Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Putin's Modernization Plan "Grandiose" to Those Who Don't Know Difference between Missiles and Warheads

Vladimir Putin's remarks on military modernization, aired over Russian radio on October 18th, are causing quite a stir. Last Friday, the Times of London quoted the Russian president as follows:

We will develop missile technology including completely new strategic [nuclear] complexes, completely new. Work is continuing successfully. We have plans that are not only big but grandiose, and they are fully realistic. Our armed forces will be more compact but more effective and better ensure Russia defence.
The paper stated that Putin's remarks "signaled the start of a new nuclear arms race," and they received coverage in a variety of news sources. However, a journalistic error made by a large number of papers made the Russian President's modernization declaration seem more inflammatory than it actually was.

Missiles (left) must be distinguished from warheads (right)

In reporting Putin's remarks, news sources including Reuters, Agence France-Presse, AFX, and The Telegraph failed to draw a distinction between the delivery systems for nuclear warheads (i.e. missiles, submarines, and bombers) and the nuclear warheads themselves. This unnecessary ambiguity may have made Putin's remarks--which largely reiterated old news about Russian military modernization--seem like a "signal of a new nuclear arms race."

While the Times omitted sections of Putin's remarks in the quotation above, his exact statement on nuclear modernization (according to the official transcript) was that "We will develop missile technology, including entirely new strategic systems, not just the Topol system with multiple warheads, but also completely new systems."

Putin was clearly referring to the development of new missiles, not new warheads. He explicitly states this initially ("we will develop missile technology"), then specifies the remark in a way that proved confusing for some mainstream media sources. Putin stated that Russia will develop "entirely new strategic systems," (sometimes translated as "strategic complexes"), a fairly vague phrase. However, the meaning is made clear in the subsequent clause, when he contrasts these "completely new systems" with Russia's recent modification of the existing Topol missile system. Putin is talking about new missile systems, not new warheads. This is made still clearer by looking at the broader context of the remark: The subsequent paragraphs discuss comparable modernization plans for submarines and bombers, the other two legs of the "triad" of nuclear delivery systems.

However, the preeminent global news services Agence France-Presse and AFX separately described Putin as announcing the development of "a 'completely new' atomic weapon," the UK's Telegraph reported that Putin had "announced plans to build a new generation of nuclear weapons," and Reuters cited the Russian president as having said that "Russia was working on new types of nuclear weapons as part of a "grandiose" plan to boost the country's defenses."

"Nuclear weapon" is not an acceptable synonym for "missile," even when the missiles in question are designed to carry nuclear warheads. Anyone who read the transcript of Putin's remarks would know that the Russian President was referring to missiles, not warheads, but readers of the AFP, AFX, Reuters, or Telegraph stories would have to draw their own conclusion. And the distinction is important, even to laypersons: "New warheads" suggests a quantitative increase in deployed nuclear weapons, when in fact Russia is slated to decrease its number of deployed nuclear weapons as per the (admittedly flawed) Moscow Treaty.

Had Putin announced the development of a new generation of nuclear warheads, it would be a shocking development in the increasingly tense U.S.-Russian relationship. But Putin was not talking about warheads, he was talking about missiles, and as the Russian Strategic Forces blog observed, Russian plans to develop new missiles are old news:
A closer look [at Putin's remarks on military modernization], however, shows that there was nothing really new there. Russia has been modernizing every single leg of its strategic triad already, so it is somewhat difficult to come up with something on top of that that would be "grandiose" enough to justify the rhetoric.
There are many elements of Russian-U.S. nuclear relations that warrant concern (most notably the imminent expiration of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) but Putin reciting military modernization plans over Russian radio is not among them.

Monday, October 29, 2007

National Security Legislative Wrap-up, October 22-26 2007

Congress has been quiet on the national security front. Key work on national security issues continues to be done behind closed doors in House-Senate conference committees. In one new legislative development on Iran, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced Senate Resolution 356 to require explicit Congressional approval before any offensive military action against Iran.


The Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill is being considered by a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the two bills.

The Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Appropriations bill is being considered by a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the two bills.

The Fiscal Year 2008 Energy and Water Appropriations bill has passed the House and the Senate Appropriations Committee but may never get to the Senate floor, instead going directly to a House-Senate conference as part of a larger package of bills.

The Fiscal Year 2008 State, Foreign Appropriations bill is being considered by a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the two bills.

The Fiscal Year Supplemental Appropriations bill to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- which now totals about $190 billion -- is not likely to be considered until later this year or even early next year. Both Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI) have promised to attach language to bring American troops home from Iraq.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Secrecy Still Surrounds Israeli Strike in Syria

A cloud of secrecy still hovers around the Israeli airstrikes in Syria on September 6. However, two interesting developments have occurred over the past week, one that may soon help to provide answers to numerous unanswered questions, and one that may make those answers more elusive. The IAEA has begun an investigation into the bombings, and Syria has begun dismantling the targeted facility.

Before and after satellite images of the site
(photo from the Institute for
Science and International Security)

Though the U.S. confirmed on September 11 that Israel did in fact launch airstrikes in Syria, few other questions have been answered by unusually quiet Israeli and American officials. Claims that Israel may have struck a nuclear facility linked to North Korea - potentially a huge blow to the recent diplomatic successes in that country as well - emerged early on, and Israeli and North Korean officials have vehemently denied the accusations. Current investigations will hopefully soon provide answers.

Reportedly, U.S. intelligence officials just released to the IAEA satellite images of the attacked site. As George Jahen of the Associated Press reports, this is a crucial step - the first instance of a respected independent group looking for answers to the question of what was hit. Some American officials have stated that the facility appeared similar to a “small but substantial” nuclear reactor in North Korea, but the IAEA has not yet substantiated those reports.

Another news report released the same day stated that Syrian officials had begun to dismantle the site. Even if Syria is honest in claiming that it only has one nuclear facility - which is already known and monitored by the IAEA - this recent action does nothing to reduce suspicions that they had something to hide.

Perhaps, however, they did have nothing to hide. Some experts, including William Arkin, claim that it is illogical and therefore unlikely that North Korea would have provided nuclear weapons know-how and materials to Syria. He argues that the likelihood that they could develop a bomb under a covert weapons program is extremely low.

The possibility that Israeli intelligence did find, however, accurate evidence of a nuclear facility, raises new issues. First are the obvious dangers to non-proliferation and the impact that a covert Syrian weapons program would have on relations in the volatile Middle East. Additionally, however, are concerns related to the response of members of the international community.

Why did Israel feel inclined and authorized to take unilateral military action against the site? Had they reported it to the IAEA, an investigation would have certainly ensued. Arguably, an investigation and potential intervention by the independent and authorized U.N. nuclear watch-dog would have had a better chance at dissuading Syria from pursuing such a program in the long term. Aggressive action by the Israeli military, on the other hand, is much more likely to put even those who would have been opposed to the site on the defensive.

