Proliferation Press

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

Posts Tagged ‘Heritage Foundation’

Ratifying The 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: Arms Control Association Vs. The National Review

Posted by K.E. White on June 22, 2011

The 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is back in the news, with some hoping the Obama administration—preferably before possibly losing re-election and thus losing a good arms-control partner—will push the Senate to ratify the treaty.

But after reading two opposing points of view (check out the dueling ACA and TNR editorials), it seems this debate really comes down to two disagreements:

(1) both sides just are operating under very different assumptions and factual assessments,

Or (2) this all comes down to one question:  whether it’s a good deal to trust other nations won’t test in return for the United States not testing.

Yes, the National Review makes arguments about not detecting nuclear tests, and the need to keep our arsenal up-to-date.  But as Daryl G. Kimball at ACA points out, the U.S. has the technology now to detect the test we would likely be looking for; and indirectly argues that the non-proliferation regime would be strengthened (read:  we could push India and Pakistan into the agreement, and sop future nuclear aspirants); and, finally, our nuclear stock-pile is good for decades without testing.

And while The National Review does not refute these arguments, and their underlying analysis, it seems there’s a more implicit thesis:  (1) this treaty won’t factor into other nation’s decisions to test or not; and (2) what happens in 20 years?  If everyone knows the U.S. will break the treaty the minute is become necessary, how much binding force will it have?  (Admittedly, all treaties suffer from this; but at least encourage patterns of behavior and predictability that allow nations to adjust their strategic plans).

That’s why I like Jake Wilson’s blog at Heritage that concludes:

Nuclear weapons testing is essential for keeping the U.S. stockpile safe, secure, and reliable in the years ahead. Ratifying the CTBT would be detrimental to U.S. national security interests, as 30 countries around the world rely on the credibility of U.S. extended deterrence. These countries would be incentivized to develop their own nuclear weapons capabilities if the United States were perceived as weak and its nuclear weapons unreliable.

This is what the debate comes down to:  a simple disagreement into the motivations of countries.  I personally find this analysis shallow.  The greatest motivator to countries to acquire weapons is, I believe, fear that they will be held hostage to a country’s technological wizardry (e.g. North Korea and Iran had no reason to forego getting a nuke after being labeled part of the ‘axis of evil’.).  And, in any case, is not the world reaching a point where shifting flows in global finance and diminishing technology costs will make nuclear weapons available to any nation determined to get them?

If I’m right (and that is a big ‘if’), it then seems the proper course of U.S. action is to show nations nuclear weapons won’t achieve their strategic aims.  Best way to do that: show the world you don’t need further testing to meet your strategic aims.

But my worldview is more concerned with preventing low-budget, small nuclear aspirants—aka more Irans, Indias, and Pakistans—from causing regional headaches, not worries over Russia or China suddenly out-nuking us in some absurdist ‘Strangelove’ scenario.

But, in any case, both the ACA and TNR editorials duck this fundamental disagreement.  Instead, they recite or debunk old talking points.  It’s not that, especially the ACA analysis isn’t well-mapped and thorough, but instead missing what may actually be swaying the vote of particular Senators.

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Ariel Cohen Thinks We Can’t Read Russian: Cohen’s Misleading Critique of Obama’s “Reset” of U.S.-Russian Relations

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

Yes, Ariel Cohen thinks I can’t read Russian.

Actually he’s right. But I can do a quick babblefish translation.

Why is this important? Because translating one of Cohen’s cites reveals his critique to be grossly misleading.

Ariel Cohen, a Heritage Foundation research fellow, launches this clumsy and fatally exaggerated data-dump on Sen. John Kerry’s defense of Obama’s “reset” strategy towards Russia.

But his most explosive charge against the “reset” seems built on little more than exaggeration. In return for sanctions on Iran and a new START treaty, Cohen suggests that Obama has given Russia a free hand in “the post-Soviet ‘near abroad’”citing to a Russian publication. Now that vague term triggers images of a new Cold War divide in Europe.

Unfortunately, the cited article states nothing close to Cohen’s implication. In fact, the article, written by a Russian researcher, actually extols America recognizing recent Ukrainian elections that brought a pro-Russian government to power.

That’s a far cry from giving Russia a free hand to the post-Soviet near abroad.

And that doesn’t even get to the article’s most egregious omission: Cohen criticizes a lot, but fails to offer any alternative.

Sloppy research and data-dumping shouldn’t be permitted by any think-tank, whether it’s a blog-post or article.

Here’s a recapitulation of Cohen’s exhaustive list of U.S. “concessions” to Russia:

1. “limiting the U.S. ballistic missile defense”

2. Recognizing “Russia’s exclusive zone of interests” in the “post-Soviet near abroad” (Again, this actually means recognizing Russia’s increased influence in the Ukraine, not a free-hand in Eastern Europe)

3. “new security architecture in Europe”

4. 123 civilian nuclear reactor agreement — $10-15 billion in new nuclear fuel reprocessing business

5. Support for Russia’s entry into the WTO

6. Secret deal to limit U.S. ballistic missile defense (how does one argue against the charge of a secret deal?)

7. Russia has allowed more U.S. and NATO traffic of Russian territory

And in return, according to Cohen, America has received remarkably little:

1. Russia still supporting Venezuela and Syria

2. Weak sanctions against Iran “In short, Russia will be milking the rest for all its worth.”

3. A new START treaty with one-sides terms in two significant ways: first, the U.S has to eliminate 80 warheads more than Russia; second, the United States must eliminate 150 delivery platforms, while Russia can add over 100.  (A somewhat biased view of the agreement)

I have two questions for Cohen. First, what concessions would he take back? Second, what pressure should America apply to Russia?

Cohen’s article acts as a rejoinder to Sen. John Kerry’s defense of Obamaland’s foreign policy towards Russia. In his Politico op-ed, Kerry endorses the “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations: heralding the new START treaty, and Russia’s support of new Security Council sanctions against Iran, decision to not sell Iran anti-aircraft missiles and open airspace to US and NATO flights to Afghanistan.

Ariel Cohen serves as Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy at the Katherine and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Policy at the Heritage Foundation. Owen Graham, Research Assistant to the Davis Center, contributed to the blog-post.

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