The Corner

Abandoning the Third Site Harms America’s Allies and Decreases Security

So President Obama has axed the agreement with America’s allies in eastern Europe and abandoned the so-called “third site” missile-defense plan. 

It’s hard to determine which is worse: 

  • the lame excuse that Iran’s nuclear program isn’t progressing as rapidly as before (Just this week the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA said Iran now has “possible breakout capacity” to enrich and convert its uranium stockpile to bomb-grade material) or,
  • that U.S. leaders would sell out our friends for Russia whose own leaders just said they won’t push for tougher sanctions against Iran. 

This betrayal of allies comes as America continues to press NATO allies to do more in Afghanistan. Earlier this year Poland sent even more troops to Afghanistan to help with the recent election. So too, the Czech Republic is running a large Provincial Reconstruction Team and advising the Afghanistan Air Corps today. 

It’s rumored that White House officials think they can limit the damage by providing the Poles and Czechs with a lesser capability, possibly through Aegis sea-based missile defense and potential land-based missiles. But the SM-3 interceptors are not yet ready for prime-time.

The ramifications of dumping the third site deployment will reach far beyond Warsaw and Prague. The Heritage Foundation’s Sally McNamara notes: this is “a decision on which the future of the transatlantic security alliance itself rests. If the United States chooses to abandon its Central and Eastern European allies as well as its obligations to NATO, it will hand the European Union a blank check to pursue an autonomous defense identity, independent of NATO, and will reduce America’s influence within the transatlantic alliance significantly.”

— Mackenzie Eaglen is the Heritage Foundation’s research fellow for National Security Studies.