Proliferation Press

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

Posts Tagged ‘America’

Russia Rearms: Why is the Bear Roaring?

Posted by K.E. White on March 17, 2009

President Dmitry Medvedev announced a “large scale rearming” of Russia’s conventional and nuclear forces in 2011. 

The NYTimes portrays it as a mix of diplomatic posturing for Medvedev’s meeting with Obama and the response to Russian military weaknesses shown in the recent Georgia-Russian war. The Guardian heralds the new arms race, putting blame squarely on America’s maximalist foreign policy. And Canda.com views the announcement as geared more towards the Russian public. 

In short, the move is not welcome news—but it’s not entirely unexpected. And its meaning will take form over this year. Medvedev has drawn various lines in the sand: moves towards having airbases in Cuba, setting up bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, helping rid of an American base in Kyrgyzstan, and now a rearmament announcement. Keep in mind, Russia has for years protested expansion of NATO in Eastern Europe–and drew a bloodly red line in Georgia.

And let’s not ignore another possible cause of this announcement: the economic crisis. Russia may be signaling that current economic woes will not change their strategic objectives. 

But one thing is clear: The US-Russian relationship is entering a critical phase, and the Obama administration must tread carefully.  

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Russia Update: Ailing Economy; Successful Missile Test & Delayed Nuclear Deal with Australia

Posted by proliferationpresswm on September 20, 2008

 

AFP reports that Australia may drag its feet on a nuclear fuel deal with Russia. Meanwhile, Russia keeps up its aggressive posturing: Deutsche Welle reports on Russia’s successful testing of a new ballistic missile.

By the way, the missile can hold up to ten nuclear warheads.

But how does the recent finance-melt and US-led bailout alter Russia’s geo-political outlook. With Asian, European and Russian markets benefiting from the record $700 US tax payer-backed bailout coupled with falling oil-prices, how much saber-rattling can Russia afford?

Here’s a WSJ article examining Russia’s economic troubles. From the article:

 

The market’s collapse, down 57% since May, is linked to the dysfunctional nature of the Russian state and economy. Nearly every aspect of commerce in Russia is deeply entangled with state power, if not with Mr. Putin personally. This, for obvious reasons, does not comfort most investors.

One famous investor in particular was worried about the security of doing business in Mr. Putin’s Russia. Rupert Murdoch, speaking on News Corp.’s earnings call on Aug. 5, had this to say: “The more I read about investments in Russia, the less I like the feel of it. The more successful we’d be, the more vulnerable we’d be to have it stolen from us, so there we sell now.”

The hoped-for liberalization under new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has turned out to be another case of wishful thinking both in Russia and the West. There’s no doubt in the business community about who’s really in charge. After his cronies’ takeover attempt of steel and coal giant Mechel was rebuffed, Mr. Putin’s public outburst of criticism in late July was enough to destroy the company’s market value.

From AFP:

The west’s relations with Russia are at a turning point after its intervention in Georgia and a pact to sell Australian uranium to Moscow is in the balance, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Thursday. 

Parliament’s treaties committee earlier recommended that the deal signed with former president Vladimir Putin last year be put on hold because of concerns about Russia’s nuclear weapons programme. 

The committee said the government should first satisfy itself that the billion-dollars-a-year (800,000 US dollars) worth of the nuclear fuel would be used solely for civilian nuclear power. 

And it should give more consideration to recent events such as the conflict in Georgia, the committee’s report said.

… 

Australia, which has the world’s largest known reserves of uranium, stipulated in its pact to sell the nuclear material to Russia that it not be used to make nuclear weapons or be sold on to any other country.

And from Deutsche Welle: 

With a range of 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles), the Bulava can be equipped with up to 10 individually targeted nuclear warheads.

The missile test-fire comes during a time when US-Russia relations have hit a post Cold War low after Moscow’s recent military intervention in Georgia. Washington harshly criticized the military move.

Posted in Russia | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Trouble in Afghanistan: Wither NATO?

Posted by K.E. White on February 10, 2008

The Canadian-led NATO mission in Afghanistan has run into some considerable trouble.

Canada called for more troops from NATO partners, even threatening to pull out if their request went unanswered.

While Germany has softened its opposition to granting more troops, the United States has increased diplomatic pressure on NATO allies to solve the Afghan dilemma.

Speaking at an international security conference in Munich, Defense Secretary Robert Gates openly pressed NATO members to send more troops to Afghanistan.

From the New York Times:

After weeks of calling on NATO governments to send more combat troops and trainers to Afghanistan, Mr. Gates made his case directly to people across the continent in a keynote address to an international security conference here. Mr. Gates summoned the memory of Sept. 11, 2001, to say that Europe is at risk of becoming victim to attacks of the same enormity.

“I am concerned that many people on this continent may not comprehend the magnitude of the direct threat to European security,” Mr. Gates said. “For the United States, Sept. 11 was a galvanizing event one that opened the American public’s eyes to dangers from distant lands.”

In a hall filled with government officials, lawmakers and policy analysts from around the world, Mr. Gates added: “So now I would like to add my voice to those of many allied leaders on the continent and speak directly to the people of Europe. The threat posed by violent Islamic extremism is real and it is not going to go away.”

While Iraq dominates headlines in America, Afghanistan remains a vital front in the war on terror. The Afghan-Pakistan border still stands as a critical hotbed of extremist activity.

But getting more troops from war-weary allies is no easy task. France has elevated political success over military success in Afghanistan; Australia refuses to send more troops; and Merkel faces stern opposition to any German troop increase.

From AFP:

According to an opinion poll due to be published in Monday’s edition of the magazine Focus, 84 percent of Germans oppose sending combat troops to the south.

And 63 percent believe the current deployment in northern Afghanistan does not serve German interests, according to the TNS Emnid poll.

Germany, whose troop level deployment in Afghanistan currently stands at about 3,200, earlier this week announced it would take over responsibility from Norway in July for a quick reaction force in the north of the country.

The Sunday Herald—a Scottish newspaper—illustrates just how high the stakes are for NATO in Afghanistan:

The problem is that Nato is not geared up to that kind of thinking, even though it is beginning to concentrate on training the Afghans to take over responsibility for their own security. The alliance was formed to defend the West against attack from the Soviet Union. During that time it never fired a shot in anger, and now it has been tasked to fight what many believe is the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Afghanistan is still considered by the security community as the make-or-break mission for Nato, and the urgency of the situation cannot be overstated,” argues Kate Clouston, an associate of the Royal United Services Institute, in a paper on the alliance’s operations in Afghanistan for the independent think tank. “Substantial reform by Nato allies is needed now if the alliance is ever going to be ready to hand over control of the currently unsecured provinces to Afghan national forces.”

The British publication Telegraph has a detailed article on John McCain’s foreign policy, in particular his views on Afghanistan:

A future President McCain would be expected to win favour with European governments critical of the Bush administration’s approach to combating Islamic extremism, by closing the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in the first weeks of his presidency and declaring that the US will no longer tolerate torture.

British and American pressure on Germany appeared to bear fruit yesterday when it emerged the German government might send an extra 1,000 troops to Afghanistan. But Mr McCain will continue to work to broaden its restrictive rules of engagement.

The Afghanistan offensive will form a major plank of Mr McCain’s outreach to the world, as he battles to win over conservatives in his party.

Posted in Afghanistan, NATO | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Must Read: Thoughts on Iraq

Posted by K.E. White on February 10, 2008

The American Interest offers some analysis about progress in Iraq, and where to go next.

Here’s a link to the ‘Iraq Symposium’ where anyone can read the articles by clicking the titles.

The contributors? Francis Fukuyama, Robert Kaplan, Richard Perle, Philip Zelikow, James Kurth and others.

Posted in American Interest, Iraq Symposium | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tensions in NATO’s Afghanistan Mission: Canada Wants More Troops, US Paints Dire Picture, Germany on the Fence

Posted by K.E. White on January 30, 2008

Canada—who heads up NATO operations in Afghanistan—is becoming a bit antsy about its peacekeeping role. Earlier this month, a review of Canada’s military operations in Afghanistan—chaired by John Manley—demanded more NATO troops be sent or Canada should terminate its mission there.

Canada’s departure from the NATO mission could be a major blow to the alliance. From Canada.com:

“I think if NATO can’t come through with that help, then I think, frankly, NATO’s own reputation and future will be in jeopardy,” Harper told reporters after endorsing that recommendation from a panel headed by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley.

Canada, with roughly 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, has lost 78 soldiers and one diplomat. All three opposition parties are pressuring Harper’s Conservatives to end Canada’s combat mission by no later than February 2009, with the NDP and Bloc Quebecois demanding an immediate withdrawal.

 

 

The response from other NATO countries? Not fantastic. From Spiegel Online:

 

Meanwhile, Germany‘s Green Party warned on Wednesday that the deployment of combat troops to northern Afghanistan could lead to the spread of the German mission to the volatile south of the country. Party defense spokesman Winfried Nachtwei told the Leipziger Volkszeitung that the Quick Reaction Force should not “open the door for the Bundeswehr in the south,” and that the government should “guarantee that the limits of the mandate up to now are maintained.” Nachtwei insisted that the combat troops should only be allowed to support troops in the north and not be sent to fight the insurgency.

