Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Senators Urge Committee to Cut Funding for Reprocessing

In an April 24 letter, nine senators urged Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Ranking Member Pete Domenici (R-NM) to cut funding for the reprocessing and reuse of spent nuclear fuel.

The letter targets funding for the Department of Energy's efforts to reprocess spent nuclear fuel under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP).

The non-proliferation-friendly advocates are:

  • Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
  • Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • Russ Feingold (D-WI)
  • Tom Harkin (D-IA)
  • Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
  • John Kerry (D-MA)
  • Bernard Sanders (I-VT)
  • Charles Schumer (D-NY)
  • Ron Wyden (D-OR)
These senators, "expressed wide-ranging concerns about the program ranging from cost, to nuclear proliferation risks, to environmental contamination dangers to past failures in this area," according to the Center's Director for Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Leonor Tomero. Their concerns include the programs' $200 billion burden on taxpayers, failures of past attempts to reprocess spent fuel, and the way in which the program undermines U.S. non-proliferation efforts.

Seems reasonable to me.

The letter responds to the administration's request of over $300 million for reprocessing in FY 2009, including $302 for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative. (In FY 2008, DOE requested $405 million but received only $179 million.)

For the text of the letter and the Center's press release, click here.

Monday, April 28, 2008

National Security Legislative Wrap-Up

Confusion continues to reign over the remainder of the Fiscal Year 2008 Supplemental Appropriations bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year, Congress approved a first portion of funding at $86 billion. The timing, the composition and the procedures for the new bill are still up in the air.

In the meantime, mark-up of the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Authorization bill begins this week in the Senate Armed Services Committee and next week in the House Armed Services Committee. The House and Senate both hope to complete action on the bill before the Memorial Day recess.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Arms Control in 2009: An Early Look at the 111th Congress

I recently put together an analysis on the prospects for arms control, focusing on the future of the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, in the upcoming 111th Congress. Check it out below.

Arms Control in 2009: An Early Look at the 111th Congress
by Jeff Lindemyer

With the nation's eyes focused squarely on the presidential candidates, little attention has been paid to the growing list of influential members of Congress who plan to retire at the end of this year. These retirements will have important implications as committee chairs and ranking members pass their batons to successors who may or may not have the same priorities, ability, or forcefulness when it comes to arms control.

Arms control advocates scored a major victory at the end of 2007 when lawmakers eliminated all funding for the Bush administration's program to build the so-called "Reliable Replacement Warhead" or RRW. The administration, however, may continue to push for RRW funding in fiscal year 2009. With a number of key players slated to leave office and new members of Congress coming in, the 2008 congressional elections may help determine the fate of the controversial RRW program.

One prime example is Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that oversees the production and maintenance of nuclear weapons. With the Los Alamos National Lab located in his home state, Domenici has long been an ardent champion of new nuclear weapons programs. His retirement will hand the position of ranking member to Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who will certainly not be as pro-nuclear as Domenici and may instead choose to focus on other issues. New Mexico's Senate seat itself may go to an opponent of the RRW program, Democratic Rep. Tom Udall, who will run against either Rep. Heather Wilson or Rep. Steve Pearce -- two Republican supporters of the program.

The retirement of Rep. David Hobson (R-OH), ranking member of the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, means the loss of a leading GOP voice against the Bush administration's efforts to build a new generation of nuclear weapons. Despite previous support for a nuclear "bunker buster," Hobson worked closely with committee chairman Pete Visclosky (D-IN) to slash the budget for new nuclear weapons in 2007. The pair was subsequently voted the Arms Control Association's "Arms Control Person of the Year" for their efforts. Unfortunately, Hobson's likely replacement as ranking member, Zach Wamp (R-TN), is unlikely to match Hobson's vigor and vision on the issue, weakening current bipartisan opposition to the program.

The unfortunate passing of Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) likely means that chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee passes to Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), who was set to take over the role next year after Lantos' announced retirement. Lantos leaves behind a generally strong record on arms control, including a number of votes opposing the development of new nuclear weapons. Berman's voting record presages a similar view, suggesting that Berman will uphold his predecessor's opposition to building new nuclear weapons.

