Time for a Missile Ban Treaty


This July, only one day after the US celebrated another anniversary of its Declaration of Independence from tyranny, it was reported that once more, a test of US anti-missile defenses against incoming long-range ballistic missiles, launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California had failed again.  This was the third consecutive test of the Missile Defense Agency’s Ground-Based Mid-Course  system, in which our military was unable to intercept an incoming missile, programmed to target the US, which had been launched towards the mainland from the U.S. Army’s Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein atoll, in the Marshall Islands.

This lunatic program, dreamt up by Reagan and known by its comic book reality, Star Wars, will never work.  Numerous scientists have testified that it would be impossible to guarantee that our anti-missile interceptors could accurately hit an incoming nuclear missile, because the enemy launch would be accompanied by a phalanx of decoys, preventing us from ever knowing with certainty which incoming missile would be carrying a lethal payload.

In the sixteen tests of this ill-conceived “defense”, only eight have ever hit their target over the past nine years and the target has been rigged with a homing device sending a signal to allow the anti-missile to zero in on its location.   One truly need not be a rocket scientist to figure out that this ill-gotten program, a multi-billion dollar gift to the military-industrial-academic-congressional complex is insane because no enemy attack would give such friendly instructions to our “defenses”.

In 2002, the US unilaterally withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which had been negotiated with the Soviet Union as a way to slow down the arms race.  The two countries reasoned that if they refrained from building anti-missile systems, they could also stop the burgeoning pile-up of missiles they were acquiring to “deter” each other during the Cold War.

After the Berlin Wall came down, any good will we had built up with the Russians swiftly began to dissipate.  We expanded NATO right up to Russia’s border, despite promises we gave to Gorbachev that if he didn’t object to a united Germany joining NATO, it would expand no further.

Russia lost twenty million people during the Nazi onslaught, and was understandably wary of a reunited Germany in NATO. Today NATO is even working to admit former Soviet Republics, Georgia and Ukraine, as members.  And we are planting our missile “defenses” in Poland, Romania, and Turkey.  A powerful global grassroots campaign influenced the Czech Republic to back out of a scheduled deployment in that eastern European country.   Adding Turkey to the mix of NATO missile bases must be particularly offensive to Russia, when you consider that part of the deal during the Cuban missile crisis between Kennedy and Khrushchev, was a secret agreement to remove US missiles from Turkey when the Soviets agreed to bring back their missiles from Cuba.

The US anti-ballistic missile defense program, started in 2002 after we walked out of the ABM Treaty, now deploys about 30 interceptors in Fort Greely, Alaska and at Vandenberg in California.    Despite the latest fizzle, the Pentagon announced that it would not be deterred in its plans to place another 13 interceptors in Alaska at a cost of $1billion.  In addition, the Congress has mandates that the Pentagon study an ground-based missile defense system in either New York or Maine.

One of the biggest sticking points in moving towards meaningful negotiations for nuclear disarmament is Russia’s strong objection to the US missile defense program.  When you realize that it wouldn’t work anyway, that it’s costing billions of dollars and untold losses of intellectual treasure applied to meaningless work, surely it’s time to call for a missile ban treaty. 

Indeed, both China and Russia have repeatedly offered a draft treaty to ban weapons in space where the US was the only nation to block their proposal at the UN’s Commission on Disarmament which requires consensus to move forward.  Any ban on weapons in space would have to deal with the missiles as well which are an integral part of a space fighting system.

Alice Slater serves on the Advisory Board of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space and is a member of the Abolition 2000 Coordinating Committee.


Alice Slater is a founder of Abolition 2000, which works for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. 

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