Nuclear Dynamics In A Multipolar-Strategic Ballistic Missile Defense World-Intel’ Study

Courtesy of “KoreaHerald”

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY-– This report examines the nuclear dynamics and implications for strategic relations in a world where four nuclear-armed states are developing strategic ballistic missile defenses (BMD). These states are the United States, Russia, China, and India. Each state appears to have the common rationale of wanting at least limited protection against ballistic missile attacks, and all will respond with various countermeasures to ensure that their nuclear deterrents are viable as they react to missile defense developments in other countries. In addition, we have found that each state has differing motivations for strategic BMD.

The United States is primarily motivated to protect itself and its allies against missile threats from Iran and North Korea while also wanting to have the capability to shoot down a very limited number of ballistic missiles from any source due to unauthorized or inadvertent launches. The United States has the dif cult balancing act of trying to assure Russia and China that U.S. strategic BMD programs are neither intended to defeat nor capable of de- feating those countries’ nuclear deterrents, while trying to deter or dissuade use of Iranian and North Korean ballistic missiles in armed con ict. However, Russia and China are not so much concerned about the present U.S. BMD systems, but what these systems could be- come in the next several years to couple of decades.

Russia’s motivations for strategic BMD have largely been focused on having missile inter- ceptors to protect Moscow, but several independent analysts have doubted the effective- ness of this system. While many Russian defense analysts have assessed that a nationwide missile defense is not possible, Russian defense engineers are still trying to develop im- proved missile interceptors based on hit-to-kill, kinetic technologies, while still consider- ing keeping nuclear-tipped interceptors.

China, for decades, has vociferously expressed opposition to U.S. missile defenses, argu- ing that they are destabilizing. Nonetheless, Chinese technical researchers have been in- vestigating BMD seriously since the mid-1980s in response to wanting to understand the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative. Since 2010, China’s activities in BMD have stepped up to include missile intercept tests and analytical assessments about the bene ts for China of potential limited BMD deployments. The primary motivation for China is to ensure that it has a viable second-strike nuclear force. Effective Chinese strategic BMD could give Beijing the con dence it needs about its nuclear forces’ survivability.

India began exploration of BMD about 20 years ago in response to New Delhi’s concerns about Chinese transfer of ballistic missiles to Pakistan and further developments of Paki- stani-produced ballistic missiles. Some Indian analysts have argued in favor of strategic BMD that would protect New Delhi (the national command authority) and Mumbai and its surrounding area (containing nuclear forces’ storage facilities) as a way of buttressing the credibility of India’s no- rst-use policy of nuclear weapons in the face of Pakistan’s rst- strike policy. Also, India has appeared to be motivated to have some protection against China’s ballistic missile threat. Conversely, China’s defense experts say that they do not feel threatened by India’s nuclear forces. But this assessment could change as India tests in the coming months and likely eventually deploys in the coming years the Agni-6 missile. With an estimated range of 6,000 to 7,500 km and reportedly able to carry multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), the Agni-6 missile poses a potentially serious threat to China, which could further motivate China to deploy BMD to guard against this new threat.

As these states pursue strategic BMD, the dynamics become even more complex because of security trilemmas, or nested security dilemmas, and because of security commitments between certain nuclear-armed states and their allies. For example, while the United States seeks to protect itself and its allies, Japan and South Korea, from North Korean ballistic missiles, China could feel threatened depending on the real or perceived capabilities of the missile defense systems. If China responds by building up its nuclear forces, India in turn could feel more vulnerable and then buildup its nuclear forces; this would adversely affect Pakistan, which could then be further aided by its ally China. Also, while the United States is focusing its missile defense efforts in Europe to provide protection to European NATO na- tions from potential Iranian missile threats, Russia expresses concern that the system could expand to eventually pose a threat to its nuclear deterrent. In sum, the action-reaction dy- namics in this multipolar world likely result in more instability, but as this report discusses there are also BMD deployments that could be stabilizing under the proper conditions.

While several arms control and defense experts from China, India, and Russia have ex- pressed interest during our discussions with them about potential multilateral arms control mechanisms, such as a multilateral Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, they have voiced skepticism that the United States is willing to accept any limits on its BMD system. During our discus- sions with numerous experts, we heard expressed interest in having Track 2 (nongovern- mental level) dialogues on strategic stability and BMD. These forums could help support discussions at the level of the ve permanent member states of the UN Security Council, or P5 (also the of cial nuclear weapon states), that could focus on developing a common un- derstanding of what would be needed to achieve strategic stability in a world with multiple nuclear-armed states deploying strategic BMD systems.

Study recognizes that the multipolar nature of the nuclear-armed world greatly com- plicates the strategic landscape and the decision-making tasks of deterrence and defense against multiple nations’ nuclear forces. One can almost view the Cold War with nostalgia as a “simpler” time when the nuclear challenge was mainly about the bilateral relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States.

 The George H.W. Bush administration reduced the scope of SDI by initiating a program

called Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS). GPALS was intended to be no more than half the size of the Phase I SDI program, but was still an ambitious program in that it was intended to protect against attacks of up to a few hundred warheads. GPALS would have consisted of numerous space-based and ground-based sensors and missile in- terceptors. The range of coverage was truly intended to be global with the objective of pro- tecting against missile attacks from any source.8 It would also include theater missile de- fenses for protection of U.S. allies and deployed forces. In 1993, President Bill Clinton came into of ce and his administration decided to emphasize development of improved theater missile defenses (TMD), in part due to the experience and challenges of trying to intercept Iraqi SCUD missiles during the 1991 Gulf War. Thus, GPALS was not developed, but several TMD programs were underway in the 1990s.

Growing concerns in Congress about missile threats especially from North Korea and Iran led to the creation and enactment of the 1999 National Missile Defense Act, which stated: It is the policy of the United States to deploy an effective National Missile Defense system as soon as is technologically possible and that this system should be capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether acciden- tal, unauthorized, or deliberate) and that funding is subject to the annual authorization of appropriations in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), as discussed by Thomas Karako, Director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).9 President Clinton decided in late 2000 to defer the decision to deploy the rst phase of NMD given concerns about cost, effectiveness, and the strategic reaction from Russia. The George W. Bush administration decided to move forward with deployment and recognized that it needed to notify Russia of withdrawal from the ABM Treaty because of the intent to defend the U.S. national territory, though the administration still envisioned a relatively limited size system.

In late 2016, Congress updated the NMD Act to underscore that the policy of the United States is to maintain and improve an effective, robust layered missile defense system capa- ble of defending the territory of the United States, allies, deployed forces, and capabilities against the developing and increasing complex ballistic missile threat. Notably, the word “limited” was removed from the 1999 act. This deletion has raised some concern from oppo- nents that the system could grow to an immense size and thus potentially have nancially and strategically destabilizing effects. Proponents have argued that the new language of protection against “the developing and increasingly complex ballistic missile threat” is in line with policy statements since 2002 in the Bush administration and further mentioned in the 2010 Obama administration’s Ballistic Missile Defense Review.

The Trump administration announced on January 27, 2017 that it would conduct a new Ballistic Missile Defense Review and a new Nuclear Posture Review. The schedule is to complete these reviews by early 2018. The description in the Trump administration an- nouncement is to “identify ways of strengthening missile-defense capabilities, rebalancing homeland and theater defense priorities, and highlighting priority funding areas.”11 Notably, the congressional language in the NDAA “requires the Defense Department to conduct a broad review of missile defense policy and strategy, including programs and capabilities to defeat ballistic missiles before and after launch, as well as to defeat cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles.”

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