This article examines the rationale and implications of NATO’s missile defense program which was an appropriate, but problemmatic, response to collective defense requirements. By designing a theater-based missile defense in southeastern Europe, the United States has returned the question of credible collective defense back to NATO. The discussion provides a survey of the missile defense debates in NATO and the evolution of the concept under President Barack Obama. It then examines the challenge of constructively engaging Russia in the dynamics of NATO’s missile defense decisions and deployments. The analysis concludes with an overview of what this re-prioritization of collective defense in means for realigning America’s role in NATO.

Key Words

Missile defense, NATO, Iran, Turkey, Russia, containment, collective defense, alliances.

The Dilemma of Modern Collective Defense

Missile defense has been at the core of global security dilemmas since the advent of nuclear weapons and longrange ballistic missile delivery systems. During the Cold War, missile defenses were seen as undermining the nuclear balance between the United States and the Soviet Union. This was because missile defense can increase incentives to launch first-strike nuclear attacks if an enemy’s retaliatory response is survivable.