Proliferation Press

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

Posts Tagged ‘disarmament’

Australian-Japanese Report Provides General Overview of Disarmament & Nonproliferation Issues

Posted by K.E. White on December 21, 2009

A new report provides detailed and wide-ranging recommendations to halt the spread of nuclear weapons. Sponsored by the Japanese and Australian governments, the report seeks to influence ongoing preparations for the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty next summer.

The report also comes before a nuclear security summit hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama next April.

Without a chance to read it, for now I’ll offer this critique from Greg Sheridan at The Australian:

In its political analysis, the report often seems to exist in a kind of parallel universe, where all states pay attention to the UN and do just as they’re told and all disagreements are solved by negotiation. That may be a laudable end, but pretending the world is like that does not help policy-makers take sensible decisions.

More generally, he argues that nuclear disarmament will be possible when even the prospect of major war is unthinkable. Well, yes, I suppose if you’ve achieved total world peace you may be able to negotiate nuclear weapons away. But for the next 1000 years or so we’ll still have to grapple with them.

Evans is very taken with the idea that all states possessing nuclear weapons should declare that their only purpose for having them is to deter other nations from attacking them or their allies with nukes. Yet he recognises that the “no first use” declaration of the old Soviet Union was “almost universally dismissed as purely a propaganda exercise”, and that similar statements by other powers are greeted with cynicism. Therefore, he says, “it may be better to settle in the first instance for a different formulation of essentially the same idea”. That, sadly, just about sums up this report: a different formulation of some very tired and unrealistic ideas.

The report is often very confusing. It states baldly that the problems of North Korea and Iran’s nuclear programs can be solved by negotiation, without the slightest evidence of this being true. Evans states that the Iran situation looks unlikely “to be resolved by the further application of coercive sanctions”.

The report takes the mistaken standard international left line against national missile defence, even while asserting that theatre missile defence is a good thing, and acknowledging that you can’t really distinguish one from the other. And on and on. This report serves certain bureaucratic and even political ends. It does nothing for nuclear disarmament.

And Sheridan isn’t alone. This Times of India article expresses India’s frustration with the report.

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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.

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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.”

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Rowen on ‘Nuclear Free’ Plan: Helps Countries to Get the Bomb

Posted by K.E. White on January 17, 2008

Henry S. Rowen—Hoover Institution Fellow and Former Assistant Secretary of Defense—takes a hit on new policies advocated by George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn that aim to free the world of nuclear weapons.

While Rowen agrees that more must be done to monitor weapons, build early-warning detection systems, and discarding massive attack plans. But Rowan disagrees that there is any way for the nuclear weapons states (America, Russia, Britain, France and China) to assist other nations in developing peaceful nuclear technology without risking increased nuclear weapons proliferation.

But one must ask: Can nuclear states overtly refuse to help developing countries meet their energy needs, especially when the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty—the international framework for legal procession of nuclear weapons—ensures such assistance?

From Rowen’s essay:

There is a sense that Arab fear of Iran’s nuclear weapons, along with lower confidence in U.S. protection, is causing some of them to want the bomb. These governments understand that the way to do this is to follow the traditional path of building reactors for ostensible civilian purposes because the line between civilian and military uses is thin. Moreover, the economics of nuclear electric power in these countries ranges from bad to atrocious. Making big power reactors is hard and lengthy work; our subsidizing their infrastructure and fuel would not only foster uneconomic power systems, it would speed the creation of easy weapons options.

Nor does the statement obligate recipients to refrain from going to the brink of having nuclear weapons with or without the materials supplied by the “advanced nuclear countries.”

The U.S government has a lot of work to do regarding Iran and the stability of the Persian Gulf, but helping countries to get the bomb is not one of them.

The Shultz-Perry-Kissinger-Nunn op-ed builds on an earlier plan they outlined last year.

Posted in NPT, Nuclear, Nuclear Weapons, proliferation, Rowen, Sam Nunn | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »