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Arms Control and International Security: Transatlantic Missile Defense: Defining the Right Threat Set

As prepared

Thank you Ian for that kind introduction and for having me here today.

I always appreciate the opportunity to speak at the annual Atlantic Council missile defense conference alongside so many experts in this important field. Today, I would like to focus my remarks on how the Obama Administration has defined the ballistic missile threat and how we are cooperating to address this threat. I'll keep my comments brief to maximize our time to more freely engage on these issues.

The 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review (or BMDR) makes clear that the United States’ missile defenses are focused on defending against limited missile threats to the U.S. homeland and regional missile threats to our deployed forces, allies and partners throughout the world. The development of ballistic missiles by countries like Iran and North Korea, and the proliferation of these systems around the world is what drives our threat assessment.

Our deployment of missile defenses is focused on strengthening the twin U.S. goals of deterrence and assurance. In so doing, they also contribute to international peace and stability and reinforce our nonproliferation aims.

At the same time, we have made clear both in our policy and in the capabilities we have deployed that our missile defense efforts are not intended to affect the strategic balance with Russia and China.

As a practical matter, the U.S. experience with missile defense suggests that attempting to develop a comprehensive missile defense system to defend against ballistic missile attack from Russia would be extremely challenging – and costly – given the size and sophistication of Russia’s strategic missile force and the relatively limited number of missile defense interceptors that would be available to defend against such a large force.

It is to address the regional threats from the Middle East and North Korea, and to enhance our regional deterrence posture, that leads us to cooperate with our allies and partners in deploying missile defense systems and architectures today.

For example, I just returned from a trip to the Middle East, where the United States and Gulf Cooperation Council (or GCC) member states have committed to develop a region-wide ballistic missile defense capability, including through the development of a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. At the recent U.S.-GCC Summit, the United States committed to work with the GCC to conduct a study of a GCC-wide missile defense architecture and offered technical assistance in the development of a GCC-wide Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. Finally, we agreed to hold a senior leader missile defense tabletop exercise to examine improved regional ballistic missile defense cooperation.

In Europe, we continue to make excellent progress implementing the European Phased Adaptive Approach (or EPAA), which will serve as the U.S. national contribution to NATO’s missile defense system.

Starting in 2011 with Phase 1, we deployed a missile defense radar in Turkey and began the sustained deployment of Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD)-capable ships in the Mediterranean. With NATO’s declaration of Interim Capability in 2012, the radar in Turkey transitioned to NATO operational control. Additionally, we have been working with Spain to deploy four U.S. Aegis BMD-capable ships at the naval facility at Rota which will allow us to increase our rotational presence in the region and respond to potential crises.

We are on track to complete the deployment of an Aegis Ashore site in Romania as part of Phase 2 of the EPAA later this year. When operational, this site, combined with BMD-capable ships in the Mediterranean, will enhance coverage of NATO from short- and medium-range ballistic missiles launched from the Middle East.

Finally, Phase 3 will involve the construction of an Aegis Ashore site in Poland equipped with the new SM-3 Block IIA interceptor. President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget request designates approximately $200 million for the establishment of the site, including construction which will begin next year, allowing us to remain on schedule to complete this site by 2018. The Phase 3 site in Poland, when combined with other EPAA assets, will provide ballistic missile defense coverage of all NATO European territory

In the Asia-Pacific, we are continuing missile defense cooperation through our bilateral alliances and key partnerships. I’d highlight that the next generation of Aegis missile defense interceptor, the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA, which we are co-developing with Japan, just completed a successful flight test earlier this month. We also recently deployed a second AN/TPY-2 radar to Japan, which will enhance the defense of both the United States and Japan.

Finally, over the past twenty years, the United States and NATO offered Russia various proposals for missile defense cooperation. Russia declined to accept our proposals. As you’re aware, Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine led to the suspension of our dialogue on missile defense cooperation. But prior to the suspension, Russia continued to demand that the United States provide “legally binding” guarantees that U.S. missile defenses will not harm or diminish Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent. These guarantees would have been based on criteria that would have limited our missile defenses and undermined our ability to protect ourselves, our deployed forces, allies and friends against an evolving and growing ballistic missile threat.

The 2010 BMDR is quite clear on our policy: U.S. missile defenses are neither designed nor directed against Russia’s or China’s strategic nuclear forces. However, by the same token, we have also made it clear that we cannot and will not accept legally-binding or other constraints that would limit our ability to defend ourselves, our allies, and our partners. The United States will continue to insist on having the flexibility to respond to evolving ballistic missile threats.

Allow me to conclude by emphasizing that U.S. cooperation on missile defense is not a one size fits all approach. Threats are diverse and so must be our solutions. We tailor our unique sets of capabilities to fit with each regional security environment stretching from Europe to the Asia-Pacific. And as more actors develop sophisticated ballistic missile capabilities, it is incumbent upon us to take the appropriate steps to defend the U.S. homeland, our deployed forces, and our allies and partners. I can personally attest that our diplomatic engagements the last six years have made us, and our allies, better equipped to meet the threats of today, and nimble enough to respond to what threats may lay ahead.

Thank you and I look forward to your questions and our discussion.