Proliferation Press

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

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Posts Tagged ‘missile defense’

Mitt Romney Gets the New START Treaty Wrong

Posted by K.E. White on July 6, 2010

Mitt Romney excoriates the New START Treaty in today’s NYTimes.  But in arguing that the treaty jeopardizes American security, he notes treaty technicalities without accessing their actual impact.  In so doing, he gets the treaty wrong, needlessly politicizing U.S. foreign policy for partisan gain.

Romney’s chief charge?  New START impedes U.S. missile defense:

Whatever the reason for the treaty’s failings, it must not be ratified: The security of the United States is at stake. The only responsible course is for the Senate to demand and scrutinize the full diplomatic record underlying the treaty. Then it must insist that any linkage between the treaty and our missile defense system be eliminated. In a world where nuclear weapons are proliferating, America’s missile defense shield must not be compromised. As currently drafted, New START is a non-starter.

On this score Romney is technically correct, but misses the larger point.

Yes, there are limits on America’s missile shield development.  The Heritage Foundation and others point out the indirect limitation of U.S. missile defense within treaty.  From Baker Spring’s webmemo at Heritage:

This specific collection of restrictions pertains to test target missiles and their associated launchers and comes in addition to a general restriction imposed by language in New START’s preamble and a specific restriction in Article V that prohibits the conversion of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers into missile defense launchers.

As non-deployed launchers, these test target launchers are counted against the 800-unit limit on deployed and non-deployed launchers in Article II of the treaty. Similar to the missiles themselves, Article IV of New START restricts what kinds of facilities may host non-deployed launchers, where they may be located geographically, and transit time. Like non-deployed ICBMs and SLBMs, application of elimination or conversion procedures (leaving aside those addressed in Article V) and notification requirements could apply.

So yes, there are limitations.  But Steven Pifer at Brookings notes the mootness of this restriction (along with the NYTimes’s Peter Baker):

As for hard limits, the treaty contains only one regarding missile defense:  the United States would be barred from placing missile defense interceptors in ICBM silos or SLBM launchers.  That’s a constraint, but not one that will affect the U.S. missile defense program.  The Pentagon has no plans to put missile interceptors in ICBM or SLBM launchers; it would be cheaper to build new silos for missile defense interceptors than convert existing ICBM silos.

And events on the ground suggest Brooking’s is right.  Romney’s article omits continuing U.S. missile defense plans in Georgia.

Now are there flaws with the treaty?  Unquestionably.  But the treaty in no way sacrifices America’s development of missile defense.  On top of that, the treaty offers tangible benefits to American security.

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

Success of Reset? Tame Response To Obamaland’s Changes to Missile Defense in Poland

Posted by K.E. White on July 4, 2010

Yesterday the United States and Poland signed an amended missile defense agreement.  The agreement amends a previous Bush-era deal, an effect of the Obama adminstration’s ‘reset’ policy towards Russia.

The net-effect:  plans for ground-based missile defenses in Poland are out; sea-based interceptors are in.

I’m surprised by the tame response to the news.  Admittedly, the Russian spy arrests and the 4th of July have distracted American coverage. But even the National Review and Commentary are silent on the news.

Compare this to Kejda Gjermani’s 2009 Commentary editorial excoriating ‘reset’:

There is a revolutionary aspect to diplomacy by tabula rasa: to the administration unconstrained by preceding commitments, the world of international relations becomes an exhilarating puzzle waiting to be put together from scratch. But the picture is very different to those nations whose good-faith gestures and risks are thus snubbed. In this case, pushing what Vice President Joseph Biden has called the “reset button” on missile defense has shaken the ground beneath the feet of America’s staunchest allies in Eastern Europe. Would President Obama feel sanguine about his own diplomatic initiatives if foreign leaders had to weigh his odds of re-election when considering his proposals? The president may have a thoughtful rejoinder, but he may just as likely be too infatuated with the historic significance of his presidency to realize he is setting a dangerous precedent that may apply to him as well.

International relations are not fickle variables to be reset sporadically at the push of a button. Continuity in foreign policy serves as a stable platform for the undertaking of any long-term initiatives with other countries. If U.S. presidents started rebooting relations between America and the rest of the world whenever they assumed office, all diplomatic frameworks would break down, as chronic uncertainty undermines international cooperation. America’s democratic allies are already biased against long-term thinking because the political fates of their leaders depend on the voters’ capricious approval. They might adapt to this climate of uncertainty by shortening their planning horizons even more, requiring immediate reciprocity to any accommodation of our interests. The reaction in Eastern Europe to America’s broken commitment suggests that the region is already contemplating a strategic shift in such a direction.

The Hill offers the best coverage on the amended agreement:

The agreed ballistic missile defense site in Poland is scheduled to become operational in a 2018 timeframe and is designed to be a key part of the United States’ European-based missile defense strategy.

The Obama administration last September dropped Bush-era plans to put 10, two-stage ground-based interceptors in Poland, and a related radar site in the Czech Republic.

The Obama administration’s plan is to deploy ships equipped with Lockheed Martin’s Aegis combat system and Raytheon’s Standard Missile-3 or SM-3 interceptors to help defend European allies and U.S. forces against threats from Iran and others. The Pentagon is also looking to deploy sensors, such as Raytheon’s Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance system (AN/TPY-2).

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

Proliferation News Round Up: Sizing Up Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review

Posted by K.E. White on April 7, 2010

What does President Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review change?  The New York Times squarely answers this question—claiming that Obama has prudently constrained when the United States will deploy nuclear weapons:

The document substantially narrows the conditions under which the United States would use nuclear weapons. The last review — done in 2002 by the George W. Bush administration — gave nuclear weapons a “critical role” in defending the country and its allies and suggested that they could be used against foes wielding chemical, biological or even conventional forces.

The new review says the “fundamental role” of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack on the United States and its allies, and it rules out the use of nuclear weapons against nonnuclear countries, even if they attack the United States with unconventional weapons.

There is an important caveat. That assurance only goes to countries that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which leaves out North Korea and Iran. It would have been better if Mr. Obama made the “sole” purpose of nuclear weapons deterring a nuclear attack. No one in their right mind can imagine the United States ever using a nuclear weapon again. America’s vast conventional military superiority is more than enough to defend against most threats.

Assuming the NPR holds diplomatic weight, how does Obama’s revision shape-up overall?

ForeignPolicy.com offers three takes on Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), all worth reading.  But all the articles—whether grading the NPR or highlight its surprising results—fail to properly place the NPR within Obama’s overall nonproliferation strategy.  While the review might not be as bold as some desire, it represents one step in the administration’s nonproliferation strategy.  With an upcoming nuclear security summit and NPT conference, the last thing the administration needs is controversy within the administration or the Hill over  Obama’s nuclear weapon policies.  Hence, assessing the NPR in a vacuum does little to map-out America’s nuclear policies at the end of Obama’s first (or second) term.

Peter Feaver writes on the NPR’s significance and uncertain legacy:

On balance, the NPR seems to be a split-the-difference compromise between different factions among Obama’s advisors. In this respect, it resembles the most important national security decisions President Obama has made thus far on Iraq and Afghanistan. Critics may complain that this results in a lack of strategic clarity — and some of the confusion that has attended the Iraq and Afghanistan policies shows that this danger is a real one — but perhaps it will come to be seen as a politically deft balance of competing desiderata. It is unmistakably a step away from the compromises struck during the Bush era, but I don’t see much evidence that this is the bold leap that wins plaudits in academic seminar rooms, activist think-tanks, and Norwegian parliaments.

David E. Hoffman highlights the plan’s shorting-comings.  Among his list:  Obama’s continued adherence to the nuclear triad and keeping nuclear missiles on alert; Obama’s refusal to tackle the problem of attribution (while he reserves to right to use nuclear weapons against biological threats, what happens when the source of the threat can’t be identified?); and finally, the nuclear posture review’s silence on tactical nuclear weapons.

