U.S. scientists call Russia’s concerns over ABMs justified

A number of U.S. scientists are concerned that the missile defence shield which the U.S. is planning to deploy in Eastern Europe, may pose a danger to Russia's nuclear arsenal. The U.S. Missile Defence Agency denies the claims.

As the Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency touted another successful test of its interceptor system, six U.S. physicists are raising concerns about U.S. plans to deploy a missile shield in Eastern Europe and claim the Pentagon's data are flawed.

The head of the Missile Defence Agency, Lt. General Henry Obering, dismissed the concerns of Russia and the scientific community.

“We cannot catch a Russian ICBM, we are too close to their launch sites to start with, and by the time we go through and try to establish a track on those missiles, get that into a fire control solution and launch our interceptors, it is as we have stated – we get into a tail chase with those missiles,” he stated.

Lt. General Henry Obering
Lt. General Henry Obering

In an interview with the Associated Press, the six scientists claim that General Obering misrepresented data to reassure foreign governments that the missile shield is intended solely to counter missile launches from Iran.

Jeff Keuter, President of the Marshall Institute, known for its strong support of strategic defence, says the physicists’ claims are based on false assumptions.

“I think they use very generous assumptions about the capability of the system that is planned to be deployed in Europe. The easiest to understand is the speed of the rockets. They are assuming that interceptor rockets could travel at nine kilometres per second though the Missile Defence Agency is very plain on stating that the interceptor rockets that they have currently in the arsenal can only go six kilometers per second,” he explained.

The planned European missile shield has long been a point of contention between the U.S. and Russia, raising tensions between the two countries.

In a move to resolve the disagreement, Russia proposed the joint use of the Gabala radar base located in Northern Azerbaijan.
So far, the U.S. has been cool on the offer.

“We have taken the proposals that the Russians have made on missile defence co-operation very seriously. I asked my Deputy Director, Gen. O’Reilly, to visit the radar that they put on the table – I mean the offer to use the Gabala radar in Azerbaijan,” informed Lt. General Henry Obering.

With negotiations between Russia and the U.S. stalled over missile defence and the Gabala proposal, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defence Secretary Robert Gates will hold talks in Moscow on October 12 with their counterparts.

The discussions will not only focus on missile defence but also on Russia's moratorium on the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE).