Missile Defense Deployments: The Other Story is a challenging article by Bruce K Gagnon of Space for Peace which I received last week. I have asked Bruce for permission to feature the article here – as I felt the arguments contained in it are an important part of the Missile Defence picture. Once again Bruce, many thanks. Here’s the copy: F.L.

 Missile Defense: The Other Story 

Yesterday we witnessed a flurry of emails and articles proclaiming victory after President Obama’s announcement that he was going to scrap George W. Bush’s plans to deploy missile defense interceptors in Poland and a Star Wars radar in the Czech Republic.  There is no doubt that our peace activist friends in those two countries do indeed have reason to celebrate after their hard and determined work to stop those deployments.  We also need to recognize and thank the many people around the world who acted in solidarity with them during these past couple years of intensive campaigning.

But now that we’ve had a day to rejoice, the time has come for more reflection on what the Obama administration intends to do next.  I’ve quickly learned during these eight months of watching Obama in action that when he gives something with one hand it is wise to watch what his other hand is taking away.

In his September 17 speech Obama stated that his new missile defense architecture for Europe would be more “comprehensive than the previous [Bush] program” and would be “enhanced” by NATO involvement.

Secretary of War Robert Gates was left to explain the details of the new missile defense “architecture” that would replace the now rejected deployment plan for Poland and the Czech Republic.

Gates stated that he was the one who had proposed three years ago to deploy the missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic.  He concluded that the original plan was no longer the best military “architecture” for the current “threat” from Iran.  Thus instead of missile defense interceptors that would target offending missiles in their mid-course of flight, and that had a series of bad test results, the Pentagon now wanted to deploy in northern and southern Europe missile defense systems that had a proven testing record and were more appropriate for the kind of threat now expected from Iran.

The intelligence community now assesses that the threat from Iran’s short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, such as the Shahab-3, is developing more rapidly than previously projected,” Gates said. “This poses an increased and more immediate threat to our forces on the European continent, as well as to our allies.”

Gates continued, “We now have proven capabilities to intercept these [short range] ballistic missiles with land and sea-based interceptors supported by much improved sensors.  This allows us to deploy a distributed sensor network rather than a single-fixed site, like the kind slated for the Czech Republic.”

US Navy Aegis destroyers, outfitted with Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) missile defense interceptors, would “provide flexibility to move interceptors from one region to another,” Gates said.  In years to come the SM-3 will be upgraded and be deployed throughout Europe as land-based systems as well.  Since 2007 the SM-3 has had eight successful tests, including the February of 2008 shoot-down of a falling military satellite with an SM-3 missile from an Aegis ship in what many saw as proof that these systems also had “anti-satellite” weapons capability.

You can watch brief video clips of Gates here and Obama here from yesterday.

The Russians first reaction was positive, as would be expected, since they were deeply concerned that the Poland and Czech deployments could be used by the US as the shield in a first-strike attack.  But their concerns have not completely disappeared.

The Washington Post reported today that Maj. Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin, former chief of the Russian military’s main research institute for nuclear strategy, cautioned that the reconfigured U.S. system could still pose a threat to Russia. “Everything depends on the scale of such a system,” he told the Interfax news agency. “If it comprises a multitude of facilities, including a space echelon, it may threaten the Russian potential of nuclear deterrence.”

As described by Gates and his top generals, Obama’s new missile defense plan will unfold in three stages. By 2011, the Pentagon will deploy Navy Aegis ships equipped with SM-3 interceptors in the eastern Mediterranean.

A second phase in about 2015 will field an upgraded, land-based SM-3 in allied countries, and discussions are underway with Poland and the Czech Republic on basing the missiles in their territory, Gates said. In 2018, the third phase will deploy a larger and more capable missile, which will allow the system to protect Europe and the United States against short- and intermediate-range rockets and, eventually, intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Bloomberg News reports that, “This shift clearly benefits Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and is negative” for Boeing.  “The move away from fixed missile-defense sites in Eastern Europe is a continuation of the more flexible, tactical missile-defense shield that Secretary Gates advocated,” said Rob Stallard, an analyst at Macquarie Capital Inc. in New York.

The Pentagon’s 2010 budget seeks 250 Standard Missile-3 interceptors. It also seeks to increase to 27 from 21 the number of warships equipped to
launch the Standard Missile-3s and requests $1.6 billion to develop software and hardware to upgrade ships and to develop a ground-based model.

The Pentagon is also now promising Poland that Patriot missiles will still be deployed in that country as previously planned. 

So in the end I see this as an adjustment in strategy due to technology as much as anything.  The flexible, more mobile, short range missile defense systems are proving ready to go while the former Bush proposal for Poland and Czech Republic included technologies that are not yet proven. 

Obama can appear to be stepping back from an immediate confrontation with Russia but in fact he is following the lead of the Pentagon who for some time has been saying that they must move to expand the more promising Navy Aegis-based missile defense system.  This program has already been dramatically growing in the Asian-Pacific region and will now be slated for expanded European operations.

Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
http://space4peace.blogspot.com (Blog)

Mayors for Peace Plaque, Chester, August 2009. Photo by Frances Laing

Peace Plaque, Chester, August 2009. Photo by Frances Laing.

 The ‘media’ is not a faceless entity. We are journalists, bloggers, photographers, sub-editors and bosses. Real people – making decisions all the time about what sort of news to offer. Journalism matters

I knew there were some images missing in the series of recent blog posts about Hiroshima and Nagasaki memorial ceremonies.  I deliberately held these pictures back. They are a story yet to be told. The story of our children and their future. 

In 2004,  the ritual of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki flower memorial in Chester changed and a third stage was added to the ceremony. The crowd now crosses the bridge over the River Dee and gathers in front of a young oak tree marked by a plaque. Cestrians refer to it as the ‘Peace Tree’ – or ‘the Hiroshima and Nagasaki tree’. The tree was planted by Minister Kishino of the Japanese Embassy (see report and pictures on the Japanese Embassy site here).

Hiroshima and Nagasaki Tree. August 2009

Hiroshima and Nagasaki Tree. August 2009

The Quaker Testimony in Action Committee have been co-ordinating the Flower Memorial for a few years now, but they have drawn on the work of campaigners and activists across the city (of many faiths and none) who came before them, most notably, perhaps, those who campaigned hard for more than three years to secure Chester City Council’s affiliation to Mayors for Peace in 2003. I was there and together with Joan Meredith made one of the  speeches on Mayors for Peace to Chester City Council – which resulted in a unanimous vote in favour of affiliation.

My analysis, activism and writing on nuclear issues though, stretches back in time for more than twenty-five years. News comes together in human lives. The campaign to secure Chester City Council’s affiliation to Mayors for Peace was conducted on a tiny fraction of a shoestring with minimal resources – although I do remember late one night at Alexanders Jazz Club – how the co-owner of the club thrust a hundred pounds or so into my hand – I’d just made a speech about the campaign and they wanted to help. The money was used  to cover some of the postage, photocopying and publicity costs – a drop in the ocean really – looking back it was  all such a big investment in terms of time and effort. Unlike our city councillors we had no organisation behind us who might pay train fares or refund our expenses.

Now that Chester City Council has been transformed into West Cheshire and Chester Unitary Authority the question arises: Did the campaign achieve anything at all? I remember some of what I said to our elected representatives back in October, 2004:

  “We are asking our councillors and the Mayor and Deputy Mayors of Chester to pass by majority vote a decision to support an international initiative to uphold the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Councillors in Chester according to the constitution, ‘act as ambassadors on behalf of the City both in a regional, national and international context’.

We are asking you to put aside your party loyalties and differences and take action in support of this initiative which is upheld by the European Parliament. Over 613 cities worldwide and in the U.K. including Manchester, Bradford, Leeds, Lincoln are now members. Many of you (as members of the public and as elected representatives) have already signalled your support in signing the petition.

There are many good reasons for supporting the initiative driven forward by Lord Mayor Mr Tadatoshi Akibha, the Lord Mayor of Hiroshima and the Lord Mayor of Nagasaki.

We are aware that conflicts which occur across the planet may have serious consequences for our own everyday life and well-being. Since 9/11 the profile of international visitors to Chester has changed dramatically and some parts of the City have lost income. Tourism and international links are important to us. They are the bread and butter of many people living in the city. It makes economic sense to strengthen our international links and uphold our friendship across the globe as best we can.

As citizens of Chester and elected representatives, we declare our respect for the law. The nuclear non-proliferation treaty has been consistently violated and undermined by secret nuclear deals and the illegal trade in fissile materials continues, all over the world without the checks which should be in place. There can be little doubt that we need to uphold, renew and strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation treaty which is due to be renewed in the year 2005.

Article six of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty as it is called, clearly states that states ‘shall negotiate in good faith in matters relating to nuclear disarmament’.

But states are not doing this effectively. Power politics and human weakness have meant that negotiations frequently stall and the treaty is currently ‘in a coma’.

(The nuclear non-proliferation treaty is a rare treaty in that it has an end date built into the treaty text. Twenty-five years after its entry into force the signatories agreed to meet and decide whether and how to extend the treaty. This will happen in 2005. If we fail to inject it with new life in 2005 – it’s gone.)

I met Lord Mayor Mr. Tadatoshi Akibha and United Nations representatives when they visited Manchester to discuss the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the way forward for the world following the executive planning meeting of Mayors for Peace in Manchester last year. At this meeting in a shockingly frank statement Mr. Aaron Tovish of the United Nations explained that the comprehensive test ban treaty was being held to ransom by the United States and France and that was vitally important to confront the whole reasons why the U.S. says it won’t negotiate.

