Today and tomorrow, NATO is meeting in Madrid to discuss its new strategic construct, focusing on how to best deter Russia and China, the two most threatening nations to the world order. In Madrid, the heads of state will discuss Russia and, for the first time as an agenda item, China as a strategic and regional threat to NATO. Australia, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand will participate as “partner” nations to NATO.
These discussions will seek to establish solidarity on imposing costs, denying benefits, and communicating effectively with Russia and China. A critical leg in this three-legged stool of deterrence is the rapid development and deployment of comprehensive, integrated air and missile defense systems under a unified command and control system across NATO territories.
With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fears of an emboldened China invading Taiwan are real. Such a “Ukraine Moment” would put the entire Indo-Pacific region at risk, including Japan, Australia, and South Korea. This would also include the Western edges of the United States, Hawaii, Alaska, which are considered to be a part of North America, as well as the US territory of Guam. Article 5 does not specify that an attack on the U.S. in the Pacific would necessarily qualify for a NATO collective response; it only stipulates a collective defense in North America and Europe. With Guam’s location in the Indo-Pacific, Article 5 would not be applicable during an attack on Guam. However, Guam is not the only NATO territory in limbo with Article 5. The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) lies a few hundred miles further from China than Guam, and its largest island, Diego Garcia, is home to a joint US/UK military base. The United States’ Northern Mariana Islands and France’s New Caledonia are within range of a Chinese strike. NATO must clarify that the territories of France, the UK, and the United States in the Pacific are validated and included within Article 5 to eliminate confusion and prevent China from taking advantage of this gray area.
On Monday, Russian long-range bombers struck a Ukrainian shopping center containing at least 1,000 people with a missile strike. The most recent estimates state the strike resulted in 16 deaths and 59 injuries. Russia has launched 2,606 ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, reflecting their continued reliance on missiles as their weapon of choice. The US has signaled they will soon announce the purchase of an advanced, medium-to-long-range surface-to-air missile defense system to be given to Ukraine. Ukraine has repeatedly requested the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAM), but it is unclear which specific system the US will provide for Ukraine. In the meantime, Ukraine remains very limited in its capability to defend itself against these missile strikes, and it is a clear message to all NATO nations who also have limited or no missile defense capability against these threats from Russia.
NATO members and partner nations have to unify together to create an overall combined Command and Control (C2) that would include sharing of sensors from all domains and a capability to provide that data to a sufficient capacity of missile defense systems in all domains.
NATO operates a layered missile defense network out of the NATO Ballistic Missile Defense Center in Ramstein, Germany, initially built for the defense of NATO against Iranian Ballistic Missiles. The network expands outward by integrating a limited amount of land-based, sea-based, and space-based sensors that maintain early warning detection capabilities for ballistic missile threats from Iran. Among them is the AN/TPY-2 BMD radar that Turkey has operated since 2012, Aegis Ashore Sites in Poland (soon to be operational) and Romania, and US Navy Aegis BMD Ships in Rota, Spain. From this, the Aegis ballistic missile defense system represents a major effort to protect the citizens of NATO member nations in the upper tier of Space where the intercept of launches from Iran would take place. There are two Aegis ashore installations, one in Deveselu, Romania, and the other in Redzikowo, Poland, designed to intercept incoming ballistic and cruise missiles over Eastern Europe from Iran. Operated out of Rota, Spain, NATO possesses four Aegis BMD-capable destroyers that provide for BMD patrol missions that have VLS-capable SM3 interceptors – this may soon grow to be six ships. In the lower tier, some NATO member countries utilize various very limited amounts of different ground-based and sea-based air and missile defense systems such as the Patriot system, NASAMS, Sky Sabre, and SAMP/T systems.
As Russia began its assault against Ukraine, both Sweden and Finland considered ways to ensure their countries’ safety; they found that their national security is deeply tied to the European and Transatlantic security that NATO offers. As a result, Sweden and Finland abandoned their historical neutrality and applied to join NATO. After complex negotiations, Turkey has abandoned its planned veto. Sweden and Finland are moving away from being hypothetical NATO members; they are closer to being a part of the strategic calculus. Both countries will continue to contribute to Europe’s security and NATO’s defense of Asia. Swedish and Finnish navies, according to a maritime strategist at the U.S. Naval War College, have proven their ability to use “small, elusive, missile-armed surface patrol craft and conventional submarines to mask their whereabouts” in the Baltic Sea. As naval power becomes a defining feature of our competition with China, Sweden and Finland’s defensive tactics will be a valuable asset in the Pacific.
The Madrid Conference offers the right opportunity for developing new policy frameworks and collaborative security protocols for a globally integrated strategic architecture designed to deter the aggressive, malign, and pernicious intentions of Russian and Chinese authoritarianism. A necessary step is designing a proven integrated Missile Defense architecture that spans globally.
Beyond the NATO articles and protocols for Europe, it is bold and it is right for NATO to be a Combined Power globally.