Scientists Question Immediate Need, Value of European Missile Shield

Scientists from Russia and the United States said in a report today that U.S. missile defenses proposed for deployment in Europe would not adequately safeguard the continent against a nuclear strike, the Washington Post reported (see GSN, April 22).

The Bush administration proposed to deploy 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic against what it saw as a burgeoning Iranian missile threat.

However, the planned U.S. technology "could not engage" a theoretical nuclear-tipped Iranian weapon, according to the report from the EastWest Institute. The missile could deploy countermeasures such as decoys to foil the system, the 12-member panel of experts found.

It also declared that Iran's ability to perpetrate a nuclear strike on Europe is "not imminent."

Iran's missiles are modeled after North Korean weapons, which are themselves based on Soviet submarine-based missiles from the 1950s. Tehran has managed to improve these outdated vessels. However, it lacks "the infrastructure of research institutions, industrial plants, or the scientists and engineers that are needed to make substantial improvements," the report says.

The authors offered a much longer timetable for a nuclear-capable Tehran than the eight months postulated by Israel. They concluded that if Iran expelled U.N. weapons inspectors and adjusted nuclear technology, it would take one to three years for to produce a simple nuclear device, six to eight years to manufacture a missile capable to striking Southern Europe, and 10 years -- with conspicuous outside support -- to furnish a nuclear weapon that could hit U.S. targets.

The report might figure into U.S. President Barack Obama's decision on whether to deploy the system, the Post reported. Russia has denounced the shield, saying it could beget a new arms race (Smith/Warrick, Washington Post, May 19).

May 19, 2009
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Scientists from Russia and the United States said in a report today that U.S. missile defenses proposed for deployment in Europe would not adequately safeguard the continent against a nuclear strike, the Washington Post reported (see GSN, April 22).