Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Putin Proposes Alternate Missile Defense Sites

At the G-8 meeting in Germany today, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed that the United States install its planned missile defense in Azerbaijan, a small nation nestled on Russia's southern bor

Putin stated that Russia would not redirect any missile aims of its own toward Europe if the U.S. locates its interceptor missiles there. President Bush termed the suggestion an "interesting proposal", according to White House adviser Steven Hadley.

The United States has planned to locate a missile defense system in Poland and Czechoslovokia, which drew threats by the Russian president to aim missiles at Europe. President Putin considers American missiles in those former Communist nations as a threat to Russia; President Bush has dismissed those concerns as baseless and assures that their purpose would be defensive only and intended to protect America's allies and interests in western Europe against rogue states such as Iran. Iran has progressed in its own development of nuclear capabilities to a self-declared point of no return; Iran maintains that its program is peaceful and dedicated to energy.

Putin's proposal may have some merit. Azerbaijan's location is much closer to Iran than is central Europe. However, the capabilities of the current missile defense elements may offer less protection with such close proximity to Iran's launch sites. Early warning systems may not currently provide sufficient lead time to intercept longer range missiles launched from Iran before they are north of any American launch sites in Azerbaijan. The Greater Caucasus mountain range in the northern part of Azerbaijan poses challenges to the capabilities of lower altitude interceptors such as the Patriot. Use of "theater high altitude area defense" (THAAD) missiles, designed to intercept longer range missiles in later trajectories of flight, is not as proven as other systems, such as the Patriot Missile, which has shown itself reliable on shorter range enemy missiles.
The challenge in locating in Azerbaijan is how to overcome the altitude challenges and how to overtake missiles from behind when essentially shooting at them from within a hole. Location of a missile defense system in Azerbaijan may offer little real protection of Europe against an Iranian launch.

President Bush has glibly said that he would have American experts "take a look" at Putin's proposal. Whether the proposal has any real merit from a strategic defense standpoint remains to be seen, aside from the political hurdles to locating within Azerbaijan.

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1 comments on Putin Proposes Alternate Missile Defense Sites

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