No to US Missile Defence

The United States has been developing an extremely expensive weapons system over several decades now generally termed 'Missile Defense'. Previously this system – coming to prominence under President Reagan in the 1980s - was commonly referred to as 'Star Wars' because of its plan to use satellites and missiles which travel through space. In its latest version, the US is now involving Europe in this system via the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and claims it will protect the US and its allies from attack by missiles.

Missile Defence interceptor, Alaska

An offensive system which encourages an arms race

Contrary to US claims, this system (consisting of missile bases and radar stations across the world and including sea-based components) will allow the US to attack other countries in a first strike capacity without fear that they will be able to effectively attack back because such a retaliation would be neutralised by the system. In other words, the US Missile Defence system is offensive. Having such a weapons system inevitably leads to an arms race as other countries feel pushed to level the balance of power and threat by developing their own competitive missile defence systems or weapons systems that might overcome the US system.

US Missile Defence helps the US achieve a strategy of global military dominance, that is control of land, sea, air, space and information. In 2002 the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, signed with Russia, in order to further develop the system.

UK on the front line

The UK allows bases at Menwith Hill and Fylingdales in Yorkshire, which operate outside British law and parliamentary scrutiny, to be crucial components of the system. In doing so our country becomes complicit in the US military agenda and Britain is put on the front line in any future US war.

A potential aggressor could seek to destroy US Missile Defence facilities in Europe in the context of an imminent war with the US. During Bush's presidency the plans sparked controversy and increased tension with Russia. Continuing development of the system remains a bone of contention between the two countries and does nothing to help efforts towards reduction of the enormous numbers of nuclear weapons each country still has.

68% of British people believe parliament should decide on UK 'support and involvement in the US National Missile Defence programme, including the stationing of US radar and communications bases in Yorkshire' (there has not yet been a full public and parliamentary debate on our involvement) - YouGov/CND poll, July 2007

Menwith Hill from Harrowate by jlcwalker

European involvement

Russia believes the US Missile Defence system is targeted at them; the US claims that the system is to defend against attacks from Iran. But plans for both sea and land-based elements will virtually surround the area of Russia and China by the system. There are fears that continued development - including plans to site bases in Southern and Central Europe - will provoke a new Cold War with Russia.

The Obama administration reviewed Bush's Missile Defence plans and in 2009 scrapped plans for interceptor missiles to be based in Poland and a radar base to be located in the Czech Republic (there was much opposition in both countries to these plans and campaigners widely celebrated this news).

However, Obama has in fact enlarged and strengthened US Missile Defence in different ways and there is concern as to which countries will now play host to the dangerous system. Turkey, the Balkans and Israel have been suggested, adding tension in an already unstable region. Romania has agreed to host interceptor missiles and Bulgaria has started discussions. Poland is now hosting a Patriot Missile Battery (short range missiles), 50 miles from the Russian boarder. Additionally, the Czech Republic announced that an early warning centre may be operational there by 2011/ 2012.

Phased adaptive approach

To involve Europe in the system the US is planning for a new 'phased, adaptive approach'. It was agreed at the NATO Summit in 2010 that NATO and the US would develop the European components. The first phase of the new system, to be operational by 2011, will deploy sea-based interceptor missiles that can be stationed wherever and whenever required. The second phase, due to be completed by 2015, will involve placing upgraded interceptor missiles somewhere in Southern and Central Europe. Further phases would see the development of new generations of land and sea-based missile interceptors.

The revised plans will reportedly make better use of existing radar bases such as the UK one at Fylingdales. According to Defence Secretary Robert Gates: 'American missile defense on the continent will continue, and not just in Central Europe, the most likely location for future sites, but, we hope, in other NATO countries as well.'

Sea Based Radar

Weapons in space

A number of components of the US Missile Defence system are space-based. Some European states, along with Russia, Canada and China are openly opposed to the weaponisation of space and are trying to develop an international treaty banning this. Yet the US has vetoed all attempts to negotiate such a treaty and the UK has so far played no useful role in opposing space weaponisation.

CND says No to US Missile Defence

The US Missile Defence system is a provocative military system, under the guise of defence. It will make the world even more unstable and insecure with the possibility that parts of the system will be based in Turkey, Israel or the Balkans. Its development encourages a global arms race and increases tensions with Russia risking a new Cold War.

CND believes the UK and US governments should concentrate on peaceful, multilateral initiatives for dealing with threats - the only true route to peace, security and nuclear disarmament.