During the Cold War, the U.S. supported the security of its
allies by threatening a possible nuclear response to an attack on
them by the Soviet Union. This policy, which was based on
retaliatory threats, was referred to as "extended deterrence."
Today, the policy of extended deterrence is no less important to
overall U.S. security than during the Cold War.
The context, however, is quite different as a result of the rise
of the multi-polar world. In this context, it is becoming
increasingly clear that the means for applying the policy of
extended deterrence is changing in two fundamental ways.
First, extended deterrence is less about retaliating against an
attack and more about convincing the enemy that he is unlikely to
achieve the political and military purposes behind an attack.
Second, the rise of the multi-polar world means that the
extended deterrence policy must be supported by a layered structure
of alliances and security commitments. These emerging changes in
extended deterrence are revealed by recent agreements with the
Czech Republic and Poland to field missile defense facilities in
Missile Defense Agreements
Earlier this year, the U.S. signed agreements with the Czech
Republic and Poland to field missile defense facilities in those
two countries for countering longer-range missiles that could
threaten both the United States and Europe. The agreement with the
Czech Republic was signed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in
Prague on July 8. This agreement will permit the fielding of
a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic. Rice signed the
agreement with Poland on August 20 in Warsaw. This agreement will
permit the fielding of 10 missile defense interceptors in Poland.
Both agreements require the approval by the respective Czech and
The agreement with Poland is accompanied by a declaration of
strategic cooperation, which was also issued on August 20. This
joint declaration strengthens U.S.-Polish bilateral security
commitments in a manner consistent with the broader NATO alliance,
in which both countries are members. At the broadest level, the
declaration is designed to reinforce the security commitment in the
North Atlantic Treaty with a bilateral security commitment. The
declaration also seeks to modernize and strengthen Poland's
military capabilities. Central to this effort is deployment of a
Patriot air and missile defense battery in Poland. It will be
accompanied by a future Ballistic Missile Defense Framework
Agreement to permit cooperative missile defense research and
development with provisions for industry-to-industry
A New Approach to Extended
The missile defense agreements between the U.S. and the Czech
Republic and Poland represent a new basis for the traditional U.S.
policy of extended deterrence. The new approach will place less
emphasis on U.S. retaliation for an attack and more emphasis on
protecting and defending the ally . It will also rely less on a
single commitment to alliance security and more on concurrent
commitments, for two reasons.
First, the agreements with the Czech Republic and Poland are
focused on fielding missile defenses. These defensive systems are
designed to protect both the U.S. and its European allies against
attack. During the Cold War, deploying U.S. nuclear weapons in
Europe signaled to the Soviet Union that even a conventional attack
in Europe carried the prospect of a nuclear response by the U.S.
Defensive measures were assumed to be incompatible with deterrence.
In today's multi-polar world, the U.S. and its allies are becoming
less certain that unpredictable leaders will be deterred by the
threat of retaliation. In today's context, they see defensive
measures as compatible with deterrence and reinforcing its
Second, the U.S. pursued its extended deterrence policy for
Europe during the Cold War through NATO. (The only significant
exception to this was the special relationship between the U.S. and
the United Kingdom.) Today's complex multi-polar world is driving
the U.S. and its allies to adopt a more flexible system of
concurrent and overlapping security commitments. The Declaration of
Strategic Cooperation between the U.S. and Poland in particular
demonstrates that both nations will use NATO structures and a close
bilateral relationship to strengthen security.
These changes are timely because a retaliation-based extended
deterrence policy is prone to breakdowns in today's complex and
multi-polar world. This is why the agreements include steps for
bilateral reinforcement of NATO commitments. The relative clarity
of the bipolar world permitted carefully designed signals about
which actions by a potential aggressor would result in retaliatory
and escalatory steps by the U.S. The multi-polar world makes
sending these signals much more difficult, because the signals must
apply to multiple actors operating in different contexts and with
different perceptions of the U.S and its allies. The emerging
structure is better able to handle multiple potential threats and
contribute to security in ways that go beyond the limited
capabilities of the missile defense systems that they support.
Congress should seek to accelerate the trend toward an extended
deterrence policy that relies on a more defensive military posture
in the alliance. It should also instruct the next Administration to
explore selective bilateral security ties with European NATO
members that augment and reinforce the existing multilateral
security commitments. It can do this by:
- Providing the necessary funding for the new agreements with the
Czech Republic and Poland; and
- Adopting provisions for next year's defense authorization bill
that direct the next Administration to explore bilateral agreements
with European NATO members to field additional defenses that will
result in an overall alliance-member military posture that is a mix
of offensive and defensive capabilities.
Such actions will result in U.S.-European security structure
that is better adapted to meeting the challenges of the multi-polar
Baker Spring is F. M. Kirby
Research Fellow in National Security Policy in the Douglas and
Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the
Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International
Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.
U.S. Department of State, "Ballistic Missile Defense Agreement
Between the United States and the Czech Republic," Fact
Sheet, July 10, 2008. Also, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
and Czech Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanova signed a related
technical military agreement regarding the missile defense site on
September 20, 2008.
U.S. Department of State, "Ballistic Missile Defense Agreement
Between the United States and the Republic of Poland," Fact
Sheet, August 20, 2008.
U.S. Department of State, "Text of the Declaration on Strategic
Cooperation Between the United States of America and the Republic
of Poland," Media Note, August 20, 2008.