What Missiles Are Threatening Europe?

The issue of creating missile defense boundaries in Europe is largely political in nature. The United States is developing the system more for ensuring national security — officially from Iran, but in reality from China and possibly Russia. Otherwise, it is difficult to understand its persistence in establishing a global missile defense system in Europe and seas adjacent to it, the Middle East, and Northeast and East Asia. Russia, of course, is not now the United States’ main enemy, but it sits at the fourth spot on its list, after Iran, North Korea and China. This worries the Russian expert community, something the West rarely understands. To confirm that, let’s perform a brief analysis of the missile threats to Europe other than Russia and China.

The Middle Eastern countries most successful at mastering missile technologies are Israel and Iran, which have developed medium-range ballistic missiles. In the late 1980s, China sold missiles like the CSS-2 (Dongfeng-3A) to Saudi Arabia, but it is highly doubtful that they are operational today.

Israel’s Jericho-3, an advanced three-stage missile, has an intercontinental range (up to 6500 km) and a nuclear warhead. It could pose a real missile threat to all of Europe. However, that is impossible in principle so long as the majority of the population is Jewish. The country’s ethnic composition is not expected to change before 2020 (Sunni Arabs currently comprise only 10% of its population).

The Iran’s inventory includes the Shehab-3, Shahab-3M and Qadr-1 ballistic missiles. Their maximum range with a 750 kg warhead does not exceed 1600 km. Iran’s advanced two-stage Sajjil-2 missile can deliver a 1-tonne warhead to range of up to 2200 km. The range can be increased to 3000 miles by reducing the warhead to 500 kg, which means a nuclear warhead could not be used. That is clearly insufficient to threaten all of Europe, especially given the advanced missiles’ likely location in the center of the Iran (the distance between the Iranian city of Yazd and Prague, which is located in the heart of Europe, is 3853 km).

Iran is not capable of developing a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in the midterm. The potential for developing liquid-propellant missiles has largely been exhausted. Of course, that does not preclude the Iranians from developing multi-stage liquid propellant rockets for military purposes, but it is more likely that most of their resources will be focused on improving a different kind of ballistic missile — solid-fuel missiles (the technologies for developing liquid propellant rockets are mainly applicable to space). Therefore, Iran can pose a potential missile threat to nearby European countries. All that is needed to contain it is a missile defense base in Romania and the existing radars in Turkey and Israel.

The de facto nuclear state of India has the largest missile capability in South and Southeast Asia. It includes the solid-fuel medium-range Agni-1 and Agni-2 missiles, which can deliver 1-tonne warheads to ranges of 1000 and 2500 km, respectively. A new missile, the Agni-3, which will have a range of up to 5000 km, is under development. India’s missile development plans also include the Surya ICBM, which will have a range of 8000-12,000 km. However, there is no potential for a conflict developing between India and Europe.

The de facto nuclear state of Pakistan has also been able to develop a significant missile capability, including the liquid propellant medium-range Haft-5 and Haft-6. Its advanced ballistic missiles have a range of up to 2500 km, which is clearly insufficient to reach even the borders of Europe.

Northeast Asian countries have developed a rocket capability that allows them to produce medium-range missiles. For example, North Korea’s two-stage liquid propellant Taepodong-2 missile is estimated have a range of 3500 km with a 1-tonne warhead and 8000 km with a 500-kg warhead. In the latter case, it would not be nuclear capable.

Due to insufficient funding and the backwardness of North Korea’s industrial base under international sanctions based on UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, North Korea’s capabilities to finish developing the Taepodong are severely limited. In particular, these resolutions require that the missile program be halted and the moratorium on launching ballistic missile be restored. That denies North Korea the ability to flight test missiles under development. Thus, it is highly unlikely that North Korea could develop an ICBM by 2020. Considering that the distance from Pyongyang to Bucharest — the capital of the nearest European country — is 7752 km, it is obvious that there will be no North Korean missile threat to Europe throughout the entire period we are considering.

Therefore, the projected ballistic missiles of Northeast Asian countries do not represent a real threat to Europe. Hypothetically, only America’s closest ally — Japan —has the capability to develop an ICBM, should it make the political decision to do so.

Currently, there are short-range ballistic missiles (which have ranges of no more than 1000 km) in the inventories of Algeria, Azerbaijan, Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Brazil, Vietnam, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Yemen, Kazakhstan, the United Arab Emirates, the Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria , Turkey, Taiwan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine. Of these countries, the only one that can pose a potential missile threat to Europe is a member of NATO — Turkey, due to its geographical proximity, difficult relations with Greece, Islamization of the country and rising regional ambitions. This, the decision by Turkey’s leadership to develop medium-range ballistic missiles, although not yet backed by real scientific and technical potential, should catch Brussels’ attention.

Belarus and Ukraine have the Tochka (Tochku-U) missile systems in their inventory. These missiles have a range of up to 120 km. they can pose only a hypothetical missile threat to neighboring European countries. The missile defenses deployed in Europe are sufficient to parry that threat in view of their short range and low flight altitude, as well as their conventional (non-nuclear) warhead.

Thus, our brief analysis provides convincing evidence that there is no missile threat to Europe before 2020 if Russia and China are not considered a threat. The US SM-3 interceptor missiles deployed in Romania are quite sufficient to contain Iran’s missile ambitions. The establishment of a similar base in Poland and a significant increase in the speed of interceptor missiles, let alone giving them a strategic status, i.e., the capability to intercept ICBM warheads, will suggest that the United States desires to alter the existing balance of forces in the field of strategic offensive arms. Such activities will impede the development of Russian-American relations and push Moscow to take adequate measures of a military-technical nature.

Vladimir Evseev is the Director of the Russian Center for Social and Political Studies.

Source: New Eastern Outlook 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply