Later this spring, the Trump administration will release its 2018 Missile Defense Review (MDR), which is expected to better align U.S. missile defense policy with the present security environment. President Barack Obama’s 2010 Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR) reflected the security environment of the time and the aspirations of the Obama administration. In particular, technological advances by U.S. adversaries and a renewed focus on long-term competition with Russia and China drive the need for a new review.
New Era, New Policy
The new MDR will need to address at least two major trends that have emerged over the past several years: the significant advances made by U.S. adversaries in nuclear and missile technology, and the shift to a more competitive footing with near-peer states like Russia and China as noted in the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy.
The qualitative progress that U.S. adversaries have made in missile and nuclear development has been considerable. In just the last two years, North Korea has tested six new ballistic missile variants, including two versions of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching U.S. territory. It has also made unexpected progress toward a solid-fuel submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and has tested new, more advanced anti-ship missiles and air defenses.
Iran has continued to invest in the quality and quantity of its missile forces despite the 2015 nuclear deal, and it has fiercely resisted any externally imposed limits on further development. Iran furthermore continues to export missiles to its allies and proxies in Lebanon, Yemen, and Syria, contributing to the region’s instability, and appears to be testing its missile wares against its Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) rivals in the Yemen missile war.
But more worrisome are the increasingly uncertain and complex U.S. relationships with China and Russia. In the 2010 BMDR, the Obama administration expressed great optimism about the future of U.S. relations with these countries, disavowing the necessity to pursue missile defenses against either. The 2010 BMDR stated that there were “no significant prospects of war” with Russia or China and that the United States “looks forward to a peaceful and prosperous Russia that makes contributions to international peace and security as a global partner.”
This optimistic vision did not pan out. Even as the United States has sought to integrate China and Russia into the liberal world order, Moscow and Beijing have been fletching their arrows. (end of excerpt)
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