Unfortunately no potential answers will result in positive developments in the already-tenuous relationship between Israel and Syria. The ideal answer - the revelation of no nuclear weapons program in Syria - will reflect poorly on the Israeli choice to strike, while the presence of an undeclared nuclear facility linked to North Korea will have serious implications for the stability of the Israeli-Syria border, wider relations in the Middle East, as well as the nuclear deal with North Korea.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sen. Kyl Urges Opposition to CTBT Provision

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) organized 37 fellow Senators yesterday to oppose a provision in the Defense Authorization bill that urges the ratification of the CTBT.

Contained within a section that outlines the “sense of Congress” on nuclear nonproliferation policy and RRW, Kyl argued on the Senate floor that the provision “undermines the Senate's position on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, CTBT, without the benefit of neither the historical treaty consideration process nor a serious policy debate.” (His full statement can be found at pp. S13357-S13358 of the Congressional Record, but is also included in the comments section.)

Kyl provides five less-than-convincing arguments:

First, that “the U.S. deterrent cannot be maintained without testing.” He posits that given the old age of U.S nuclear weapons, they “require substantial, ongoing modification if they are to be maintained as a viable deterrent,” as proposed under the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. Forgoing testing therefore means uncertainty in the reliability, safety, and credibility of “our most important weaponry.”

Second, that “the treaty is not verifiable.” He asserts, “Militarily significant covert nuclear testing can—and almost certainly will—be conducted at low yields or in other ways aimed at masking the force of an explosion.”

Third, that “the CTBT's unverifiability means a ban will not have uniform effects,” namely that the Treaty’s inability to monitor the state of foreign nuclear weapons programs “means that hostile or potentially hostile countries will be able to modernize their weapons even as the U.S. arsenal steadily degrades,” translating to an “inevitable” unilateral disarmament of the U.S.

Fourth, that the CTBT “would damage the struggle against proliferation.” Not only would the unverifiability of the Treaty “encourage rogue state regimes to believe they could pursue nuclear weapons programs with impunity” but the erosion of the U.S. deterrent would mean that allied countries that currently rely on the U.S. “umbrella” would be more likely to develop their own nuclear weapons.

And lastly, that “the Stockpile Stewardship Program, SSP, is a ‘crap-shoot.’” He contends, “It remains doubtful whether the SSP, supported by CTBT advocates as a substitute for nuclear testing, can adequately meet the maintenance and refurbishment needs of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. As a result, it will become ever more likely that dangerous anomalies in our weapons will pass unnoticed.”

Kyl is correct, however, when he states, “Preordaining the ratification of a treaty, as is done in section 3122 of this bill, does a disservice to the Senate's history of thoughtful consideration of treaties proposed for ratification, especially when the treaties were on issues with the gravity of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.”

There needs to be a thoughtful, bipartisan reconsideration of the CTBT, as suggested by Shultz, Perry, Kissinger and Nunn in their Wall Street Journal op-ed. The necessity – and indeed, urgency – of a fully funded, supported, and implemented CTBT has only increased since the Senate failed to endorse its ratification eight years ago. In fact, given recent technical advances that allow for the increased ability to verifiably detect nuclear testing, CTBT opponents have even less legs to stand on than they did at that time. Support for the Treaty can, should, and must be won.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Short History of North Korea's Nuclear Program, Part I

*Special guest post by Eli Lewine

We have reached yet another crossroads in the future of the North Korean nuclear program. Decisions about economic aid and reactor disablement are in progress at this very moment and by the end of the year we may have further concrete evidence that the North is ready to abandon its nuclear ambitions and begin the process of becoming a part of the international community. Yet there is little reflection on how and why the North Koreans got into the nuclear game in the first place.

To begin, we’ll need to take a spin in the way-back machine as the seeds of North Korea’s nuclear ambition have their origin in the Korean War. The United States had from the very beginning used the implicit threat of nuclear weapons as a coercive tool against the Chinese and North Koreans. In July of 1950, for example, President Truman sent 10 nuclear-armed B-29 bombers into the theater and used phrases such as taking “whatever steps are necessary” in order to stop Chinese intervention.

As the war dragged on, the seemingly endless nature of the conflict pushed President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to again openly consider the use of nuclear weapons. By May of 1953, the National Security Council had decided that references to the nuclear threat would be made in an attempt break the deadlocked war. It took just two months from the time the last round of threats were issued to bring the parties to the table to finalize an armistice. Yet while the crisis of the day had ended, the North Koreans would not forget the lesson that had been taught that year about the coercive power of nuclear weapons.

The North understood that without a nuclear deterrent of their own, they would constantly be at a disadvantage with U.S. military forces and the umbrella they provided to the South. As the Sino-Soviet split became more pronounced, the North realized that they could not count on its two closest allies to provide the deterrent against possible U.S. nuclear strikes. Instead, they would need to follow the principles of juche (self-reliance) and jawi (military self-defense). Initially issued by Kim Il’Sung in late 1955 as a way to strengthen the North Korean political regime, jawi became especially important to the nuclear issue as it demanded that the state build military forces of its own and not rely on those of any other state. Part of this policy would be the development of nuclear technology to counterbalance the American power and serve as diplomatic leverage.

In the decade that followed the end of the war, North Korea sent scientists to both the Soviet Union and China to learn the secrets of nuclear technology. By 1964, North Korea had begun its own nuclear research center in Yongbyon and by the next year, the North had progressed enough to be able to purchase a small research reactor for the facility. At the same time, a major surveying operation found large quantities of natural uranium that would give the North Koreans to ability to fuel their own nuclear research. None of these activities raised the concern of the international community as several other nations were conducting similar experiments in nuclear technology through President Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace initiative.

Over the next 20 years, the North’s nuclear program continued to mature and the country began to flirt with steps to bring its program into compliance with international norms. In 1974, North Korea became a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and by 1977 it had even allowed outside inspectors to come in to view their Soviet-purchased equipment. But by the early 1980s the North seemed to reverse course.

In 1979, North Korea began construction on a new reactor that would quickly become an issue of concern to the West. In his book North Korea and the Bomb, Michael Mazarr describes this reactor,

It was much larger than an average research plant, yet was not attached to any power grid that would allow it to serve as an energy producer. It was also of a design nuclear engineers considered most suitable for one deadly task—making plutonium, a by-product of a nuclear reactor that is a favorite material of bomb builders.

