“Stronger, smarter, swifter.” Those are the words President Obama used last week to describe the newly unveiled U.S. missile defense plan. Stronger, because it addresses the existing threat in ways the previous option did not. Smarter, because it expands on important U.S. cooperation with Poland and the Czech Republic to make missile defense a truly NATO-wide activity. Swifter, because the first phase of the plan can be in place within a year – five-six years sooner than previously would have been the case.
Advancements in missile defense technology as well as new intelligence about the evolving missile capabilities of Iran, led President Obama to change the U.S. approach to missile defense. Given the realities on the ground, the original plan, which was discussed in 2006, is simply no longer the best option. And nothing but the best option – one that is proven, cost-effective, and adaptable – is an acceptable course of action for the defense of Europe.
I know that some have seen the new approach as a rejection of the long-standing, positive U.S. relationship with Poland and the Czech Republic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our country remains as dedicated as ever to cooperation with, and the defense of, all of our NATO Allies, regardless of shifts in policy. As Article 5 so clearly states, “an armed attack against one … shall be considered an attack against … all.” We stand by that solemn pledge. The United States is proposing a change in technology, but its strong commitment to Alliance security remains unchanged.
President Obama’s new missile defense architecture will be in place and ready to react sooner than the previous option allowed. It will be directed against the very real threat of Iranian short and medium-range ballistic missiles. It will be able to integrate with existing systems and will facilitate the adaption of our tactics as different threats evolve. Finally, it will be inclusive, leading to a more vigorous, expanded role for NATO and increased dialogue among the 28 members of the Alliance ensuring everyone benefits. Now, that’s a plan we all can truly get behind.