National Missile Defense - Introduction



The administration of U.S President George W. Bush has established a new missile defense facility at Fort Greely and other locations in Alaska . According to the Missile Defense Agency, these facilities will serve as both a test bed and an emergency defense in response to an attack by long-range missiles. Following a September 2002 meeting between Russian and Pentagon officials, Russia's Deputy Chief of Staff Yury Baluyevsky stated, "The U.S. side is proposing to abandon the ABM and build a new strategic relationship. We propose making movement to this goal safer, marking the road with traffic signs to new arms deals." Significantly, he added that "The U.S. withdrawal from the ABM pact will not affect these relations of trust." While major differences between Russia and the U.S. remain unresolved, Baluyevsky's present approach is clearly milder than in the past.

Within the United States and elsewhere, positions regarding the building of a National Missile Defense system remain sharply divided. In the year 2000, many scientists, including 50 Nobel laureates, signed an open letter to President Clinton urging him to reject a proposed $60 billion missile defense system. The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon the following year adds further complexity to the issue. For some Americans, the attack has strengthened support for the missile plan. Other Americans, along with their allies overseas, are fearful of a growing U.S. unilateralism - including the militarization of space - that could promote a massive new arms race. For many of these critics, the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, rather than representing a turning point in world relations, highlight a continuation and acceleration of a long historical clash between empirical power and the violence it promotes.

What follows are differing views of the proposed US National Missile Defense plan, its 'Ground-based Midcourse Defense' [GMD] componment, and its projected implications for the Circumpolar North. Regions represented include Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia, and Russia. Arctic Circle will add new material on this important issue as it unfolds. Suggestions for additions are always welcome.

Norman Chance, Convener