Satellite photos taken in the mid 1980s eventually revealed to the West not only this reactor but also other sites, such as weapons testing grounds and a plutonium reprocessing plant. As the primary sponsor of North Korea’s nuclear program, the Soviet Union was pressured by the U.S. and others to pressure the North Koreans to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and to open its sites to inspection. Mindful of its contribution and not wanting to seem to be violating the NPT’s prohibition against assisting, encouraging or inducing non-nuclear weapon states to acquire nuclear weapons, the U.S.S.R. offered to build large power reactors in North Korea in exchange for the North's ascension to the non-proliferation regime. North Korea signed on the NPT dotted-line in December of 1985.

According to the stipulations of the NPT, however, North Korea had to negotiate an inspections regime with the IAEA, yet it failed to meet the deadline to sign the “safeguards” agreement. Instead, the North Koreans argued that sites that the IAEA wanted to inspect were to be considered sensitive military installations unable to be visited and made the demand that the United States verifiably remove any nuclear weapons it has on the Korean peninsula. Eventually, the U.S. complied with this demand and the Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was signed in 1991.

Lauded as a huge diplomatic victory for the forces of nuclear non-proliferation, the IAEA now had access to North Korean facilities and was on its way to conduct its initial assessment of the current status of the North’s nuclear program. The George HW Bush Administration felt that the issue was now on the correct path towards resolution and turned to domestic matters it considered to be more pressing, such as an economic recession and the upcoming presidential election. Little did the U.S. know, however, that by not continuing to help facilitate cooperation between the North Koreans and the IAEA, the inspections regime would falter and lead to an even greater crisis; a crisis that would be left to the incoming Clinton Administration to handle.

Stay tuned for part II...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Congressional Schedule for DoD and DoE Bills

Provided below is an updated schedule of Congressional action on key Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Energy (DoE) bills, as prepared by David Culp of FCNL.

Note: These dates are estimates and subject to delay.

Monday, October 22, 2007

National Security Legislative Wrap-up, October 15-19 2007

Last week, the House passed one more minor bill on Iraq condemning the State Department for withholding from the public information about corruption in Iraq. Key work on national security issues is being done behind closed doors in House-Senate conference committees.


The Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill is being considered by a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the two bills.

The Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Appropriations bill is being considered by a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the two bills.

The Fiscal Year 2008 Energy and Water Appropriations bill has passed the House and the Senate Appropriations Committee but may never get to the Senate floor, instead going directly to a House-Senate conference as part of a larger package of bills.

The Fiscal Year 2008 State, Foreign Appropriations bill is being considered by a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the two bills.

The Fiscal Year Supplemental Appropriations bill to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- which now totals about $190 billion -- is not likely to be considered until later this year or even early next year. Both Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI) have promised to attach language to bring American troops home from Iraq.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sens. Clinton and McCain on Nuke and Nonpro Issues

Continuing in its series, Foreign Affairs recently published its third batch of essays by presidential candidates, this time by Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and John McCain (R-AZ). Provided below are the portions relevant to nuclear weapons and nonproliferation issues; key points are bolded.

Security and Opportunity for the Twenty-first Century
By Hillary Rodham Clinton

… As the only senator serving on the Transformation Advisory Group established by the U.S. Joint Forces Command, I have had the chance to explore these issues in detail. Ongoing military innovation is essential, but the Bush administration has undermined this goal by focusing obsessively on expensive and unproven missile defense technology while making the tragically misguided assumption that light invasion forces could not only conquer the Taliban and Saddam Hussein but also stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq.


…The Bush administration refuses to talk to Iran about its nuclear program, preferring to ignore bad behavior rather than challenge it. Meanwhile, Iran has enhanced its nuclear-enrichment capabilities, armed Iraqi Shiite militias, funneled arms to Hezbollah, and subsidized Hamas, even as the government continues to hurt its own citizens by mismanaging the economy and increasing political and social repression.

As a result, we have lost precious time. Iran must conform to its nonproliferation obligations and must not be permitted to build or acquire nuclear weapons. If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table.

On the other hand, if Iran is in fact willing to end its nuclear weapons program, renounce sponsorship of terrorism, support Middle East peace, and play a constructive role in stabilizing Iraq, the United States should be prepared to offer Iran a carefully calibrated package of incentives. This will let the Iranian people know that our quarrel is not with them but with their government and show the world that the United States is prepared to pursue every diplomatic option.

Like Iran, North Korea responded to the Bush administration's effort to isolate it by accelerating its nuclear program, conducting a nuclear test, and building more nuclear weapons. Only since the State Department returned to diplomacy have we been able, belatedly, to make progress.

Neither North Korea nor Iran will change course as a result of what we do with our own nuclear weapons, but taking dramatic steps to reduce our nuclear arsenal would build support for the coalitions we need to address the threat of nuclear proliferation and help the United States regain the moral high ground. Former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and former Senator Sam Nunn have called on the United States to "rekindle the vision," shared by every president from Dwight Eisenhower to Bill Clinton, of reducing reliance on nuclear weapons.

To reassert our nonproliferation leadership, I will seek to negotiate an accord that substantially and verifiably reduces the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. This dramatic initiative would send a strong message of nuclear restraint to the world, while we retain enough strength to deter others from trying to match our arsenal. I will also seek Senate approval of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by 2009, the tenth anniversary of the Senate's initial rejection of the agreement. This would enhance the United States' credibility when demanding that other nations refrain from testing. As president, I will support efforts to supplement the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Establishing an international fuel bank that guaranteed secure access to nuclear fuel at reasonable prices would help limit the number of countries that pose proliferation risks.

In the Senate, I have introduced legislation to accelerate and reinvigorate U.S. efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism. As president, I will do everything in my power to ensure that nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and the materials needed to make them are kept out of terrorists' hands. My first goal would be to remove all nuclear material from the world's most vulnerable nuclear sites and effectively secure the remainder during my first term in office.

Statesmanship is also necessary to engage countries that are not adversaries but that are challenging the United States on many fronts. Russian President Vladimir Putin has … tested the United States and Europe on a range of nonproliferation and arms reduction issues. Putin has also suppressed many of the freedoms won after the fall of communism, created a new class of oligarchs, and interfered deeply in the internal affairs of former Soviet republics.

It is a mistake, however, to see Russia only as a threat. … We need to engage Russia selectively on issues of high national importance, such as thwarting Iran's nuclear ambitions, securing loose nuclear weapons in Russia and the former Soviet republics... At the same time, we must make clear that our ability to view Russia as a genuine partner depends on whether Russia chooses to strengthen democracy or return to authoritarianism and regional interference.

