Proliferation Press

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

Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

The Nuclear Numbers Game: Global News Wire & Keith Payne’s Worry Over the U.S. Nuclear Umbrella

Posted by K.E. White on May 10, 2011

Global Security Newswire should really contextualize their sources.

In their May 9th piece on Obama’s push to cut the U.S. arsenal, the focus is on former Deputy Aassistant Defense Secretary Keith Payne’s testimony to a Congressional commission.  His main point:  be very wary of cutting the U.S. nuclear arsenal–

Washington provides “extended deterrence” to each of its 27 NATO allies as well as Australia, Japan and South Korea. By doing so, Washington promises to defend partner states with its nuclear arsenal in the event of an attack or the threat of one.

As of one year ago, the Pentagon had 5,113 strategic and tactical warheads in its commissioned nuclear arsenal (see GSN, May 4, 2010). The recently implemented New START pact requires both Russia and the United States to reduce their stocks of deployed long-range nuclear weapons to 1,550.

Payne said the commission heard from “senior voices” in Japan that “the threshold at which point they start to become very worried about the credibility of the U.S. extended nuclear deterrent is if the U.S. starts moving down to 1,000 nuclear warheads.”

“When we start looking at numbers that potentially go well below that, we will be potentially jeopardizing the credibility” of the nuclear umbrella in the eyes of U.S. allies, he said, without detailing the reasoning behind the criticality of the 1,000-weapon count.

Yet, as Fred Kaplan documented in a 2003 article, Payne is not exactly netural when it comes to nuclear assessments:

Payne is not a well-known figure, even in Washington policy circles. But he ought to be. He is the deputy assistant secretary of defense for “forces policy”—essentially, the Pentagon’s top civilian official assigned to the development, procurement, planning, and possible use of nuclear weapons.

For 20 years before he came to the Pentagon at the start of the George W. Bush administration, Payne was at the forefront of a small group of think-tank mavens—outspoken but, at the time, marginal—who argued not only that nuclear weapons were usable, but that nuclear war was, in a meaningful sense, winnable. He first made his mark with an article in the summer 1980 issue of Foreign Policy (written with fellow hawk Colin Gray) called “Victory Is Possible.” Among its pronouncements: “an intelligent United States offensive [nuclear] strategy, wedded to homeland defenses, should reduce U.S. casualties to approximately 20 million … a level compatible with national survival and recovery.” (As Gen. Buck Turgidson, the George C. Scott character in Dr. Strangelove, put it, “I’m not saying we won’t get our hair mussed up, but 10-20 million tops, depending on the breaks.”)

Payne was in his 20s, working for Herman Kahn at the Hudson Institute, at the time he co-wrote the article, but anyone who would dismiss it as youthful extremism should look at a paper he wrote in January 2001, titled “Rationale and Requirements for U.S. Nuclear Forces and Arms Control.” Payne wrote it as president of the National Institute for Public Policy, a conservative research organization in Fairfax, Va. The paper came out of a panel that included Payne’s old colleague Colin Gray, as well as Stephen J. Hadley (who is now Bush’s deputy national security adviser) and Stephen Cambone (now an assistant secretary of defense and a member of Rumsfeld’s inner circle).

The NIPP study was intended as that “coolly reasoned response,” written for the incoming administration. In it, Payne laid out a post-Cold War rationale for the continued deployment of thousands of nuclear weapons and the development of new, specially tailored nukes. Parts of the rationale were fairly routine: to deter a potentially resurgent and hostile Russia, to dissuade rogue regimes from trying to threaten to us, and so forth. But there were some eyebrow-raising parts as well. For instance, Payne noted that, in Operation Desert Storm, allied forces had a hard time finding and hitting Iraqi Scud missiles. In a future war, he wrote, “If the locations of dispersed mobile launchers cannot be determined with enough precision to permit pinpoint strikes, suspected deployment areas might be subjected to multiple nuclear strikes.”

Note the phrasing. It’s startling enough that Payne suggests attacking (even non-nuclear) mobile missiles with nukes. But he goes further, suggesting that we attack whole “areas” where mobile missiles are merely “suspected” to be deployed. And he suggests attacking these with “multiple” nuclear weapons. Payne also argues that nuclear weapons might be needed to destroy “deeply buried facilities … such as underground biological weapons facilities.” He leaves unanswered why simply disabling such a facility—which he admits can be done with conventional weapons—wouldn’t be good enough. He then says the need to destroy these sorts of targets means we cannot afford to make deep cuts in our nuclear arsenal but should instead continue to build new types of nuclear weapons.

