News / USA

US Cancels Part of Missile Defense System

The U.S. is expanding its missile defense system at Fort Greely, Alaska, shown here in a 2007 photograph, but at the same time is scaling down its system in Europe.
The U.S. is expanding its missile defense system at Fort Greely, Alaska, shown here in a 2007 photograph, but at the same time is scaling down its system in Europe.
The Obama administration recently announced plans to deploy ballistic-missile defenses in the state of Alaska. At the same time, though, it canceled a key component of its European-based missile-defense system.

The Obama plan calls for stationing 14 missile interceptors in Alaska to protect the U.S. west coast from North Korea, which is seen as a threat due to its advances in nuclear and missile technology. It also calls for the deployment of a radar system in Japan.  

On the European side, the U.S. administration has been involved since 2009 in a four-stage program that uses sea-based, as well as land-based, ballistic-missile interceptors.  Experts said it is a much more flexible plan than the one advocated by former President George W. Bush.

U.S. cancels part of missile defense

Now the U.S. government has decided to forgo the last stage of the European missile defense project, known as “phase four.”

Joe Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund, an organization specializing in nuclear weapons policy, said “the controversial part of the program was the plan to put more advanced interceptors in phases three and four - this started to worry the Russians. They thought that the ‘phase four’ interceptor - a very large, very fast interceptor - might be able, if it worked at all, to intercept Russian long-range missiles. That’s what they objected to.”

U.S., Russia spar over missile defense

For many years, a U.S.-led ballistic-missile defense system based in Europe has been a contentious issue between the United States and Russia.

Sean Kay, an arms control expert at Ohio Wesleyan University, said Moscow believes the U.S. plan is ultimately aimed at Russia - a view rejected by the United States and other Western nations.

“The Russians rely much more heavily today on their nuclear deterrence because their conventional capabilities are so dramatically downgraded since the end of the Cold War,” said Kay. “Countries that have nuclear weapons are concerned about other countries’ ability to sort of neutralize their offensive or defensive nuclear capacity because it would leave them vulnerable to surprise attack.”

In announcing the cancelation of ‘phase four’ of the European missile defense system, the Obama administration cited budgetary constraints.

Reasons for missile defense cancelation

Kay said the underlying “reason why they are able to scrap that technology right now - or at least that part of the plan - is because the technology for it does not exist. It did not exist under the Bush plan, it did not exist under the Obama plan. It is sort of an assumed capacity that would be deployed in the future. So we are really giving up nothing to say we will scrap this for the time being.”

Cirincione said the system simply did not work.

“I have talked to a number of officials in town to see whether this was driven by diplomacy or program, and it was clearly program. The missile could not do what they wanted it to do," he said. "It was still just a paper concept. But as they started to look at the requirements for the missile, they realized they could not get a missile as fast as they wanted in the size that they needed.”

Obama’s critics would argue that cancelation of “phase four” is linked to the “flexibility” the president promised in arms control issues to then Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in off-microphone remarks last year.

But Cirincione said, “If the president is going to be more flexible, it is going to be in a comprehensive package he is going to propose to the Russians, and we have not seen that yet.”

As for Moscow’s initial reaction to the U.S. move, several Russian government officials have said Russia’s position on missile defense remains unchanged.

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: William from: Argentina
March 21, 2013 10:51 PM
A proposition about the reducton of defense sistem in Europe: :The U.S.A. and European partners also can reduce, in a hundred per ,cent, American nuclear bases in countries like: Germany, Netherlands, Belgium or Italy,, because now, almost 20 years fallen iron curtain, are innecesary, and very dangerous.the nuclear ballistic missiles.

What forbitte that those military nuclear instalations it will would to be closed and their missiles cutted?

Can be a economic budgets cut and utility to the American and European Administrations to a positive low of public debt in Washington, and a peacefulment effort to a Europe area of non nuclear zones. WILLIAM

by: angelina from: las vegas
March 21, 2013 6:14 PM
Indeed a very good decision by us if it is true.

by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
March 21, 2013 4:01 PM
Unilateral moves, to cancel defensive programs, normally do not achieve much. Program cancellations should, as well as possible, be done under negotiated international agreements. The reaction of the Russians, as indicated in the article " ....Russia’s position on missile defense remains unchanged. " demonstrates the point that even the best intentioned unilateralism achieves very little of substance. Some of the US Allies may also feel unhappy, by not having a chance to address their concerns, so that they may addressed/included in an international agreement.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs