The United States is looking to establish a powerful missile shield in Germany in a potential move that would further inflame tensions with both Moscow and Tehran.
Though NATO has long insisted that its missile defense systems are not directed at Russia, the Kremlin has repeatedly condemned what it sees as NATO encroachment in Eastern Europe, especially after countries like Romania — which is not engaged in any ongoing conflict with Russia — have recently installed their own US-supplied ballistic missile systems, with renewed multi-billion dollar Patriot missile expansions to follow.
And former Warsaw Pact turned NATO member Poland in late 2017 struck a $10.5 billion missile defense deal with the US. Also supposedly neutral non-NATO Sweden, which lies close to Russia's western and northern borders, last year inked a $1 billion deal with the US for the advanced Patriot surface-to-air missile defense system.
So what are now reported as preliminary US military and German discussions about boosting European defenses with the proposed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in Germany will no doubt be interpreted as more of the same unnecessary expansive NATO spending and encroachment on Russia's borders.
The talks further come as Europe and the US are at odds over the fate of the Iran nuclear agreement, with Washington threatening severe economic punishment for those countries trying to stick it out through opening trade and energy ties with Iran.
Close US Middle East ally Saudi Arabia, for example, shocked the world when news emerged last week that it has ceased awarding government contracts to German companies over anger at both Germany staying by the Obama-brokered JCPOA and recent criticism of Saudi meddling in Lebanese politics by German officials.
The Pentagon has denied plans to install the advanced THAAD system in Germany; however, Reuters reports that US European Command is pushing it in the wake of the White House pullout from the Iran nuclear deal:
U.S. European Command has been pushing for a THAAD system in Europe for years, but the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord has added urgency to the issue, said Riki Ellison, head of the non-profit Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.
A senior German military official cited the need to add more radars across Europe to better track and monitor potential threats, and cue interceptors if needed.
For Pentagon planners, it is Iran's Shahab 3 ballistic missiles that are of most concern in terms of European threat assessment, as they currently have a range of 2,000 kilometers, enough to reach southern Europe.
Iran has considered increasing the range which it is said to be technologically capable of, but reportedly saw no strategic need in the wake of the 2015 nuclear agreement, which is now hanging by a thread.
It appears German military leaders may be capitalizing on current US fear-mongering related to the "Iran threat" pushed by the White House: "Deploying another U.S. defensive system to Europe could reassure NATO allies in southern Europe already within striking range of Iran’s missiles, said one military official from that region," according to Reuters, which further quoted a second source as saying "German officials were open to the move as a way to better protect civilian populations."
As Reuters reports further, the proposed German THAAD system is set for Pentagon review, so we could get news of what would be another multi-billion dollar defense deal for the heart of Europe by the end of summer:
The issue may be raised in a new Pentagon missile defense review expected in early June. The review may draw a closer connection between missile defense and a need to deter Russia that was highlighted in the new U.S. national defense strategy, said Tom Karako, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
One proposed site for the THAAD system is Ramstein Air Force Base, home to the headquarters for the U.S. Air Force in Europe and NATO Allied Air Command.
Meanwhile, the THAAD system is built by... who else?... you guessed it... "Lockheed Martin Corp with a powerful Raytheon Co AN/TPY-2 radar, to shootdown short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles" — and both companies are looking to catch the multi-billion dollar windfall.