But retirements alone will not decide the future of the "Reliable Replacement Warhead" program; incoming members will also play a significant role. For example, the Democrat challenging Republican Sen. Gordon Smith in Oregon, Jeff Merkley, is an expert on nuclear weapons and could easily become a leader on the issue. He previously worked on nuclear arms agreements in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and then moved on to the Congressional Budget Office where he prepared reports on Trident II missiles and the B-1B bomber. Merkley opposes building a new generation of nuclear weapons and endorses the Shultz-Kissinger-Perry-Nunn vision of moving toward a nuclear weapons-free world.

Another candidate who strongly opposes new nuclear weapons is Democratic Rep. Mark Udall, who is vying with former Republican Rep. Bob Schaffer for Sen. Wayne Allard's open seat in Colorado. Along with retiring Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), Allard is a supporter of RRW who sits on the powerful Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees funding for the program. Even if the retirements of Allard and Craig do not result in Democrats taking over their seats, it will at least give new Republicans a seat at the table.

An additional wild card, of course, will be who gets sworn in as the next president in January 2009. Any Democratic president is unlikely to pursue RRW, but it is unclear what a Republican would do, especially if they faced a Democratic Congressional majority.

The upcoming congressional elections will prove tremendously important in the ongoing battle over whether to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons. While Hobson's presence in the House will be sorely missed, the subtractions in the Senate of Sens. Domenici, Allard, and Craig, combined with the possible additions of Udall, Merkley, and other opponents of new nuclear weapons like Tom Allen in Maine and Al Franken in Minnesota, could radically improve the prospects for arms control in 2009 and beyond. These new candidates' elections and leadership may help bury some of the Bush administration's more provocative nuclear weapons policies once and for all.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Congressional Briefings on North Korean Aid to Syrian Nuclear Facility

If you've been reading the news today, you've seen that Congress has been briefed by high ranking intelligence officials on the facility in Syria that was bombed by the Israeli's in September of last year. It seems that they have clear information on the nuclear nature of this facility. For the quickest top analysis on this new development, I will direct readers to the people over at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). These are the people who originally found the facility using satellite data and broke the story along with the Washington Post. Below are two relevant paragraphs from their release.

Today, the United States is releasing new information which provides dramatic confirmation that the Syrian site attacked by Israel on September 6, 2007 was a nuclear reactor. The information, including images taken inside the reactor building before it was attacked, also indicates that North Korea helped to build the reactor, which resembles closely the one at the Yongbyon nuclear center in North Korea. ISIS first identified the site in a series of reports beginning October 24, 2007 and continuing on the 25th and 26th., which showed the razing of the site following Israel’s attack. Commercial satellite imagery of the site is available in these reports and subsequent ones.

The release of this information is likely to prompt a fresh wave of questions about North Korea’s commitment to verifiably dismantle its nuclear arsenal and halt its proliferation activities. This new information confirms the need to be concerned about Syrian and North Korean actions, including their nuclear cooperation which dates back many years. However, it should not be seen as a casus belli against Syria or a reason to scuttle the progress being made at the Six Party Talks in disabling and dismantling North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

For more information on questions regarding fueling the reactor and why progress should continue with North Korea negotiations, see the document found here.

Question for Readers

During last Thursday's housing hearing on missile defense (a summary can be found here), witness Philip E. Coyle III. made the following claim:

Different missile defense systems prompt the use of different sorts of decoys or countermeasures by the offense. For example, the laser being developed for missile defense, the Airborne Laser, is to be a high power laser carried in a jumbo 747 aircraft. But if the enemy paints their missiles with an ordinary white paint, a white paint that is 90% reflective to the laser, then 90% of the laser energy bounces off. To compensate for this the Airborne Laser would need to be ten times more powerful and would need an aircraft bigger than a Boeing 747.
Missile Defense Agency (MDA) spokesman Richard Lehner rejected the charge:
Regarding the paint, not true....That the U.S. would spend more than 4 billion on a weapon system that could be defeated by a coat of paint might make a good sitcom but has no basis in fact.
Anyone care to weigh in on this? Who is correct?

