Communism and Totalitarianism are on the march, and their principal threatening tool is missile proliferation and launches. China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and non-state actors will continue to test, bend, and break international rules and norms of behavior with missile proliferation and offensive intent. These malign and pernicious actors sense strategic weakness, strategic hesitancy, and the absence of strategic will across the international community.
The U.S. and our allies and partners must pursue collective strategic deterrence. The fulcrum for this collective strategic deterrence must reside within effective Missile Defense that is integrated and applied with strategic synergy. Allied and partnered missile defense systems arrayed across the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East offer the right foundation for collective strategic deterrence. Defense and deterrence systems are not provocative — they are prudent. Combining defensive and offensive capabilities undoubtedly produces comprehensive strategic deterrence.
“That’s how we deter adversaries: by threatening to impose costs if attacked. But we also deny benefit to an adversary by building the ability to defend ourselves. That’s what our missile defense capabilities do. And when you integrate your offense with your defense, that’s when you most effectively deter your adversary.” — Gen. John Hyten, Vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on March 23, 2021.
Russia’s aggressive deployment of a significant surge made up of overmatching military forces to the border with Ukraine to overwhelmingly support an attack with its most advanced military equipment to include the forward deployment of its Iskander missiles is not posturing nor hypothetical power diplomacy. It is a clear threat to Ukraine and to their ties to the West. It clearly challenges and highlights the inadequacies of U.S., NATO and Allied Air and Missile Defense Capabilities in deterring and defending against Russian Missile Forces upon the Ukraine Border. It directly questions the resolve of whether the United States, NATO and its Allies have enough missile defense capacity in theater and total force to deter the efficiency of striking first and left of launch tactics which the United States or NATO would ever do. This quagmire is indicative of what Russia is doing today to take back Ukraine and what China is doing today to take back Taiwan.
Today we face heightened tensions with China, a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine, North Korean sabre rattling with missile launches, and Iran launching missiles and UAVs at allies like Saudi Arabia. This is not unusual in the world today and our total Missile Defense force is simply way too small to deal with any of these contingencies in a full-scale conflict, much less effective enough to be deployed globally to deal with multiple crises at the same time.
Effective missile defenses are essential to deterring and stabilizing a conflict. As much as missile defense critics since the 1960s have advanced the same, deeply flawed argument that offense is cheaper and therefore we don’t need missile defenses, these crises show how that argument doesn’t hold water. The U.S. and our allies have the ability to launch pre-emptive strikes on China massing its forces against Taiwan, or Russian forces like the Iskanders near NATO and Ukraine, or North Korea threatening U.S. forces and South Korea with missile launches but doing so would start the very conflict we are trying to deter. Much sounder and more effective is to have missile defenses to deter an attack, defend key cities and military sites, and to stabilize the situation to give time for diplomatic efforts. Much sounder and more effective is to have NATO and our Allies commit to a much greater burden share to resource and deploy compatible missile defense systems for Europe. The United States must defend its maneuverable combat joint forces in Europe to enable a dominating offense/defense integrated power projection capability of collective force from all domains. The USAF has to be enabled to defend its F-35s and F-22s on European ground. The Navy has to be enabled to defend its Destroyers and Aircraft Carriers. The Army has to be enabled to defend its Corps. The Space Force has to be enabled to defend its Sensors in Space.
Just as the international system of rules and norms of behavior will be tested by our adversaries who remain on the march, the Biden administration will be tested and challenged to halt that march. Collective Strategic Deterrence will require strategic synergy and the comprehensive integration of offensive and defensive capabilities. These capabilities include, yet are not limited to, conventional Global Strike, Cyber, control of the Electromagnetic Spectrum, Space, and most significantly — Missile Defense.
Moreover, the Biden administration now faces the greatest test of its strategic will, resolve, and commitment to our allies and likeminded partners with strategic collective deterrence and effective Missile Defense as its fulcrum. It must not fail.