Britain's Role in U.S. Missile Defense

  • July 01, 2004
  • Dr Jeremy Stocker

America's European allies, especially Britain, have frequently been concerned by the wider implications of U.S. repeated efforts to develop and deploy missile defense. The United Kingdom is host to one of three Ballistic Missile Early Warning Stations (BMEWS) and to the European ground station for the Space-Based Infra-Red System (SBIRS), both vital elements in U.S. missile defense architecture. Britain also has a long record of technological cooperation in missile defense. Britons do not share American concerns about North Korea, and are not prepared to view China as a long-term strategic competitor requiring a BMD response. The UK is progressively shedding many of its previous concerns about the wider consequences of missile defense deployment and gaining a better appreciation of the advantages of collaboration in both the policy and technical fields. For America's part, an understanding of the UK's stance and a willingness to engage in honest and forthright consultation are essential if the United States is to maximize the advantages of international cooperation in missile defense and avoid some of its penalties. Despite a recent focus on events in Iraq, missile defense remains a vital issue in U.S.-British relations and a subject of considerable intrinsic importance. Both countries need to better understand each other's policies and concerns, and cooperate in providing effective and appropriate defense capabilities.