Recent reports about the U.S. plan to deploy missile defense interceptors in Eastern Europe, namely in Poland and Czech Republic, and the negative reaction to this plan from Yurii Baluyevsky, encouraged me to take a closer look at the potential capability of these interceptors.

I must admit I was too quick to dismiss them about a year ago. Although it is true that Poland is not exactly on the flight path of Russian missiles, it is close enough to give interceptors deployed there a chance to reach SS-19/UR-100NUTTH ICBMs launched from the Koselsk or Tatishchevo bases. SS-27 Topol-M missiles based in Tatishchevo, as well as SS-25 Topol in Vypolzovo and Teykovo also may be within the interceptors reach.

These are very quick estimates, which still don't present the correct picture. They are based on the results of the excellent APS study "Boost-Phase Intercept Systems for National Missile Defense" and tell us only that an interceptor could make it to the missile by the end of the boost phase. Here we should note that the interceptors that are being deployed are not boost-phase, they seem to be mid-course GBIs (they are too far from Iran, whose missile they are supposed to counter, to work as boost-phase interceptors). This seems to make their job easier -- interceptors will have much more time to reach their targets. But on the other hand, they will have to deal with countermeasures that are deployed on all Russian missiles. Not to mention that a couple of SS-19 missiles (each carrying six warheads) would quickly overwhelm the defense with its ten interceptors.

The fact that interceptors in Poland would not be able to pose serious threat to Russian missiles does not, of course, make their deployment a good idea. Although the deployment would certainly be able to boost the U.S.-Poland ties and will give the U.S. defense industry one more project to spend money on, the military utility of the proposed system is minimal and its impact on U.S.-Russian relations will certainly be negative. It already is.