An analysis of the US missile defence plans: pros and cons of striving for invulnerability

October 10, 2005 - nr.28

Shortly after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, the government asked the AIV in its letter of 8 October 2001 for an analysis of the consequences for the European Allies and the Netherlands of ongoing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, various aspects of the US Missile Defence plans and the new ‘strategic framework’. Since then, there have been a considerable number of developments, in particular the war against terrorism in Afghanistan, the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty and the publication in the United States of policy documents such as the Quadrennial Defence Review and the Nuclear Posture Review. Also of great importance are the agreement between the US and the Russian Federation on nuclear reductions and the signing of a declaration on the new cooperation between Russia and the US, as well as the establishment of a NATO-Russia Council, all of which took place in May 2002, and the withdrawal from START II by Russia in June 2002. In July 2002 the US approached NATO Allies with specific proposals for cooperation between the US and individual Allies with regard to missile defence. These recent developments have of course been taken into account as much as possible in this advice.

The issues put to the AIV by the government concern the assessment of the threat from ballistic missiles and the strategic consequences thereof for the security interests of Europe and NATO. Should this be seen as a pretext to strive for a complete strategic review of the Allied security policy following the American example? To what extent does the threat to Europe differ from the threat to the US? Is there reason to consider additional measures to protect the European territor y from ballistic missiles and should such measures be sought in the context of missile defence? The request for advice also asks about the shortcomings in the present system of arms control and non-proliferation. Is there reason to seek a new course of action? And what requirements would the new strategic framework, to be agreed upon by Russia and the United States, need to meet, in particular from the European point of view?

1 Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD)

When he took office, President Bush Jr presented missile defence as one of the spearheads of his policy and gave plenty of financial and political leeway to the research and testing programme. The budget for missile defence was increased considerably in 2002 and the withdrawal from the ABM Treaty (December 2001) cleared the last legal stumbling blocks. After the attacks of 11 September, hardly any resistance was encountered in domestic politics on this matter. Bush decided to let go of the limited focus of the ‘Clinton system’ and have research done into a multitude of possible systems. A decision on the actual architecture of a missile defence system has expressly not been taken yet. All options remain open.

Bush made missile defence part of a wide transformation of security policy in the light of the changed post-Cold-War strategic circumstances, which mainly featured uncertainty. It is unclear who and where the enemy is and in what way that enemy can pose a threat. The new security policy as put forward in the Quadrennial Defence Review (October 2001) and the Nuclear Posture Review (January 2002) therefore places great emphasis on the necessity for flexibility in the Defence organisation; missile defence is one of the components. The growing interest in this respect for ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction in US politics is based on the strategic changes of the post-Cold-War era. Particularly after the Gulf War in 1991 the question was raised in the US as to whether a regional opponent armed with nuclear weapons would be able to deter the US from military intervention in a regional conflict. In any case, an opponent armed in this way would be able to complicate a US intervention considerably.

In addition there is the historical background of Missile Defence. The aim to protect the civilian population has been the leitmotiv of Republican policy for decades. Moreover, not inconsiderable interests in the technological/industrial spheres also play a part.

What, then, is the extent of the threat from ballistic missiles? In order to answer this question this advice first looks at the American perception of the threat. In view of the importance of the American point of view in this respect, and in the absence of other source material, many American sources have been consulted, although the necessary comments on and questions about these sources have been included.

Current US policy is based on the threat that, in the eyes of the Americans, is posed by the ongoing increase in proliferation of missile programmes and weapons of mass destruction in ‘states of concern’ such as North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya. Particularly the report by the Rumsfeld Commission (1998) lent political urgency to this threat. At present there is widespread agreement in the US that over the coming decades a threat will arise involving intercontinental missiles from one or several of the states of concern (North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria). In this light, some form of missile defence system will be required. Both Republicans and Democrats agree on this matter. What form this missile defence will take is as yet unclear; there is no agreement on this point at present.

The American assessment is that over the next five to ten years, North Korea will pose a threat, followed by Iran, followed in turn by Iraq. The countries in question at present all have short-range missiles and none of them is at present able to threaten the United States. Parts of NATO territory (Turkey) and Israel do fall within range of some of their short-range missiles. The states of concern do have chemical and biological weapons at their disposal, or have the capability to manufacture them.

The AIV is not able to give an independent forecast of the situation with regard to proliferation in 10 years’ time and cannot answer the question of whether in 10 or 15 years’ time the states of concern will be able to threaten the US and the whole of Europe with long-range missiles. The American threat analysis has, however, given rise to a number of comments and questions on the part of the AIV.

