At the Redzikowo base in Poland, work has begun to install the Aegis Ashore system, costing more than $180 million. It will be the second U.S. missile base in Europe, after the one in Deveselu, Romania, became operational in 2015.
The official function of these bases is to protect U.S. forces in Europe and those of European NATO allies with the “shield” consisting of SM-3 interceptor missiles, against “current and emerging ballistic missile threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.”
In addition to the two land-based installations, four ships equipped with the same Aegis system, deployed by the U.S. Navy at the Spanish Rota base, are now in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and Baltic Sea. The U.S. Navy has about 120 destroyers and cruisers armed with this missile system.
Both the ships and the Aegis land installations are equipped with Lockheed Martin Mk 41 vertical launchers: vertical tubes (installed in the body of the ship or in an underground bunker) from which missiles are launched.
Explaining the system’s technical characteristics, Lockheed Martin has stated that it can launch missiles for all types of missions: anti-missile, anti-aircraft, anti-ship, anti-submarine and attack against land targets. Each launch tube is adaptable to any type of missile, including “for long-range attack,” including the Tomahawk cruise missile—which can also be armed with a nuclear warhead.
As a result, it is impossible to know which kinds of missiles are actually in the vertical launchers of the Aegis Ashore base in Romania, and which will be installed in the one in Poland. Nor can one know which kinds of missiles are on board the ships that are patrolling just off the edge of Russian territorial waters. As it is unable to check, Moscow is taking it for granted that nuclear attack missiles are also present.
A similar scenario is occurring in East Asia, where the Seventh Fleet Aegis warships are deployed in the South China Sea. The main U.S. allies in the region—Japan, South Korea, Australia—also have ships equipped with the U.S. Aegis system.
This is not the only missile system that the U.S. is deploying in Europe and Asia. In March, in a speech at the George Washington School of Media and Public Affairs, General McConville, chief of staff of the U.S. Army, said that the U.S. Army is preparing a “task force” equipped with “long-range precision fire capability that we’re developing that can range anywhere from hypersonic missiles to mid-range capability, to precision strike missiles, and these systems have the ability to penetrate an Anti-Access Aerial Denial environment.” The general said that the U.S. was envisioning deploying one of these task forces in Europe and “probably two in the Pacific.”
In such a situation, it is not surprising that Russia is accelerating the deployment of new intercontinental missiles, with nuclear warheads which, after their ballistic trajectory, are equipped to glide for thousands of miles at hypersonic speed.
Nor is it surprising that the Washington Post reported that China is building over a hundred new silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. The arms race is on, not so much regarding the quantitative aspect (the number and power of nuclear warheads) but rather the qualitative one (speed, penetrating capacity and geographical distance of the nuclear carriers). In case of an attack or presumed attack, the response is being increasingly entrusted to artificial intelligence, which must decide on the launch of nuclear missiles in a few seconds. This increases the possibility of a nuclear war due to an error, which became a major risk several times during the Cold War.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted by the United Nations in 2017 and entering into force in 2021, has so far been signed by 86 states and ratified by 54.
However, none of the 30 NATO and 27 EU countries (except Austria) have ratified the treaty, and most have not signed it at all. In Europe, only Austria, Ireland, Malta, San Marino and the Vatican have signed the treaty. None of the nine nuclear countries—the United States, Russia, France, Great Britain, Israel, China, Pakistan, India and North Korea—has either signed or ratified it.
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