Highlights of Second House Hearing on Missile Defense

Last Thursday (April 16), the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs held a hearing entitled, “What are the Prospects, What are the Costs?: Oversight of Missile Defense (Part 2)” (A summary of Part 1 can be found here). In his opening statement, committee Chairman John Tierney (D-MA) described the purpose of the hearing as an effort to “tackle head-on the questions of what are the prospects of our current missile defense efforts and at what are the costs.”

The witness list for the hearing included Dr. Lisbeth Gronlund (Senior Scientist and Co-Director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists), Dr. Richard Garwin (Fellow Emeritus at IBM Corporation’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center), Jeff Kueter (President of the George C. Marshall Institute in Washington, DC), and Philip E. Coyle, III. (Assistant Secretary of Defense and Director of Operational Test and Evaluation in the Department of Defense from 1994-2001). Their testimony’s can be found here, here, here, and here, respectively.

Wide-ranging in its scope and depth, the hearing covered many issues that will be familiar to observers of the missile defense debate: the nature of the threat, how to define operational criteria for success, the issues and challenges posed by decoys and countermeasures, the performance of GMD flight intercept tests, the (in)accuracy of MDA and DoD statements about GMD effectiveness and capability, the monetary costs of missile defense, and the costs of missile defense for U.S. strategic interests and international security.

Here I want to focus primarily on the portions of the hearing that dealt with the costs of missile defense (in particular the GMD element) for U.S. strategic interests and international security. Other than Kueter, who spent most of the hearing diligently parroting MDA and DoD talking points, all of the witnesses agreed that missile defense is likely to have many dangerous consequences.

First, as Dr. Gronlund observed in her submitted testimony, “It is dangerous if military and political leaders believe the GMD system is effective.” Specifically, such a belief could make U.S. decision makers “less motivated to pursue diplomatic means to address the North Korean [and Iranian] missile program.” Coyle also emphasized the pitfalls of an overreliance on technology at the expense of diplomacy. Noting the gains made by Ambassador Christopher Hill in achieving diplomatic success with North Korea, Coyle maintained that diplomacy “is the most cost-effective missile defense system.”

Second, Dr. Gronlund was keen to point out that so long as Russia and China fear that U.S. interceptors could threaten their deterrent capability, “worst-case analyses by political and military leaders, as well as a desire to have a visible response for both domestic and international audiences, may prompt both China and Russia to build or retain larger nuclear forces than they otherwise would, and may lead Russia to retain its missiles on high alert.”

Advocates of U.S. missile defense plans claim that the system would be directed against developing states such as North Korea and Iran, and would be powerless against a massive Russian or Chinese missile attack. Yet Russia and China’s perception that a U.S. missile defense system might compromise their ability to retaliate can’t be attributed to paranoia or political posturing alone. The U.S. is planning to increase the number of GBIs and Aegis interceptors that are capable of defending against ICBMs. Before long, Russia and China could face some 200 U.S. anti-missile interceptors, and in Russia’s case, some of these missiles would be stationed in Poland, very close to Moscow’s European-based ICBM installations. Russian defense analysts are undoubtedly questioning the purpose of a system that would (1) be in a position to target Russian ICBMs but would not be able to protect a large swath of Europe from an Iranian missile attack, (2) entail interceptors that, despite MDA claims to the contrary, would be fast enough to catch Russian ICBMs launched west of the Ural Mountains toward the U.S., and (3) eventually require far more interceptors than the 10 interceptors the Bush administration is initially planning to deploy to Poland, since, according to the way in which the Bush administration defines the nature of the Iranian threat, Tehran would have the knowledge, capacity, and incentive to build more than 10 ICBMs.

Third, according to Dr. Gawin:

A state wishing to deliver nuclear weapons to injure the United States homeland would far more likely use short-range ballistic missiles or cruise missiles launched from a ship to attack U.S. coastal cities with nuclear weapons than use an ICBM for that purpose.
Currently, the U.S. has no defense against an attack delivered via such means. At the March 5 hearing, homeland security expert Stephen Flynn also emphasized the opportunity costs of spending ridiculous amounts on ballistic missile defense, noting that the U.S. is far more likely to be attacked by weapons of mass destruction (WMD) transferred via non-missile means (such as through our ports with containers containing nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons) than by ICBMs.

