Proliferation Press

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

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Posts Tagged ‘Arms Control’

The G20 and Arms Control

Posted by K.E. White on June 28, 2010

A quick recap of the G20’s arms control efforts.

DNA reviews the G8’s declaration endorsing disarmament efforts.

And John Polanyi accesses the G20’s disarmament agenda on CTV’s Business News Network  He argues that the leading nuclear powers (United States, Russia and China) must work to curtail their stockpiles in order to strengthen counter-proliferation efforts.  Business News Network also discusses the G8’s commendation of North Korea.

Key quotation from Polanyi:  “And going to the brink forever more is a guarantee sometime that they will go over it.  So I see great danger in those stockpiles.”

Posted in Arms Control | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Proliferation Flashback: Sen. Bobby Byrd Speech–June 27, 2003

Posted by K.E. White on June 28, 2010

Sen. Robert Byrd, age 92, passed early this morning.  The West Virginia Gazette offers an excellent memorial.

Byrd, America’s longest serving Senator, influenced all aspects of American policy-making.  But, in particular, Byrd played an significant role in arms control.  A vocal critic to the Bush administration’s proliferation policies regarding Russia and India, and a key consensus-maker on Obama’s New START treaty, Congress has lost a key supporter of ‘traditional’ arms control approaches.

Below is a small representation of Bryd’s immense Senate career relating nuclear proliferation–specifically, the 2003 Moscow Treaty:

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

All Wrapped Up: U.S.-Russia Set to Sign START Treaty Replacement

Posted by K.E. White on March 24, 2010

Apparently a new U.S.-Russia arms control treaty has been finally hammered out.  While many outlets chronicle the slow pace of negotiations and focus on the signing location of the treaty (Prague), MSNBC.com sheds some light on 1) the details of the agreement and 2) what may have been behind the delay.

The START treaty expired last December, but the United States and Russia have been voluntarily conforming to the parameters of the agreement.

Two quick notes.  First, the treaty is of considerable size–especially compared to other recent nuclear agreements.  At 20 pages, this new arms control  treaty definitely offers more detail the SORT/Moscow Treaty (3 pages) concluded under the George W. Bush administration or the legislatively-authorized US-India nuclear deal.  Related to the length, the treaty includes a verification protocol.  This, again, represents a large departure from Bush-era arms control policy.

Why is the second point important?  The key to reducing nuclear arms or restricting their use is in the verification of such efforts.  The Bush administration treaty, while obtaining a large cut in nuclear arsenals, mainly trimmed bloated stock-piles, and pegged to its verification standards to START.  Getting countries to promise to cut arsenals is one thing; forcing countries to verify they actually eliminated them is another–more complicated–endeavor.  And with the SORT treaty expiring in 2012, the expiration of the START treaty risked making SORT irrelevant.

Granted, it seems that this treaty will not represent a bold step in reining in the countries’ nuclear arsenals.  But it represents forward progress, and presumably lays the foundation for future agreements.

From the MSNBC.com article:

The Kremlin source, speaking by telephone to The Associated Press, said the documents included the treaty and protocol. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last week that the treaty was 20 pages long, with an extensive protocol attached.

Russian negotiators have balked at including some intrusive weapons verification measures in the new treaty. The Obama administration has warned that without these, Senate ratification could prove difficult.

Any agreement would need to be ratified by the legislatures of both countries and would still leave each with a large number of nuclear weapons, both deployed and stockpiled.

Posted in START Treaty | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Explaining the START Slowdown

Posted by K.E. White on March 23, 2010

START renewal talks have stalled between the United States and Russia.  TIME Magazine offers theories behind the slow-down, while sketching out the supposed template of the agreement.

Possible road blocks?  First, Russian fears that Obama has not completely shelved plans for a missile shield in Eastern Europe.  Another theory points to Russian domestic politics, and differing interests between Russian President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin.

This Voice of Russia article highlights Russian objections to possible U.S. missile defense schemes in Eastern Europe.  Yet, the article still considers the agreement “95 percent ready, with both sides expected to sign the document ahead of the international security summit slated for April 12 in Washington.”

For those readers hungry for more detail, Arms Control Association offers fantastic resources:  especially Daryl G. Kimball’s recent Moscow Times editorial and Greg Thielmann’s New START Verification: Fitting the Means to the Ends.

From the TIME.com article:

Currently, it is not clear what is holding up START negotiations. The basics of an agreement have been locked down since a joint Obama-Medvedev meeting last July: the White House reported that the two sides were ready to commit to reduce their arsenals to somewhere between 1,500 and 1,675 warheads and between 500 and 1,100 delivery systems, i.e. missiles and long-range bombers. Currently, the treaty allows each side a maximum of 2,200 warheads and 1,600 launch vehicles.

Early on in the talks, Russia raised concerns about U.S. plans for a missile-defense system in Europe, which could potentially give the U.S. an edge if it could neutralize parts of Moscow’s arsenal. Many hoped that concern had been addressed by Obama’s pledge last September to scrap a Bush-era plan to station interceptor missiles in Poland and by promises to include missile defense in negotiations of any further arms-control treaties. But Moscow remained concerned over the alternatives to the Polish scheme being considered by the U.S, for deployment in Europe. Last week the Speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, Boris Gryzlov, said that the Duma would not ratify a START treaty until all U.S. plans for a Europe-based missile-defense system were shelved.

“There are all sorts of rumors for why [a new treaty] hasn’t been signed,” says Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists. “At a deeper level the delay hints at lingering distrust between the United States and Russia.”

Potter, however, believes that domestic tensions in Russia rather than a rift between the two countries is responsible for the delay. “The delay has had more to do with Russian domestic politics and involves disputes between Russian military and political figures about the role of nuclear weapons in Russian security policy and the importance of improved Russian relations with the United States,” he explains. “Some Russian analysts also have suggested that President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin have different interests in rapid conclusion (and ratification) of the treaty, which is related to their positioning for the next presidential contest.”

Posted in START Treaty | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Proliferation Press Round-Up: New START Agreement At Hand? Reorganizing State’s Arms Control Team and Susan Burke–America’s Top NPT Representative–Talks to Arms Control Today

Posted by K.E. White on March 17, 2010

  • Close to START II?

AFP reported yesterday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Russia where sources “have confirmed she will have bilateral negotiations on START with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.”’

Global Security Newswire (GSN) sheds light on the key sticking point in an excellent article posted yesterday.

The main sticking point in negotiations?  According to GSN, “[t]he Obama administration’s plans to deploy missile defenses in Europe remains the top issue of contention, according to defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer. Moscow wants the nuclear treaty to address the matter, but any restriction is not likely to gain approval from U.S. senators who must ratify the agreement.”

The NYTimes portrays the long and winding road these talks have traveled.

  • State Brings Back Arms Control—In Title

Global Security Newswire reports today that the State Department has started reviewing how to better “strengthen” their arms control bureaus.

Currently three bureaus—Verification, Compliance and Implementation (VCI), International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) and Political-Military Affairs Bureau—make up the ‘T’ of the State Department’s arms control bureaus.

The White House plans to better divide responsibilities between these three bureaus, and will change VCI’s name to Arms Control, Verification and Compliance.

Only five years ago, the Bush administration oversaw a similar restricting.  In 2005 two of the then four arms control bureaus—Arms Control and Nonproliferation—were merged into today’s ISN.  The rationale?  The bureaus, separately, did not reward staff with opportunities for advancement and failed to attract staffers.  (This is when Arms Control—at least in name—was stricken from the title of any State Department arms control bureau.)

But a 2009 GAO report found that this reorganization failed to solve either problem.

So the Obama Administration is trying again.

Main take-away:  Reorganizing agencies is tough work, and can determine the effectiveness of critical branches of the U.S. diplomatic and national security apparatus.  Hopefully, the United States can at least enjoy a smooth-running arms control team for the last half of his administration.

  • Susan Burke Interview at Arms Control Today

Susan Burke, who finally received Senate approval in June, talks with Arms Control Today about the upcoming Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference.  Susan highlights what will be the ‘big picture’ goal of the United States at the conference that takes place only once every five years:

What we have been discussing with our partners as we engage in diplomatic outreach is the importance of full compliance with the treaty to maintaining the integrity of the treaty and the corrosive effect that noncompliance has on the treaty itself and on the understandings that other countries have had. We expect that this will be discussed in May. It has to be discussed—full compliance, full support for safeguards, and all those other measures. Exactly how it will be discussed is up in the air at the moment. There are different views on how to handle the issue. But I don’t think there is any disagreement among parties—certainly not in my consultations—that full compliance is absolutely essential.

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Proliferation Press Round-Up: Cheney and Obama Butt Heads Over Torture and GITMO; PONI Gives START its Due; Obama Signs US-UAE Nuclear Deal; China Modernizes Its Nuclear Arsenal

Posted by K.E. White on May 22, 2009

P. Press verdict: With these considerable monitoring stipulations attached, DeThomas’ practicality wins out. While it would be preferable to grant American nuclear technology assistance by a generalizable formula applicable to all nations and keep all dangerous nuclear technology out of the Middle East, these are unrealistic policy positions.  With the NPT conference approaching and Iran’s continued nuclear defiance, strong inducements exist for America to showcase its commitment to assisting the peaceful spread of nuclear technology—especially to nations in the Middle East.

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

Brown Gets ‘Brownie Points’ on Disarmament, Signals Willingness to Cut Britain’s Nuclear Forces

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

British Prime Minister Gordon BrownSummary: Symbolic, Diplomatic and—most importantly—practical reasons lay behind Brown’s openness to cutting, but not scrapping, Britain’s nuclear forces.

Gordon Brown signaled his openness to cutting Britain’s nuclear forces as part of a multilateral effort at disarmament. In his speech, Checks Against Delivery, sets the stage for an ambitious agenda at 2010 Nonproliferation Treaty Conference: strengthening treaty accountability, reducing fissile material, cutting nuclear armaments and enacting a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty and ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

In particular, Brown suggested that Britain could keep an effective nuclear deterrent with 12, not 16 missile tubes. And he signaled a general openness to cutting the number of UK nuclear warheads.

While not reversing Britain’s commitment to a nuclear deterrent, this is a considerable shift: just two years ago, Tony Blair—relying on Conservative votes—obtained £20billion to fund new nuclear-armed submarines.

So what’s behind the move? And is it really much of a nuclear shift?

The move has symbolic importance: Britain, a leading proponent of nuclear disarmament has been hampered by its refusal to cut their own deterrent. Such a shift grants Britain a bit more diplomatic heft when criticizing the Iranian nuclear program. Brown might also be trying to pressure Russia and the United States to commit to a meaningful disarmament agreement, perhaps sensing that President Obama could put arms control back on the global agenda.

From Brown’s speech: “I know from President Obama and the new US administration that America shares with us the ultimate ambition of a world free from nuclear weapons.”

From Times On-Line: HMS Vanguard, which was launched in 1992, is one of four British submarines capable of carrying up to 16 Trident ballistic nuclear missiles with up to eight warheads. At least one of the submarines is on patrol at any time.

From Times On-Line: HMS Vanguard, which was launched in 1992, is one of four British submarines capable of carrying up to 16 Trident ballistic nuclear missiles with up to eight warheads. At least one of the submarines is on patrol at any time.

But let’s not forget Brown’s domestic constituency. While the British public supports a British nuclear deterrent, they are soundly against paying to keep it credible.

Sources of Interest

Here’s the Guardian’s report on Brown’s speech. And here’s a PDF of the speech in full.

This 2006 report on the British nuclear force, Worse Than Irrelevant by Rebecca Johnson, Nicola Butler and Stephen Pullinger is worth reading. It seems to be part of Gordon Brown’s playbook and suggests where he might go from here.

And January’s Economist shows—in condensed form—how little bang Britain gets for the nuclear buck:

Plainly, Britain’s military resources do not match its commitments. Three ex-generals have said that Britain’s “unusable” nuclear weapons should be scrapped. But Sir Jock reckons that any money saved would almost certainly go back to the Treasury, not the conventional forces.

On December 11th the government announced a delay of one or two years in building big new aircraft carriers, and the deferral of a new family of armoured vehicles. Even so, insiders say there is still a £3.7 billion ($5.2 billion) hole in the budget for military equipment over the next four years and procurement costs are still rising. The bill for the 20 biggest weapons projects is now £28 billion, or 12%, over budget.

Heavy spending on kit for the navy and air force leaves little for the army; one source says it will receive less than 10% of all spending on defence equipment between 2003 and 2018. The government notes, however, that better-protected transport vehicles and other things are being rushed in separately using the Treasury’s reserve funds; the force in Afghanistan is now the best-equipped that Britain has fielded (though it still trains with old kit).

How much should Britain spend on defence? At around 2.6% of GDP, its defence budget is high by European standards but below America’s 4% (see chart 2). Defence spending has lagged behind other government expenditure (see chart 3). One general says: “You cannot have a first-division army, navy and air force—and a nuclear deterrent—for £34 billion a year.”

Posted in Arms Control | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »