The Case Against the U.S. Missile Defense System in Europe

For the last few years the U.S. has been negotiating with Poland and the Czech Republic for their cooperation in building a Missile Defense System (MDS) in the two countries in order to defend Europe against a possible threat of attack from Iran, considered by the Bush Administration as a "rogue" state. Negotiations have been conducted and some agreements made though Polish lawmakers have yet to ratify a final agreement, which would include the deployment of 10 Missile Interceptors built there. Meanwhile, the Czech government has called for a delay in a final vote on its agreements with the U.S. whereby a Radar system would be built which could detect an incoming missile (or missiles?).  

On June 5, 2007, James Carroll , the Boston Globe, wrote in "The Paradox of Missile Defense" that "Of all the problems that are exacerbating US-Russian tensions today, none compares for destructiveness with Bush’s misguided missile defense project.…the resuscitation of the fantasy of missile defense, and with it the raising from the dead of the arms race, may result in catastrophes in comparison to which Iraq is benign".

There are many pros and cons about the development of this system.  I’ll attempt to demonstrate many reasons why the system should not be built and put into operation. Here are twenty-one reasons the planning and implementation of the Missile Defense system are fraught with errors and dangers making it prudent to halt its development and call for diplomacy with Russia and Eastern Europe to resolve this travesty on the American people. Later in this piece, I include further evidence and explanations.

21 Reasons Against the Missile Defense System:

1. Testing objectives consistently are not met, cost overruns and scheduling delays  are rampant. The MDS doesn’t work. 

2. There is no evidence that Iran has threatened to attack Europe.

3. There is little evidence that Iran has a missile that could strike Europe.

4. Russia has threatened to deploy missiles, which could hold nuclear warheads, a short distance away from the Interceptors – and use them.

5. Having missiles in Poland might threaten other countries in the region that, in turn, might escalate their own missile programs.

6. The U.S. has not conducted one test where more than one missile was fired at a target at the same time in order to determine if the "shield" could detect them and the interceptors launched could destroy them.

7. At further costs of billions of dollars the U.S. taxpayer cannot afford it.

8. The majority of people in Poland and the Czech Republic strongly oppose it. 

9. It would have a "negative impact on the whole Euro-Atlantic security system,

10. The US missile shield plan with Russia’s missiles set north of Poland to retaliate are ,"as twin threats to Europe" said French President and the head of the EU, Nicolas Sarkozy .

11. It would lead to an expansion of the arms race.

12. It will also put Poland and the Czech Republic, the ‘host’ countries, on the front line subject to attack.

13. It would deter progressive treaties and agreements with Russia, the U.S. and the EU on conventional and nuclear weapons.

14. Plans now in effect to combine the MDS with other missile systems would compromise future attempts for reconciliation with Russia.

15. Distorted information on the U.S. missile defense radar has been provided by the head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

16. Many Czech people who vowed not to allow foreign troops on their territory again would be compromised by U.S. technicians and personnel working on the radar shield system.

17. Many people in the U.S. oppose the system, as well as other missile programs and the inflated military budget – especially during these war years, costing tax payers billions of dollars, thousands of lives and  much prestige in the world.

18. The U.S. Congress, the House and Senate, have put the breaks on giving money to build the system, for various reasons. 

19. The Pentagon, the U.S. Military Headquarters own test and evaluation office, says the technology, particularly in the version planned for Europe, remains unproven. More engineering work was needed before tests could prove the system’s effectiveness, the office said.

20. During the last 10 years or so the costs of missile defense has run about $10 billion average, per year. We simply cannot afford to invest any more money into it. 

21. If the U.S. continues development and starts to build the system in Poland and/or the Czech Republic and Russia retaliates, a major war could develop, even a nuclear war, which might destroy Europe and jeopardize the rest of the world. 

Evidence and Explanations supporting the case against missile defense in Europe 

According to a report by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, "Time To Rethink Missile Defense", by Lt. Gen. Robert Gard and Kingston Reif, published in Defense News, October 20, 2008:  "Despite the Bush administrations investment of an estimated $60 billion since 2001, US national missile defense continues to be an unnecessary and counterproductive enterprise. Testing objectives consistently are not met, cost overruns and scheduling delays are rampant." 

