Trump announces new missile defense plan, chastises allies on spending

Trump announces new missile defense plan, chastises allies on spending
© Getty

President Trump on Thursday announced the Defense Department’s plans for missile defense capabilities, which include ambitious space-based technologies, and chastised military allies for what he called a lag in cost sharing.

Speaking at the Pentagon, Trump said the Missile Defense Review — the first since 2010 — would focus on developing new technologies to “ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime, anyplace.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump singled out Iran when noting that “foreign adversaries, competitors and rogue regimes are steadily enhancing their missile arsenals.” He argued that Iran “is a much different country today” than two years ago.

“We have some very bad players out there and we’re a good player, but we can be far worse than anybody if need be,” Trump said.

The long-delayed review — initially scheduled for release in late 2017 and then postponed until February 2018 — will drive the administration’s Pentagon funding request for the fiscal 2020 budget. It is also meant to provide an outline for how the United States will deter and counter any missile threats from Iran, North Korea, Russia and China.

Trump said the military “will recognize that space is a new war-fighting domain” with a planned investment in a space-based missile defense layer as part of the administration’s 2020 budget request, set to be released next month. 

“It’s ultimately going to be a very, very big part of our defense and obviously of our offense," he said. "The system will be monitored and we will terminate any missile launches from hostile powers or even powers that make a mistake. It won’t happen, regardless of the missile type or geographic origins of the attack.”

The president also seemed to hint at the administration’s recent decisions to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia, a nuclear deal signed by Moscow and Washington during the Cold War. In October, Trump said the U.S. would withdraw from the landmark pact after his administration accused Russia of violating the treaty.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We are committed to establishing a missile defense program that can shield every city in the United States and we will never negotiate away our right to do this,” Trump said.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, in remarks before Trump's speech, highlighted Chinese and Russian aggression, saying the two nations “are increasing their existing missile system capabilities” with hypersonic and advanced cruise missiles, “integrating these more effectively into their political intimidation, anti-access, area denial efforts and war planning.”

Trump reassured allies and partners that the United States remains committed to NATO, noting that the missile defense review directs the Pentagon “to prioritize the sale of American missile defense and technologies to our allies and to our partners. We will also leverage our networks to share early warning and tracking information.”

But he also criticized allies, saying they need to do a better job of sharing costs.

“We will insist on fair burden-sharing with our allies," Trump said. "We’re protecting all of these wealthy countries, which I’m very honored to do, but many of them are so wealthy they can easily pay us the cost of this protection. So you’ll see big changes taking place."

“We’re going to be with NATO 100 percent, but as I told the countries, you have to step up,” he added.

Trump’s NATO remarks are the first since a Monday report from The New York Times that said he has repeatedly suggested the U.S. withdraw from the 70-year-old military alliance.

Trump privately told aides several times over the past year that he wants to withdraw from NATO, the 29-country alliance that includes Canada and European nations, according to the report.

The president has long pressed allies to spend more of their GDP on defense, arguing that the United States is shouldering more of the cost burden than it should. NATO countries pledged in 2014 to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense by 2024, but Trump has insisted on a faster pace, and singled out Germany for spending 1 percent of its GDP.

“Very unfair when Germany pays 1 percent and we’re paying 4.3 percent of a much larger GDP,” Trump said Thursday at the Pentagon. “We cannot be the fools for others. We cannot be. We don’t want to be called that. And I will tell you for many years behind your backs, that’s what they were saying.”

“They set a 2 percent goal. Very few pay that. But they should be much higher than that,” he added.

Shanahan took a more measured approach and said allies and partners recognize outside missile threats and “have and will share the burden of answering it.”

“In a time of great power competition we will uphold our solemn duty just as we’ve done in the past. We will defense the homeland our deployed forces and our allies and partners,” Shanahan said.

The missile review will be followed by previous plans to call for 20 new long-range ground-based interceptors at Fort Greeley, Alaska, and “new radars and sensors to immediately detect foreign missiles launched against our great nation,” Trump said.

The United States has 44 ground-based interceptors at Fort Greeley and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, meant to intercept missiles that could launch from North Korea. That number is set to increase to 64 interceptors by 2023.

Trump also said the United States “will remove bureaucratic obstacles to dramatically speed up the acquisition and deployment of the new technologies.”