Arms Control Today
All recent U.S. efforts after the conclusion of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) to move ahead on bilateral nuclear arms reductions with Russia have stalled over Russian concerns regarding the capabilities of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, as the Obama administration’s missile defense policy in Europe is formally known, and its effect on Russian nuclear retaliatory potential.
Since the early stages of the phased adaptive approach, Russian officials have cited it as an obstacle to further nuclear arms reduction. Last March, however, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced a restructuring of the approach, canceling the planned implementation of its fourth phase, which had prompted the strongest Russian complaints. The key feature of that phase was the deployment of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) IIB interceptors in Poland. The SM-3 IIB, with a planned velocity of 5.5 kilometers per second, would have had the ability to fly further and faster than any other missile in the system.
Cancellation of the fourth phase has removed any capability that the fully deployed system would have had to intercept Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). As described below, Russia should be able to independently verify that, under the restructured plans, the system will not be able to intercept Russian ICBMs even when fully deployed. At the same time, proponents of the phased adaptive approach can be confident that the cancellation of the planned deployment of the SM-3 IIB interceptors did not diminish the ability of the system to intercept Iranian missiles. This restructuring should now pave the way for more-productive U.S.-Russian negotiations on nuclear arms reduction.