In the first place a long-range missile is not the most likely means of delivery for weapons of mass destruction such as biological or chemical weapons. For a country or organisation that wants to strike the US with a weapon of mass destruction, there is more logic in the use of other, technologically less advanced and therefore more accessible, means of delivery, such as unmanned aircraft or sea containers. A missile defence system does not provide protection against attacks with weapons of mass destruction using other means of delivery.

It is hard to imagine that a ‘state of concern’ would, out of the blue, attack the US with missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction, as it would have to count on a devastating counterattack. Deterrence will in general also work in relation to a state of concern. However, in extreme circumstances, if a country has nothing left to lose, the situation could be different, it is argued. In this view, the issue also concerns the freedom of action in terms of a US foreign and security policy. In that perspective, missile defence is not only a response to a threat, but also an extra guarantee in a US foreign policy that wishes to safeguard its freedom of action in regional affairs: ‘missile defence is not only about defence, but also about offence’.

The threat scenario against which missile defence is meant to provide protection could become reality in 10 years, but then again it may not. This depends on a number of important questions of a technical nature and on the extent to which the countries that have the technology for long-range missiles will share it with states of concern. On the one hand, there are signs that Chinese and Russian authorities, out of understandable self-interest, are more cautious in this respect than the US supposes. On the other hand, the controls on technology-sharing by governments are not always watertight. The American analysis hardly addresses the circumstances in which a ‘state of concern’ might be prepared to actually deploy its missile potential against the US.

2 BMD and NATO

What are the implications of the above for the Atlantic Alliance?

Whereas there is a consensus in the US with regard to the development of a ballistic threat in the course of the next two decades, there is no such consensus among the European NATO Allies, although it can be reasonably expected that the threat perceived by the US will become a reality for Europe sooner than for the US, albeit with shorterrange missiles. For a long time, the US appeared not to be too concerned about the possibility of being put under pressure – or even blackmailed – if European countries were actually to come under threat. Bush was willing to expand the coverage of a future missile defence system to include the European NATO Allies, but as yet it has remained unclear as to how this would take shape. The threat analysis has as yet not been put on the NATO agenda.

The question has arisen of to what extent there are Allied policy consultations with regard to missile defence in the sense of Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty. From the point of view of cohesion within NATO it is an alarming fact that the two sides of the transatlantic Alliance have fundamentally different ideas about an issue which, in the eyes of the most important Ally, in time will pose a serious threat to its own security and territorial inviolability.

European countries as yet prefer to avoid the issue of missile defence (and its possibly considerable financial consequences); not all of them were convinced by the American analysis. Thus far, the US has also preferred to chart its own course in policymaking for missile defence, without having to take into account the opinions of European Allies (which most likely would entail self-restraint).

If both sides wish to continue to work seriously at the transatlantic policy consultations, this attitude is untenable. If NATO is still the most important forum for the discussion of transatlantic security issues – as both sides of the Alliance have stated – the issue of missile threats and the solution to this problem as intended by the US missile defence must be put on the NATO agenda and preferably also on that of the NATO-Russia Council established in May 2002. This issue is perfectly suited to the NATO-Russia Council and goes beyond the present agenda of this new forum, which only deals with TMD, but does also address proliferation in general. As suggested by Russia in January 2000, but at the time mainly ignored, this forum would need to make a common analysis of the threat to the entire transatlantic territor y, including Russia, and acknowledge the consequences thereof. As yet there has been no such analysis carried out for the European NATO territory.

The proposals put to NATO by US Defence Secretary Rumsfeld in June 2002 to ‘examine the options for the development of missile defence against all possible missile threats’ in a NATO context appeared to open up an option. This was reflected in the statement of the NATO Defence Council of 6 June 2002, which announced that ‘Alliance territor y and population centres may also face an increasing missile threat (…) and therefore the Alliance needs to examine options for addressing this increasing threat in an efficient way through an appropriate mix of political and defence efforts’. In July 2002 the US put forward proposals to NATO Allies on the way in which cooperation between individual Allies and the US with regard to missile defence could take shape. The AIV emphasises that the question of whether NATO requires missile defence must be answered jointly, based on a joint threat analysis of the extent and nature of the ‘growing threat’.1 The American proposals and the decision by the ministers necessitate a joint threat analysis.