An Enduring Peace Built on Freedom
Securing America's Future
By John McCain

Our counterterrorism efforts cannot be limited to stateless groups operating in safe havens. Iran, the world's chief state sponsor of terrorism, continues its deadly quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. Protected by a nuclear arsenal, Iran would be even more willing and able to sponsor terrorist attacks against any perceived enemy, including the United States and Israel, or even to pass nuclear materials to one of its allied terrorist networks. The next president must confront this threat directly, and that effort must begin with tougher political and economic sanctions. If the United Nations is unwilling to act, the United States must lead a group of like-minded countries to impose effective multilateral sanctions, such as restrictions on exports of refined gasoline, outside the UN framework. America and its partners should also privatize the sanctions effort by supporting a disinvestment campaign to isolate and delegitimize the regime in Tehran, whose policies are already opposed by many Iranian citizens. And military action, although not the preferred option, must remain on the table: Tehran must understand that it cannot win a showdown with the world.


North Korea's totalitarian regime and impoverished society buck these trends. It is unclear today whether North Korea is truly committed to verifiable denuclearization and a full accounting of all its nuclear materials and facilities, two steps that are necessary before any lasting diplomatic agreement can be reached. Future talks must take into account North Korea's ballistic missile programs, its abduction of Japanese citizens, and its support for terrorism and proliferation.


The nuclear nonproliferation regime is broken for one clear reason: the mistaken assumption behind the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that nuclear technology can spread without nuclear weapons eventually following. The next U.S. president must convene a summit of the world's leading powers -- none of which have an interest in seeing a world full of nuclear-armed states -- with three agenda items. First, the notion that non-nuclear-weapons states have a right to nuclear technology must be revisited. Second, the burden of proof for suspected violators of the NPT must be reversed. Instead of requiring the International Atomic Energy Agency board to reach unanimous agreement in order to act, as is the case today, there should be an automatic suspension of nuclear assistance to states that the agency cannot guarantee are in full compliance with safeguard agreements. Finally, the IAEA's annual budget of $130 million must be substantially increased so that the agency can meet its monitoring and safeguarding tasks.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Yongbyon from Above

Click below to watch an amazing 3D video flythrough video of the nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, North Korea produced by Satellite Image Corp. (HT to Andreas Persbo of Verification.)

Note: This video (22 MB) requires a broadband connection and the QuickTime media player.

For a better viewing experience, please wait until the movie has completely downloaded before playing it.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Putin's Tongue-in-Cheek Proposal to Expand the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

Over the last six months, Russia has repeatedly indicated that it is considering withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), an arms control agreement signed in 1987 whereby the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to destroy all ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km.

A component of a Pershing Missile destroyed in 1988 under the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (photo from the Army's "Pershing Photo Archive")

Last Saturday, during high-level talks in Moscow, Putin offered a new angle on the withdrawal threat:
We need other international participants to assume the same obligations which have been assumed by the Russian Federation and the US. If we are unable to attain such a goal ... it will be difficult for us to keep within the framework of the treaty in a situation where other countries do develop such weapons systems, and among those are countries in our near vicinity.
Though Putin was not explicit, Russian neighbors with ballistic missile programs include Iran, Pakistan, India, and China. At first glance, Putin's demand seems compelling: Fairness would seem to dictate a broadening of the treaty's membership, and Central Asia could certainly benefit from more arms control. However, Putin's proposal is so impractical as to be practically tongue-in-cheek. As the Times of London observed in an editorial,
Mr. Putin's declaration that the INF treaty should become a global agreement was a clever stalling tactic because he knows that it would take years, if ever, to achieve such a deal.
The problem with Putin's proposal--which the Russian president is surely aware of--is that Russia and the United States were able to sign an Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty only because they had substantial arsenals of longer-range Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM). When INF was signed, the United States had 1000 ICBM launchers with 2,300 warheads, and the Soviet Union had 1,418 ICBM launchers with 6,872 warheads (figures courtesy of the Natural Resources Defense Council). Now, besides China, none of Russia's Asian neighbors have ICBMs: "intermediate-range" missiles are actually the longest range missiles in their arsenals.

But destroying intermediate-range missiles when a state has an arsenal of longer range missiles--as the US and Russia did via the INF treaty--is strategically incomparable to destroying those same missiles when they are the longest-range weapons in a state's arsenal.

Putin's laments about being at an unfair disadvantage relative to his neighbors are thus disingenuous--Russia did not, and could not, have signed INF until it had ICBMs, and it does not make sense to expect other countries to act differently. And while Russia may be targeted by its neighbors' intermediate range missiles, as Jacob Quamme of the Center for Defense Information explained, Russia is more than capable of deterring those states, even though it has no missiles with intermediate ranges.
Russian ICBMs do require minimum distances in order to be effective; however, Russia's growing fleet of road-mobile Topol-M missiles, rail-mobile systems and submarine-launched ballistic missiles can be positioned so as to put required targets within range relatively easily. Alternatively, air-launched cruise missiles are not restricted under the INF Treaty and could be used effectively in a hypothetical conflict.
As such, Russia is put at no practical disadvantage by the Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles of its neighbors, nor is it "unfair" for those countries to remain outside the treaty that Russia signed, given the substantial Russian arsenal of ICBMs.

Halting the proliferation of ballistic missiles globally is a security necessity, but a Russian withdrawal from INF would be as counterproductive as it would be unjustified
. President Bush should avoid being side-tracked by this red herring of an arms control proposal, and work to ameliorate the U.S.-Russian tensions that are the real cause of Putin's interest in INF withdrawl.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

U.S.-India Nuclear Deal Near Collapse

For those who haven't read the good news yet, recent reports indicate that the U.S.-India nuclear deal may be about to collapse. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told President Bush on Monday that "certain difficulties" will prevent the country from moving forward on the pact for the foreseeable future.

A major blow to both the Bush and Singh administrations, the deal appears to have been brought down by the Communists who threatened to withdraw from Singh’s coalition government and call for early elections.

Despite Bush administration claims that “it’s not dead,” the outlook is not good. India may eventually pursue negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), but that’s not likely, at least not in the near term.

As noted by the Center's Executive Director, John Isaacs: "Nuclear non-proliferation efforts may have dodged a bullet. If implemented, this deal would have driven a hole through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which for decades has stood as our first line of defense against nuclear weapons spreading to dozens of countries."

The "Cool War"?

Elements of Cold War tensions between the United States and Russia seemed to resurface during missile defense talks last week. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates traveled to Russia in an effort to address Russian concerns regarding the U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in the Eastern Europe.

Yet Rice's talk of "promises," "the common good," "commitment," and the issues that "unite" the two countries apparently did little to calm Russia's concerns, especially when preceded by statements that the plan to build receptors in Poland and place radar in the Czech Republic was non-negotiable. According to Reuters, Rice commented, "we have been very clear that we need the Czech and Polish sites."