Commenting on the incoherence of the Bush administration’s priorities in this regard, Coyle testified that:
By spending such colossal sums on ballistic missile defense, it is as if we have defined how our adversaries will attack us. We have declared that our adversaries will use ballistic missiles first and foremost – not cruise missiles, not cargo shipments, not terrorism – even though our ballistic missile defenses are not effective against realistic ballistic missile threats. And we are choosing to ignore the international consequences of that choice, as well as the budgetary and technical consequences.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

National Security Legislative Wrap-Up

Confusion reigns over the remainder of the Fiscal Year 2008 Supplemental Appropriations Bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year, Congress approved a first portion of funding: $86 billion. The timing, the composition and the procedures for the new bill are all up in the air.

Some major questions about the bill:

- While the new supplemental was supposed to be about $108 billion, will Congress add another $70 billion to fund the wars into Fiscal Year 2009 in order to avoid new votes on war funding in the fall just before the election and early next year while the President is setting up the new Administration?

- Will the bill include many non-defense add-ons? As this bill is one of the few expected to be enacted into law during calendar 2008, there are hopes to attach an economic stimulus package, as well as funding for shortfalls in 2010 census funding shortfall, fighting wildfires, Head Start and creating a summer jobs program.

- Will the bill move directly to the House or Senate floors for consideration or will the Appropriations Committees take up the bill first?

- Will the bill include provisions setting a deadline for bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq, mandates for training and equipping troops, longer rest time between deployments, blocking a long-term commitment to the Iraqi government, requiring U.S. reconstruction assistance to be designated as loans to Iraq and increasing education benefits for veterans?

- Will the measure be considered as one bill or be split into two or three parts so anti-war Members of Congress can vote for provisions they like while opposing funding for the war in Iraq.

Stay tuned.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Highlights of Dem Prez Debate in Philadelphia

Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia included a brief discussion of foreign policy issues, but was largely a rehash of previous positions.

Following an extensive spat over Obama’s “bitter” comment, Clinton’s exaggerated Bosnia experience, and comments made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the candidates finally got down to the key foreign policy issues of Iraq and Iran.

Regarding the latter, Obama highlighted the need to “keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the Iranians” through direct talks and a “carrots and sticks” approach, noting that he would not take any options “off the table” in this respect. He stated that an Iranian attack on Israel would be “unacceptable” and that the U.S. “would take appropriate action.”

Clinton stated her desire to create an “umbrella of deterrence” that went beyond Israel to include other countries in the region, suggesting that the U.S. create a “security agreement vis-a-vis Iran” with these countries. She also advocated low-level diplomatic engagement with Iran, deterring other countries in the region from acquiring their own nuclear weapons, and rallying the world to impose sanctions on Iran and engage the country diplomatically to prevent this acquisition. Clinton also stated, however, that “an attack on Israel would trigger massive retaliation.”

Provided below is the full exchange between Obama and Clinton. Key points are bolded. The full transcript can be found here.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Obama, let's stay in the region. Iran continues to pursue a nuclear option. Those weapons, if they got them, would probably pose the greatest threat to Israel. During the Cold War, it was the United States policy to extend deterrence to our NATO allies. An attack on Great Britain would be treated as if it were an attack on the United States. Should it be U.S. policy now to treat an Iranian attack on Israel as if it were an attack on the United States?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, our first step should be to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the Iranians, and that has to be one of our top priorities. And I will make it one of our top priorities when I'm president of the United States.

I have said I will do whatever is required to prevent the Iranians from obtaining nuclear weapons. I believe that that includes direct talks with the Iranians where we are laying out very clearly for them, here are the issues that we find unacceptable, not only development of nuclear weapons but also funding terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as their anti-Israel rhetoric and threats towards Israel. I believe that we can offer them carrots and sticks, but we've got to directly engage and make absolutely clear to them what our posture is.

