Expanding and integrating the US Missile Defence Programme (2005–2009)
George W. Bush began his second term much as he had the first, determined to push ahead with ballistic missile defence. Bush and those around him remained convinced that missile defences were an integral component of US security policy, and that assets should be deployed as soon as possible in order to address what they believed was the growing short-, medium-and long-range missile threat from Iran and North Korea. In light of this, the Bush Administration continued to favour the deployment of assets before they had been fully tested, maintained funding for the programme at around $10 billion per year, and appeared relatively unconcerned about the impact of such moves on Russia. With Republicans in control of Congress during the first two years of this period, and both Iran and North Korea appearing to augment their WMD programmes, Bush looked set to firmly entrench BMD both physically and politically over the next four years. Between 2005 and 2009, the Bush Administration forged ahead with BMD, deploying more assets and retaining high levels of funding, and in 2006 began formal negotiations about expanding the system to Europe. Debate about the Third Site in Europe would become one of the defining features of this period as for two years Democrats and BMD sceptics strove to ensure that the deployments were based on proven technologies, and that they did not undermine wider US security interests, particularly relations with Russia. While the US missile defence programme pushed ahead relatively unhindered during the first two years of this period, the return to power of the Democrats in Congress at midterm ensured that the Bush Administration would not be able to forge ahead entirely – especially with the proposed Third Site missile defence plan for Europe. Nevertheless, as Bush left office, the US ballistic missile defence effort had been transformed, and appeared to be an accepted and entrenched component of national security policy. The result is that missile defence policy during Bush’s second term in office raises several interesting questions. First, why was Bush able to push ahead with deployments, and with negotiations about expanding the system to Europe, despite continuing problems with technology? Second, why did the Bush Administration pay so little attention to Russian concerns and threats about US BMD plans? Third, why were long-range and strategic missile defence systems
apparently prioritised during this period, despite the prevailing trend in the missile threat towards regional and short-range WMD proliferation?