3 Theatre Missile Defence

NATO has been concerned with missile proliferation since the early 1990s. So far these activities have focused on the short and medium-range threat to units deployed abroad. By the same token, NATO is at present carr ying out a feasibility study on ‘layered TMD’, which will be completed in late 2002. Then NATO will consider how TMD can be incorporated into the NATO air defence command and control system. TMD is not as controversial as strategic missile defence. Individual Allies, including the Netherlands, are already active in this area.
The AIV welcomes the fact that a common Allied concept is being sought for the individual national TMD activities of, inter alia, the Netherlands, by means of activities such as a feasibility study, which will be completed in late 2002.

The AIV recommends that the result of this feasibility study be seen as a prelude to the wider analysis advocated above of the nature and extent of the threat from ballistic missiles to the entire NATO territory and the way in which NATO should defend itself against it.

The Dutch TMD efforts are partly based on a generic requirement for TMD systems, recognised within NATO since the 1990s, but they are in anticipation of a NATO concept yet to be developed. It is therefore advisable to examine the extensive future investments involved in procuring the interceptor missiles for both systems more closely, as part of an overall review of the entire spectrum of priorities within NATO and the CFSP.

Furthermore, in the coming years the Netherlands will face the question of whether, following on from TMD activities already undertaken, it should become active in the field of BMD. An Allied analysis of the threat is essential to the answering of this question. Additionally, clarity is necessary in respect of the technical question of whether systems such as PAC-III could play a role as part of a layered BMD system.

4 BMD,arms control,non-proliferation and stability

The US has not progressed beyond a comprehensive research programme into various systems that should be capable of intercepting missiles of any range, during any phase of flight, from either land, sea or the air, and even from space. As it will probably not become clear before 2004 which of the diversity of technologies are eligible for development, the US government for the time being is keeping ‘all options open’. The technology has yet to prove itself and for the greater part, with the exception of a number of short-range systems, is still on the drawing board.

Owing to the embryonic stage missile defence is in – in stark contrast to the policy rhetoric – it is difficult, if not impossible, for other countries to respond in a structured and well-founded manner to the American intentions so soon. On the other hand it means that there is still room for input from Allies. This input should particularly concern the perspective of arms control and international stability.

The fact that the (small) number of countries that have short and medium-range missiles in turn can contribute to further proliferation of missiles and missile technology is indeed worr ying. However, the American conclusion that this means that the non-proliferation system has failed is not shared by the AIV. On the contrary, the successes of the non-proliferation regime should be pointed out; the number of problem countries has been limited to a minimum, contrary to earlier expectations. In this light, the tendency of the US to reject treaties and international agreements with regard to arms control when they are inconvenient in the short term is a cause for grave concern.

In the view of the AIV, there is no reason to reject the non-proliferation regime as such; on the contrary. The system must be prevented from deteriorating. Important shortcomings must also be recognised so that the system can be updated and reinforced. These shortcomings are mentioned in Chapter IV. The European Allies should make a case for reinforcing what is an effective non-proliferation regime and propagate this view consistently in negotiations, including those with the US.

This does not alter the fact that there is ongoing proliferation, however. Comprehensive verification of the existing prohibition of the development of biological weapons is extremely difficult, as is the case with chemical weapons. It must be recognised that it has not been possible to prevent proliferation entirely. The notion of having the UN send out a strong political signal, at the initiative of the Security Council, that in advance confronts possible troublemakers with the certain prospect of the severest punishment, therefore merits further attention and elaboration.

With regard to strategic relations, it is emphasised that in the medium term largescale MD plans can have a destabilising effect, particularly if no account, or insufficient account, is taken of the security perceptions of other involved states. In that case missile defence can be perceived as part of a more general unilateral course being taken by the US. The uncertainty this entails for other countries could in time lead to responses in Russia, China and possibly India and Pakistan. It is important that the US take these medium-term risks into account. European Allies must continue to call for this matter to be addressed.

In itself the American willingness to lay down the announced strategic reductions in a treaty with the Russian Federation is positive. The declaration accompanying the treaty contains positive elements for the future. It would be beneficial to stability if the US would also be willing to accept limitations being set on the missile defence system it chooses. This could, for instance, entail yet to be specified limitations on the stationing of systems in space and limits on the number of interceptor missiles.

In this context, there is not enough attention being paid as yet to China. It is therefore recommended that a framework on strategic stability in time be expanded to include China, or that at least a policy be developed to ensure that such a framework will not lead to a reaction from China.

