Experts find dangers in US Missile Defense Plans

April 2001

Moving Beyond Missile Defense

Carah Lynn Ong

Moving Beyond Missile Defense
, a joint project of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation (INESAP) and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, held its first international workshop in Santa Barbara, California,  March 19-21, 2001.  It was the first in a series of workshops that will take place in several different international regions, including Northeast Asia, Europe, South Asia and the Middle East.

For three days, 17 experts in science, technology and security gathered to discuss the technological and geopolitical problems as well as the negative impacts of missile defenses on international security.

Participants of the Moving Beyond Missile Defense conference argued that deployment of a U.S. missile defense system could provoke new arms races, including in outer space.

Experts from Russia, Germany, Egypt, India, Israel, China, Pakistan, Japan and the U.S. provided regional perspectives on missile defenses and offered alternatives.  "There is great concern among Europeans about these plans," said Juergen Scheffran, a senior researcher with the Interdisciplinary Research Group in Science Technology and Security at the Technical University in Darmastadt, Germany.  "And not only among Europeans, but also Chinese and Russians.  They fear that the United States is adding to its nuclear weapon capabilities."

Russian and Chinese leaders, as well as most allies in Europe, have decried the planned system as the start of new nuclear arms races.  Missile defense opponents also contend that such a system would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, signed by the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, which prohibits national missile defenses.

"We think the way to go forward on this question of threat from other countries is to pursue diplomatic means and find ways of actually banning these missiles, globally." Said M.V. Ramana, a research associate at the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies at Princeton University.  "The U.S., Russia and China will also have to cut back their arsenals if they expect other countries to do the same."

David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, said that "the Moving Beyond Missile Defense project aims to present alternatives to missile defense that would not undermine international stability and security."

"It's very good to have people from all over the world cooperating in this," observed Regina Hagen , Coordinator of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation at the organization's headquarters in Germany.

The conclusions and recommendations from the Santa Barbara workshop will be utilized by an International Study Group to further explore alternatives to missile defenses and in a series of international regional meetings over the next three years.  They will also be made available to government policy makers and non-governmental organizations working in the arena of global security.

Participants in the workshop reached the following preliminary findings:

  • Ballistic missile defense (BMD) cannot provide security.  Missile defenses can be easily overcome by simple countermeasures, including low-technology decoys.  Such systems will create instability because they will provoke other countries, in particular Russia and China, to strengthen and build up their offensive capabilities.
  • Deployment of ballistic missile defenses will undermine long-standing arms control agreements, including the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START I and II).  BMD will prevent further international efforts for non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament.
  • US efforts to deploy missile defenses are perceived by other countries to create increased offensive and war-fighting capabilities.
  • Ballistic missile defenses will provoke rather than prevent the proliferation of ballistic missiles, contributing to regional conflicts and arms races.
  • Ballistic missile defenses do not provide a solution to the risks of the Nuclear Age, but rather multiply the uncertainties, complexities and instabilities of nuclear deterrence.
  • The deployment of missile defenses and the militarization of outer space are inextricably linked.  The weaponization of space must be prohibited. 

We therefore recommend: 

  • The best alternative to ballistic missile defense is the complete abolition of nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction, and the international control and disarmament of ballistic missiles and other delivery systems.  An international missile control regime should be established with practical steps such as improved information exchange on missiles and missile launches, a missile test ban and missile free zones.
  • The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, which prohibits the US and Russia from developing and deploying a national missile defense, must be preserved until a more comprehensive international framework can be established.
  • The weaponization of outer space should be prevented by an international agreement.
  • Cooperation among all states should be supported and the demonization of particular countries and their peoples should be opposed.  In particular, diplomatic efforts with countries such as Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Libya should continue.
  • Security must be fundamentally redefined from the military dimensions of national interests to the fulfillment of human and environmental needs.

Video clips and articles are available on the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's website at

Carah Lynn Ong
Research and Publications
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
PMB 121, 1187 Coast Village Road, Suite 1
Santa Barbara, California  93108-2794  USA

Tel:  805-965-3443
Fax:  805-568-0466

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