Wars have brought untold horrors upon Europe over the centuries, especially the two world wars of the last one. Until now, though, the continent has been spared the ultimate cataclysm of a missile war.
Though twenty years after the end of the Cold War recent news articles contain reports that would have been shocking even during the depths of the East-West conflict in Europe that followed World War II.
A dispatch quoting a Finnish defense official two days ago bore the title "US could launch missiles from the Baltic Sea" and a U.S. armed forces website yesterday spoke in reference to proposed missile shield plans of "a big, complex, dangerous battle in the space over Europe."
On September 28 a feature called "BMD fleet plans Europe defense mission" appeared in the Navy Times which reported that "Ballistic-missile defense warships have become the keystone in a new national strategy....Rather than field sensors and missiles on the ground in Poland and the Czech Republic, the U.S. will first maintain a presence of at least two or three Aegis BMD ships in the waters around Europe, starting in 2011." 
This development is in keeping with U.S Pentagon chief Robert Gates' presentation of September 17 in which, confirming President Obama's announcement to replace and supplement his predecessor's project of placing ten ground-based interceptor missiles in Poland and a complementary radar installation in the Czech Republic, he laid out a three-step strategy to enhance (his word) U.S. missile shield plans in Europe.
In a Defense Department briefing with Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright, Gates explained the logic behind the shift.
"Over the last few years, we have made great strides with missile defense, particularly in our ability to counter short-and-medium-range missiles. We now have proven capabilities to intercept these ballistic missiles with land-and-sea-based interceptors supported by much-improved sensors.
"These capabilities offer a variety of options to detect, track and shoot down enemy missiles. This allows us to deploy a distributive sensor network rather than a single fixed site, like the kind slated for the Czech Republic, enabling greater survivability and adaptability." 
That is, as Russian officials have over the past two years openly stated that the stationary missile radar facility intended for the Czech Republic and silo-based missiles planned for Poland would be targeted by their own missiles if the U.S. went ahead with the deployments, mobile and rapidly deployable alternatives would have, in Gates' terms, "greater survivability and adaptability."
Land-based facilities are easy to monitor and, if the suspicion arose that they would be part of an imminent first strike attack, neutralize.
Sea-based, air-based and spaced-based surveillance and missile deployments would be harder - if not impossible - to track and to take out.
Referring to the hitherto exclusively ship-based Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), which nineteen months ago proved capable of shooting down a satellite in space, Gates offered further details:
"We have...improved the Standard Missile 3, the SM-3, which has had eight successful flight tests since 2007. These tests have amply demonstrated the SM-3's capability and have given us greater confidence in the system and its future....In the initial stage, we will deploy Aegis ships equipped with SM-3 interceptors, which provide the flexibility to move interceptors from one region to another if needed."
The second stage of the Pentagon's updated European missile shield program will entail the basing of "upgraded, land-based SM-3s."
"Consultations have begun with allies, starting with Poland and the Czech Republic, about hosting a land-based version of the SM-3 and other components of the system," Gates revealed.
In language that progressively reflected what sounds like plans to withstand a first - or second strike - in Europe's first missile war, Gates added, "Over time, this architecture is designed to continually incorporate new and more effective technologies, as well as more interceptors, expanding the range of coverage, improving our ability to knock down multiple targets and increasing the survivability of the overall system.