It seems that what is needed to save negotiations is leadership with integrity – people who can cut through power struggles with an honest voice – Lord Mayor Mr. Tadatoshi Akibha is one of these people.

Mr. Akibha recalled his visit to the non-proliferation preparatory meeting held in 2003 in Geneva, where he had the opportunity to speak to the delegates. He said he had received a standing ovation from the NGO representatives and the delegates present. When asked why the thought his words were upheld by all, he replied:

‘I was surprised at first at first by this reaction, but I soon realised its meaning. Most of the world feels the threat and sincerely wishes to abolish nuclear weapons. At the same time, I was more keenly aware that Hiroshima is expected to lead the struggle to achieve this shared goal.’

We have a moral duty to ensure the survival of our families and our children. Standing on the cross in the Centre of Chester several months ago, I was approached by a lady with teenage children who wanted to sign our petition. She said to me that her children did not know what ‘Hiroshima’ was.

However you may feel about war and peace, in your hearts there can be little doubt that people should be offered the opportunity to educate themselves about what it really means to drop an atomic bomb.

I feel that we, as citizens need to do all we can to make sure that this education takes place. Mayors for Peace aims to encourage all of its members to take part in activities which further this understanding:

  1. As a first and simple step, all cities which have affiliated have formulated and published a peace declaration. The nature of this declaration varies according to the character and country of the member.
  2. Cities may then network with each other, and decide to hold an event or take part in an educational intiative to raise awareness of the importance of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
  3. One practical idea might be for the city to introduce an essay writing competition, for students (of particular interest to law students) with a prize to attend the nuclear non-proliferation negotiations next year in 2005.
  4. In Chester for the past twenty five years, concerned citizens have held a flower memorial service by the river (The Groves) on August 6th. every year to commemorate the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. There is therefore a tradition which is already established in Chester which may be supported and expanded by city councillors and the Lord Mayor.

 May I now hand officially hand over the petition (addressing the councillors) which many of you have already signed – to Lord Mayor Terry Ralph.

Please fill in the form to join Mayors for Peace we have brought with us and send it to our international friends and colleagues at Mayors for Peace care of the Lord Mayor of Hiroshima and holder of the World Citizenship award, Lord Mayor Mr. Tadatoshi Akibha. Thank you.

To read Joan Meredith’s speech click here.

Watch news coverage of the Peace Declaration and the Hiroshima memorial ceremony – attended by participants of over 50 countries (broadcast two hours ago).

Every year on August 6th. the Mayor of Hiroshima addresses the crowds at the Annual Peace Memorial . Not only are his words moving and poetic, but the speech gives us insights into the current state of global disarmament negotiations, helps us understand the connections between the past and the present – and what we can usefully do. Mayor Tadatoshi Akibha is a leader with integrity.

You can read the text of the 2009 Hiroshima Peace Declaration here.

  With the Internet, we can hear the Mayor make the Peace Declaration on video. If you can’t make it to a ‘Remembering Hiroshima’ event – find a few moments to tune in to the Peace Declaration. It’s a chance to reflect on what your role might be to alleviate the current crisis – and what you can do to help build a nuclear-free future. The broadcast starts at 8.15 a.m. Hiroshima time so the website is updated later today.  To hear and see it, follow this link:

Remembering Hiroshima

August 5, 2009

Bridge. Chester. By Frances Laing

Bridge. Chester. By Frances Laing

Mindful that tomorrow marks the 64th. year since the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima city – I took myself off for a walk by the River Dee to reflect on what peace activists have achieved in the past few decades (and to take a few photographs).

West Cheshire Council’s elected representatives have been in the news lately for less-than-positive reasons, but the people of Chester also have a progressive and radical hidden history. An important international news story  which deserves to be told.

It was in the early eighties that people began to gather at 8.p.m every year on August 6th. to make speeches remembering Hiroshima and to pledge their support for the abolition of nuclear weapons. This ‘Flower Memorial Ceremony’ (which will be held tomorrow evening too) has now been taking place for more than twenty years.

Traditionally, people meet at the bandstand on the city centre side of the river – at the Groves. A reading is given. Everyone brings white flowers. Next, the small crowd sets off together across the bridge which you can see in the first picture. 

The size of the crowd has varied. There were many times when the beautiful suspension bridge swayed with the weight of them. In the eighties when the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament had a surge of strength. During the height of the opposition to the war in Iraq. During the long years in which peace activists,  community leaders and churches successfully campaigned for their Council to affiliate to Mayors for Peace.

In this ritual act of rememberance – the crowd always stops in the middle of the bridge to hear a second reading. Sometimes this is a speech. Sometimes it’s a poem.


There is a moment of silence. The people cast their white flowers into the water and watch them drift peacefully away.