Countering the missile threats from Iran, North Korea, Russia and China is one of the issues that have been specifically addressed in the new document. To shed more light on the issue, we interviewed Dr Abuzar Gohari Moghaddam, an expert on US affairs.
Q: What’s new in the 2019 Missile Defense Review compared with the 2010 MDR?
In order to answer this question, at first, we need to mention eight specific missile defence tasks in the new document:
- Defence of the homeland, forces and partners of the United States
- Deterrence of attacks on the frontiers, forces and allies of the United States
- Give assurances to Washington’s allies in defending and protecting them
- Strengthening US diplomatic efforts in peacetime; so that US missile defence is a means to support their diplomatic effort
- Confronting the proliferation of missile weapons, that is countering through this document and its strategies the rival countries of the United States that are moving toward development of missile weapons
- Address the future threats faced by Americans
- The claims of the Americans on the establishment of stability in the world
- Support and reinforcement of regional and intra-regional military operations
These are the eight main objectives of the 2019 MDR but on the other hand, the principles governing the US missile defence are based on three axes: first, to counter the actions of adversary governments and countries that engage the United States; The names of Iran and North Korea and some NGOs that they think might take action against the United States have been mentioned.
The second principle cited in the document extensively is about support for US forces and allies abroad.
The third axis is about pursuing new concepts and technologies by the United States in the technical and defence spheres.
Another point in the 2019 MDR is the elements of the missile defence strategy. The first element is active missile defence to intercept adversary missiles in all phases of flight; second, passive defence to mitigate the potential effects of offensive missiles; and third, if deterrence fails, attack operations to defeat offensive missiles prior to launch. This is among components that will have implications for other countries.
Q: What is the general purpose of the new Missile Defense Review? Why the 2019 MDR underlines creation of a stronger deterrence against missile capabilities of Iran, Russia, China and North Korea?
A major difference between the new MDR and the 2010 MDR is that the new document puts special emphasis on operationalization of countering the cruise missiles. Another issue is countering hypersonic missiles and considering their successful testing by Russia and China. The US now wants to counteract it in the new MDR document.
Perhaps one of the main reasons to submit the 2019 MDR at this time is to confront the growing advances of China and Russia. Russia is already in possession of advanced hypersonic missiles and China too is making progress in this area.
It’s interesting to note that the new MDR is seeking to strengthen the existing missile defence systems of the United States by using the space. In other words, they have presented the space-based missile defence document for the first time. For this purpose, the deployment of some sensors in space in order to boost the US missile defence systems is considered among the prominent points of the 2019 MDR. Another point is the use of laser airborne platform to confront the missile threat of adversaries. Yet another issue is the use of advanced F-35 military aircraft to hunt rival missiles as an innovative move extensively covered in the new document. In fact, F-35s are used as part of the missile defence system.
The United States sees the missile defence shield as part of a larger deterrent system which could respond to all attacks against the homeland. Here the US has given priority to increased cooperation with allies.
Deployment of advanced radars, new missile systems such as Thaad and short-range missiles, and increasing their number from 20 to 64 in Alaska and some neighbouring countries to counter missile attacks, are among the other elements of the new document.
The important point is adaptability and flexibility of the new missile systems with the American Armed Forces. The five branches of the US Armed Forces need to adapt to the new missile systems.
Q: What is Trump’s view of this document?
When he was unveiling the 2019 MDR, Trump put emphasis on the following five strategies:
- Launch a new defensive system in Alaska to protect the homeland
- Progress in missile system technology
- Defence against cruise and hypersonic missiles
- Use of space-based systems and removal of bureaucratic rules on the way of US missile advances
- 5. US allies pay their own defence costs so that the United States would not have to bear the costs unilaterally.
Q: What about citing Iran in this document and its introduction as a threat to the United States?
Iran is seen in this document in a particular way and Tehran is described as a threat. The document says Iran has the largest ballistic missile force in the Middle East and continues the development of technologies applicable to intercontinental range missiles capable of threatening the United States.
It says one of Iran’s primary tools of coercion and force projection is its missile arsenal, which is characterized by increasing numbers, as well as increases in accuracy, range, and lethality.
It also considers Iran’s space program to be a part of Tehran’s missile programs. Iran’s medium-range systems can threaten targets from Eastern Europe to South Asia.
Q: What is the reaction of Russia and China to this document?
The reaction of China and Russia to this document was strong because they regard the new US approach a factor in the arms race among the major powers. It should be noted that there is no international treaty banning the use of conventional weapons in outer space and the atmosphere. The recent US approach in 2019 MDR especially the use of space, will force other countries to confront and develop military activities in this area. Undermining the deterrent force of other powers will lead to the spread of security dilemma and ultimately promote the arms race in this domain.
Q: What is the reason for revising this document after about eight years?
Concurrent with the advances made by US rivals China and Russia through unveiling missile and anti-missile systems, great advances in the field of space and the use of military, satellites and anti-satellite weapons in recent years by the two countries, Washington felt it was lagging behind in the competition and therefore published the Missile Defense Review for 2019.
On the other hand, Trump insists that all national and international security documents should be rapidly revised under his term and Trump Administration versions be published. For this reason, in the early years of his presidency, many national security documents were revised. Consequently, with this logic, the new document was revised too late because the previous MDR was outlined in 2010, and a new one was released eight years later.
Q: How do you see the future of the international military space in the missile field after the release of 2019 MDR? Will Washington achieve its goals within this document?
The release of the new missile defence document will not create a special difference in the global missile sphere, as it lacks a new strategic issue. Most of the changes are tactical and non-ballistic missile threats such as cruise missiles, hypersonic missiles, and military use of the space. This document for the first time regards China at the same level as Russia, which is noteworthy.
The main idea behind this document is to maintain US supremacy over other rivals and to create convergence, adaptability and flexibility in defence, missile and military areas. Eventually, this document will not create a new status and will be considered a warning to rivals.
The implementation of this document requires a huge budget and still it is unclear whether the Congress would support its funding. It is unlikely for the Congress to provide the required budget to Trump in the short term because the new document will impose huge costs on the US administration and Army.
Many of the documents in the new MDR are six and nine-month programs which are somewhat impossible to implement in a short period of time in the US military and defence budget. Some others will take ten years to complete. According to most experts, eventually, the main winner of the implementation of the 2019 MDR are arming manufacturing companies such as Lockheed Martin and similar companies.