Now, my belief is that they should also know that I will take no options off the table when it comes to preventing them from using nuclear weapons or obtaining nuclear weapons, and that would include any threats directed at Israel or any of our allies in the region.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you would extend our deterrent to Israel?

SENATOR OBAMA: As I've said before, I think it is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, one that we -- one whose security we consider paramount, and that -- that would be an act of aggression that we -- that I would -- that I would consider an attack that is unacceptable, and the United States would take appropriate action.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, would you?

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, in fact, George, I think that we should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel. Of course I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States, but I would do the same with other countries in the region.

You know, we are at a very dangerous point with Iran. The Bush policy has failed. Iran has not been deterred. They continue to try to not only obtain the fissile material for nuclear weapons but they are intent upon and using their efforts to intimidate the region and to have their way when it comes to the support of terrorism in Lebanon and elsewhere.

And I think that this is an opportunity, with skillful diplomacy, for the United States to go to the region and enlist the region in a security agreement vis-a-vis Iran. It would give us three tools we don't now have.

Number one, we've got to begin diplomatic engagement with Iran, and we want the region and the world to understand how serious we are about it. And I would begin those discussions at a low level. I certainly would not meet with Ahmadinejad, because even again today he made light of 9/11 and said he's not even sure it happened and that people actually died. He's not someone who would have an opportunity to meet with me in the White House. But I would have a diplomatic process that would engage him.

And secondly, we've got to deter other countries from feeling that they have to acquire nuclear weapons. You can't go to the Saudis or the Kuwaitis or UAE and others who have a legitimate concern about Iran and say: Well, don't acquire these weapons to defend yourself unless you're also willing to say we will provide a deterrent backup and we will let the Iranians know that, yes, an attack on Israel would trigger massive retaliation, but so would an attack on those countries that are willing to go under this security umbrella and forswear their own nuclear ambitions.

And finally we cannot permit Iran to become a nuclear weapons power. And this administration has failed in our efforts to convince the rest of the world that that is a danger, not only to us and not just to Israel but to the region and beyond.

Therefore we have got to have this process that reaches out, beyond even who we would put under the security umbrella, to get the rest of the world on our side to try to impose the kind of sanctions and diplomatic efforts that might prevent this from occurring.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Zia Mian on "Think[ing] outside the Bomb"

I attended the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's Think Outside the Bomb conference this past weekend in Washington, D.C. and had the chance to hear keynote speaker and panelist Zia Mian, Princeton physicist and director of the Project on Peace and Security in South Asia.

With Mian's not-so-subtle nudges for those in attendance to question the "bigger picture" (including the capitalist and nation-state systems themselves) and framework through which we view nuclear issues, I felt like I was thrown back into my undergraduate days with my own professors who did the same.

A few of Mian's - somewhat provocative (and all para-phrased) - comments I wanted to share:

  • Third world countries emerged from colonization into a world with nuclear weapons. It's hard for them and for the current generation of young adults (and those younger) to conceive of a world where these weapons do not exist.
  • The idea of the bomb is a "generational mindset" among youth today. Example: In many Pakistani books that teach children how read, the picture associated with the letter "A" is a mushroom cloud.
  • The "logic of the bomb" predates the use of the bomb itself. It was set in place by WWII through the emergence of strategic bombing, the deliberate use of technology for the mass destruction of cities and killing of civilians, with the involvement of governments and corporations.
  • We have a new trend of nuclear abolitionists (think Kissinger) in the United States. The hard part now may be in convincing the rest of the world that they should give up nuclear weapons just as many of them are beginning to acquire them. [In a world in which conventional warfare with the U.S. must be seen as asymmetrical warfare, given U.S. levels of military expenditures, nuclear weapons are a way for other countries to "compete."]
During the Q&A, Mian answered questions on the abolition movement:

It's a mistake to be an "anti-nuclear movement." He always thought it was silly to be a movement against a thing and ineffective to build those movements on fear. It's important for movements to present themselves first on the basis of the values they represent. He referenced the Kantian idea of peace defined by a quality of justice, not by the absence of war or violence.

