EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference 2016 Special Session 11
Chair: Xavier Pasco, Director, FRS; Treasurer, EU Non-Proliferation Consortium 
Masafumi Ishii, Ambassador of Japan to Belgium and Ambassador for Public Diplomacy in Europe 
Jakub Cimoradský, Officer, Integrated Air and Missile Defence Section, NATO 
Uzi Rubin, Senior Researcher, Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies; former Director, Israel Missile Defense Organization

Provisional transcript

Xavier Pasco, Director, FRS; Treasurer, EU Non‑Proliferation Consortium

Ladies and gentlemen, I am very happy to welcome you here. I am Xavier Pasco, the new Director of Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique (FRS) in Paris and one of the members of this European Union Non‑Proliferation Consortium group of think tanks. It is my pleasure to chair this roundtable today about missile defence development in various areas of the world.

Thinking about this topic, it is interesting to see that the concept of missile defence, which has been very much linked to the nuclear era, was born from the nuclear weapons development some 50 years ago and has gone through different highs and lows. There was a well‑known high in the 1980s with the discovery for many of us of the possibility of creating a huge strategic defence system with the so‑called ‘Star Wars’ or Strategic Defence Initiative under the Reagan era. Of course, we all know what became of this programme and how it has evolved through different systems and R&D projects.

It has been followed by a number of technological advances on a more reduced scale, especially in the year 2000, and we see today, if I understand what we hear from the different parts of the world, the resurgence of the perspective of operational systems at regional scale. My personal reflection on this is that it is more and more clear that the link between the level of maturity of technology – and associated, by the way, with other technology evolutions, as Andrew Futter indicated in a previous session, we are talking about cyber and other technologies, the convergence of these technologies has put missile defence systems more on the front seat again. It is interesting to see that the technology and the programmes are driven by this convergence between the technology itself and some, I would say, favourable geopolitical situations for them to develop. This connection between the technology and the geopolitical condition is a key driver in missile defence technology evolution.

To talk about this evolution and, possibly, about this key connection, we have with us today three undisputed experts. We will start with Ambassador Masafumi Ishii, who has a long career in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with a special and continued focus on international security issues. Our second speaker is Jakub Cimoradský, who works for NATO and, prior to that, worked for the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic and he also has a strong focus on this issue. Our last speaker will be Mr Uzi Rubin, a well known leading expert in the field of missile defence with also a long career associated with the development of such systems in Israel.

Without further ado, we will have some ten, possibly 15 minutes of presentations, which will be followed by a question and answer session. Ambassador, the floor is yours.

Masafumi Ishii, Ambassador of Japan to Belgium and Ambassador for Public Diplomacy in Europe

Thank you, Xavier. Good morning, everybody. Just forget about my title as shown on the screen. More importantly, I am a Japanese government representative to NATO, so that is why I am here, although I am no expert in missile defence. I am supposed to talk about Asia and I will focus on Northeast Asia, where everything is fine, no problem, so we do not need anything. Quite the contrary, yes? I want to throw out a few points for discussion.

First, we do have capabilities and we have technologies in Japan. Our missile defence has two layers. I think you know, more or less, the technology, right? There is a boost phase, a mid‑course phase, a terminal phase, as you know, and the first layer is a mid‑course phase. We have Aegis ships capable of firing Standard Missile‑3 (SM‑3) Block IA and we have four of them, two under renovation and we are contracting two new ones, so altogether there is going to be eight. Three is enough for covering the Japanese archipelago, so we are capable of covering all Japan with the Aegis. However, for the sake of backup, we have a second layer, which is the terminal phase and for that we have the Patriot Advanced Capability‑3 (PAC‑3) missile. We have six missile groups; each launcher covers a few tens of kilometres of ground, which means it has to be focused on certain areas. These are our capabilities. In addition to that, the United States has its own asset deployed in the theatre around Japan and we are connected, Japan and the US, in terms of the information we receive from radars and in the reaction.

In terms of technology, we are doing a joint development of a new SM‑3 system, Block IIA, we call it and there is some other cooperation going on.

Last but not least, you know the recent news, the Republic of Korea (ROK)and the US have decided to deploy a third missile system, which is also like a Patriot, it is a terminal‑phase, but with a higher range and I think they are going to do it within one year. I just heard an interview with the commander of the Korean force saying within 10 months or something; it is going to happen by the end of next year anyway. That is capabilities and technologies – pretty good, right?

Second, what are they for? They are to deter and defend against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) ballistic missiles and they do have a few hundred what they call Nodong missiles with a range of around 1,500, which covers more or less the whole of Japan. They have maybe 300 of them. The number of launchers is fewer than 300, around 50, but the problem is it only takes from six to 15 minutes for these missiles to reach the four corners of Japan, so you do not have much reaction time. We also do not know what will be on the warhead either.

I have talked about a North Korean missile going to Japan, but how about a North Korean missile going to the US, can we do anything about it in Japan? To put it simply, we do not have the capability yet, but when and if we have the capability, legally and theoretically, we can shoot it down if the situation is about the survival of Japan. The US is obviously a treaty ally for us, so if we just say, ‘hi’ and ‘goodbye’ to a missile going to the US, even if we have the capability, that pretty much sounds like it is touching our survival, so that is what they are for.

Third, a bit of a footnote. As you know, missile defence is by nature defensive. In addition to that, nothing is perfect. Missile defence is not perfect. We need to know that. You cannot be 100% assured of the capability of missile defence. That means preventing conflict through dialogue and pressure, which is by far the priority for us and it will continue to be so, even though we are determined to strengthen our capabilities. That is a very important footnote for us.

Fourth, now I am entering into the cooperation side. You know, Europe is closer to Asia than you think. In fact, Europe is closer to Asia than the US is to Asia. I will show you the figures. If you measure the distance from the missile‑launching camp in North Korea, called Tongchang‑ri, which is in the north very close to the Chinese border, what is the closest capital from there? Obviously, Seoul, 300km. What is the next closest capital from that area? Beijing, 700km. Next comes Tokyo, 1,400km, twice as far as Beijing, so I am sure that somewhere in Beijing’s brain it has some concern over the increased capability of North Korea. After that comes Moscow, 6,300km and after Moscow comes Brussels, Paris and London, which ranges between 8,400 and 8,700km. Where is the United States? Only then does Los Angeles and San Francisco come, which are 9,000 and 9,500km. Then the end of Europe comes and that is Lisbon, which is 10,100km, and only after that do Washington DC and New York come, which is 11,000km.

I am not saying the DPRK is going to bombard Europe, it does not make much sense, but the reality is, capability‑wise, whenever you hear Kim Jong‑un say, ‘We are about to develop a missile that can reach continental USA’, if that becomes truth, you are within range in Europe. When you create your security policy, you do not normally base that only on intention, which can be changed, but also on capability and, at least capability‑wise, you are more vulnerable to North Korean missiles than the US. That is my point.

That means there is room as well as rationale for cooperation in missile defence between Europe and Japan and Asia and the US in terms of technology concepts and, as the Japanese government’s representative to NATO, I would not be surprised if we tried to cooperate with NATO on this issue. Thank you.

Xavier Pasco, Director, FRS; Treasurer, EU Non Proliferation Consortium

Thank you very much, a very illuminating landscape of the region. I think we will return to the different aspects you mentioned during the Q&A session.

I will now give the floor to Jakub Cimoradský.

Jakub Cimoradský, Officer, Integrated Air and Missile Defence Section, NATO

Thank you, Xavier, and a very good morning to all of you. It is a great privilege to be on this panel and I also thank the organisers for inviting NATO to this debate, because I do believe that NATO, especially from the European perspective, has something to say here.

With no surprise, I will focus a little bit on the recent summit in Warsaw and what it brings in terms of ballistic missile defence (BMD). I will also try to elaborate a little bit on how we reached that point and, again with no surprise, I will also elaborate a little bit about where we go from now and what the future could be for NATO ballistic missile defence.

To start from the very beginning, you have heard from numerous speakers throughout this conference that the proliferations of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery is growing. NATO allies share this assessment and you can see explicitly in the Warsaw communique the assessment of alternate allies recognising that the threat posed from the proliferation of ballistic missiles is increasing. That is the bottom line for us and, of course, the main driver of our efforts.

NATO, as such, is a political and military organisation, so, on one hand, we support all the diplomatic and political efforts in the non‑proliferation domain; on the other hand, we have responsibility for the collective defence of our members, all 28 allies, and that is why we try to develop together both political and military tools to tackle the problem. I should stress and underline it would be very short‑sighted to depend on one or the other; all these efforts must go together. I am happy that Ambassador Ishii mentioned that there is no bulletproof solution, no hundred percent solution or assurance, so we need to provide a combination of efforts in various domains, including the military domain, to ensure that the threat posed to us is mitigated, or neutralised, ideally. Therefore, I will speak, of course, on what we do in military terms, but please let us recognise that that is just part of a broader picture of NATO activities in facing the threat of ballistic missiles.

In 2010, as you may know, we decided to develop missile defence. Two years later, in Chicago, we declared the first what we called ‘operationally significant step’, which was the interim capability. From that point, we then proceeded to Warsaw and in Warsaw the main achievement in the missile defence domain was the declaration of initial operational capability. It is certainly strengthening the protection of NATO, but is still short of providing the objective of full protection of NATO. As you know, this provides limited protection to some part of NATO against, I would stress, less sophisticated and more limited threats. The capability that was declared in Warsaw four months ago was especially enabled by the US deployment of the Aegis Ashore in Romania, together with some previously available assets, namely the four Aegis ships available or home ported in Rota, Spain, as well as the US forward based radar in Turkey and, very importantly, some lower layer contributions from European allies.

When I speak about what Warsaw brought in terms of developments, I should also mention what did not change in terms of NATO ballistic missile and these are the key policy principles that govern the development of this capability and how we see it. Despite the fact that NATO basically recognises three pillars of activity – collective defence, cooperative security, crisis management – BMD as such is clearly a tool for the core task of collective defence. It contributes to the overall deterrence and defence posture of the Alliance, together with conventional and nuclear forces, but there is just one piece or one component of this.

In the plenary session this morning, you heard some arguments about whether ballistic missile development can contribute to reduce reliance on nuclear and that was, indeed, debated in NATO as well, but we, collectively, did not share and do not share this assessment. That is why we have stressed and underlined in every summit since the decision in 2010 that BMD, in the NATO context, is only a complement to nuclear deterrence and certainly not a substitute for it and that still holds.

BMD is also described and being designed as elective. ‘Elective’ means that we will need to look at the threat and make sure that we do not only dedicate a system to one particular threat but ensure that if a threat develops – and threats do develop over time – we are able to react flexibly to those developments and evolutions. I have already mentioned that there are territorial or geographical limitations to NATO BMD. As a matter of policy, it is only limited to NATO Europe. As you know, for Northern America there are different arrangements, so NATO BMD is for NATO Europe, and the ultimate goal is for the coverage and protection of NATO European territories, populations and forces.

Threat assessment also brings me to the question of solidarity. It will probably be no surprise to you that threat perceptions in various quarters of our Alliance can differ. There are different perceptions in Turkey, in Poland, in Portugal, but what matters the most is that we always agree on some common threat assessment, which is driving our defence planning and developments. It is the principle of solidarity and indivisible security in Europe.

Another important element I would like to mention is political control. Without doubt, BMD, due to its reach, transponder effects and strategic impact is very important politically, not only militarily. That is why it is of utmost importance that we have a very good balance between operational effectiveness and political control, so that basically all 28 allies can feel comfortable in what is being done in terms of ballistic missile defence operations. Key decisions in a BMD context are basically done at the political level and, because of the views and time constraints, those decisions need to be done in advance. Typically, it is the political level that determines or decides on the defence design, where we deploy our assets, what areas we protect, what are the main rules of engagement, the use of force, what the main command and control arrangements are at various levels of command. All those issues are pre‑agreed at the political level. Of course, these are designed and developed by the military, but the final agreement is at the top political level and I would argue that this is the main vehicle for assuring political control by all 28 allies.

There is another important element, which is related to Russia and I am happy to see some Russian friends in the audience here. We stress and underline every single time we make some statement on BMD that this capability is neither designed nor capable against Russia. We do believe that it is not capable of upsetting the Russian deterrent. However, we also recognise that this is not necessarily a view that would be shared by Russia itself, which is unfortunate but that is the situation and despite – and I stress despite – the very difficult development in the European security theatre over the last several years, the policy statement that was developed in Lisbon and Chicago has remained unchanged. We even went a step further in saying in the Warsaw communique that we do not intend to redesign the capability in the future, so I believe we have provided very good and solid political assurance, but it is, of course, political assurance.

Lastly, I would like to recall that our capability is based on a commonly funded battle management command, control, communications and intelligence (BMC3I) command and control backbone, into which we plug in assets and systems provided by individual allies on a voluntary basis. While the backbone is commonly funded, the other systems, sensors, shooters, are provided on a voluntary basis, so we are dependent on the willingness of allies to contribute and this is also a very important principle that has not changed over the last several years.

That was Warsaw. I would also like to remind that the initial operational capability (IOC) that we declared is really not a last step. The last step is the full operational capability (FOC), full coverage and protection of NATO Europe and, frankly speaking, it will take years. It is not something that we can reach in one or two years.

On the way forward, we will probably focus on several domains. BMD is a combination of political effort, technological effort (the BMD programme) and of course operational or military effort. In terms of political oversight, it will still remain of utmost importance that our leaders, the North Atlantic Council and all the allies, have good awareness of what is going on, where we develop. We do have regular briefings for the ambassadors and we have regular activities and events with them and of course we regularly review all the key documents. I mentioned some policy and planning documents, which are approved at the Council level. All those documents are regularly reviewed to ensure that there is good political control for our allies.

We also try not to underestimate training and education. Sometimes it is a little underestimated, because people like to talk about very capable systems, very good policy documents, plans and concepts, but, after all, it is about humans in the loop and if we do not have people who are able to make decisions who understand the environment, then the capability will be much less efficient. That is why we should always make a lot of effort to ensure that all decision makers, from the top political level down to the ground level, really understand the system, understand the context and their respective roles and responsibilities.

As I mentioned, we also have a very particular technical programme related to ballistic missile defence, which is designed together with some technical functionalities both for the planning and executing of BMD operations. This programme has only delivered some initial results, which also contributed to the declaration of IOC in Warsaw, but there is still some way to go to provide all the necessary functionalities for the BMD commanders.

Finally, what we will also see in the future, I hope and I believe, is that many European allies, as well as the US of course, will develop their own capabilities and potential contributions. When I speak of contributions, I should not limit myself only to sensors and shooters but also there are some important contributions in terms of hosting arrangements by Spain, Turkey, Romania, Poland eventually, and Germany. There are important contributions in terms of sensor capacities and also some force protection assets. The Aegis ship is a good example. It is relatively vulnerable, especially if it is dedicated to a particular mission in BMD, so it requires other assets to protect it. Force protection is something we are now looking at and even nations that do not possess BMD‑capable assets can provide something very helpful for the overall BMD architecture by providing force protection assets. Perhaps in the Q&A session I can follow up with other potential contributions from allies, but I will leave it there for the moment and look forward to further debate.

Xavier Pasco, Director, FRS; Treasurer, EU Non Proliferation Consortium

Thank you very much, Jakub, for that very nice overview of what is going on in NATO. I will now turn to Uzi Rubin for our last presentation.

Uzi Rubin, Senior Researcher, Begin Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies; former Director, Israel Missile Defence Organisation

Thank you. It is a privilege to be addressing this excellent conference. Let me say that Israel’s missile defence is the response to a strongly asymmetric threat, which is not only on Israel but is part of a pattern in the Middle East and, perhaps, a harbinger of the future. It is not only Israel that it is facing a severe missile threat. I am not sure whether you are aware that there is intensive missile warfare going on in Syria during the civil war with Russian missiles, but mainly Assad’s force has used most of its large stockpile of missiles and rockets against the opposition during the years of the civil war. As we speak, missiles are a game changer in the civil war in Yemen. Last month, insurgents on the Houthi side, supported by Iran, enhanced and escalated the stakes in that war by opening a strategic campaign against Saudi main cities. Both Taif, which is the summer capital of Saudi Arabia, and Jeddah were attacked by long range ballistic missiles. The Jeddah attack was thwarted by missile defence and you can only imagine what the results would be if a missile had hit downtown Jeddah; the escalation of the war would be indescribable.

Israel is facing the same kind of asymmetric threat. It is only one part of the asymmetric threat. Another part of the asymmetric threat is using population centres as a basis for launching missiles; that is, human shielding of the missile bases. The other part is subterranean warfare, tunnel warfare. The missile threat is now the main military threat on Israel, so our missile defence responds to this threat. Perhaps a harbinger of the future is Hezbollah, taking it as an example. It is a non‑state organisation, although now, after the election of the new Lebanese President, perhaps it is a semi‑official state force, but up to now it is a non‑state military force the size of about four divisions, very well trained and equipped. It has the firepower to cause great damage in Israel, both to the population and to military and civilian infrastructure, with the growing number of precision rockets. It has the capability of a strike force without having one aircraft. Think about that. This is the face of war as we are seeing it in the future.

Against this threat, Israel has developed and is deploying a very complex missile defence shield. Fully integrated, it will eventually have four layers: two ballistic‑phase layers and two terminal‑phase layers. We are not dealing with boost‑phase technologies, which are beyond the capability of anyone up to now, although the US is starting again an experimental boost‑phase programme. It is only a technology programme, but based on high‑powered lasers. This is beyond us. We are talking about technologies based on interceptor missiles. We are deploying it and we have two of those layers in place already.

Unfortunately, since we see wars all the time, our short‑range missile defence system has already seen action many times, but on two occasions quite noticeably, in two rounds of fighting around Gaza, in 2012 and 2014, where our Iron Dome took centre stage in the operations. One can already learn some lessons beyond the technical side about how it influences the correlation of forces and the dynamics of the conflict and there is bad news and good news. The bad news is that, according to some analysts, some predicted that if missile defence is successful it would reduce the attraction of missiles for the other side and perhaps it would stop proliferation. Maybe they would go to something else, but not missiles. This has been proven wrong. The existence of effective defences is energising them to find ways to try to overcome these defences, which energises us to find ways to overcome their ways and so on and so forth. This is a technological race in which we feel comfortable that we will have the edge, since we have a very sophisticated high technology capability.

The good news is that, as predicted, the existence of effective missile defence has mitigated the escalation and encouraged enhanced crisis stability. In the two rounds, in 2012 and 2014, because we had missile defence, which prevented damage and enabled the country to continue functioning, I will not say there was no damage or losses, there were, but much minimised compared to 2006 and the Second Lebanon War, when we were completely unprotected. When we were unprotected, we had to escalate. We had no other choice but to escalate, there was no other position. In 2012 and 2014, our government could take its time. In 2012, we did not even use ground forces, the round of violence was ended by diplomacy. In 2014, we could take it for about 50 days until the other side decided to stop fighting. We used ground forces in 2014, but not against rockets and missiles; we used it against the tunnels, the other side of the asymmetric threat. We had to go in, because we had no other choice to take out the tunnels, but not the rockets. The rockets we could cope with by defence only.

This was a great experiment in stabilisation. One could think about the alternative of being unprotected and under such an attack – we were attacked by 4,500 rockets and mortar bombs – without missile defence. I did some calculations; we would suffer perhaps thousands of casualties and an indescribable amount of damage. Since this was prevented, the government could take its time and use a combination of diplomacy and military moves in order to bring the conflict to an end of that round. Since then, we have had the quietest spell ever around the Gaza Strip. I do not vouch for tomorrow, but up to now life has returned to normal where it was not normal before. Thus, we consider missile defence as not only a technical success but also, if you will, a strategic success in the sense of strategy on a small scale.