The German media on Wednesday looked at the implications of the NATO request, which could see Germany further embroiled in Afghanistan.

How coalition partners react to the deteriorating situation is critical to American security. The Afghan-Pakistan border is a terrorist hotbed: threatening not only Afghanistan’s security, but that of the volatile–and nuclear armed–regime in Pakistan.

 

President Bush pledged to send additional American troops to Afghanistan during his State of the Union address:

“In Afghanistan, America, our 25 NATO allies and 15 partner nations are helping the Afghan people defend their freedom and rebuild their country. Thanks to the courage of these military and civilian personnel, a nation that was once a safe haven for al-Qaida is now a young democracy where boys and girls are going to school, new roads and hospitals are being built, and people are looking to the future with new hope.

“These successes must continue, so we are adding 3,200 Marines to our forces in Afghanistan, where they will fight the terrorists and train the Afghan army and police. Defeating the Taliban and al-Qaida is critical to our security, and I thank the Congress for supporting America‘s vital mission in Afghanistan.”

A report released today paints a bleak picture in Afghanistan. From BBC.com:

The study by former UN ambassador Thomas Pickering and retired Marine Corps General James Jones is due to be released later on Wednesday.

“The progress achieved after six years of international engagement is under serious threat from resurgent violence, weakening international resolve, mounting regional challenges and a growing lack of confidence on the part of the Afghan people about the future direction of their country,” it says.

Posted in Afghanistan, Canada, Foreign Policy, international relations, Manley, NATO | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Proliferation Press Dispatch: New America’s ‘Pakistan in Peril’ Roundtable

Posted by K.E. White on January 15, 2008

With attendees elbowing for space and some even relegated to the wonkish backwater of a TV screening room, four experts—Flynt Leverett, Peter Bergen, Nicholas Schmidle and Steve Coll—probed the troubled but essential partnership between America and Pakistan at The New America Foundation.

While differences on the sequence American policy towards Pakistan lingered, the gaggle found common ground on the big issues. The Bush administration’s policy towards Pakistan has been wrongheaded and wanting; emphasis must now be on riding out the February elections; and, finally, unconditional American aid must continue: not only to spur real Pakistani economic reconstruction, but to ensure an effective counter-terrorism strategy that will clamp down on the extremists threats posed to both Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan.

And to make matters more difficult Benazir’s Bhutto’s recent assassination has only exacerbated Pakistan’s domestic unease, while some observers worry over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

The US-Pakistan partnership is anything but a walk in Candyland.

The last six years of American policy towards Pakistan were seen by all the participants—though Schmidle agreement had to be implied—as a failure. Leverett—the harshest critic—took the administration to task for holding unreasonable expectations of Pakistan. He went to pains to flesh out the dire predicament the Bush administration leaders put by failing to capture Bin Laden and his associates in Afghanistan: hotheaded and intractable militants became Pakistan’s problem.

“Pakistan has probably performed more faithfully than the United States,” Coll stated in agreement to Leverett. He and Leverett did not hold a naïve view of Pakistan’s colored history. Rather they elevated Pakistan’s critical and productive role in America’s counter-terrorism strategy, while viewing short-sighted American policy over the last thirty years as worsening Pakistan’s domestic situation and relationship with America.

Peter Bergen did add a useful corrective to this Pakistani apologist line of though. If Iran developed nuclear weapons, contemplated selling a nuclear weapon or selling nuclear-weapons technology to North Korea and Iraq, Washington and Tehran would be at war.

These are all things Pakistan has done, all the while remaining a staunch American ally.

Such a contradiction illustrates the unique relationship between America and Pakistan. While Pakistan illegally developed nuclear weapons and proliferated nuclear technology, Musharraf’s response to 9-11 turned America and Pakistan into indispensable partners.

Pakistan needed military aid and economic reconstruction to beat back an Islamic threat and alleviate the severe poverty of this nuclear-weapons state. America needed an ally to help eradicate the Taliban and other Islamic extremists—a concern that trumped Pakistan’s past nuclear history.

Schmidle brought a unique, testimonial viewpoint to the discussion. Just deported after living in Pakistan for two years, Schmidle jocularly showed off his deportation notice while somberly telling listeners of his first hand experiences with Taliban militants.

He stressed two major themes. First he noted that a once scattered New-Gen Taliban has now come under the authority of one leader. Schmidle also saw Pakistan’s tribal areas turning away from Islamist parties to nationalist parties, a development that could pave the way for a successful counter-terrorism strategy in the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. [For more details, go to the source: read Schmidle’s articles]

Looking forward, the discussion tackled to US policy quandaries: how best to calibrate a US-Pakistan counter-insurgency strategy, and whether the US pushing democratic reform would help or hinder Pakistan’s stability and capacity to clamp down on the Taliban.