If anti-nuclear peace movements focus solely on the idea of getting rid of nuclear bombs, the "logic of the bomb" still remains. These ideas need to be connected through a narrative that addresses what nuclear weapons mean to a nation beyond national security.

Whether you agree or disagree, some thoughts to ponder if you have some pondering time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

National Security Legislative Wrap-up

The mark-up or writing of the second portion of the Fiscal Year 2008 Supplemental Appropriations bill, totaling about $108 billion, is still floating in the air. The House Appropriations Committee mark-up could be this week, next week or later. The Senate Appropriations Committee has set a tentative date for mark-up of the same bill on April 23.

At this point, the bill could become a "Christmas tree" on which to hang many amendments: setting a deadline for bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq, mandates for training and equipping troops, longer rest time between deployments, blocking a long-term commitment to the Iraqi government, requiring U.S. reconstruction assistance to be considered loans to Iraq and increasing education benefits for veterans. The bill also may be separated into two bills -- one to pay for the war in Afghanistan and second to pay for the war in Iraq.

Monday, April 14, 2008

North Korea Nutshell: What Starts in Geneva Ends in Singapore

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a meeting between the U.S. and the North Korean negotiators in Geneva to discuss a resolution to the impasse over the declaration of North Korean nuclear activity. That meeting ended with no announcements on progress other than a vague announcement of “good discussions.” This past week, the two parties met again, this time in Singapore, and it seems that a resolution is finally beginning to take shape.

Experts believe that the U.S. floated the idea that the parties would use a diplomatic device similar to the joint U.S.-China “Shanghai Communiqué” used during the Nixon administration to open up the possibility for diplomatic relations with China. In this instance, the U.S. would issue a document presenting its stance on the issues of uranium enrichment development and Syrian aid by North Korea and then North Korea would in turn issue a document accepting the accusations. It is believed that this process was generally agreed to in Geneva but when it was brought back to Pyongyang, Kim Jong’Ill did not certify to his people to move forward. Since then, catastrophic famine has been reported to continue to worsen in North Korea and the North has had to request a huge increase in food aid from China. It may be for this reason as well as possibly many others that led to this approach finally being accepted in Singapore. And then again, maybe it just has something to do with the fact that both cities look very similar at night. Can you guess which one's which?

Even more importantly than the possible resolution of these other issues was the fact that North Korea agreed to provide a full accounting of its plutonium stocks, including what was used for its nuclear test. With this declaration they would also provide documentation and facilities access so that inspectors can fully verify the declaration. The plutonium program is where North Korea is deriving its source of material for making nuclear weapons. Being able to first verify, and then remove this plutonium reserve will be the key to the entire denuclearization agreement.

Amb. Chris Hill briefed the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a closed-door session after the conclusion of these most recent talks and reports state that certain members of the Committee were skeptical of the possible progress that had been achieved. Secretary Rice responded to this by stating that no full agreement had been reached and that anything provided by North Korea will have to be verifiable. This leaves the ball in North Korea’s court. If they can provide the declaration and documentation as laid out in Singapore, it is very likely that this impasse can be resolved and another round of 6-Party Talks could be convened. But even if this were to occur, it is still unlikely that the primary issue of the plutonium reserves will be resolved under this current President barring some unlikely eventuality.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Summary of Sen. Kyl’s Speech on Nuclear Weapons

The Center’s Executive Director, John Isaacs, recently put together a terrific summary of Sen. Jon Kyl’s talk yesterday on nuclear weapons, RRW, a world free of nuclear weapons, and space weapons at National Defense University. Check it out below.

As Kyl had recently spoken on missile defense to another audience, he focused on nuclear weapons in his talk.

Kyl said the U.S. needs a debate on nuclear issues; the other side (the anti-nuclear weapons forces) are dominating the debate. He particularly was critical of the Kissinger-Shultz et al position which is long on ideals but short on facts. Kyl said that their call for a world free of nuclear weapons is just a continuation of the old nuclear freeze movement. He is concerned that the U.S. is moving toward unilateral nuclear disarmament.

On the other hand, he praised the statement by five retired generals (including Shalikasvili) calling for the need to maintain a nuclear first strike.