Missile defence is not an attempt like ‘Star Wars’ to upset some kind of deterrence equation. Our deterrence equation is completely different. Missile defence is simply air defence in the modern age. If you want to protect your skies today, you have to protect them not against manned aircraft, because the bomber fleets have gone. You have to protect them against missiles and rockets fired from a distance. Our technical challenge is to protect against such threats coming from ranges of a few kilometres to a few hundred kilometres to a few thousand kilometres, so we need a very complex system. There is no one way or one device or one system that can do the whole spectrum of defence, so we need a complex system to defend against them. Our Chief of Staff, in his very memorable speech in January 2016 about the strategy of the Israel defence forces, mentioned a fifth layer. He did not give any details about that, but if I guess what it is, we are talking about an even shorter range defence against mortar bombs and the new threat of – I am not sure if you have heard about it, but it is used quite extensively in Syria – what are called ‘barrel bombs’. They fill a big barrel with explosives and put a rocket at the end of it, it goes for a kilometre or two, but the destructive force is unbelievable. You can see some YouTube clips from Syria and if things like that happen on the Lebanon border and the Gaza border, we will need some defence against it because of the destructive power and maybe this is the fifth layer that he was talking about.

We are forging ahead. We have a very large organisation in Israel that I had the honour of starting and which is now even bigger than in my time, running one of the largest defence programmes in Israel. There was controversy in Israel when we started it, because some of our analysts saw it as an Israeli Star Wars and were naturally aligned against it. However, today there is complete consensus that this is an essential and necessary element in Israeli military power no less than our air force or our armoured force. I will leave it at that point.

Xavier Pasco, Director, FRS; Treasurer, EU Non Proliferation Consortium

Thank you very much, Mr Rubin, for a very interesting view of the lessons learned, unfortunately, by Israel. It illustrates very well the intuition I had about the connection between technology and geopolitical situations. In fact, we talked about different systems and different missile defences in terms of what it is like and what it is intended to do.

What I will do now is give the floor to the audience and we will take several questions in a row.

Dr Sergey Rogov, Academic Director, Institute for US and Canada Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences (ISKRAN)

I am very impressed by the presentations of the panel members and I have questions to each of the participants.

First, Ambassador Ishii, you spoke about cooperation on ballistic missile defence between Asia, meaning Japan, and Europe. You did not mention cooperation between Japan and Russia. Vladivostok is much closer to the missile launch position of North Korea than Tokyo, and Russia does have now, I believe, 400 missile defences in the area we call the Far East, so I would appreciate it if you could enlighten me on this issue.

I have two questions for Mr Cimoradský. The first one relates to the discussions that we had between Russia and NATO for several years until the present crisis, the discussions on ballistic missile defence cooperation. There were different ideas about how to do it, American ideas, Russian ideas and we failed to compromise, but now, when the mil‑to‑mil cooperation has been ended by NATO and the Russia‑NATO relationship has deteriorated in general, does it mean that the idea of Russia‑NATO cooperation on ballistic missile defence is dead and buried? That is the first question.

The second question is connected to your statement that ballistic missile defence, if I quote you correctly, is now integrated into the nuclear posture of NATO, not as a substitute but as an integral part of it. That leads me to the question of why there is concern in Russia about what NATO and the US is doing. In my personal opinion, Aegis Ashore in Romania with SM‑3 Block IB interceptor is not a threat to Russia, but in 2018, when there will be deployment in Poland and SM‑3 Block IIA may appear, that could be a different story, since there is a debate whether SM‑3 Block IIA can intercept Russian ICBMs or not. The main problem for Russia is that what the US and NATO are doing in ballistic missile defences is an open‑ended programme and that forces us to think in terms of the worst‑case scenario. Yes, today it is not a problem, but what about tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, etc? In particular, since the nuclear deal with Iran has removed for the next ten or 15 years the prospects of an Iranian long range nuclear‑tipped missile and, apparently, nobody ever built an ICBM with a conventional warhead. Only three countries built ICBMs and all of them have nuclear warheads. A conventional ICBM seems to be a rather ridiculous, expensive and useless toy. If the Iranian potential threat right now does not exist, then why was the so‑called ‘adaptive’ approach not adapted to this major change? Of course, Russia has missiles that can attack targets in Europe and, in this sense, while there is no Iranian threat, there is a potential Russian threat and in the foreseeable future will stay. That is what leads us to the suspicion that the NATO and American ballistic missile defences will be upgraded more and more to deal with our nuclear deterrent. I would appreciate your comments.

My question to Mr Rubin relates to the boost‑phase defence. You said that there is not much interest in boost‑phase defence anymore, but there are some experiments that the US has resumed. My question is: what about the use of long range drones with lasers or other attack capabilities for the boost‑phase defence? Is it possible and what is your view on that subject? Thank you.

Xavier Pasco, Director, FRS; Treasurer, EU Non Proliferation Consortium

Given the large scope of your questions, we are going to answer those right now and then carry on.

Masafumi Ishii, Ambassador of Japan to Belgium and Ambassador for Public Diplomacy in Europe

Japan‑Russia cooperation on missile defence sounds very interesting. Rather than closing the door completely, if you have some proposal we are happy to discuss about it and we do have, believe it or not, a ‘two plus two’ meeting between Japan and Russia with the defence and foreign ministers meeting, so it is up to you.

Dr Sergey Rogov, Academic Director, Institute for US and Canada Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences (ISKRAN)

Since Putin is coming to Japan, that could be one of the topics for discussion.

Masafumi Ishii, Ambassador of Japan to Belgium and Ambassador for Public Diplomacy in Europe

Sounds interesting, I think.

Jakub Cimoradský, Officer, Integrated Air and Missile Defence Section, NATO

I wish I could reply so briefly, but there are a few questions.

Is cooperation dead and buried? Someone yesterday used a nice expression of ‘it is not dead but not alive’ and, in the short term, it is probably not realistic to see resumption of this cooperation. In the longer term, I would not exclude it. We are always surprised in history by surprise developments, so I would not exclude it. It would certainly make sense, for many reasons and some level of cooperation would be helpful. However, as we both know, the conditions are not favourable for it right now, but I would only agree that it is dead in the short term. We should not exclude what will happen.

Dr Sergey Rogov, Academic Director, Institute for US and Canada Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences (ISKRAN)

So, it will come back as a zombie?

Jakub Cimoradský, Officer, Integrated Air and Missile Defence Section, NATO

Perhaps, if you like zombies.