Payne is an expert, and should be heard.  But quoting him without any of context fails to convey the concrete costs and benefits of Obama’s push to reduce U.S. nuclear weapons.

Advertisements

Posted in Uncategorized | 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 »

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.

Posted in Diplomacy, Russia | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Does Obama’s Vision of “Nuclear Zero” Score a Zero?

Posted by K.E. White on May 21, 2010

Having no nukes might be the last thing America—or the world—needs right now.

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Abram Shulsky (a better if outdated bio is here) and Douglas J. Feith slam Obama’s goal “nuclear zero” (a commitment to eventual global disarmament).

Douglas J. Feith

While Shulsky and Feith point out logical flaws with the Obama paradigm, they conflate wonkish policy discussion with diplomatic strategy.  Contradiction is no stranger to American foreign policy: look to the Bush Doctrine that combined commitment to expanding global freedom with reliance on authoritarian regimes like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.  Likewise, a world without nuclear arms does present problems.  But the question remains, does this policy plank bring American closer a more secure world.

If the vision of “nuclear zero” corrals Chinese and Russian support for curbing Iran’s nuclear program, or prevents a nuclear tripping point, we can save concerns over a “nuclear zero” world for a distant, and far more secure, future.

Abram N. Shulsky

From Feith and Shulsky’s editorial:

Endorsing nuclear zero makes it even harder for the U.S. government to maintain the nuclear  infrastructure that the president says is essential for our security. Why should a bright young scientist or engineer enter a dying field—especially when innovation is discouraged by support for a permanent ban on weapons testing, and by the renunciation of new weapons development? The NPR states that the administration aims to “enhance recruitment and retention” of technical personnel, but its policies seem sure to drive them away.

The NPR stresses that the world’s nonproliferation regime requires a strong U.S. nuclear umbrella. Yet the proposal can hardly increase confidence in America’s determination to maintain its longstanding global role. U.S. friends overseas worry about their security in a world where America seems determined to shed its burdens as a nuclear power. This will likely spur nuclear proliferation—not discourage it.

President Obama has constructed U.S. nuclear-weapons policy on the assumption that it is helpful to set our goal as the complete abolition of such weapons. But the NPR makes clear that not even the Obama administration can really imagine a world without nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the president’s visionary notions appear likelier to undermine rather than further his own goals of nuclear nonproliferation and stability.

Posted in Nuclear Weapons | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Obama’s Bush Adminstration Holdover: The 9/14/01 Use of Force Doctrine

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

Reason. com points out that the Obama administration keeps one important—and perhaps troubling—holdover from the Bush administration:  the same, expansive legal framework to combat terrorism.   uses the same legal framework.  Read the 9/14/2001 resolution here.

From Reason.com:

But these differences in style mask a sameness in substance that should worry civil libertarians. When it comes to the legal framework for confronting terrorism, President Obama is acting in no meaningful sense any different than President Bush after 2006, when the Supreme Court overturned the view that the president’s war time powers were effectively unlimited. As the Obama administration itself is quick to point out, the Bush administration also tried terrorists apprehended on U.S. soil in criminal courts, most notably “20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui and shoe bomber Richard Reid. More important, President Obama has embraced and at times defended the same expansive view of a global war against Al Qaeda as President Bush.

The U.S. still reserves the right to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely without charge, try them via military tribunal, keep them imprisoned even if they are acquitted, and kill them in foreign countries with which America is not formally at war (including Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan). When Obama closed the secret CIA prisons known as “black sites,” he specifically allowed for temporary detention facilities where a suspect could be taken before being sent to a foreign or domestic prison, a practice known as “rendition.” And even where the Obama White House has made a show of how it has broken with the Bush administration, such as outlawing enhanced interrogation techniques, it has done so through executive order, which can be reversed at any time by the sitting president.

Above all, we must be honest with ourselves. Obama, like Bush, is committed to a long war against an amorphous network of terrorists. In at least the constitutional sense, he is no harder or softer than his predecessor. And like his predecessor, he has not come up with a plan for relinquishing these extraordinary powers once the long war ends, if it ever does. If change is going to come to U.S. policy on terrorism, it will have to come from a bipartisan recognition that Americans cannot trust their government to tell them when they are safe again.

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

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 »

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 »

Will A New Round of Iran Sanctions Have Any Bite?

Posted by K.E. White on April 5, 2010

At Contentions Jennifer Rubin reviews a WSJ article that points out the weakness of current sanctions on Iran.  Specifically the article notes that assets totaling only $43 million have been blocked to the Iranian regime.

But U.S. enforcement is not the problem with the Iranian sanctions.  Instead the problem remains that other countries, significantly Russia and China, do not seize Iranian assets.

Now Rubin is correct to note this grave weakness within the sanctions regime.  But there is a flip side.  While Iran can evade sanctions by going outside the United States or the EU member-states, getting Russia and China to agree to even mild sanctions would have an immediate and profound effect.

So in short, this is all posturing for possible deal-making between P-5 members and Iran.  With reports showing China and Russia possibly on board for sanctions, Iran must be feeling some squeeze.

While Rubin may not consider this enough to deter Iran, she doesn’t really offer another way forward.  And in any case, it only seems fair to size up any new sanctions when they are released.

In related news, Iran remains open to a ‘nuclear swap’ deal—but demands any such swap take place on Iranian territory.  And anyway, maybe the Obama administration has already accepted that Iran will possess nuclear weapons.

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

START’s Tactical Short-Coming: New START’s Silence on Tactical Nuclear Weapons

Posted by K.E. White on April 5, 2010

David E. Hoffman highlights one short-coming of the new START treaty:  its silence on tactical nuclear weapons.

Hoffman’s Foreign Policy article quickly reviews the history of tactical nuclear weapons (surprise:  nuclear watermelons were around in the 1950s).  He then outlines the scale of this nuclear omission, before highlighting a way forward on this troublesome nuclear front.

But just how important are tactical nukes to Obama’s new START treaty?

First it might be useful to look at the history of U.S.-Russian arms control agreements.  If Obama’s ‘New START’ treaty navigates the Senate, it would resurrect a moribund treaty system.  Whatever its shortcomings, simply putting arms control back on the map represents a huge—and as of yet unrealized—accomplishment.

Second, as Hoffman concedes, no treaty has dealt with these pesky weapons.  So Obama’s—and apparently Russia’s—desire to tackle this topic constitutes a grounds for nuclear optimism.

And when it comes to the international significance of ‘New START’, tactical weapons aren’t the name of the game.  Iran and North Korea represent the gravest threats to the established nuclear order.  There the worry is not over tactical nukes, but conventional nuclear weapons.  Reaffirming a commitment to cut nuclear weapons provides Russia and America a trust-building exercise, and helps America’s ability to build international support around a new wave of sanctions against Iran.  Obama’s START shortcoming won’t derail his nuclear security summit this month, nor allow Iran to turn the NPT conference into a battle between nuclear haves and have-nots.

From Hoffman’s article:

The United States is believed to have about 200 tactical nukes in Europe, all of them B61 free-fall gravity bombs to be used with U.S. and allied tactical aircraft, out of 500 total tactical nukes in the active U.S. arsenal. The Russians are estimated to have about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, several hundred in the European part of the country and the remainder in central storage sites.

These smaller warheads have never been covered by a specific treaty, nor are they subject to the kind of verification that is used to prevent cheating in the agreements covering the long-range or strategic weapons, including the nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. What’s more, they are relics of a bygone era, with no military usefulness. There is no longer a Warsaw Pact or a Soviet Union threatening a massive invasion across the Fulda Gap that would have to be stopped with a last-ditch decision to fire off the battlefield nukes.

The United States and others have been reluctant to unilaterally withdraw the weapons, which are believed to be based in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Turkey. Before any arms-control negotiation could get underway, NATO would have to come up with a common position. And others have pointed out that the concept of extended deterrence — the U.S. nuclear umbrella — can be achieved with longer-range weapons and does not rely on the tactical nukes.

An even bigger question mark is whether Russia would be willing to reduce its pile of small nuclear weapons. Probably not any time soon. The expansion of NATO to its borders has left Russia wary, while its conventional or non-nuclear military forces are weaker than in the past. And Russian leaders are alarmed at the long-range precision-guided conventional weapons under development by the United States. Russia has demanded that the United States pull back all the tactical weapons in Europe to its national territory — as Russia has already done — before considering any negotiations.

Pavel Podvig, a physicist and research associate at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, points out that the new Russian military doctrine doesn’t include any specific mission for tactical nuclear weapons. “Of course, nobody in Russia is ready to get rid of them just yet, but it does indicate that the Russians realize that the utility of these weapons is highly questionable, even if they aren’t ready to publicly admit it,” he wrote recently. Podvig made a practical suggestion for moving in phases: Both the United States and Russia would first move all tactical nukes to a central storage facility deep within their national territory, then later deal with verification, transparency, and ultimately elimination.

Posted in Uncategorized | 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 »