How they see us: An aggressive missile defense strategy
Donald Trump seems determined to “trigger an arms race,” said Julian Borger in The Guardian (U.K.). During a speech at the Pentagon last week, the American president unveiled a landmark review of the U.S.’s missile defenses. It says the country’s land- and sea-based missile interceptor systems require a major upgrade to counter well-armed “rogue states,” such as North Korea and Iran. The Defense Department paper also calls for the creation of a layer of satellite sensors in low orbit that could help track the hypersonic weapons—missiles that can fly five times faster than the speed of sound at relatively low altitudes, hiding them from radar—that Russia and China are developing. But Trump went much further in his speech, saying that the space sensors would be not only “a very, very big part of our defense,” but also part of “our offense.” The goal, he said, was to destroy “any missile launched against the United States, anywhere, anytime, anyplace.” Arms control experts worry that by making the U.S. immune to foreign nuclear attack, such systems would shift the delicate balance of power in nuclear deterrence and lead Russia and China to “build more missiles with more capabilities to overcome U.S. defenses.” Such a deadly cycle would make the world a far more dangerous place.
The new U.S. policy is “frankly confrontational in nature,” said Nikolai Palchikov in Krasnaya Zvezda (Russia). The Pentagon review has expanded the definition of missile defense to include “pre-emptive destruction” of missiles that it decides are about to be launched against the U.S.—never mind if they’re actually being prepared for maintenance or maneuvers. That is what was known as a first strike in the Cold War, and it “was precisely this logic that laid the foundation for the massive nuclear arms race that more than once brought the world to the brink of disaster.” The U.S. has “again decided to step on the same rake—and with the same predictable consequences.” But it needn’t be this way. Let Russia and the U.S. resume comprehensive arms control talks, lest we begin “an arms race in outer space.”
Trump won’t talk, said China Daily (China). His strategists believe that Reagan’s arms race with the USSR was “the reason for the Soviet bloc’s breakup,” and he wants to copy that playbook. “Russia and China will have to act in response,” and we’ll have a defensive arms race. Such a contest can never be won, said the Global Times (China). The technology simply isn’t there: Reagan’s “Star Wars” initiative was a $200 billion flop, and the U.S.’s current generation of missile interceptors only hit their targets 50 percent of the time—and that’s during tightly controlled tests. If this technology were developed, other countries would simply find new ways to evade it. But for the U.S., “whether missile interception is successful or not is not the main priority.” The Americans just want to “flex their muscles on the global stage.” ■