The Truth About European Missile Defense

I love Eastern European politicians. They haven't seen the need to be disingenuous about the real purpose of political decisions. They can be blunt

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I love Eastern European politicians. They haven't seen the need to be disingenuous about the real purpose of political decisions. They can be blunt and open about their intentions and desires. That's why we find out, from the Polish foreign minister, that the proposed United States missile defense site for his country really isn't about Iranian or Russian ballistic missiles at all.

When George W. Bush's administration announced its plans to deploy missile defense interceptors in Poland, the system was advertised as needed to counter Iranian missiles headed toward the United States or Europe. The problem was, Bush's plan was designed to counter long-range missiles and actually had little chance of hitting a missile headed from Iran to Europe.

The Obama administration came in and changed the plan, replacing the interceptors with a "phased adaptive approach" that will use smaller, more mobile systems to counter short and medium-range missiles. They advertised that as better suited to protect Europe.

But Sikorski admitted that Poland's real interest in the system is to be an active player in the new emerging security infrastructure in Europe, which includes NATO's endorsement of missile defense.

"Our part of Europe has so far very few NATO installations," he said. "This is the game that seems to be the next project, so we decided to get involved."

Ah, yes, the great game of military power building. So when you hear politicians or defense analysts stressing the need for the US government to spend billions for European missile defense sites because of the Iranian "threat" of a ballistic missile attack, tell them that they're full of crap. Europe doesn't need us to defend it from Iran, and we don't need this site to protect the United States from an Iranian nuke. Poland just wants a US military installation so that it can feel as important as Germany or Italy in playing its part for NATO (but let's not talk about NATO's role in defense issues outside of Europe, it's pretty vague).

I'm hoping that the Obama administration wises up about this half-baked concept, but as long as Obama remains fixated on Iran's nuclear weapons program as a national security threat, he'll probably consider this missile defense site as "leverage" against Iran. But my impression is that Iran's really not going to care, because its ballistic missiles are more for protection against its neighbors than for aggressive, suicidal moves like ballistic missile shots at Europe or America. It's going to single-mindedly keep pursuing the dream, not because it wants to attack anyone or expand its borders, but because it's part of a nationalist agenda to be accepted as a significant player. After all, that's what Poland wants, too.

About Jason Sigger

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