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NATO, U.S. Ready to Address 21st Century Threats, Official Says

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2013 – The United States and its NATO allies are working to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world, the assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs said here yesterday.

Speaking at a conference on NATO’s role in deterrence and collective defense, Madelyn R. Creedon said that following a two-year nuclear posture review, President Barack Obama announced in June that the United States and Russia could safely reduce by one-third their deployed strategic nuclear systems.

In addition, Creedon said, NATO’s High Level Group, which she chairs, followed NATO’s deterrence and defense posture review with the first new political guidance since 1992. The High Level Group is the senior advisory body on nuclear policy and planning issues to NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group.

The reviews looked for ways to maintain a strong, credible deterrent while at the same time setting the conditions for future nuclear arms reductions, she explained.

The stage is now set for NATO and the United States to address evolving 21st century threats, such as short- and medium-range ballistic missile systems, she said.

But while NATO and the United States both are working to balance security with the desire to reduce the nuclear arsenal, Creedon said, she hopes for more participation from Russia. “It's important to have Russia as part of this effort on both sides,” she added. “Neither one of these efforts will be successful without it.”

While the nation is seeking to cut its nuclear stockpile, it is committed to building missile defense sites in Europe, she said.

“We've made a substantial commitment to [the European phased adaptive approach], to homeland missile defense and to the nuclear strategic deterrent,” Creedon said.

When the Defense Department conducted its strategic choices and management review earlier this year, ballistic missile defense was one of three “protected” areas, she said, noting that the others were cyber and space capabilities.

The European phased adaptive approach is a three-part program designed to address the threat posed by Iranian short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. In Phase 1, U.S. Navy ships armed with ballistic missile defense systems were stationed in the Mediterranean Sea. Phases 2 and 3 involve the construction of land-based interceptor sites, first in Romania and then in Poland. Phase 4 was cancelled in March in response to the evolving threat from North Korea, Creedon said.

Assets from Phase 4 were reallocated to address the threat, she said. An additional 14 ground-based interceptors were deployed to Alaska, and then the department began to look at ways to improve the capabilities of the ground-based interceptor’s payload, the exoatmospheric kill vehicle, she said.

“We were able to do that because, frankly, that long-range threat from Iran hadn't emerged on the timetable that we thought it would emerge,” Creedon said.

“That said, we know, because they test them all the time and we know they have lots of them, we do have a no-kidding, real threat from Iran in the area of the short and the medium and, to some extent, intermediate range, and so that's what we're going to focus on in [the European phased adaptive approach],” she added.

The bigger question for the Defense Department and for NATO is how to balance cost with security, Creedon said.

“Not just for EPAA, it's really for all of theater defenses,” she continued. “How many defensive systems do you buy to offset how many incoming offensive systems? … As many have said who looked at this, this is the losing end of a cost-imposing proposition.”

And solving this puzzle isn’t just about working out how to deal with the threats posed by Iran’s missiles, Creedon said -- it’s about dealing with any country that has offensive missile capabilities.

“How do we think about defending them if we can't always afford that one-on-one or that two-on-one defensive capability?” she said. “That's the question, and it's a much bigger question than Iran.”

(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @RouloAFPS)

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Madelyn R. Creedon

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