BMD in the context of part of a nuclear posture. I would never call it ‘part of a nuclear posture’. I mentioned deliberately there are three elements overall deterrence and defence posture: nuclear forces, conventional forces and missile defence. That is how we see it and those are three different components. We may always discuss how much of one or the other is important, but those are three distinct components and we try to keep a balance between them and keep those three layers.

Open‑ended, yes, I understand this is the key concern on the Russian side and it is difficult to tackle in case there is a lack of trust. I understand. So, despite all the political assurances, probably you do not trust them too much and believe you can always put something else in the canister, you can choose something else then say it is there. I would perhaps come back to your own statement from yesterday that some verification would be needed. That was, as you know, part of the offer from NATO in 2012, if I am not mistaken, some sort of transparency regime. Eventually, discussions did not materialise on this topic, but I would say this could be a solution, because now it is about how to make sure that with Aegis Ashore in Romania, Tomahawks instead of SM‑3s are not put in. You probably cannot do it any other way than to establish some sort of verification regime, but this is, as we all know, part of a broader discussion and there will be a packet solution, a memorandum or something on this one.

Next, the Iranian threat, indeed, another traditional matter of different perceptions between NATO and Russia. We have always seen Iran in a different way from Russia. I do not want to speculate. In this open session, I cannot elaborate too much on how we see particular threats. As a matter of policy, we do not even name known threats that will be driving our defence, so I will just limit myself to saying I would not fully share the assessment of Iran that you mentioned. Especially when it comes to the deal with Iran agreed a year ago, which, as we again all know, does not include ballistic missile capabilities and that is what matters the most for us. As long as they are developing the capability, we just need to be concerned. We can always debate how likely it is that they would use it, but the capability development continues and the deal has not prevented it.

Uzi Rubin, Senior Researcher, Begin Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies; former Director, Israel Missile Defence Organisation

You asked me one question, but I want to answer the question on the capabilities of missiles with no nuclear warheads.

Dr Sergey Rogov, Academic Director, Institute for US and Canada Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences (ISKRAN)

In Israel, it is a different story.

Uzi Rubin, Senior Researcher, Begin Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies; former Director, Israel Missile Defence Organisation

No, I am speaking universally, because there was a session this morning on the impact of evolution on armament and arms control and I think there is evolution going on here, which people do not appreciate, so I would like to talk about that. I just talked about it in London a few days ago.

However, first, let me answer your question about boost‑phase intercept. Boost‑phase intercept is something that for 30 years has been in the headlines? Why? – because it is very attractive. It sounds simple. The missile looks very noticeable, has a very high signature and also it is before it deploys its countermeasure, so everyone and his brother is after it, but this is a most difficult technology, not the most easy, the most difficult. It is misleading. First, the time window is too short for boosting it, even for ICBMs. Compared to the ballistic phase, which may take 20 minutes, the boost phase takes, at most, three minutes, so you have a short time. Due to the shortage of time, if you want to launch something at an accelerating missile you have to be close enough. The idea of Mach 10 missiles, I know that analysts are proposing them, I do not know how to make them. That is beyond the technological capability of even the US, Russia or China, so you have to be close by. To be close by, you have to go into the defence zone of the attacker, so what can you do? Your asset can be shot down by anti‑aircraft missiles.

Then there is the risk[?] component. Of course, one way to overcome it that comes to mind is to use a light‑speed weapon, laser weapon and, again, you are hitting the technological limit, on two accounts. First, you need a lot of power; the entrance game is at least 100kW if you want to start thinking about something, but you need much more than that in order to hit an ICBM and this is very heavy. The last attempt the Americans made was an airborne laser (ABL), they needed a 747 to carry the generating equipment. Now Admiral [inaudible] is talking about electrical lasers on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Well, even an electrical laser with, let us say, an efficiency of 20% or 30% is still very, very heavy, especially its cooling system. How they put it on a UAV I do not know. There are several problems.

The other problem is that even a laser beam disperses after a while, the range is not infinite and again to disrupt it you have to go within range. ABL had a range of, they said, 400km, but still within the Iranian defence zone.

The whole thing, when you think about it, it sounds simple but, as an engineer, it is almost impossible. I hear that in five years’ time there will be anti‑missile lasers, but every year it is another five years, so it is not there yet. That is my opinion, as an engineer, to your question.

I want to refer to something else, about whether a missile without a nuclear warhead is a threat at a distance. I am not talking about a tactical missile. The answer is yes, it is going to be like that, because the spread of super‑accurate ballistic missiles is everywhere. You can see them from India to Iran. Last year, Iran displayed a Shahab with a steerable, guidable re‑entry vehicle that can be, like the Pershing‑2 in its time, accurately pinpointed at a distance of 2,000km. If you extend this capability and think about the implications of this capability, it is not nuclear, but you can hit a precision target, let us say a power station, and you can cause great harm. Think about hitting a nuclear power station. Just the threat of a country that aims and threatens to hit your nuclear power station without using a nuclear warhead, this is something that defenders have to think about. Missiles are acquiring the capability of near unacceptable damage without nuclear. This is a revolution in strategy that is still not being internalised by many strategists and it has to be taken into account.

Xavier Pasco, Director, FRS; Treasurer, EU Non Proliferation Consortium

Thank you, Mr Rubin. I have understood from your intervention that lasers for missile defence is a bit like going to Mars. For 50 years, people have said that we will be on Mars in 30 years and it seems to be a bit like that.

Carlo Trezza, Outgoing Chairman, Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)

Since Federica Mogherini yesterday invited us to propose innovative solutions and since this panel is also dedicated to Asia, I would like to propose to this panel a discussion on what I proposed to the DPRK panel yesterday. Namely, that we should inspire ourselves with the INF negotiations of the end of the Cold War, where NATO deployed new missiles in Europe as a bargaining chip to reach an agreement on the elimination of these missiles in the INF Treaty. The US and South Korea intend to deploy a missile defence system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD), and this could be the element of the bargain. That is, that South Korea and the US renounce this deployment in exchange for elimination of the North Korean nuclear programme. I would like members of the panel, in particular, Ambassador Ishii, to consider this proposal. I know that it takes time to think about it, but in any case, I would like your immediate reaction. Thank you.

Dr Alexander Vorontsov, Adviser, Centre for Energy and Security Studies, Russia

I would like to continue your question dealing with the THAAD system in South Korea. How much can we improve capability to defend South Korea and Japan and how much can it change the regional balance? It is a broadly discussed and disputed question now.

Next, a short question. Recently, for the first time, the US, Japan and South Korea conducted trilateral military training dealing with anti‑missile defence. What was the purpose and result of this drill? Thank you.

