Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Archive for April, 2007

Monday Morning Brew

Posted by K.E. White on April 30, 2007

Pakistan on High Alert – Owing to worry over suicide bombing plots and an assassination attempt on the Pakistani Interior Minister. The suspected source? Waziristan. But at least Pakistan and Afghanistan have vowed to fight terrorism—when not jockeying for regional influence.

News-Shocker: UN Chief states NPT suffering a “crisis of confidence.” Iran and North Korea agree.

But at least the message was read by an aide, so the crisis must not be in full bloom. And worry not—preparations for the 2010 review conference are still underway, and fraught with delay.

Serbian ‘Kosovo Guard’ strokes fear of ethnic conflict in Kosovo. Plans for Kosovo independence will undoubtedly cool tensions.

Arianna Huffington asks the obvious on George Tenent’s White House criticisms.

Posted in Arianna Huffington, Ban Ki-moon, Kosovo, Kosovo Independence, NPT, NPT Vienna Conference Meeting, Pakistan | Leave a Comment »

Russia Roars: Putin Blasts NATO Missile Defense; Diplomatic Combat Over Kosovo

Posted by K.E. White on April 27, 2007

Numerous news-sites commented on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to withdraw from The Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe arms treaty (CFE), voiced during his final annual address to the Federation Council (Russia’s upper house of Congress).

Reuters offers a succinct summary of what such a diplomatic withdrawal would mean. The treaty restricts armaments throughout Europe–from Atlantic and Russia’s Ural mountains. But more important is the treaty’s symbolic significance: to foster a cooperative security environment between Europe and Russia.

Putin’s move signals to Europe and America his unhappiness with the geopolitical status quo, and perhaps a willingness to shake that norm up.

PutinReuters points out that lately Russia has felt the CFE has become a diplomatic tool to box Russia in and accept pro-West policies.

But Putin pointed specifically to NATO’s missile defense plans—spearheaded by the United States—as a reason for possible CFE withdrawal.

This issue directly relates to speculation over the possibility of a new nuclear arms/war technology race.

If large regional powers—China and Russia—feel their nuclear deterrents are no longer effective, their security concerns could derail cooperation with the United States and their allies on a host of over issues.

And Kosovo may be the first casualty. Russia is currying opposition to Kosovo independence, contrary to American and European aims. While Russian opposition has other–and more substantial–roots, the feuding over missile defense certainly does not help.

And to top things off, a WWII monument is severely souring relations between Russia and Estonia.

The Russian bear is roaring, and putting the world community on note.

Posted in Kosovo, missile defense, NATO, Putin, Russia | Leave a Comment »

Proliferation Press News Blurb: ANA Honors Nuclear Activism

Posted by K.E. White on April 25, 2007

Last night the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability* (ANA) honored five activists for their work in nuclear activism.

The ceremony, taking place in the Dirksen Senate Building, brought together activists from across America and Russia.

The packed event also featured a historical retrospective and documentary of the ANA, a coalition organization dedicated to keeping the public safe from nuclear waste from radioactive dump sites and weapons facilities. The ANA also stands as a strong proponent of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

Senator Jeff Bingaman, Robert H. Gilkeson, Adrienne Anderson, Andrei Talevin and Bobbie Paul were the night’s honorees, which also celebrated the ANA’s twentieth anniversary.

More details of the event and winners coming soon.

ANA Award Winners

 

 

 

*The Government Accountability Project, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Kirsch Foundation, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Women’s Action for New Directions also sponsored the event.

Posted in Adrienne Anderson, Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Andrei Talevlin, Government Accountability Project, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Jeff Bingaman, Kirsch Foundation, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Robert Gilkeson, Women's Action for New Directions | Leave a Comment »

Nuclear Blow-Back on Bush Administration’s New Generation Weapons Plan

Posted by K.E. White on April 24, 2007

Concerns are mounting on the Bush administration’s proposal a funding a new nuclear warhead design. The debate pits arms control advocates against a Bush White House that has shown an appetite to revise arms control policies—leaving the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, and signaling support for nuclear ‘bunker buster’ weapons.

U.S. nuclear weapons currently carry W76 warheads, which after two decades need eventual replacement. But replacement plans—referred to as the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW)—may also bring new nuclear offensive capabilities, bringing worries of a great WMD proliferation, and a new arms race among nuclear weapons states.

The American Association for the Advancement in Science recently aired these concerns by bringing together nuclear weapons experts today. The Associated Press reports:

The Bush administration has yet to make the case for building a new generation of replacement warheads and “the role of nuclear weapons” in a post-Cold War, post-9/11 world, a panel of nuclear weapons experts said Tuesday.

Development of the new warhead, the first in two decades, could have “international impacts” if critics view it as a new weapon rather than a replacement for the current aging stockpile, said the scientists, including three former directors of the government’s nuclear weapons research laboratories.

Some countries could see the warhead “as contrary to both the spirit and letter” of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty “unless explicit and credible efforts to counter such assertions are made,” said the panel, which was convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to study the warhead plan.

Today’s International Herald Tribune reports on the event also:

Development of the new warhead, the first in two decades, could have “international impacts” if critics view it as a new weapon rather than a replacement for the current aging stockpile, said the scientists, including three former directors of the government’s nuclear weapons research laboratories.

….

The scientists also said in a report that it is impossible to estimate the cost of warhead modernization plan, or assure that Energy Department claims of cost savings will ever be achieved. Proponents of the program may be “overselling” the eventual benefits, the report said

 

Sunday’s Washington Post reported on Congressional opposition to the RRW plan. The report reveals two interesting aspects of this nuclear debate: 1) the warheads are not needed for at least 50 years and 2) the administration opaqueness when it comes to detailing the plan and justifying it.

Yet even with these worrisome aspects, it seems there is a potential deal in the works: link RRW approval to ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

WaPo’s report:

Experts inside and outside the government questioned moving forward with a new warhead as old ones are being refurbished and before developing bipartisan agreement on how many warheads would be needed at the end of what could be a 30-year process. Several, including former senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), suggested linking production of a new warhead with U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a move the Bush administration has opposed.

Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), the ranking minority member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the nuclear weapons complex, said at a hearing Wednesday on the RRW program that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have “not been forthcoming” about their views on the issue.

Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the nuclear complex, said at a hearing late last month that the program is proceeding “although the administration has not announced any effort to begin a policy process to reassess our nuclear weapons policy and the future nuclear stockpile required to support that policy.” He also noted that the Pentagon‘s Defense Science Board reported last year that there has been virtually no high-level, long-term articulation of U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

Former defense secretary William J. Perry, also appearing at the hearing, said current nuclear policies were developed for the Cold War and are “really not appropriate to the world we live in today.” A new nuclear plan is “long overdue” and should be shared with the appropriate congressional committees, he said. It should include “not only issues about what numbers we need,” Perry said, “but on what a future trajectory of those numbers in our forces should be and what kind of R&D is needed to support it.”

Perry said there are two “valid” arguments being made in support of the RRW program — that it would maintain the capabilities of U.S. weapons designers and provide a new warhead that “cannot be detonated by a terror group, even if they were able to get their hands on it.”

However, he said, development of the RRW program “will substantially undermine our ability to lead the international community in the fight against proliferation, which we are already in danger of losing.” Noting that present U.S. nuclear weapons will retain their capabilities for 50 to 100 years, he said the program could be deferred “for many years.”

Posted in American Association for the Advancement for Science, Bush administration, Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Congress, Pete Domenici, Peter Visclosky, Reliable Replacement Warhead, RRW, W76, William Perry | 1 Comment »

Blair’s Legacy: Conservative Rule in Britain?

Posted by K.E. White on April 8, 2007

The Labourites are in a jam. Their old leader has fallen badly into disrepute and his supposed heir—Gordon Brown—is not sealing support among the ranks.

 The result? Labour may be on course for a messy and reckless leadership brawl.

 The Sidney Morning Herald reports:

Gordon BrownSenior Blairites say that in recent weeks the party’s private polling has shown the Chancellor’s popularity falling badly among voters – particularly after a 2 per cent cut in income tax was denounced as a budget “con trick” by the Conservative Party and he was found to have acted against warnings from his civil servants in his decision to stage a “raid” on pension funds in 1997 that has cost £100 million ($240 million).

Ministers close to Mr Blair also say the next Labour leader should be English (Mr Brown is Scots). They suggested that Mr Blair feared Mr Brown would “wreck” Labour’s achievements.