The new amicable relationship between the US and Russia should also make it possible for the large numbers of Russian tactical nuclear weapons still in place to be included in the reductions. The European Allies should press for this within NATO.

The Netherlands, together with other Allies, need not hesitate to make these considerations clear to the US.

Finally, there was the question from the government as to whether the nature of the international security situation has changed to such an extent that a complete review of the Allied security policy is required, possibly following the example of the security policy advocated by the US government. This question goes beyond the scope of the MD issue. Within that wider scope, there have already been a number of initiatives, particularly as a result of 11 September, witness the most recent conclusions by the NATO ministerial meetings in Reykjavik in May 2002 and in Brussels in June 2002. Highlighting the DCI policy, greater focus on flexibility and preventive strategies, streamlining the various NATO headquarters and putting the limitation on the ‘Euro-Atlantic area’ from the 1999 Strategic Concept into perspective are all part of the process and should to lead to definitive decisions at the NATO summit in Prague in November 2002. The question put forward in the request for advice on a possible review of security policy has therefore already been answered by actual developments.

As regards the issue of BMD, the decision-making stage is still a long way off. The implementation of a new NATO-wide TMD approach and the formulation of a possible NATO-wide MD concept both first require, as has been explained above, thorough Allied analyses and consultations before common policy conclusions may be drawn. All the more because the US itself does not yet have a clear-cut concept for the stationing of missile defence.

5 Recommendations

The elements in the preceding analysis lead to the following policy recommendations:

  1. A number of comments can be made regarding the American threat analysis and the conclusion based thereon that in time a missile defence system will be necessary. The AIV recommends that these comments, of a technological and political nature, be addressed within the NATO consultations advocated in this advice.
  2. The AIV recommends that the Dutch government contribute to the nature, extent and significance of the missile threat being discussed within NATO as a main item as soon as possible. A common analysis must be made of the nature, extent and significance of the missile threat to the entire NATO territor y, in accordance with Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty.
  3. Such an analysis should be carried out in close consultation with Russia, preferably in the NATO-Russia Council established in May 2002.
  4. The AIV emphasises that such an analysis is a precondition for the next step, i.e. combined research into the way in which NATO should deal with the threat (as announced by NATO’s Defence Ministers in June 2002). A missile defence system could be one of the options, but other measures should also be considered, such as non-proliferation measures.
  5. The AIV recommends that the feasibility study regarding NATO-wide TMD, to be completed in late 2002, be used as part of the basis for elaboration in this matter.
  6. The AIV recommends that the national Dutch efforts with regard to TMD become part of a common NATO TMD concept as soon as possible. The Dutch TMD efforts should also be given a place in the prioritisation that will be discussed as part of the preparations for the NATO summit in Prague (November 2002).
  7. The threat to NATO territor y from ICBMs and long-range ballistic missiles (with a range of over 3,500 kilometres) is a threat that is not as yet realistic, but that could manifest itself in the future. Therefore, the AIV recommends to the government that, within the efforts to bring NATO’s conventional capability up to standard, it not give territorial missile defence the highest priority at present. Other NATO efforts should currently be given priority.
  8. A(n) (terrorist) organisation that wishes to use weapons of mass destruction such as biological or chemical weapons has technically more simple means of delivery at its disposal than a missile. Missile defence does not provide protection against such an attack. At present the (terrorist) threat from use of weapons of mass destruction with relatively simple means of delivery is more urgent than the threat from long-range missiles.
  9. The AIV wishes to emphasise that non-proliferation and arms control remain essential elements in the fight against the further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The non-proliferation regime has proved its worth. The regime must, however, be reinforced and adapted to current developments, both technological and political. This includes the worr ying observation that it has not been possible to prevent proliferation entirely. Particularly with regard to biological and also chemical weapons, there are insufficient means of prevention and verification. Therefore, the notion of having the UN send out a strong political signal, at the initiative of the Security Council, that in advance confronts possible troublemakers with the certain prospect of the severest punishment, therefore merits further attention and elaboration.
  10. The AIV emphasises the fact that missile defence in certain configurations may have negative consequences for strategic relations and stability and could thus work as a catalyst for a new arms race. In this light, limits on the number of interceptor missiles could be required, as well as limits on the stationing of interceptors in space. The AIV recommends that the Netherlands, together with European Allies, press the US to adopt an attitude such as will limit the negative effects in this respect to a minimum.
  11. The AIV sees the recently agreed cooperation between Russia and the US as the start of a new strategic framework between the two countries. The agreements on offensive reductions are part of this framework. In the future, the treaty should be elaborated to include, among others, verification provisions. The strategic framework should be expanded to include other countries, in particular China. The Netherlands, together with European Allies, should press for this.
  12. The new amicable relationship between the US and Russia should also make it possible for the large numbers of Russian tactical nuclear weapons still in place to be included in the reductions. The European Allies should press for this within NATO.

    1 Source: Statement on capabilities by NATO Defence Ministers, 6 June 2002 (

Advice request

Professor F.H.J.J. Andriessen
Chair of the Advisory Council on International
Postbus 20061
2500 EB Den Haag

Date 8 October 2001
Contact P.C. Potman
Our ref. DVB/NN-365/01
Tel. (070) 348 5555
Page 1/6
Fax (070) 348 5684
Re (070) 348 5684


Dear Professor Andriessen,

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and their delivery systems, are assuming an ever more important place on the international agenda. The Advisory Council referred to this problem as long ago as September 1999, in its advisory report on developments in the international security situation in the 1990s. That opinion included the following statement: “... it is hardly surprising that many countries have decided to prioritise the development of an adequate defence system for defending themselves against ballistic missile attack.” Developments in the United States are the most potent example of this.

The new American administration has let there be no doubt about its determination to protect the United States against the possible future threat of long-range missile attacks by states of concern, whether or not the missiles are carr ying weapons of mass destruction. It has also said that American plans in this area are also intended to offer protection to allies and, in this connection, has alluded to possibilities for practical cooperation. The issue of missile defence against ballistic missiles (“missile defence”) has expressly been raised within the framework of a broad strategic review, designed to lead to a new concept of deterrence. This review extends to an analysis of the future threat, the consequences of this for deterrence, and the role of nuclear weapons in this context, as well as the place of missile defence in this new concept.

In connection with this strategic review, the United States has drawn attention to the fact that its relationship with the Russian Federation is very different from that with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. American security policy should take more account of this fact. Within the context of talks on a “new strategic framework”, discussions have taken place on missile defence, reductions in strategic weapons and non-proliferation, all of which should, according to the United States, lead to a new strategic balance between the Russian Federation and the United States, one which is no longer based on mutual deterrence. In its letter to the House of Representatives of 5 July 2001, the Government analysed various aspects of missile defence, and formulated a number of guidelines to govern the development of policy in this area. However, there is a need for a deeper analysis of the consequences for the European allies, and for the Netherlands, of the continuing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, of various aspects of the question of missile defence and of the new strategic framework. Your further advice on future policy, against the background outlined above, would be appreciated.

1. A new deterrent

The Government of the United States takes the view that security risks have undergone a fundamental change. The most striking development is the disappearance of a single, predictable enemy, and the emergence instead of a group of less predictable and more reck-lessly inclined countries. Some of these countries are seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction and, increasingly, ballistic missiles, as instruments of regional power politics and diplomatic pressure, and probably also as a deterrent against the United States and its allies.

The states of greatest concern are, according to the United States, less predictable and more inclined to take risks than the former Soviet Union, given the nature of their regimes. Attention is also drawn to the fact that classical nuclear deterrence – based on (massive) retaliation with offensive weapons – operated within a context of strategic balance, which cannot be said of any possible future confrontation with states of concern. The United States thus doubts the effectiveness of traditional nuclear deterrence with respect to these states, and this is why the American administration takes the view that a contemporary policy of deterrence must include an offensive nuclear capability, alongside defensive systems against missiles which might be carr ying weapons of mass destruction. Since these defensive systems deny states of concern the possibility of hitting the United States (and possibly its allies) with missiles, such systems would constitute a significant addition to existing nuclear deterrence. Moreover, the United States argues that whenever it has the technological capacity to develop defensive systems against such threats, it has a moral obligation to do so.

The place of missile defence in American strategy should be viewed against this background. The United States emphasises that a future missile defence system will be designed to counter the threat from the states of concern, not the Russian Federation or China. A missile defence system should also offer protection to allies, and in that connection the United States is working towards cooperative arrangements, with the Russian Federation among others.