Though the Bush administration claims that the sites are necessary to intercept Iranian missiles, Russia fears that such a system could make ineffective its own ability to launch ICBMs and deter a nuclear attack. Putin opened the talks with sarcastic remarks at what was supposed to be a photo-op, rebuking the administration for its plans and touching on the topic of U.S. imperialism in world affairs, and again threatened to withdraw from the Conventional Forces in Europe pact and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

As much as Bush might want to argue that countries "are either with us or against us," the world is much more complex than such a dichotomous description allows. While that may have been appropriate for the bipolar Cold War world, our relationship with Russia is, though less immediately threatening, in a number of ways more complex. Russia may be an adversary on some issues, including its friendliness with Iran, we nevertheless need its cooperation on this and other issues.

The level of tension between our two countries has the power to drastically impact our other foreign policy goals. The tension exhibited at last week's meeting in response will prove a formidable challenge to negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, as well as other non-proliferation issues such as negotiating a successor agreement to START in 2009.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Philip Coyle on Proposed Missile Defense Cuts

A little bit delayed but member of the Center's National Advisory Board and senior adviser at CDI, Philip Coyle, recently put out a terrific piece in Defense News (password required) on the proposed cuts to the missile defense sites in Eastern Europe and the Airborne Laser program.

Missile Defense Folly: Cuts to Proposed U.S. Site in Europe, ABL, Well Aimed
By Philip Coyle
Defense News
October 1, 2007

U.S. lawmakers have cut the weakest portions of the president’s $10 billion-plus missile defense spending request for 2008: funding for the proposed U.S. missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic and possibly part of the budget of the futuristic airborne laser (ABL).

Several more steps remain before Congress completes the missile defense budget for the coming fiscal year. However, considering the harm the proposal is doing to U.S. relations with Europe and Russia, and the unproven state of the technology, the cuts taken so far are well justified.

The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) requested $310 million in 2008 for a missile defense site in Eastern Europe, supposedly to defend Europe and the United States from Iranian missiles. However, Czech citizens and the Russian government strongly oppose a Czech Republic site. While Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed several practical alternatives, President Bush is pressing ahead with the European site, eager to pour concrete before his term is up.

Reacting to the proposed U.S. missile defense sites so close to Russian borders, Putin announced the development of new ICBMs, warned that its nuclear weapons might have to be aimed at Europe and threatened to pull out of the treaty restricting deployments of conventional forces in Europe if Bush does not reconsider. These moves could potentially reignite the Cold War — or worse.

More to the point, the missile defense system being proposed for Poland and the Czech Republic has no demonstrated capability to defend Europe, let alone the United States, under realistic operational conditions. This is because the ground-based missile defense system, after which the planned European interceptor configuration would be modeled, has failed half the time in flight intercept tests, even though those tests have been scripted to improve the chances for success.

The MDA says it believes its European system would provide a rudimentary capability against an “unsophisticated threat,” meaning one or maybe two missiles fired from Iran with no decoys or countermeasures. Does the Pentagon really believe that Iran would attack Europe or the United States with only one missile and then sit back and wait for the consequences?

Cut the ABL, Too

Another program being debated by Congress, the ABL, is prompting different responses from Congress. The House and Senate Armed Services committees recommended serious cuts to the program, while appropriators in the House suggested a smaller drop in ABL’s funding and Senate appropriators recommended funding it in full.

The primary cause of the debate is the enormous technological hurdles that the program faces. To achieve enough power to damage an enemy missile, six massive laser systems, each the size of a Chevy Suburban sport utility vehicle set on end, are to be carried aboard a jumbo 747 cargo aircraft. The beams from these six lasers are to be combined and aimed at an enemy missile through a turret in the nose of the aircraft.

Understandably, directing a high-powered laser beam through the atmosphere at a target is very challenging. The atmosphere itself interferes with and weakens the beam, and if the target is rotating, as missiles do, or is too reflective, the laser could bounce off without doing any damage.

Moreover, to keep one 747 in the air within range of an enemy missile launch site 24/7, the Air Force would need multiple ABL aircraft, all carrying big lasers. Those aircraft would need to fly close to enemy territory, where they would be vulnerable targets themselves. And if the enemy can launch more than one missile, the chemicals that power the lasers carried on board those 747s would quickly be exhausted.

Even if the ABL worked, which it doesn’t, it would be ineffective in battle. A recent Congressional Research Service report pointed out that the ABL “would likely not have chemical replenishment capabilities, which would necessitate return flights to the United States if the laser is used.”

Thus, the CRS says, the “enemy could wait until an orbiting ABL is being refueled, or is absent before initiating a missile attack.”

The Pentagon plans to purchase seven ABL aircraft, though no production would take place until the second ABL is tested. Maintaining a full ABL orbit likely would require five aircraft. The MDA claims one ABL orbit can defend against all launch points in North Korea, but it admits larger countries, such as Iran, would require more than one orbit and many more costly ABL aircraft.

MDA estimates it will spend a total of $5.1 billion on the first ABL aircraft through 2009. However, a year ago the Pentagon decided not to purchase enough aircraft to cover even a single enemy missile launch site.

Congress should not throw good money after bad. The truth is that lawmakers could have made much deeper cuts in missile defense; saved the taxpayers money; or spent it on higher-priority needs, such as the near-term threats that U.S. soldiers and Marines face in Iraq every day from improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and suicide bombs. By cutting funds for the missile defense programs, Congress is telling the president that he needs to sort out his priorities.

National Security Legislative Wrap-up, October 8-12 2007

Last week, the House passed one more minor bill on Iraq written to crack down on war profiteering. This week, the House may adopt a resolution condemning the State Department for withholding from the public information about corruption in Iraq. The Senate returns to session after last week's recess, but has no major national security legislation scheduled.


The Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill is being considered by a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the two bills.

The Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Appropriations bill is being considered by a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the two bills.

The Fiscal Year 2008 Energy and Water Appropriations bill is in limboland, having passed the House and the Senate Appropriations Committee and is awaiting further action.

The Fiscal Year Supplemental Appropriations bill to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- which now totals about $190 billion -- is not likely to be considered until later this year or even early next year. Both Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI) have promised to attach language to bring American troops home from Iraq.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Six-Nation Survey on Nuclear Weapons Yields Mixed Results

The Simons Foundation and Angus Reid Strategies recently released a six-nation survey on citizens' views toward nuclear weapons. The good news is that over 70% of the publics in Britain, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, and the U.S. think that nuclear weapons make the world a more dangerous place. The bad news is that, in spite of this, opinion in these countries differs significantly as to who should possess nuclear weapons, who should develop them, and when they should be used.

Conducted late this summer amidst concerns over nuclear weapon development in Iran and North Korea, issues surrounding the U.S.-India nuclear deal, and the consideration of new nuclear weapons in the U.S., the poll yields some interesting results. Overall, opposition to nuclear weapons was strongest in Germany and Italy and weakest in Israel, with Britain, France, and the U.S. generally falling somewhere in between.

On Their Country's Non-Proliferation Goals
When answering the question, "What should be the goal of your country's national government when it comes to nuclear weapons?" respondents in all countries agree on the whole that the world needs to have less nuclear weapons. However, they disagree strongly as to the degree of change needed. A plurality of respondents in Britain (50.9%), Italy (68.5%), Germany (80.7%), and the U.S. (48.7%) voted for "eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide," while a relative majority in France (44.6%) and Israel (45.8%) voted only to reduce stockpiles.

While stockpiles perhaps should be reduced worldwide, respondents don't necessarily want this to happen in their own countries. Almost forty percent of respondents in Britain, France, and the US selected, "Nuclear weapons place [my country] in a unique position, so it is not in our interest to participate in treaties that would reduce or eliminate our nuclear arsenal." Over 70% of Israeli respondents argue the same.

On the Justified Use of Nuclear Weapons
A greater number of respondents maintain that the use of either their country or NATO (in the cases of Italy and Germany) would be justified in their use of nuclear weapons than the first question (on the goals to reduce or eliminate nukes) might lead you to believe. Less than half of respondents in Britain, France, Israel, and the U.S., believe that "it would never be justified." 45.5% of respondents in Britain, 52.1% in France, 45.1% in the U.S., and a whopping 71.6% in Israel believe that the use of nuclear weapons by their country would be justified either in the context of an actual war or as a deterrent against a possible attack. Germans (76.9%) and Italians (76.9%) responded overwhelmingly that the use of nuclear weapons would never be justified.

On the Survey Itself
While it does provide more comprehensive results per country, one weakness of the Simon Foundation's poll is the limited scope of its "global" nature. For data from additional countries, see Nukes of Hazard's previous post on the Pew Research Center's data collected earlier this year. Even within its limited scope, however, this new poll succeeds in surveying a variety of countries—from those that possess nuclear weapons (Britain, France, and the U.S), to one that under a policy of "strategic ambiguity" has refused to discuss its program (Israel), to participants of NATO's nuclear sharing concept who do not produce their own weapons (Germany and Italy).

And on one final note, on all but two questions, the United States placed embarrassingly high on the percentage of people who were "unsure" of nuclear policies when compared to the other countries surveyed. Regarding a question on individuals' views toward the NPT and nuclear sharing, the survey's analysis finds Americans "particularly unaware." In a world where the United States possesses the influence and potential leadership capacity that it does, this seems especially frightening. If you're reading this, you're likely not in that group--let's work on making these issues a topic of discussion.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

North Korea: How Far We Have Come

*Guest post from Eli Lewine

One year ago yesterday, the prospect of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula looked grim. Six Party negotiations had ground to a halt over banking sanctions imposed on North Korea by the United States and the parties had not met in close to a year. The North Koreans, ever the provocateurs, decided to push the envelope by conducting their first nuclear test. Countries across the globe expressed their condemnation of the North’s actions and the UN quickly passed another round of sanctions.

Yet somehow, this event proved to be a catalyst for rethinking the current situation and prompted the renewal of international diplomatic efforts. Within two months, the Six Party negotiations had resumed and all parties restated their commitment to the denuclearization agreement reached in September of 2005.

President Bush even took the unprecedented step of giving the go-ahead for bilateral negotiations between U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill and the North Korean negotiator Kim Kye Gwan. In his 2003 campaign against John Kerry, Bush had consistently belittled this approach as a “naive and dangerous” policy that had already proved to be a failure under the Clinton Administration. But now Bush and his team really wanted the diplomatic effort to move forward so he sent Hill to Berlin to discuss how the banking sanctions issue could be resolved. The accord they reached there opened the door to the comprehensive agreement reached in February of this year.

Now we are seeing international inspectors once again inside North Korea determining exactly how their nuclear facilities can be disabled by the end of the year. The North has even agreed to provide a complete accounting of all its facilities, including anything related to a possible uranium enrichment program. Skepticism still remains, and rightly so. But not since the Agreed Framework of 1994 have we been so close to achieving our goal of disarming this dangerous nation.

There are several factors that may have contributed to this turn around in diplomacy. Many point to the fact that one of the major opponents of this track in the Administration, Vice President Dick Cheney, may have lost much of his influence as a result of the Scooter Libby scandal. Others would say that the sanctions on North Korea, combined with severe flooding and crop failures have left their leadership with little choice but to come to an accommodation. The Chinese have also played a much stronger roll in coercing the North Koreans by condemning the nuclear test and reducing their aid to the impoverished nation. Whatever the answer, it is undeniable that significant progress has been made in direction of controlling and disabling the North Korean nuclear program.

The North Korean media commemorated this anniversary by calling the test a “truly great miracle” for their nation. The real miracle, however, has been how far we have come since then.

Stars Aligning Against RRW?

Efforts to build a new generation of nuclear weapons suffered yet another setback with the recent release of a declassified executive summary by JASON, an independent scientific advisory body tasked by Congress to review the technical viability of the Bush administration's plans for new nuclear warheads.

The group concluded that the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) "needs further development" before it can be certified and enter the U.S. weapons stockpile without underground nuclear testing. In order for this certification to happen, JASON believes "additional experiments and analyses are needed" to explore possible failures of the nuclear warhead and the new manufacturing processes contemplated for building it.

As noted by CDI’s Todd Fine, “Altogether, the summary findings indicate that many of the enhanced security and safety features and new manufacturing processes used to justify the RRW program could actually add significant uncertainty to the performance of the design. As a result, the program in its current form might produce a warhead less reliable than previous approaches.”

This on top of last year’s Department of Energy report that found that the lifetime of the cores of existing nuclear warheads is at least 100 years, roughly double the Department’s original estimate of 45 years, significantly undercutting claims that the new warheads are needed.

What’s more is that RRW’s biggest advocate, Sen. Pete Domenici, announced last week that he’s retiring at the end of his term next year. A long-time chair (though now ranking member) of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, Domenici made securing funds for RRW one of his top priorities. Even in the event that Domenici’s vacated seat is won by another major cheerleader for the program, such as Rep. Heather Wilson, that candidate would still not have his committee seniority and therefore the same ability to forcefully steer funds towards RRW.

All of this comes as international opposition to RRW continues to mount. As noted by Doug Shaw, most recent evidence of this comes from Malaysian Ambassador Arshad Hussain who was speaking on behalf Non-Aligned Movement signatories and ratifiers of the CTBT last month. Hussain made clear that the group views the development of new nuclear weapons, including RRW, as being “in contravention not only with the undertakings provided by the nuclear weapon States at the time of the conclusion of the CTBT, but also with the Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Will RRW go the way of the dodo and the nuclear bunker buster? Time will tell, but in the meantime, my fingers are crossed.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

National Security Legislative Wrap-up, October 1-5 2007

Last week, Congress passed and sent to conference the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill and the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Appropriations bill. Both measures now go to conference with the House to agree on a common bill. The House adopted some measures related to Iraq that did little to stop the war, including the Abercrombie (D-HI) - Tanner (D-TN) bill to require the Secretary of Defense to submit a report on redeployment planning for Iraq. This week, the House is in session while the Senate is in recess for the Columbus Day holiday. The House is slated to consider H.R. 400, a bill introduced by Rep. Abercrombie (D-HI) to crack down on war profiteering.



On October 1, the Senate approved the bill by a 92 - 3 vote. The bill now goes to conference committee with the House.


On October 3, the Senate completed consideration of the bill, approving it by voice vote. A Feingold (D-WI) amendment to remove most troops from Iraq by June 30, 2008 was rejected 28 - 60. A Kyl (R-AZ) amendment to restore $10 million for the Space Test Bed program was withdrawn under fire. The bill now goes to conference committee with the House.

The portion of the request to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- which now totals about $190 billion -- is not likely to be considered until later this year or even early next year. Both Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI) have promised to attach language to this Supplemental Appropriations Bill to bring American troops home from Iraq.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Senator Kyl Attempts to Sell Space-Based Missile Defense as Satellite Protection

Last week, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) attempted to amend the Senate Defense Appropriations bill to re-insert funding for the "space-based test bed" -- preliminary research into the development of three or more prototype weaponized satellites designed to intercept ballistic missiles launched from the ground. Kyl's case for funding the project was that it was a step towards the development of active defenses for American satellites against anti-satellite weapons, and that it was not necessarily a missile defense project. However, an examination of the budget request for the test bed casts serious doubt on Kyl's argument, indicating that the test bed is quite simply a missile defense program.

Kyl with President Bush at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2002

The space-based test bed is seen by critics as a dangerous step into a space arms race and a far-fetched, extraterrestrial extension of the already troubled National Missile Defense program. As such, funding for the program has been eliminated by all four budget committees (Armed Services and Appropriations Committees in both the House and Senate). Kyl attempted to re-insert funding for the program by amendment on the floor of the Senate. Jeffrey Lewis posted a transcript of the debate on the Senate floor between Kyl and Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) over Kyl's attempt to fund the project.

The exchange illustrated the complex relationship between missile defense and satellite defense. In pushing for the funding of the "space-based test bed" of weaponized satellites, Kyl attempted to distance the pilot program from the increasingly unpopular national missile defense system, and re-categorize it as a satellite defense system. This maneuver was made somewhat difficult by the fact that Kyl was lobbying to re-insert the space based test bed into its original position -- in the budget for missile defense. As Senator Nelson observed, "the proposed space test bed in a missile defense program is a missile defense program, not a space asset protection program."

Kyl replied:
The space-based test bed is one of the places in which we could develop proof of concept that could be effective both for our satellites and, yes, also for an attack by a hostile missile because that is where this program started, it is in the missile defense budget...It is theoretically possible that a concept would be developed to protect against a hostile missile attack with some kind of a space-based program.
The space-based test bed is not just in the Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) budget because "that is where the program started," it is in their budget because it is a missile defense project. Moreover, it is more than "theoretically possible" that the space-based test bed would be used for missile defense. Senator Kyl's assertions aside, the best guide to the purpose of the space-based test bed (and the $10 million that Kyl and the MDA propose spending on it in FY2008) is the Missile Defense Agency's budget justification, available here (p. 19).

While Kyl attempts to distance the test bed from missile defense, the first item in the planned program for the space-based test bed in FY'08 is to "Initiate formal steps for potential integration [of the test bed] into the BMDS [Ballistic Missile Defense System] architecture." Which is to say, money spent on the space-based test bed is money spent in pursuit of space-based missile defense. Moreover, the budget justification doesn't say a single word about using the test bed as a way to develop technology to defend satellites, which flies in the face of Kyl's argument in support of the system.

Fortunately, Kyl's attempt to re-insert funding for the test bed failed: This congress does not want to fund space-based missile defense, and as Senator Nelson accurately argued, the test bed is a missile defense program, while satellite defense research is funded through other areas of the budget.

But while Congress' stand against space-based weapons is admirable, their control over covert weapons systems has its limits. Sam Black at the Center for Defense Information observed last year:

While the budget for this program [i.e. the space-based test bed] shrank, the annual budgets for classified MDA programs grew tremendously. If unclassified program budgets are shrinking while timetables remain stable, this could be a sign that the Space Test Bed is receiving funds from classified accounts, and so has even less accountability than it did previously.

Insofar as Black's speculation is accurate, it testifies to the limits of congressional power and the importance of electing a president in 2008 who is willing to pursue space security through international law, rather than extraterrestrial weapons.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Daalder and Holum: U.S. Should Aim for World Free of Nuclear Weapons

Should the United States aim to achieve a world free of all nuclear weapons?

The answer, as laid out in a terrific op-ed by Ivo Daalder and John Holum in the Boston Globe, is a resounding yes.

Nearly 20 years after the Cold War ended, the time has come to make a concerted effort to verifiably rid the world of all nuclear weapons. The United States must start by recognizing that the threats it confronts have changed and so, consequently, has the role and purpose of our nuclear weapons.


Tomorrow's nuclear threats are different. They are that unstable regimes or, worse, nihilistic terrorists get their hands on a bomb and use it. This threat is becoming more real as nuclear technology and materials spread around the world. The first order of business must be to ensure that all the nuclear weapons and materials in Russia and elsewhere are safe and secure. While recognizing the threat of loose nukes and materials, this administration has done far too little to make sure this happens. The next administration must do better.

The second order of business, though, is to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in order to ease the road to their elimination. The only reason the United States should maintain nuclear weapons is because others have them. There cannot be another purpose. We don't need them to deter a non-nuclear attack on ourselves or our allies; our conventional forces can deal with those contingencies. We certainly don't need them to attack some far-away or deeply buried targets, because there isn't a target whose destruction is worth breaking the 62-year-old taboo against using a single nuclear weapon.

Given this limited role for nuclear weapons, there is much that the United States can do to lift the dark nuclear shadow over the world. It can sharply reduce its nuclear stockpile to 1,000 weapons or less, if Russia agrees to go down to the same level. It can eliminate tactical nuclear weapons to underscore that it understands that a nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon, no matter its size, yield, range, or mode of delivery. It can agree never to produce highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes, and accept the need for intrusive verification if other states agree to end such production as well. It can commit never again to test a nuclear device, and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

If the United States were to do all these things, it would make clear, to our citizens and the world, that it is serious about tackling the nuclear danger. It would reestablish the nation as the leader of the global nuclear nonproliferation movement. Above all, it would make the world a much safer place.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Victory for Non-Proliferation and Diplomacy

*Guest post from Katie Mounts

President Bush's "Axis of Evil" may soon be one less. In no small victory for diplomacy and non-proliferation, recent six party talks yielded a nuclear deal with North Korea.