Konstantin Vorontsov, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Russia to NATO

I am also Russian, but that does not mean I am going to steal the show and as long as I am from the Russian Mission to NATO, which is a strange combination of words nowadays, I am not going to go deeply into the official Russian position and will limit myself to only two questions.

First, I would like to focus on two things that were said by our distinguished NATO representative. The first is about the thesis that that NATO missile defence is not directed at Russia and the second is that it is indeed a combination of national contributions, which are brought into integrated and missile defence. The question is: there are some inputs, potential right now, but they are already unofficially declared, for example, the Shield of Poland, I understand the contracts are not signed yet, but still it is going in the direction of buying some Patriot batteries from the US, and we hear from the Polish officials that the main purpose of their future capability is to counter some Russian missile potential. Is there any thinking in the Alliance right now or maybe you are just starting to think about the political approach into this controversial situation when the whole system is officially not directed at Russia, but some elements of it are officially, by some nations, planned to be directed at Russia?

The second question goes to the distinguished Ambassador. For my better knowledge and understanding of the issue of missile defence, we all know and hear that China is becoming more and more vocal with its concerns regarding missile defence developments in the region. Do you have some bilateral, structured dialogue with China, maybe not focused only on missile defence, maybe it is strategic political military dialogue but which includes missile defence consultations? If yes, how is it going? Just for us to better understand. Thank you.

Professor Hua Han, Director, Centre for Arms Control and Disarmament, Peking University, China

I am very glad to hear, Ambassador Ishii, when you talked about what the THAAD system deployment is for, you did not mention China. I am glad to hear that, but I still want you to elaborate a little bit about the implications of this system in the region, especially when they talk about the three‑way military alignment system among the three countries in the region. Are there any intelligence‑sharing agreements in terms of the operation of THAAD between South Korea and Japan? A sharing agreement among the three countries does imply the US can share the information about operations between South Korea and the US. Thank you.

Xavier Pasco, Director, FRS; Treasurer, EU Non Proliferation Consortium

Thank you. We will stop there and hear the answers. Ambassador Ishii, you have a number of questions related to the possible bargain element for DPRK, and also the trilateral exercise.

Masafumi Ishii, Ambassador of Japan to Belgium and Ambassador for Public Diplomacy in Europe

First, a quick reaction to the Ambassador’s suggestion about using the deployment of THAAD as a bargaining chip for realising de‑nuclearisation. I wish that was enough to do it. If that is a deal we can do, it sounds great, but I am afraid that it is not enough based upon our past experience.

On the impact of THAAD on the regional strategic perspective or balance, the important thing to realise and you do not have to hear it from me, but what the US and South Korea made quite clear when they announced the decision to deploy THAAD was that they would use it solely against North Korean missiles, nothing else, no other country. Of course, it is a policy statement, but that is the clear policy of two countries and if they say so, I have to take it in that way. Based upon that basic starting point, I do not see a big change, we just have additional capability, but that capability is for North Korean missiles going to ROK, so it does not have much impact on our capability or our perspective when it comes to the defence of DPRK missiles coming to Japan. I do not think they have added capability for that.

The impact of Japan‑US‑ROK collaboration or cooperation, particularly the drill for the missile defence. To be frank, I do not know if we did the exercise solely for the missile defence, but we did have a few exercises among the three. The reality is, as you know, whether you like it or not, as I said, Japan and the US are connected, the US and ROK are connected, but in terms of missile defence, I do not think Japan and ROK are connected. They are two more or less separate systems and of course the US is always in the centre. That is how it works. From that viewpoint, I do not think a drill created any big difference from the system I have just described.

Is there any dialogue between China and Japan over the missile defence? Yes and no. We do have a security dialogue and it is free for China to raise whatever items they wish and, I must admit, they have occasionally raised their concern about missile defence. We have never heard a strong concern expressed by the Chinese side as strong as the one they expressed to THAAD. I do not know why, but on and off and, if that is the case, we always respond that this is designed against DPRK missiles and unless you want to shoot us you should be okay and, as I said, it is quite defensive anyway.

Your Chinese colleague’s point about information sharing. As I said, sharing intelligence is one thing, being connected closely enough for coordinating missile defence is completely different. The level is completely different. I do not think we have come that far. Of course, it makes sense for Japan to conclude an intelligence sharing agreement with ROK, because we are all affected if something happens in North Korea. We have that kind of intelligence exchange with the US and we very much like to do the same with ROK. We are happy to do it with China as well, but that is quite different from having a connective system good enough for missile defence.

Jakub Cimoradský, Officer, Integrated Air and Missile Defence Section, NATO

On the question related to the Polish Patriot systems, it is an interesting question and very valid indeed. We should always make the distinction between the policy statements by NATO and national statements and we need to recognise there may be differences. We would also probably not push the US to exclusively dedicate Aegis ships in the military and for NATO BMD. No. There are multi‑mission ships, so are Patriot systems dual‑use systems, so if Poland decides to offer those systems once they buy it, if they buy it, to NATO BMD architecture, it will be probably welcomed, because there is never enough in all our low range systems. However, then it would be governed by the rules that NATO developed, meaning not against Russia. It would not change the rules. If Poland believes it needs it against Russia, then it is their national prerogative, but they would hardly be in a position to dedicate those systems to NATO. NATO BMD is certainly not against Russia and no single contribution will change that.

You also raised the interesting notion of integrated air and missile defence. As one of the few in this audience who read the communique in full –


Probably even one of the few in NATO.

Jakub Cimoradský, Officer, Integrated Air and Missile Defence Section, NATO

Well, I do not want to speculate on that, but you can see that there was quite an emphasis on defence and deterrence, including in the air and of course we are trying to integrate and put missile defence in the broader context of integrated air missile defence. So, while the integrated air and missile defence may be part of the 360‑degree deterrence and defence posture, BMD is specifically excluded from that. BMD remains not to be directed against Russia and that has not changed.

Xavier Pasco, Director, FRS; Treasurer, EU Non Proliferation Consortium

Thank you, Jakub. We will take some more questions.

Dr Sitki Egeli, Visiting Scholar, Izmir University of Economics, Turkey

This question goes to Mr Cimoradský; it is about NATO and the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA). Yes, the capability is there with Aegis Ashore as well as some of the ships in the Black Sea and Mediterranean littorals. The question concerns some of the debate we have been coming across in open sources over the last couple of years regarding the rules of engagement. Yes, it is part of the collective response, but it is built upon the capabilities of a single NATO allied state and given the short reaction times at stake, there are pre‑authorisations and rules of engagement that need to be defined beforehand. We have been reading, at least – this is part of the question – that some member states have expressed concerns in Brussels about whose finger is going to be on the missiles and through what mechanisms and with the short reaction times, how this is going to controlled, the political oversight and even the military oversight, by the Alliance itself. Where does NATO stand? I am sure it is an issue that is being addressed, I would presume, but I have not come across much about recent progress being made in this respect.