A close ally of the Chancellor hit back on Saturday night, saying: “Gordon Brown and Tony Blair are working flat out to win every Labour vote they can in the local elections. That is what every person with Labour’s interests at heart should be doing and we will not be distracted from that effort by this self-indulgent, divisive nonsense.”

The Economist weighs in—bemoaning Brown’s attempts to muzzle any leadership contest:

So far the only heavyweight figure who seems to be thinking seriously of mounting a challenge to Mr Brown is Charles Clarke, the former home secretary. Mr Clarke is no admirer of Mr Brown and he has distinguished himself in a series of thoughtful speeches in recent months. He has argued for co-payments by users to help finance public services, more green taxes and a stronger commitment to Europe. He has also expressed doubts over the rush to replace Trident, Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Last week he criticised moves to split up the Home Office.

Whether Mr Clarke runs will depend in part on whether he can muster the required 44 supporting signatures from Labour MPs. As long as the Brownites persist in seeing any backing of a rival candidate as a hanging offence, Mr Clarke, who cuts quite a lonely figure at Westminster these days and has only a few brave backers, will struggle to get himself on the ballot.

For their part, the chancellor’s supporters are bent on getting their man into Number 10 with the least possible difficulty or upset. They appear to care little that the resulting stitch-up will strike many voters as shabby and unconvincing. It is time they realised that the more tarnished Mr Brown has become, the more urgently he needs the purifying fire that only a proper contest can provide.

David MilibandBut it seems that Clark is not the man to run, but Environment Secretary David Miliband:

So, it’s game on, is it? As further polls erode the position of Gordon Brown, and an ever wider array of newspaper columnists turn on him, an old-style New Labour spin operation lets it be known that Tony Blair, no less, believes that David Miliband could and should challenge the chancellor for the leadership. Suddenly, despite denial from Downing Street, what was certain seems less so. Not a coronation after all, perhaps, but a bare-knuckle fight. It isn’t just the rising sap of spring that has refreshed the mood at Westminster, but relish for a proper political scrap. (The Guardian)

David Cameron, the clear conservative leader come the 2009 Parliamentary elections, seems to take Miliband seriously:

CameronDavid Cameron has ordered Conservative Campaign Headquarters to prepare for a Labour leadership crisis by setting up a special unit to target David Miliband.

Officials have been told to start tracking every aspect of the Environment Secretary’s activity, including his speeches, media appearances and even his Internet blog. (Evening Standard)

So is Labour on its way out in Britain? It’s far too early to make any predictions. But one thing is clear, Britons are in need of change—and the next Prime Minister will be presented a with the rare opportunity to realign the British electorate.

Posted in Britain, David Cameron, David Miliband, Gordon Brown, leadership fight | 2 Comments »

South Africa Going Nuke Again?

Posted by K.E. White on April 8, 2007

No, this is not a return to a nuclear-weaponized South Africa.

South Africa

But South Africa may develop a new nuclear power facility.

This might not seem like big news, but what happens if South Africa—a leading member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty—demands its own enrichment capability?

That’s unlikely: Any nuclear power expansion in South Africa will most likely be accepted and endorses by the international community.

But one thing is clear: how the major nuclear powers—Russia, America, and Germany in particular—deal with South Africa’s growing nuclear appetite will be watched closely by Iran and other potential nuclear aspirants.

Why the change? Russian interest in uranium. From Mining News Weekly in March:

There is huge interest from Russia in joint ventures with South African companies to mine uranium in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa. The recent agreement between South Africa’s Harmony Gold and Russia’s Renova Group looks like being only the first manifestation of this Russian interest. The outcome of the alignment between these two companies could be Renova buying Harmony’s uranium assets and Harmony buying Renova’s gold assets (these would be two separate deals). Both the South African and Russian governments have pledged to assist Harmony and Renova in the implementation of their agreement.

However, Renova is apparently also seeking other South African partners for uranium-mining joint ventures (JVs). South Africa’s Department of Minerals and Energy is, it seems, willing to draw up a list of local companies that could partner Renova, although the decision of which company or companies the Russians would chose would be made by Renova, on a business basis.