And Josh Rogin, adding an interesting wrinkle, argues the NPR gives “star billing” to missile defense:

Later on in the document, the administration points to Russia and China’s nuclear modernization and notes that both countries view U.S. missile-defense expansion as destabilizing. Secretary Clinton addressed that issue in Tuesday’s press conference.

The NPR itself was careful to mention missile defense as only one of several capabilities needed to counter non-nuclear attacks.

But Secretary Clinton was less careful.

“It’s no secret that countries around the world remained concerned about our missile-defense program,” Clinton said, explaining that the NPR weighs in on “the role [missile defense] can and should play in deterring proliferation and nuclear terrorism.”

Ok, so now missile defense can deter chemical attacks, biological attacks, proliferation of nuclear technology, and suitcase bombs?

Regardless, the document makes clear that with fewer nukes to be deployed once the new START agreement goes into effect, and with the role of nuclear weapons now limited to responding to nuclear threats, the administration is now looking to missile defense, among other technologies, to fill in the gap.

Posted in Nuclear Posture Review | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Blog-On-Blog: Obama’s Missile Defense Shift

Posted by K.E. White on September 18, 2009

Nukes of Hazard and PONI offer fresh analysis on Obama’s bold move to scrape missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Both blogs show how the move isn’t that drastic. Nukes of Hazard emphasizes that Poland and the Czech Republic face no greater susceptibility to Russian aggression owing to Obama’s missile shield shift. PONI, on the other hand, emphasizes the alternate methods America holds to provide missile security to Poland and the Czech Republic. Both are, in effect, saying ‘chill out’ to critics who see Obama’s shift as abandoning Eastern Europe to menacing Russian designs. (And so is the White House, releasing their four-phase plan for European missile defense)

While I agree with tboth blogs, neither pay much attention to the greatest consequence of Obama’s missile shield shift. The Bush administration pursued a policy of nuclear dominance, pushing for American arms superiority as the best way to promote American security. The Bush White House viewed other powers security interests chiefly determined by their own needs, not contingent on US actions. As such any attempt to scale back nuclear superiority only put American security in the untrustworthy hands of nuclear rivals.

Obama has—to some degree—rejected nuclear dominance as a workable approach to America’s security concerns. Instead he seems to see cooperation with nuclear rivals like Russia and China key to preventing further nuclear proliferation and WMD terrorism. As such, placing bounds on America’s power projection—to allay Chinese and Russian security concerns—is actually in the interest of the United States. Why? Because we can’t have it all: without convincing—i.e. brokering a deal—with other nuclear powers (read: China and Russia) to isolate nations (read: Iran and North Korea) pursuing nuclear programs, stopping these nuclear aspirants will be impossible.

Now, of course, Obama isn’t ushering in complete restrictions on America’s nuclear hand. (Just like Bush didn’t simply reject international cooperation, as shown by PSI) Obama still supports the US-India nuclear deal, and is still willing to push back on creeping Russian influence in Eastern Europe. But he is making it clear certain U.S. actions are off the table.

Will this foster great power cooperation on today’s global dangers? Or merely be used to scale back American influence while yielding no progress towards nonproliferation? Only time will tell.

From Nukes of Hazard:

While supporters of the European proposal are attempting to characterize the Obama administration’s decision as a sign of a slackening U.S. commitment to Eastern European allies or NATO, this is false. First, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen labeled the Obama administration’s decision “a positive first step.” The U.S. relationship with its NATO allies is crucial for European security, restraining Russian aggressiveness, and retaining support for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States is not abandoning missile defense in Europe; it is restructuring capabilities to better counter threats that currently exist.

Second, while Poland and the Czech Republic sought the system in order to secure U.S. support in the face of recent Russian assertiveness, the system was not designed, and the Bush administration reiterated over and over again that it was not intended, to defend these countries against Russia. The United States pledged earlier this year to provide Poland with a Patriot missile battery that will help defend against Russia. The United States also has agreed in recent years to provide Poland and the Czech Republic with F-16 fighters and unmanned aerial vehicles, a sign of Washington’s commitment to their security.

And from PONI, who just unveiled a snazzy new website:

Therefore, the effect of Obama’s decision on our alliance commitments is still up in the air.  If Russia becomes more assertive and bullies our allies (as described in the Reuters article above), without any response from the US, then certainly, our commitment to defending allies will be questioned.  However, if Obama takes other actions to show that the US is committed to the defense of Eastern European allies, it could easily reverse the perception.  This won’t be an easy task…

US commitments to reestablish assurance are underway.  First, Obama’s speech mentioned that the US would continue to work on advancing NATO missile defenses. In the future, this could include NATO capabilities placed in countries like Poland and the Czech Republic.  Second, the United States is not withdrawing all missile defense systems…

According to Lukasz Kulesa of the Polish Institute of International Affairs, these are the types of commitments that the US has to make to assure Poland that we are committed to their defense:

From the perspective of Central Europe’s, the greatest danger…would be to create the impression that NATO has somehow gone soft where its primary function of defending the territories of the member states is concerned…Therefore, such a move it is – if it is agreed within the alliance, would probably need to be somehow balanced by a set of decisions giving credible reassurances on the value of Article V…it’s about putting the physical infrastructure of the alliance within the member state…some of the allies would most probably expect the United States to increase its presence on their territory, though not necessarily by building new bases or new installation. I think the arrangements might be made between Poland and the United States on the nonpermanent deployment of the Patriots anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems in Poland… is an example of such an approach of seeking additional U.S. presence

Kulsea also argues that shifting control of missile defense to NATO could reduce the stigma attached to the system and reduce Russian objections.

The US could make similar commitment [Patriot anti-aircraft] to the Czech Republic or explore other options such as NATO exercises or temporary deployments of US troops that would provide tangible evidence of our commitment to their defense.

The point is that there are still options for assurance.  Obama is already starting to make commitments to make up for the “scrapped” installations.  In the next few weeks and months, Obama must continue to take concrete steps.  The US will need to make other tangible commitments and prevent Russian bullying.  If Obama follows this course, the US will appear as resolved as ever.

Posted in missile defense | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Obama Scales Back on European Missile Shield, Repudiates Bush Administration Policy

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

Today President Obama quashed Bush era plans for constructing long-range missile defense stations in the Czech Republic and Poland. Instead the White House has opted for a system aimed at preventing short-range missles through the Navy’s Aegis system.   The decision follows the recommendations of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen

The move brings back the traditional liberal-conservative divide over the merits of missile defense.

The decision, while ostensibly based on technological considerations, will be seen–by supporters and detractors alike–as a significant policy decision. Long-range missile defense, while offering the greatest security pay-off, also antagonize other nuclear powers–particularly Russia. Focusing on a short-range system suggests a security focus on emerging nuclear threats such as North Korea and Iran.

The Arms Control Association, a fierce critic of the Bush administration’s missile defense policies, welcomes the move and offers this backgrounder. The Heritage Foundation blasts Obama’s move as one of “surrender and betrayal.”

Secretary Gates today responded directly to such criticism:

“Those who say we are scrapping missile defense in Europe [as opposed to re-orientating] are either misinformed or misrepresenting the reality of what we are doing…The security of Europe has been a vital national interest of the United States for my entire career. The circumstances, borders and threats may have changed, but that commitment continues.”

From the New York Times:

President Obama announced on Thursday that he will scrap former President George W. Bush’s planned missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic and instead deploy a reconfigured system aimed more at intercepting shorter-range Iranian missiles.

Mr. Obama decided not to deploy a sophisticated radar system in the Czech Republic or 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland, as Mr. Bush had planned. Instead, the new system his administration is developing would deploy smaller SM-3 missiles, at first aboard ships and later probably either in southern Europe or Turkey, officials said.

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