Under the deal, North Korea agrees to disable all activities at its main nuclear complex in Pyongyang and to report on all of its current nuclear programs by the end of this year. NSC spokesperson Gordon Johndroe stated, "These second-phase actions effectively end the DPRK's production of plutonium – a major step towards the goal of achieving the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," reported the New York Times.

Beyond the more immediate success in North Korea, this agreement is a victory for advocates of diplomacy in the face of nuclear disagreements, most notably the case of Iran. Bush's newfound commitment to diplomacy through Christopher Hill has resulted in what provocative language and threats of military action have not in Iran: the first major steps toward transparency and denuclearization.

The New York Times printed an excellent editorial yesterday, entitled "Score One for Diplomacy." Some of the high points are included below.

If North Korea lives up to its promise to begin disabling key parts of its nuclear program within weeks, and to finish the job by year’s end, the world will be a safer place. To get this deal, the Bush administration, after dragging its feet for four years, displayed an admirable and all too rare mixture of diplomatic creativity, flexibility, patience and follow-through. To keep it moving forward, it will need even more.

Like all diplomatic deals worth their salt, both sides had to give up a lot. North Korea’s paranoid leadership has agreed to a degree of transparency few would have predicted. A team of American experts is expected to travel to North Korea next week to begin the disabling, at America’s expense, of its nuclear reactor, plutonium separation plant and other parts of its Yongbyon nuclear complex.


With both sides playing against type, there is bound to be very tough moments ahead. This week’s agreement is already months behind schedule, and Pyongyang will likely delay, obfuscate and demand a lot more.


The next phase — getting rid of North Korea’s fissile material and any weapons — will be even tougher to negotiate. Pyongyang will inevitably make more expensive and difficult demands… It’s worth the effort.

We also hope that with a solid foreign policy success now in reach, Mr. Bush will learn the lesson of the North Korea deal and tell his diplomats to turn the same creativity, flexibility and follow-through toward trying to end Iran’s nuclear program.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Speaker Pelosi on RRW

Below is a constituent response letter from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi regarding the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. (HT to Stephen Young). Like the letter from Sen. Dorgan I highlighted earlier, Pelosi expresses her opposition to RRW, noting that it contradicts U.S. efforts to stop proliferation and likewise undermines our credibility on the issue.

Dear [Constituent]:

Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition to President Bush's plan for the development of a nuclear weapon called the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW). I appreciate hearing from you on this issue.

The RRW is a newly designed nuclear weapon that claims to require less maintenance than other nuclear warheads. Proponents also believe that the RRW would be easier to manufacture and safer to monitor and test.

In the President's Budge t request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2008, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) requested over $645 million for FY 2008 through FY 2012 to for the RRW. In addition, the Navy made a separate request of $30 million for FY 2008 and $50 million for FY 2009 for this weapon's development.

HR 1585, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008, cut the Navy's request for RRW funds from $30 million to $5 million and similar NNSA funds from $88.8 million to $68.8 million. These reductions were recommended by a congressional commission on U.S. Strategic Posture and Nuclear Weapons Strategy. On May 17, 2007, this legislation was passed in the House by a vote of 397-27.

Even more significantly, all funds requested by the NNSA for RRW in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill (HR 2641) were eliminated in an Energy and Water Development Subcommittee markup meeting. Committee Chairman Peter Visclosky expressed the subcommittee's belief that a more comprehensive nuclear strategy was needed before a new nuclear weapon was developed. On July 17, 2007, HR 2641 was passed by the House by a vote of 312-112.

One of the gravest threats to the security of the United States is the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The United States today is struggling to prevent other countries from gaining access to nuclear weapons, and is searching for ways to encourage the North Koreans and Iranians to abandon their nuclear programs. The development of the RRW contradicts our efforts to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and associated technologies. As a signatory of the agreement our mission is to move toward general and complete disarmament of atomic weapons. By developing new nuclear weapons while urging other countries not to develop a nuclear capability, I believe we undermine our credibility on the proliferation issue.

For more information on this and other issues affecting our country, I invite you to visit my website at www.house.gov/pelosi. Thank you again for taking the time to express your views on this important subject. I hope you will continue to communicate with me on matters of concern to you.


Nancy Pelosi
Member of Congress

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Star Wars Made Real

Jack Hitt recently wrote an amazing story on the failures of missile defense for Rolling Stone. The tag-line of the article says it all: “The Shield Star Wars began as a Reagan-era fantasy. Under Bush, it is now the most expensive weapons system in the history of man. It has never been successfully tested. It will never be finished. And it is completely unnecessary.”

Included below are a few exceptional paragraphs:

The geopolitics of missile defense are every bit as troublesome as the science. Even the Missile Defense Agency concedes that the shield -- originally envisioned as a defense against a rival superpower -- is no longer of any use against China or Russia. A colorful brochure produced by the agency to make the case for expansion of the shield into Europe confesses that "Russia's large strategic offensive force could overwhelm the U.S. system's limited number of deployed interceptors." Even in a direct, one-on-one engagement, the brochure concedes, "U.S. interceptors in central Europe would not be capable of intercepting Russian ICBMs launched at the United States."

Having abandoned its superpower mission, the shield has morphed under Donald Rumsfeld into an all-purpose defense for the Age of Terrorism. For the last few years, the Bush administration has promoted the shield as protection against rogue states like North Korea and Iran. But the State Department recently reached a diplomatic agreement with North Korea that would eliminate its nuclear weapons program, and Iran is years away from developing nuclear capabilities. So whose warheads will the shield protect us from? In August, during a lecture at a missile defense convention, one proponent of the system suggested the possibility of a new ballistic threat from a country that currently possesses no missiles: Venezuela.

While America focuses on hypothetical threats, other nations are taking real-world actions in direct response to missile defense. Last year, China demonstrated its offensive capacity by "painting" one of our satellites with a laser -- the outer-space equivalent of sighting it with a rifle scope -- and earlier this year, the Chinese military demonstrated its might by blowing one of its own satellites out of the sky. The shield has also soured America's relations with Russia, which views our plans to install silos for interceptors in central Europe as the equivalent of the Cuban missile crisis. In response, Vladimir Putin has threatened to aim a new generation of missiles directly at the heart of Europe, and in July he withdrew from a treaty crafted by President George H.W. Bush that limits the number of troops and tanks Russia can position close to Europe.

This, to date, is the only real accomplishment of missile defense: The shield has effectively killed old arms-control treaties and ended deterrence. The arms race is back, only this time it's multilateral. China has officially chest-butted us in space, and Russia intends to aim missiles at Europe while massing troops at the borders of our allies. America, in return, gets the comfort of the shield.

Click here for the full story.