Proliferation Press

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

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Posts Tagged ‘Nukes of Hazard’

Blog-on-Blog: Will Obama’s START Treaty Pass the Senate?

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

Nukes of Hazard offers some good commentary on whether the U.S.-Russia Prague Treaty (Obama’s ‘New START’) can get the 67 votes necessary for Senate ratification.

Travis Sharp suggests partisan considerations may ultimately decide the treaty’s fate:

But, if they don’t vote solely on their constituents’ interests, what will drive senators’ calculations? Information, ideology, and partisanship would seem to be the three main factors. As in:

1    What type of information do senators receive about the Prague Treaty? Are the deliverers of this information credible? Remember, we haven’t done a real arms control drill for a long time, and nobody knows what the hell is going on.

2    What kind of ideology do senators have about international law, national sovereignty, arms control, and the morality of assured destruction?

3    What does partisanship dictate? Will opposing the Prague Treaty contribute to immediate electoral gains for Republicans? Do Republican senators in tough primaries need to veer right? Does it make more sense for Republicans to acquiesce to Obama now, on a Prague Treaty that is fairly modest, and save the real politico-nuclear savagery for later (read: CTBT)? Will Democrats from more conservative states, some with tough reelection fights, feel comfortable supporting the Prague Treaty?

Methinks number three looms largest in the months ahead.

But will partisan interests be the dominant ratification factor?  Three reasons why not:

First, I think it’s unlikely the 2010 midterms will be dominated by this foreign policy question.  If anything, Afghanistan may be the foreign policy weakness dominating the air-waves—a topic unlikely to help either side.

Second, domestic issues dominate the 2010 landscape.  Why would  Republicans throw out a messaging campaign that works (jobs, debt and incumbent dissatisfaction) by getting into the wonky world of non-proliferation—especially when both the NPR and New Start Treaty preserve America’s nuclear deterrent?

And finally, fighting the treaty may not deliver Republicans the victory they want.  Instead of having air-time devoted to a fight over a judicial nomination or spending disagreements, they will allow Obama to play up his role as Commander-in-Chief.  So not only do they risk they will lose, they haven’t necessarily blocked Obama either:  he can always go the executive agreement route and get by with 60 votes and a House majority.

In sum, I think Sharp’s first factor remains the most important.  First, do Senators make this a priority-one issue to fight or support.  (My guess:  even Obama’s opponents would rather stroke healthcare and debt fears).  Second, is what they are told make the treaty look radical or modest.  It seems most observers, with some exceptions, consider the NPR and New START a modest step.

Result:  I think it’s very likely Republican won’t push back too hard, and save their powder for fights down the road where 1) they have more political influence and 2) are combating a more substantial—and controversial—proposal.

Posted in Blog-on-Blog | 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 »

Thursday’s Hot Blogs: Nukes of Hazard & Satirical Observations

Posted by K.E. White on January 31, 2008

Jeff Lindemyer highlights the FCNL’s updated review of where leading presidential candidates stand on hot button foreign policy topics. Lindemyer breaks it down well, and offers a link to the full report.

And over at Satirical Observations a hilarious—and thoughtful—review of the Democratic response to President Bush’s latest (and perhaps last) State of the Union.

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

Thursday Morning Tea

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

Mirroring the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces around the country, the new counter-proliferation teams “will bring together the prosecutors, the investigating agencies, the export licensing agencies, and the intelligence community to coordinate their efforts against export theft on both the strategic and an operational level,” Wainstein said.

  • The American Interest tackles American grand strategy. Key-word: restraint. But what about solving two thorny dilemmas: stabilizing Iraq and keeping Iran nuclear-weapons free.

Posted in Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Department of Justice, GNEP, HR 1400, Nukes of Hazard, Putin, Russia | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »