on Missile Defense in Europe
Dear Senator Cornyn,
I received your email newsletter regarding your position on the issue of missile defense. I agree with my fellow conservatives that protecting our country and allies from missile attacks should be a very high priority. I strongly support continued funding for sea-based and airborne laser systems that can rapidly be deployed to a crisis zone and ground-based lasers to counter the threat posed by terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. I also support continued U.S. bilateral technical cooperation with all nations threatened by rogue missile strikes.
However, I must respectfully disagree with the notion that placing a handful of interceptors in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic is going to make Europe or America safer. On the contrary, I view this token system as serving more of a political rather than military purpose. The proposed system may very well serve to cement our ties with "New Europe" members that joined NATO during the 1990s. But I also believe that some in Washington would not mind if the system provokes a foolish Russian response that would involve putting offensive missiles in the enclave of Kaliningrad.
I'm sure you agree with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that our military needs to be focused on fighting the terrorists and their supporters, rather than on rekindling the Cold War with Russia and China. Some Washington think tanks may tell you that Russia and China are engaged in military buildups to challenge American power. As a financial service professional, my response to that is that is if these countries do intend to challenge America directly, funding billions and trillions of the U.S. national debt seems to be an odd way of doing it.
Poland and the Czech Republic are staunch allies of the U.S. and should have been admitted to NATO. But placing these missile defense systems so close to Russia is counterproductive. It is damaging to our relations with Moscow at a time when, frankly, we need the Russians more than they need us. I am speaking of course, about the logistical lifeline for President Obama's proposed troop surge into Afghanistan--which I know you support--and which President George W. Bush's administration planned.
As you well know from intelligence briefings, the truck convoys supplying our troops in Afghanistan currently pass through hostile territory in Pakistan. There is strong reason to believe that the Taliban has compromised Pakistan's intelligence services in the past. There is also strong reason to suspect that Pakistan's ISI was involved in planning the recent Mumbai terror attacks against our ally, India. So far, the Taliban have been hitting the convoys supplying our troops and those of our NATO allies in Pakistan with impunity.
Compare the reality in South Asia and Afghanistan to Russia, which was the first country to offer the U.S. use of bases and airspace following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Within weeks of the horrific attack on America, President Vladimir Putin had delivered deeds, not just words. Fully armed American bombers, some of them from Dyess Air Force Base here in Texas, were flying over Russian territory on their way to strike back at the Taliban--a situation that would have been unthinkable during the Cold War. As a United States Senator representing our state, you should also be aware that there are several third party logistics operators (3PLs) based right here in the northern part of Texas that are involved in the Afghan logistics effort, and they are doing business with Russia, including some operating at Fort Worth Alliance Airport. These companies regularly charter huge Russian Antonov An-124 transport jets for NATO's Air Bridge Cargo Program. These privately owned Russian and Ukrainian jets are capable of flying over 100 tons of materiel into Afghanistan at a time and have provided a very useful backstop to our own national airlift capacity.
I would remind you, as I would other Republicans, that the first leader to propose sharing missile defense technology with Russia was none other than President Ronald Reagan in 1988. At that time, many of his own advisors thought that he was crazy to propose such a thing, but Reagan understood that the Russian people were not our enemy, and that the Soviet system would soon be consigned to the ash heap of history. The Russian people, after all, were our allies in World War II and did much fighting and dying to stop the Nazis.
Crew members of the U.S. Navy's guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain carry U.S. and Russian flags as they march during World War II victory celebrations in the far-eastern city of Vladivostok May 9, 2007. (Photo by Reuters, comment by Russia Blog editors)
None of this is to say that we should overlook some Russian policies, especially with regard to Iran, that aren't helpful. By most accounts, for example, the Iranian government continues to seek a way to develop an offensive nuclear arsenal. The Russian government's decision to continue to sell to the Iranians tools and technology that might more easily facilitate Iran's military objectives is terribly problematic to the U.S. and Europe. But we should caution against letting one policy (as troubling as it is) dictate every element of the relationship, and also ask ourselves: Do Russians really want a nuclear armed Iran near their border? Going back to World War II and even under President Reagan, we have a history of cooperation with the Russians--even when our two countries' interests weren't aligned as seamlessly. Perhaps for the first time in recent history, we have a realistic opportunity explore how to nurture our common interests, which might in turn allow us to reach more positive conclusions on those matters where we disagree.
I believe that the solution to any potential Iranian missile threat is to cooperate with Russia, rather than to revive Cold War positions that are no longer relevant to the threats facing Americans and Russians. The Taliban and the terrorists who attacked us on September 11 are still dangerous, and they pose just as much of a threat to Russia as they do to America. U.S.-Russia cooperation is more important now than ever.
Fort Worth, Texas
Editor, Russia Blog
You can write Senator John Cornyn by following this link, and read his original article published in the Defense News below.
21st Century Threats
'Unproven Technology' Lays Basis for Missile Defense
By U.S. Sen. John Cornyn
Published: 13 April 2009
On April 5, North Korea launched a missile - and sent the world a wake-up call.
Ballistic missiles in the hands of rogue states, potentially armed with weapons of mass destruction, remain one of the most serious security threats of the 21st century. Change of administrations in Washington does not change this strategic imperative: Free nations must defend themselves from ballistic missile attack through robust and layered missile defense capabilities.
North Korea's launch continues a ballistic missile development program that is now four decades old, and which many believe is the most advanced in the developing world. North Korea's Taepo Dong-2 long-range missile has the potential capability to strike Hawaii, Alaska and possibly the West Coast of the United States.
Many observers agree that North Korea has proliferated elements of its missile program, along with those of its nuclear program, and has helped accelerate development of dangerous capabilities in Iran and other nations. Iran's capabilities, in turn, could threaten all our allies in Europe, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East, including Israel.
Despite the growing risk, the new U.S. administration seems determined to scale back our missile defense capabilities and leave us and our allies more vulnerable.
On the same day that North Korea tested its new capabilities, President Barack Obama announced that America's capabilities would be subject to new restrictions. He said in Prague that our missile defense partnership with NATO, including a tracking radar to be based on Czech soil, would go forward only if it is cost-effective and proven, and if the threat from Iran persists. These qualifications may seem reasonable, yet they signal unreasonable cutbacks throughout our missile defense program.
The next day, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made clear which U.S. missile defense capabilities meet the administration's new standards. Approved for more funding are the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, the Standard Missile 3 program, and the conversion of six Aegis cruisers for missile defense.
Defunded or delayed are the Multiple Kill Vehicle program, the Airborne Laser program and additional ground-based interceptors in Alaska. Overall, the administration plans to cut funding for missile defense by nearly $1.5 billion, or about 15 percent.
Reading between the lines, we can see the new administration's priorities. They recognize our proven but limited capability to destroy missiles in the midcourse and terminal stages of flight, yet they resist developing new technologies that would defeat such missiles much earlier, in the critical boost phase. In Europe, what they haven't left out of the budget they seem eager to give away at the negotiating table.
And while trillions of dollars in domestic spending are justified as economic stimulus, new defenses against ballistic missiles - built right here in America - must overcome much higher hurdles from the budgetary bean counters.
Fixing the Priorities
The administration has set the wrong priorities, partly because it takes too lightly the growing missile threat from rogue states, but mostly because it has failed to recognize three crucial developments over the past 25 years.
First, new technologies have proved the skeptics wrong. During the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan's vision of defenses against ballistic missiles was dismissed as science fiction. Today, our nation has deployed ground-based interceptors, early warning satellites, land- and sea-based radars, and an integrated command, control, battle management and communications infrastructure. Together these components give us an emergency capability against a limited long-range ballistic missile attack, yet each of them, decades ago, was merely an "unproven" technology.
Research, development and deployment of today's unproven technologies are the key to improving our defenses in the decades to come.
Second, the administration seems unaware of the sea change in international public opinion on the issue of missile defense. At the close of the 20th century, our allies and friends were still very skeptical of missile defense. Yet, consistent and patient diplomacy by the Bush administration changed all that. Today, our nation has cooperative agreements on missile defense with the United Kingdom, Denmark, Italy, Japan and Australia.
We are working with Poland and the Czech Republic to give NATO a missile defense capability, and with Israel to improve its defenses against medium-range rockets. India, France and many other nations have expressed interest in cooperating with us on these technologies. Cutting back on U.S. missile defense capabilities makes no sense when so many allies and friends want to deepen their cooperation with us.
Third, support for U.S. missile defenses now crosses partisan lines. Five of my colleagues, including Independent Joe Lieberman and Democrat Mark Begich, wrote President Obama following his administration's proposed funding cuts for missile defense. They urged him to reconsider these recommendations and to continue development of an integrated, layered defense against the ballistic missile threat.
I share my colleagues' concerns, as do millions of Americans across the political spectrum. The president has inspired so many with his vision of crossing ideological divides to pursue common, long-term objectives. Building the infrastructure of missile defense presents a tremendous opportunity to make that vision a reality.
President Obama, like every commander in chief, must make difficult choices to protect our people, advance freedom and defend our strategic interests. I applaud his surge of forces in Afghanistan and appreciate the additional defense capabilities he appears willing to fund. Yet I will oppose any cuts to missile defenses, and to any program that gives us a fighting chance to deter and defeat the security threats of the 21st century.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, serves on the Senate Budget Committee and is a past member of the Armed Services Committee.