Leverett stressed American strategy turn away from bilateral engagement in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries. Instead regional coordination would increase the pressure on countries to fulfill their counter-terrorism strategies. But Coll doubted the payoffs of such an intensive diplomatic strategic investment, calling it a “very difficult strategy to carry out.”

Coll and Leverett also disagreed on promoting democracy in Pakistan.

“There is no evidence that democracy buys you anything in terms of the war on terror,” Leverett pronounced making clear illusion to failed attempts of the much maligned neo-con agenda.

But Bergen brought the obvious—while shallow—comparison between the histories of a turbulent Pakistan and its prosperous neighbor India. The difference? A firm commitment to parliamentary democracy and civilian rule.

Coll stressed the long history of failed, but real, attempts at Pakistani parliamentary democracy. “We’re not imposing democratic aspirations on Pakistan,” Coll claimed.

On forecasting Pakistan’s near-term future, the analysts were in wait and see mode. Election-fraud by Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf was bound to happen, but blatant voter manipulation would topple Musharraf—and he knows it (or should). The PPP will find success, and will aim to merge with Nawaz Sharif’s PML party to demand Musharraf’s ouster.

And regarding the Bhutto assassination controversy that has so animated Pakistan’s upcoming elections, the experts agreed that Musharraf’s version—that Bhutto was not killed by an assassin’s bullet—was true. Unfortunately Musharraf’s fabricated rush to judgment sapped whatever credibility he had left.

Pakistan political future now rests within the interplay between a new parliamentary majority dedicated to reform and an increasingly unpopular President. The wild card? Musharraf’s new pick for Army Chief of Staff—Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Will this American trained general emerge as a new Pakistani strong man? Or will Kayani work with a rancorous Parliament and dictatorial President to bring stability to a poor and divided nation, while executing a counter-terrorism strategy that defends America and Pakistan against international terrorism?

Posted in Flynt Leverett, international relations, Musharraf, New America Foundation, Nicholas Schmidle, Nuclear, Pakistan, Peter Bergen, Steve Coll, Terrorism, United States | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gulf Nations Offer Iran A Sweetheart Deal, But US Options Remain Grim

Posted by K.E. White on November 1, 2007

Six Gulf nations—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—have proposed supplying Iran with uranium. This proposal, very similar to an earlier, rejected Russian offer, could end Western worries over Iran’s nuclear program.

But will Iran accept the deal?

From BBC News:

Gulf states are willing to set up a body to provide enriched uranium to Iran, Saudi Arabia‘s foreign minister is reported to have said.

Prince Saud al-Faisal told the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) the plan could defuse Tehran’s stand-off with the West over its nuclear programme.

The prince was quoted as saying that Iran was considering the Gulf states’ offer, but the US was not involved.

The BBC’s Paul Reynolds says it is doubtful the plan will go anywhere.

Such a deal would fall in line with other Gulf nations aspirations for nuclear energy. From AFP:

Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya and Yemen as well as the six GCC states have all said that they want to pursue peaceful nuclear projects.

Faisal told MEED he believed the new plant “should be in a neutral country — Switzerland, for instance.”

“Any plant in the Middle East that needs enriched uranium would get its quota. I don’t think other Arab states would refuse. In fact, since the decision of the GCC to enter into this industry, the other Arab countries have expressed a desire to be part of the proposal.”

Mil Arcega illustrates the policy conundrum American officials face in dealing with Iran, regardless of whether or not they agree with the White House’s current saber-rattling approach:

Some Republicans say the tough talk is necessary. But Republican Congressman Christopher Shays says economic sanctions against Iran’s military and its banking institutions need to be tempered by open dialogue. “It is time for us to start talking with Iran, diplomat to diplomat, politician to politician, and person to person.”

The White House says it has exhausted diplomatic efforts and last week imposed sweeping economic sanctions — targeting Iran’s banking institutions and the country’s elite military branch. The sanctions are meant to hamper Iran’s ability to conduct business internationally and reduce the influence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which U.S. officials accuse of providing weapons to Iraqi militants.

But Karim Sadjapour, a Middle East expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says U.S. actions could backfire unless the U.S. can convince Iranians that abandoning its nuclear program will bring peace and stability to the region. “Increasingly, Iranians look next door and they say if the choice is between what we see in Iraq — democracy and carnage — and what we have now, which is authoritarianism and security, we will choose the latter.”

Posted in America, deal, Iran, Karim Sadjapour, Middle East Economic Digest, Nuclear, Prince Saud al-Faisal, United States | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »