United States resulting in the Syrian regime joining the Convention on Chemical Weapons give grounds for hope in this respect, says Kubbig.

Adj. Prof. Dr. Bernd W. Kubbig is Project Director at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) and Coordinator of the Track II Initiative Academic Peace Orchestra Middle East.

Contact:
Adj. Prof. Dr. Bernd W. Kubbig

kubbig@hsfk.de
Phone +49(0)69 959 104-36 or +49(0)173-8907009 Weitere Informationen:http://hsfk.de/fileadmin/downloads/Policy_Brief_No_37-38_WEB.pdf Policy Brief "U.S./NATO Missile Defense in Europe. Implications for Iran and the Two Major Conveners of the Helsinki Conference"http://www.prif.org Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF)http://www.academicpeaceorchestra.com Academic Peace Orchestra Middle East
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