A related question is on the basis of Sergey Rogov’s suggestion yesterday in the plenary about the Tomahawk missiles and the fact that Mark 41 launchers in Aegis Ashore are also capable of holding those missiles and firing them. His suggestion was that perhaps physically those launchers could be blocked so that they cannot launch Tomahawks. Is this politically achievable or desirable? Perhaps the question also goes to Mr Rubin due to his expertise on the subject. Is this something physically and technically achievable? Thank you very much.

Professor Erwin Häckel, Associate Fellow, German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)

Having listened to the presentations from the panel, I wonder what is the problem with missile defence. Many years ago, we used to think that there was one problem, nuclear‑tipped long range strategic missiles and we were looking for a solution to that problem. Now it turns out more and more that there is not one problem. We have talked today about short-range missiles, long-range missiles, Cruise missiles, anti‑ship missiles, drones and perhaps I have forgotten one category. I wonder what is the common denominator among these problems and I wonder if it is possible to conceive of a common solution to these different problems. I guess not, so what are we really talking about here?

Professor Driss Larafi, International Relations, Royal College of Higher Military Studies, University of Ibn Tofail Kenitra, Morocco

I appreciate the valuable presentations of the panel. My first question goes to the Japanese Ambassador. With the assistance of the US, the Japanese have deployed different types of anti‑ballistic missile systems. Can we say that Japan has opted resolutely for mutually assured security (MAS) rather than mutually assured destruction (MAD) or is it that in Japan we have changed Article 9 of the constitution? On the other hand, there is evolution of public opinion towards the position of nuclear weapons as the extended deterrence is ineffective, as we know.

My second question goes to Mr Rubin. You said that now the main threat is the missile threat. If that is the case, why did Israeli politicians not allow the monitoring team of the IAEA to check the nuclear facilities, so as to eliminate the nuclear threat and establish nuclear weapon‑free zones in the Middle East? Has Tel Aviv really chosen the missile defence option?

My last question goes to Mr Cimoradský. The missile defence system now under development, is it a proper NATO or American one?

Finally, a general question for the panel. We said before, like the American expert in the 1960s, Herbert York, that for the nuclear threat there is no technical solution, there is only political solution, but recently the expert said there is evolution in the technological missile defence and now it is possible to intercept the missiles that are threatening. Thank you.

Bruno Hanses, Senior Expert, Disarmament, Non‑Proliferation and Arms Export Control Division, EEAS

As Ambassador Ishii rightly said, this is not only about capabilities but also diplomacy has its role to play and one of the very few instruments that we have in this area is The Hague Code of Conduct (HCOC). Therefore, let me ask a question to Mr Rubin. What is Israel’s perspective on the HCOC or, in other words, what would it take for Israel to subscribe? Thank you.

Xavier Pasco, Director, FRS; Treasurer, EU Non Proliferation Consortium

Thank you. We will stop there for the moment, but we will have a few more minutes for additional questions. First, Jakub, the rules of engagement and associated issues.

Jakub Cimoradský, Officer, Integrated Air and Missile Defence Section, NATO

With your permission, I will try to respond to all the questions that were heading towards me.

On the rules of engagement in Turkey and the assets of the NATO BMD architecture, indeed, you are right, there may have been debates, because political control and what exactly is and is not protected and how we use the force is always sensitive. It is not something exclusive to missile defence; it is for any major capability. Basically, what is known is that you will never have enough, so there are interesting and relevant debates, but the outcome is that there are clear command and control arrangements, clear rules of engagement, which of course I cannot elaborate on too much in this environment. I do not see any problem with knowing who is deciding. After all, as I mentioned earlier, the BMD operation is so time‑constrained that all key decisions are made in advance, so the response is pretty much automated.

As regards the physical modification of MK 41, it is probably more a question for the US and [inaudible] response on the technical side of it. Politically, I would not comment from NATO’s perspective. Of course, in general, if this can be done, it will be another confidence‑building measure, so it will be probably welcomed by NATO, but it is really for the US to decide how far they can go with this idea.

On the question of an integrated approach and whether there is a single solution to the threats coming from the air, I would say, to some extent, yes, because we are indeed, as I mentioned, developing BMD in the context of integrating air and missile defence, which is basically the system designed against all threats coming from or through the air, including UAVs, Cruise missiles, ballistic missiles. There is one solution in a general sense, but indeed the particular systems and components of this architecture are much more distinct and we could have long hours of debate on how air and missile defence can be integrated, because this perspective would differ if you looked at the strategic level or operational or technical level. However, we are approaching this issue holistically in NATO and trying to see it in an integrated fashion.

Next is whether the NATO BMD is more a US than a NATO one. Of course, it is rather a rhetorical question. I think the person who asks knows the answer. For us, what really matters is not who is providing the systems but what are the rules of the game and the rules of the game are NATO ones. They are agreed by all 28 allies. The rules of engagement, how the capability would be used are agreed by the 28 and no capability that is under the control of a NATO commander can be used in violation of those rules of engagement. So, for me, it is clearly NATO’s system. Whoever is providing the asset, the rules that apply are NATO ones.

Xavier Pasco, Director, FRS; Treasurer, EU Non Proliferation Consortium

Thank you. Mr Rubin, maybe also on the question of one size fit for all.

Uzi Rubin, Senior Researcher, Begin Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies; former Director, Israel Missile Defence Organisation

I noted four questions that were directed to me. Two of them were technical and two political. Where I feel comfortable is with the technical ones. I am an engineer, not a politician.

The Vertical Launching System (VLS) MK 41, the canister that launches the standard missile is a standard canister. The US Navy is saving money by making one canister that can fire any weapon that the ship operates. It is a very malleable technical notion, so it can fire also Tomahawks. The system contains two core elements, the mechanical side of it, which simply fits everything, and the electronic side of it, to build the firing sequence. The firing sequence for an SM3 is completely different from a firing sequence for a Cruise missile. If you neutralise the firing mechanism or the software of the system, you can exclude the capability of firing.

However, there is a political dimension to it too. As much as I know and I am seeing the Aegis Ashore from the side, the NATO programme is an Alliance programme. Missiles are not deployed to Romania and will not deploy to Poland without the agreement of the government. I do not see the Poles and Romanians agreeing to deploy Tomahawks from their territory unless something changes this. Even if you do not put any technical argument to this, first of all, it is a political question. If you ask whether the VLS can fire Tomahawks, ask first whether the landlords will agree to put Tomahawks there. It is, first, a political question, not a technical question.