 

This minor development can even be seen as consistent with South Africa’s nuclear policies of the last two decades. From the Federation of American Scientists:

A primary goal of South Africa’s policy is to reinforce and promote the country’s image as a responsible producer, possessor and trader of advanced technologies in this field. In this connection, South Africa has obtained membership from two important non-proliferation regimes. The Nuclear Suppliers Group [NSG] was established in 1975 to minimise the risk of diversion of nuclear technology and to regulate nuclear technology transfers, control the export of nuclear material, equipment and technology and monitor the transfer of dual-use materials. South Africa became a member of the NSG on 5 April 1995. The Zangger Committee defines and monitors trade in goods and equipment especially designed for nuclear uses. South Africa became a member of the Committee on 21 October 1993.


But at a time when Iran is justifying its nuclear program with calls to nuclear-fairness, any nuclear deal (be it with India or South Africa) becomes significant. Can the NPT regime prove flexible enough to both 1) adequately address nations’ growing demands for nuclear energy while 2) stopping the spread of nuclear weapons?

Posted in Harmony Gold, NPT, Nuclear, Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, power, Renova Group, Russia, South Africa | 1 Comment »

Musharraf: Embattled, But Not Out…Yet

Posted by K.E. White on April 2, 2007

The judicial crisis in Pakistan continues, threatening President Pervez Musharraf’s regime. Musharraf now faces growing fundamentalist strength in the country, and the possible return of two political foes: Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto. 

But it seems the United States is betting on Musharraf to ride out the storm. 

It seems Musharraf is taking the judicial crisis seriously. So seriously that he’s detaining political opponents:

Pakistani authorities have placed a top Islamic MP under house arrest, ahead of planned protests against President Pervez Musharraf’s removal of the country’s top judge.


The chief of Pakistan’s main coalition of fundamentalist parties, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, has been detained for two days at his residence in Islamabad.

Musharraf is even trying to muzzle New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff

But Islamic and Jihadist factions are still gaining influence:

One incident shows that Pashtun militants are trying to establish their writ in the tribal areas and reacting to the pressure they are facing from the deals between as well the fighting between pro-government tribesmen.

Meanwhile, the suicide bombing in Kharian garrison last week in part was designed to underscore that the jihadist sphere of operations has now expanded into Punjab.

… 

The spread of Talebanisation from Pakistan’s border regions into its heartland could force Musharraf into sharing power with his secular opponents to salvage his own political position and roll back religious extremism.

Lastweek the International Crisis Group said, President Pervez Musharraf has failed to tackle Islamic extremism in Pakistan’s religious schools, which continue to promote a holy war against the West and foment terrorism.

“The Pakistani government has yet to take any of the overdue and necessary steps to control religious extremism,” the group said.

That’s great news for the United States. What will become of Pakistan’s improving relations with India under a jihadist regime?

Pakistan‘s foreign minister said on Sunday that a three-year-old peace process has helped Pakistan and India warm up relations, but they still need to resolve their long-standing dispute over Kashmir.

Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri said the two countries have moved beyond the tensions of 2001 when they had deployed thousands of troops along their border in an “eyeball-to-eyeball” standoff that threatened to blow up into a war.

“Now there is a sea change if you compare the situation to that,” he said at a joint news conference with his Chinese counterpart, Li Zhaoxing.

“We still need to resolve our disputes but the atmosphere is far improved,” Kasuri said.

But, wait, is America really going to support an anti-democratic Middle Eastern regime? Well, yes, but not without diplomatic some heart-burn:

Former Pakistan prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto have stepped up their overtures to the Bush administration, apparently in the belief that that the US alone can nudge President Pervez Musharraf towards holding free and fair elections.

The political rivals, engaged in forging opposition unity from their exile in Dubai and London, have also toured the US in the last month.

After a recent meeting in London, they had chided the West in general and accused it of ‘hypocrisy’ for being keen on democracy in neighbouring Afghanistan, but not in Pakistan.

But the US State Department seems sure that Musharraf will ride out the storm.

 

“I don’t think it’s too much of a question of (Musharraf) being toppled or serious unrest in country,” the official said yesterday when asked whether Washington was concerned that growing protests could lead to the military ruler’s overthrow.

“It doesn’t seem that way at the moment. I don’t see any signs of that,” said the official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, as Musharraf came under increasing pressure to quit over the judicial crisis.

Musharraf, a key US ally in the “war on terror,” has faced the biggest crisis of his eight years in power since ordering the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on March 9.

Posted in Benazir Bhutto, India, judicial crisis, Nawaz Sharif, Nicholas Kristoff, Pakistan, Pakistan fundamentalism, Pervez Musharraf, United States | Leave a Comment »