More than 20 nations now possess ballistic missiles. Most are short-range to medium-range systems, but there is a marked trend towards longer ranges. Germany, Europe and NATO must carry out a long-overdue joint substantiated threat analysis; as a matter of urgency, they must adapt their perception of the threat to reflect present-day realities and reach agreement on an anti-missile shield.
Iran is investing very heavily in the development of long-range missiles, and Germany has been playing an active role in the efforts of the international community to dissuade Iran from the pursuit of its nuclear plans. Tehran’s parallel development of delivery technology in particular would make a nuclear-armed Iran a direct threat to us. Within five to ten years it could be capable of building its own medium-range ballistic missiles with a range of 3,000 kilometers—Munich, for example, is 2,760 kilometers from Iran. Although this means that Iranian ballistic missiles do not yet pose a direct threat to Germany, Tehran can already reach Ankara or Istanbul with the Shahab III missile. In other words, it poses a direct threat to Turkey, our NATO ally, and Cyprus, our EU partner.
Opponents of such a missile defense system argue that Iran has no interest in threatening Europe. Iran, however, is seeking to become the dominant regional power: it has an interest in reducing the influence of the West, and especially the United States, in the Middle East and undermining the US role as guarantor of Israel.Tehran could try to drive a wedge between the United States and Europe by threatening Europe with nuclear arms if the United States or Europe were to engage in operations in the Middle East. Europe could be taken hostage like the 15 British sailors and marines at the end of March. Iran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas, its denial of the Holocaust, the repeated threatening gestures of the Mullahs’ regime towards Israel, the Iranian nuclear and missile programs and the country’s persistent infringement of international law—all of these factors must finally be viewed in an overall context in Germany too.
The fact that the International Atomic Energy Authority believes it will take Iran two, four or six years to build a nuclear bomb is truly no reason to sound the all-clear. Given that anti-missile systems can take up to ten years to develop, we should already be taking the first steps to create one.
This is the first part of a two-part series from the Atlantic Initiative Advisory Board Member.
Read the second part Missile Defense Means Common Security for Russia Too
Eckart von Klaeden, German MP, is the foreign-affairs spokesman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group and a member of the CDU Presidium.
Related Material from the Atlantic Community
- Wess Mitchell on Missile Defense: Washington’s Deal with Prague
- Radek Sikorski on the US proposal for a missile defense system in Central Europe