The second technical question I was asked was about whether there is a common denominator to the missile problem. The only common denominator is technical. Missiles usually have rocket motors and fly in ballistic trajectory. You can say the same thing about aircraft; all aircraft have wings and fly by the laws of Bernoulli, but still you have civilian aircraft and military aircraft, you have passenger aircraft, sports aircraft and the military have their bombers and fighters. Each one of them is a completely different issue with a different set of problems and solutions. It is the same thing with missiles. You can use a missile as a strategic nuclear weapon, as a rocket for statistical bombardment. There is a common denominator in the technology, but not in the use or the set of political problems that it brings. You have to look at each side separately.

Those were the technical questions. I am sorry, I am out of my depth with the political question about the HCOC. I am not a great expert, so I cannot speak for this, but I know that there is going to be a conference in Israel on HCOC with European partners at our Institute for National Strategic Studies sometime in mid‑January. If you want to be there, you will probably be invited, just send your credentials and you can hear everything about it.

The last question I would like to address is about Israel joining a nuclear‑free zone or the NPT. Again, I am out of my depth here, but I think that Israel is on record that it is ready to talk about it, conditioned on general peace with its neighbours. As long as we have some neighbours in the region who are not very happy with our very existence, we have to be very careful about any disarmament motion. The basic position of our political leadership is that disarmament comes with peace. You cannot have disarmament without peace. Peace comes with disarmament. You cannot separate these two issues and that was a bone of contention in all our arguments with our neighbours, that you can separate the two issues. Beyond that, I am out of my depth and I apologise.

Masafumi Ishii, Ambassador of Japan to Belgium and Ambassador for Public Diplomacy in Europe

On the question of mutually assured destruction or mutually assured security, we would go for mutually assured security and I believe we can achieve that without North Korea having nuclear weapons. That is it. We have not changed Article 9, by the way. Japan becoming nuclear – do you want us to become nuclear? Sometimes Mr Trump suggested that we become nuclear, but I do not think we will, because that does not help us.

That is where we are, but let me just take one step back to tell you what we would like to do in dealing with North Korea. As we mentioned, diplomacy, achieving nuclear‑free Korean peninsula through negotiation is by far the most important thing, so whatever the difficulty we will continue to seek this possibility.

Second, you need to have not only dialogue but also pressure and that is where sanctions come in. I believe the existing sanction is not focused enough and is not well enough abided, so we need to do a bit of homework on strengthening this part.

Third, we should be able to deter North Korea from doing anything very provocative and we should make sure that we can cope with the situation, whatever it is, and missile defence is only one of the elements in this third pillar.

Fourth, however unlikely it seems, we have to be ready for the very different scenario, which can include the [clicking sound] of North Korea. I am not saying we are seeing the symptoms of that, but now that they have nuclear materials, if and when it happens, there is the huge issue of proliferation of nuclear materials, nuclear physics, nuclear facilities. That is what we need to be more ready for, where we have huge homework to do.

This is the combination of our policies in dealing with North Korea. Missile defence is only a part of many different pillars.

Xavier Pasco, Director, FRS; Treasurer, EU Non Proliferation Consortium

Thank you for those answers. We have time maybe for one or two additional questions.

Dr Laura Grego, Senior Scientist, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

This is going to be a hard question, but I would appreciate any insights. Dr Rubin talked about missile defences in the sense that they are used and that they are a system that is an important part of defence. However, generally, missile defences that are more strategic are often more symbolic and meant to dissuade countries from building ballistic missiles – that has not been so successful, I would agree with that; to deter them from using it – it is not clear to what level of effectiveness you would need for such a mission; and to reassure allies, which also I would expect would require yet a different level of effectiveness. As we know, missile defences have long been as symbolic as technical, so if you could comment, we have talked about missile defences in Asia and Europe – and, sorry, yet a third, the attempt to thread the needle between being effective enough to reassure and defend but yet not so effective that they tip the strategic balance with respect to our Russian and Chinese friends. How do you attempt to thread that balance?

Jakub Cimoradský, Officer, Integrated Air and Missile Defence Section, NATO

Good question. Indeed, I would not call it symbolic, but certainly there are two elements: it is both to reassure and to provide a meaningful capability. I would say, in a way, the fact that it is not perfect is reassurance, for example, vis‑à‑vis Russia, because we always say it is only against limited strike. It certainly does not have the capability and will not have the capability to upset or counter something as sophisticated, both in quality and in quantity, as, for example, the Russian system. I would argue that something similar applies in the South Asian scenario as well vis‑à‑vis China. We do believe, however, that it is good enough and effective enough for addressing the threat that we foresee currently, which is more shorter range in terms of the distance and certainly less sophisticated, so there is some belief in effectiveness. Indeed, since it has not been operationally used, it is always speculation and belief based on testing. Even live firing is a bit expensive. Of course, you can always argue and you know very well in the US there is a lot of argument about the effectiveness of their homeland defence. We are monitoring it, but we do believe that the bottom line is that it is good enough to address the threat as we perceive it at the moment.

Dr Sergey Rogov, Academic Director, Institute for US and Canada Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences (ISKRAN)

On the question of technical changes in MK 41 launchers, Mr Rubin was absolutely right when he described what kind of changes can be done. I want to add that the tube itself could also be changed so only capsules with SM‑3 interceptors could launch and capsules with Tomahawks or other offensive missiles will not fit.

As far as the Polish and Romanian agreement to the deployment of [inaudible], I am not sure that Romanian or Polish authorities will have much access to the American facilities. Maybe I am too sceptical, but they are under 100% American control; whatever they bring there is not verified or monitored by the local government authorities.

Jakub Cimoradský, Officer, Integrated Air and Missile Defence Section, NATO

I should not speak on behalf of Polish or Romanian authorities, but I speak as a former lawyer and this scenario that you are suggesting violates the agreement between the US and Romania or Poland, respectively, which was approved by their respective parliaments. If you assume that the US would do something in violation of this level of legal commitment, of course you are right that it is unverifiable, but I would still argue that there are at least legal guarantees that this is not the case and the agreements were on hosting BMD, not any offensive capability. That is all I can say.

Xavier Pasco, Director, FRS; Treasurer, EU Non Proliferation Consortium

Thank you for these answers. The debate could go on for hours. It was fascinating. Thank you very much. We can thank our panellists for very nice presentations and a very nice question and answer session, so let us give them a round of applause. Thank you for your questions also. Thank you.
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Brussels, 3-4 November 2016

EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference 2016