2. The strategic relationship

The introduction of a missile defence system against strategic missiles without an agreement with Russia on the amendment or replacement of the ABM Treaty could have a negative effect on the American-Russian relationship, and could possibly lead to a new arms race. Even if the United States reached agreement with the Russian Federation on a new strategic framework, it would still be difficult to reach an understanding with China on missile defence, given that even a limited missile defence system could possibly undermine the Chinese nuclear deterrent. There are those who take the view that Russia is no longer able to remain the nuclear equal of the United States, and that the consequences will not be too unfavourable, especially if the introduction of missile defence is linked to substantial strategic reductions by both the Americans and the Russians. Others think that Russia should not be underestimated on this point.

This issue is inseparably linked to the matching question of the nuclear relationship. The United States wishes to proceed to a new framework that more accurately reflects the “new cooperative relationship” with Russia – in any case, Russia is no longer an enemy. What such a framework would look like in practice is still unclear. The Russian Federation has indeed welcomed the American willingness to make far-reaching reductions, and has stated that it is itself also prepared to go a long way. The United States has a preference for unilateral strategic reductions, while Russia wishes to adhere to the START framework, under the umbrella of the ABM Treaty.

Russia does endorse the view that there is a growing – regional – threat emanating from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and short and medium-range ballistic missiles, but denies the existence of a threat, now or in the foreseeable future, from intercontinental missiles from the states in question. Russia also agrees that part of the answer to these threats must be found in defensive systems. It has therefore made proposals to NATO for the development of a Pan-European Theatre Missile Defence system.

3. Arms control

The United States emphasises the importance of non-proliferation and export control regimes, but at the same time argues that these regimes display too may leaks (not least because of Russian sales to states of concern). The American administration also feels that a number of new treaties and multilateral initiatives in the field of non-proliferation and arms control are defective, to the extent that their value is seriously reduced. The benefits that these treaties and initiatives were supposed to produce in the field of non-proliferation and arms control do not counterbalance the limitations they would impose on American security policy, and the risks to the interests of American industry. In addition, there is a big risk of the further spread of weapons of mass destruction, through secondary proliferation.

The Netherlands and the European allies are firmly committed to multilateral arms control and non-proliferation, as well as to negotiated and verifiable arms control treaties. Europe will therefore have to find effective and convincing answers to American criticisms. The United States will have to be able to make it clear that the proposed new strategic framework does not affect the strategic balance between the most important nuclear weapons states, and that it advances international efforts in the field of arms control and non-proliferation.

Against this background, and against the background of the detailed analysis contained in the letter to the House of Representatives of 5 July 2001, we are submitting a number of questions to the Advisory Council:

  • What are the strategic consequences of the continuing proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction for European and NATO security interests? Has the international security situation changed to such an extent that a total revision of alliance security policy is necessary, whether or not this follows the example of the security policy announced by the new American administration? In that connection, how should one assess the proposed American move from a classic policy of deterrence, based exclusively on offensive weapons, to a policy of deterrence based on a combination of offensive and defensive weapons?
  • To what extent is the threat to Europe different from the threat to the United States? Are there grounds for supplementary measures to protect European territor y from ballistic missiles from states of concern, whether or not these missiles are carrying weapons of mass destruction? If so, to what extent should such measures be in the area of missile defence, and should the European allies aim at practical cooperation with the United States and/or Russia on this issue? What security, strategic or defence industry considerations should play a role in all this?
  • What conditions should a new strategic framework have to meet with respect to European and alliance security interests? How should the new American administration’s preference for unilateral nuclear weapons reductions be assessed, as compared with the treaty approach maintained so far? What is the Advisory Council’s view on the chances for a reduction in the number of tactical nuclear weapons, given, among other things, the still very substantial arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons held by the Russians?
  • What are the consequences of a possible new strategic framework for the future strategic relationship between the various “established” nuclear weapons states, both among themselves and with regard to the “newcomers”?
  • Do the deficiencies in the current international system of arms control and non-proliferation, and the changing strategic relationship, mean that new paths should be followed in the field of arms control and non-proliferation?

    The terrorist attacks on the United States
    The recent terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., have cruelly exposed the vulnerability of modern Western societies. It is conceivable that these terrorist attacks will have consequences for policy with respect to missile defence in the United States, and elsewhere. However, any statements made on this at the present time would be mere speculation. For this reason, we would prefer to submit this request for an advisory opinion to the Council now, while noting that it is not impossible that we will submit some supplementary questions at a later stage. In any case, the Council is itself at liberty, certainly in the current exceptional circumstances, to take account of political or other developments as they happen, in drawing up its advisory report.


    Yours sincerely,

    J.J. van Aartsen F.H.G. de Grave
    Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister of Defence
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