The United States is building a system to shoot down long-range missiles. Despite being the greatest military power in the world with a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, the US insists that it will be threatened if countries beyond its influence – especially Iran, Iraq and North Korea – get nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and long-range missiles. But rather than building trust through diplomacy and achieving disarmament through international agreements, the US wants to keep its own nuclear weapons and build a system theoretically to defend against other States’ weapons.
A US missile defence system would:
The US wants to use radar stations in Europe and elsewhere, including the US bases at Fylingdales and Menwith Hill in Yorkshire. Whilst both are nominally RAF bases, Menwith Hill is controlled by the US National Security Agency and it is not clear what control the UK has over Fylingdales although it is staffed by UK personnel.
The UK Government appears reluctant to deny the US and, instead, seems inclined to favour the use of bases here in the system. It has now received a formal request from the US to upgrade Fylingdales, which the Secretary for Defence announced to Parliament on 17th December 2002.
The best way to achieve peace is to tackle threats at their source through diplomacy and international disarmament. As this briefing shows, a US missile defence system will undermine both.
‘Star Wars’: turning fiction into fact!
US missile defence ambitions include putting weapons in space; for example high energy lasers are now being developed to intercept missiles in space. This may take some time but the US is intent on weaponising the ‘final frontier’ not only to protect against missiles but to control space and earth below. This means deploying both defensive and offensive weapons, which could trigger an arms race in space.
According to the US Space Command, the goals of missile ‘defences’ include helping to achieve ‘full spectrum dominance’, which means supremacy in all fields of warfare – land, sea, air, space and information, thereby, protecting US military and economic interests. It is not surprising that other countries see US missile defences as part of a strategy for global control and not as a defence system at all.
The UK as a target for attack
UK involvement in US missile defences is also a potential threat to our security. Any attempt by an armed group or state to thwart the system could involve a strike on the bases at Menwith Hill and Fylingdales. It appears that the Government has given little consideration to the impact on the local population of such an attack, particularly if it involved a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon.
The risk of more weapons
It is likely that this system will over the long-term
lead to an increase of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. States,
which feel threatened by the military imbalance that Missile Defence creates,
will respond by developing more, and more sophisticated weapons.
Bad value for people
Over $100 billion has been spent already on Missile Defences and estimates exist of over $200 billion up to 2025 - a misuse, on a vast scale, of money that could be better spent on alleviating poverty, inequality and environmental degradation, three major causes of global insecurity.
Full participation of Britain in the system would would reportedly cost up to £10 billion. This money could be used for oversees development assistance and conflict prevention as well as on improving our hospitals, schools and transport.
The arms industry, which gave hundreds of millions
of dollars to George W Bush’s election campaign, now sees much to gain
from the missile defence project. UK arms companies are just as keen to
get lucrative work in this area – but at whose expense?
Bad for the planet
An upgrade at Fylingdales could involve the construction of a powerful X-band radar and already local residents are worried about the health effects.
An intercepted missile during the boost phase could fall short of its intended target. Contamination from a nuclear, biological or chemical warhead that broke up on impact would badly contaminate the land, posing lethal risks for the local population and environment.
An investigation into the impact of fall-out from
interception for the UK population and others including the emergency and
medical response is vital before any decision is made about UK involvement
in the system.
For further reading and more information on this issue:
This leaflet has been produced on behalf of the Missile Defense Working Group (MDWG)
which includes the following organisations:
Take Action - What you can do
The UK Government has received a formal request to use Fylingdales as part of US Missile Defence. It is vital now that before any decision is made the Government holds a fully open and informed public and Parliamentary debate.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) recently published a discussion paper and is inviting comments.
It is important to:
We owe it to future generations to become informed