In Greg Kaufmann’s, Missile Defense: "Longest Running Scam, posted by The Nation Editor, Katrina Vaden Heuvel, on March 7, 2008, reviews testimony on March 6, 2008 in Congress with Rep. John Tierney, Chair of the House National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee. Joseph Cirincione, president of the Poughshares Fund, and author of Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons, provided the committee with a pointed assessment of the Missile Defense System in Europe situation: "I have known ballistic missile threats, I have researched ballistic missile threats, Mr. Chairman, this is not a serious ballistic missile threat that we face today. There is every reason to believe that it can be addressed through measured military preparedness and aggressive diplomacy."  Mr. Cirincione organized the last serious hearings on the program 15 years ago. "I believe that the Ballistic Missile Defense program is the longest running scam in the history of the Department of Defense. This is an enormous waste of money…we’re no further along in our ability to actually hit a real ballistic missile now then we were 20 years ago."

At the same hearing Lisbeth Gronlund, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told lawmakers "The Program offers no prospect of defending the United States from a real-world missile attack and undermines efforts to eliminate the real nuclear threats to the United States."  Gronlund’s group has long expressed skepticism about missile defense.   Other witnesses said that recent tests of the system, to take out long range missiles in mid-flight with ground-based interceptors, have been unrealistic.  They said the defenses can be easily overcome by countermeasures, such as decoys deployed along with warheads on the missiles.

The Senate Appropriations Bill for year ending September 30, 2009 reported that "We are discouraged to note that the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Test and Targets program has had another disappointing year.  MDA failed to conduct a single intercept flight test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system during fiscal year 2008."  The bill notes irregularities of the MDA operational procedures including the failure to consult with three high level agencies about the cancellation of a planned and budgeted FTG-04 flight test which the MDS cancelled.  Funds for the program were withheld by the Senate except for some research and development for the radar system in the Czech Republic.

If the US deploys missile interceptors in Poland, Russia has threatened to deploy missiles in Kaliningrad on the northern border of Poland. Each group of missiles has nuclear capabilities.

The Campaign for Peace and Democracy, a New York based activist group, explained,"The US government claims that the planned installation in the Czech Republic and Poland is designed to respond to an Iranian missile threat.  But there is no credible evidence that such a threat exists today.  And far from protecting against such a threat in the future, the anti-missile system and other nuclear escalations will only create even stronger inducements for Iran to seek nuclear weapons."

Michael Gordon reported in the New York Times, on May 21, 2006, that "To improve the defense against a potential Iranian threat, the Pentagon is upgrading a radar complex at Fylingdales, a British air base, and plans to begin work at the American Thule Air Base in Greenland.  By building an antimissile base in Europe, the Pentagon is seeking to position the interceptors close to the projected flight path of Iranian missiles that would be aimed toward Europe or continue on a polar route to the United States. Iran does not have intercontinental-range missiles and has yet to conduct a flight test of multistage rocket…some experts say it is a long way from developing such a system."

U.S. Is Proposing European Shield for Iranian Missiles                                                   

"As far as we can tell, Iran is many years away from having the capability to deliver a military strike against the US," said Gary Samore, vice president of the MacArthur Foundation and a former aide at the National Security Council. "If they made a political decision to seriously pursue a space launch vehicle it would take them a decade or more to develop the capability to launch against the US". 

Dave Lindorff, of, reports in, on Nov.13, 2008, that the anti-missile program itself is little more than a $160-billion boondoggle. Not one missile has ever actually been shot down in flight in a real test, where the trajectory of the target wasn’t strictly plotted out in advance to guide the interceptor.  Moreover, as many scientific critics have repeatedly pointed out, even low-tech Third World nations like North Korea could include countermeasures such as decoy warheads, which would render any effort at interception of a real warhead impossible…expensive fraud…"no one could explain why Iran would want to fire nuclear missiles at Europe, which, in Britain and France, has a large and sophisticated nuclear stockpile capable of incinerating Iran." Certainly Iran is aware of Europe’s defense capability.

Russia says it will not develop a planned array of expensive programs upgrading its missile defense if the US abandons their plan for the system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The development of an antimissile site in Poland would have a "negative impact on the whole Euro-Atlantic security system," Sergei Ivanov, the Russian defense minister, told a Belarus newspaper.

According to an AP article, Sarkozy questioned US missile shield plan, saying "Plans for a US missile shield in Eastern Europe are misguided and won’t make the continent a safer place." "Deployment of a missile system would bring nothing to security…it would complicate things and would make them move backward." He said he would discuss the missile issue with NATO counterparts at a summit early next year and proposed a pan-European security conference after that, under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Russia and the United States are members of the OSCE.

Obama has said he would make sure any missile defense system has been proven to work before it is deployed. The Interceptors planned for Poland are of a different design from any previously built by the U.S.

The US failed to obtain the consent of either Europe or NATO before deciding to deploy the ABM shield in Poland. This has angered Russia immensely and threatened the stability of the region. reports in a letter to Obama signed by 31 Czech Mayors and others that this "will lead to a new expansion of the arms race". 

Russia is being dangerously provoked by the missile system plans. Gen. Yuri N. Baluyevsky, the chief of the Russian military’s general staff, has sought to stir up Polish opposition to the plan.  "Go ahead and build that shield," he said. "You have to think, though, what will fall on your heads afterwards…countries that are part of such a shield increase their risk". Russia has threatened to deploy missiles, with nuclear warhead capability, only a few hundred miles away from the proposed Interceptors. 

A report from Reuters in December 2008, explained that Russia has made much of a host of "new" missiles it plans to produce in response to U.S. plans to build an anti-missile system in Europe. Russia tested the Bulava, "a submarine-launched ballistic missile that can carry nuclear warheads to targets more than 5,000 miles away." Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said, "at the same time our defense enterprises have started mass production."

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said the Bulava missile can penetrate anti-missile shields such as the one the United States plans to deploy in Poland and the Czech Republic. Colonel-General Nikolai Solovtsov, Commander of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces, said last week Russia had intensified efforts to develop new ballistic missiles.  Martin Sieff, UPI Senior News analyst, reported on Dec.31, 2008 in, Russia’s S-400 air defense system may be world’s best.

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus called the Russian threat "beyond" comprehension".  Jiri Paroubek, chairman of the opposition Social Democrats (Cssd), the Czech Republic, said on October 29 the initiative arouses "reactions of Russia that plans to direct missiles with nuclear warheads against us".

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the US system "is aimed at a very limited threat from Iran".  Iran’s "threat", as a "rogue" state, is the reason for the Missile Defense System in the first place.

Czech Activists, "No Bases Initiative", said the system "will lead to new dangers and insecurities.  Although it is described as ‘defensive’, in reality it will allow the United States to attack other countries without fear of retaliation. It will also put ‘host’ countries on the front line in future US wars." The host countries are Poland and the Czech Republic.

Jan Tamas, an organizer of a rally in Prague, Czech Republic, explained that the Czech government completely ignores the will of about 70% of the Czech population. Most of the people in both countries do not want the system.

December 2, 2008 activists protested outside a government office in Prague, the Czech Republic with banners that said, "Death thanks this government for the radar. I don’t need to fear for my job any longer."  Such is the displeasure over the plans to build the radar base there. "Our protest is to point out the fact that the radar stationing on our soil would escalate tension in Europe. It has already worsened relations of Europe and the United States with Russia," said Tamas from the Non-Violent Movement.

In July 2008, according to the Washington Post, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Czech-based US radar facility will "help protect" the Czech Republic when linked to an Aegis system, a sea-based antimissile system that combines radar and interceptors and is carried aboard a variety of US Navy ships. 

At the same time, a Pentagon spokesman said that an additional US system being developed to be based in Europe, the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) will also be available to protect the Czechs from missiles launched from Iran or any Middle Eastern country.  Eventually, the intention is to link the Czech radar into a NATO missile defense system that is in the planning stage. 

Russian officials have already warned that if the US proceeds with the system Russia will suspend participation in a treaty limiting conventional forces in Europe and direct its missiles towards Europe, said the Campaign for Peace and Democracy.

The radar system for the Czech Republic is non-functional, according to Czech regional governor Milada Emmerova, who reviewed evidence by U.S. independent scientist Theodor Postol, who was invited by Greenpeace to Pizen, Czech in November. Postal said according to his calculations based on the radar parameters which are available in America, he had arrived at the conclusion that the radar maximum range would be 600 to 700 km, as opposed to a range of 2100 to 2500 stated by Henry Obering, then director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA). 

With speeds that could attain 17,000 miles per hour a missile picked up at a range of only 600km (around 600 miles) may not be detected in time for a successful retaliatory strike by an Interceptor missile set off from another country.  If more than one missile is sent it is doubtful that they could be intercepted.  Diplomacy and negotiations on security in the region are really the only long-range deterrent to attack and war.

More than two thirds of the Czech population, the leftist opposition and even some MP’s from the junior ruling Green Party oppose the radar project. Olga Zubova, junior government Green Party (SZ) deputy had many times called on the party deputies not to support the building of the radar base.

Czech anti-radar activists won a major victory in October’s regional elections, where candidates from the government party were defeated in all 13 regions. The radar issue was a strong factor. Furthermore, the prospect of foreign troops stationed on their land, as the Soviets were 19 years ago, before the Velvet Revolution, antagonized many Czech people who vowed not to allow foreign troops on their territory again.

In November U.S. Anti-War Activists, the New York based Campaign for Peace and Democracy, sent an open letter, signed by 79 people, to Czech officials in support of Nov.17 Czech protests against U.S. Radar, including Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. The letter was signed by people in the U.S. who have have much knowledge of U.S. foreign policy and the opinions of the Polish and Czech peoples, while understanding the shortcomings and dangers that may lie ahead in Eastern Europe, and possibly beyond to other countries. 

The Arms Control Association’s report, "Anti-Missile Systems Uncertainty Grows", states that US law prohibits base construction for the interceptors and radar until the Polish and Czech parliaments ratify separate US basing agreements. Prospects for approval are judged to be higher in Poland, particularly because Czech parties opposed to the deployment won some recent gains in the Czech parliament’s lower house. The upper chamber approved the US basing Nov. 27, but a vote in the lower chamber is generally not expected to take place until later.

Some Democrats in the U.S. Congress want to put the breaks on constructing the MDS saying it has not been adequately tested. Ellen O. Tauschner, Democrat of California, who is chairwoman of the House Subcommittee that overseas the missile defense program, wants only research and development funded.  This spring, the House Armed Services Committee voted to withhold authorization for most of the $712 million requested funds by the Bush Administration.

In July 2007 the U.S. Senate panel noted that the interceptor to be placed in Poland "has not yet been developed or tested, and is not currently planned to be flight-tested until 2010."  Therefore "it could be several years before it is known if the interceptor will work in an operationally effective manner".  Regarding Iran’s threat or capability to launch a missile at Europe, the Senate Committee said, "There is uncertainty about whether Iran will have such long-range missiles, or nuclear warheads that could work on such missiles, by 2015". 

The Pentagon’s and the U.S. Military Headquarters’ own test and evaluation office says the technology, particularly in the version planned for Europe, remains unproven.  That system would rely on an untested two-stage rocket instead of the three-stage rockets used on the 24 interceptor missiles in California and Alaska. More engineering work was needed before tests could prove the system’s effectiveness, the office said, as reported by Eric Lipton in the NY Times. 

The program’s numerous critics say it is behind schedule and not up to even this challenge. "It has been doing very poorly", said Phillp Coyle, the former head of the Office of Operational Test and Evaluation in the Pentagon, according to the NY Times. "They have not had a successful flight intercept test for four years." 

Missile Defense is big business. In addition to the billions of dollars already spent and millions more requested by the Bush administration, giving lucrative contracts to defense industry corporations and military agencies and high-level personnel, in late October, according to Mark Thompson, Time Magazine/CNN, the Pentagon began work on a new missile defense "Headquarters Command Center" at Fort Belvoir, Virginia about 10 miles south of the Pentagon. The $38.5 million building will be home to 300 Missile Defense agency workers. 

One question we need to ask ourselves is will a renewed arms race, including the proliferation of nuclear weapons, between the U.S. and Russia on European soil and elsewhere, provide security and gain trust among all nations concerned?  Or would deterrence, containment and diplomacy, including talks with Iran, serve us far better in the long run? 

The time is now for the U.S. to withdrawal its plans for the missile defense system in Europe and for Russia to accept that withdrawal is a victory for peace on all sides. This would demonstrate to the world that diplomacy and disarmament can help lead us forward into more peaceful times, and give opportunities for progressive growth and development for millions of people worldwide. 


The case against the missile defense system is a strong one, both here in the U.S.and in Eastern Europe. Here are some more resources on the topic:

The Invisibles Against the Missile Defense System shows an absorbing and eerie demonstration by Czech protestors and their ongoing campaign for a missile free country. Other videos on this website also give evidence against the missile system:

A series of good articles opposing the missile defense system, points of view from Europe, the Czech Republic and the US: 

A group of 3 articles by Arn Specter on missiles and nuclear disarmament:

Article: The Need to Stop the Current Arms Buildup by Arn Specter:

Good 8 min. Speech by Mr. Jan Tamas, Czech Republic, 2007, Global Network, (Video)