Kyl complained that the U.S. used to maintain a robust nuclear force, technology, testing, and well-trained nuclear work force, but that that is currently being eroded. The U.S. has let its nuclear infrastructure wither away. It takes a long time to develop nuclear weapons. With the eroding work force, it is like having a brain surgeon who has never worked on brains.

Kyl complained that Congress killed the $90 million request to study the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program last year and cut half a billion from the nuclear weapons complex. It was all because of two Members of Congress, Visclosky and Hobson. This year, in an election season, the Bush Administration requested only $10 million showing how discouraged the Administration is and they are not trying hard any more. They are tired of hitting their heads against the wall.

Clinton and Obama have endorsed a radical nuclear agenda. This is true while so many other countries are building nuclear weapons including Russia, China, UK, France, Iran, North Korea, etc. They are building new nuclear weapons whether or not the U.S. builds nuclear weapons such as the RRW.

What the U.S. needs is an informed debate, not fuzzy notions. It is important to explain the consequences of no nuclear weapons.

Kyl pointed out that the Kissinger-Shultz op-ed calls for ratification of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. He said the treaty was rejected because it could not be verified when the Senate considered it and it is still not verifiable (he appears to have recent confirmation of that view).

Congress should make a jurisdictional change; Energy and Water should not deal with nuclear weapons.

The loss of nuclear weapons from the Minot base shows there is an inattention to nuclear weapons, further proof that our nuclear weapons complex is eroding.

Kyl said we should focus on the total Regan legacy; Reagan called for a world without nuclear weapons but also warned against unilateral disarmament or wishing that this kind of step were true.

In response to questions, Kyl called the U.S. a giant tied down by Lilliputians such as non-governmental organizations, international bodies, etc. The U.S. is too constrained.

When asked why the Bush Administration is not fighting harder for RRW, Kyl said the Administration is too tired, disorganized, has no leadership, earlier was too arrogant, and is not getting enough support.

Kyl would not comment on the Iran NIE.

He criticized Hans Blix for saying that nuclear weapons in the hands of the British is the same as in the hands of the North Koreans.

Kyl said that Bush is not in a good position to lead the debate on nuclear weapons; he is not the most credible spokesman on the issue. Instead, McCain should take up nuclear weapons, but only as a side issue, not a major issue.

He called the abandonment of the ABM Treaty in 2001 the seminal achievement of 2001 except that it was overshadowed by the 9/11 attacks (someone in attendance suggested a resolution requiring an annual celebration of the U.S. exiting from the treaty.)

In 2008, Kyl's main hope on missile defense is to get the $10 million approved for the space based test bed. He wants to embed some progress on space. It is a silly idea that we should not weaponize space when there are already so many weapons in space.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

George Shultz on Abolition

If you can get past the partisan material that plasters the National Review Online, Uncommon Knowledge's Peter Robinson recently held some interesting talks with former Secretary of State George Shultz on "A World Free of Nuclear Weapons." The interview online is composed of five segments, between two and eight minutes apiece, each addressing essentially one topic related to nukes.

Episode 1 discusses the inefficacy of using the Cold War's bipolar, state-centric deterrence model in today's world. First of all, there are now more and maybe increasing numbers of countries with nuclear weapons. We've seen a domino effect in cases like Iran, to which countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, and Jordan, have responded with the desire to enrich. While Shultz doesn't question their desire to produce nuclear power, the proximity between uranium enriched for power and weapons grade uranium leaves us in a dangerous situation. In addition, non-state actors are trying to get fissile materials, and these actors negate the deterrence theory. Non-state actors want nuclear weapons to use, not deter.

Add to this the short time between warning of a nuclear attack and the need for a retaliatory strike, and you can observe that the non-proliferation regime is "unraveling." To get it back, he says, we need the ultimate objective of a world free of nuclear weapons. Now, what does it take to get there?

In Episode 2, Shultz tackles the absurdity of the number of nukes possessed by the United States and Russia today. If a single nuke can incinerate Manhattan, what could possibly be the motivation for having thousands? Shultz does not, however, advocate unilateral disarmament, but an international consensus. Of course Russia and the United States - possessing together about 90% of the world's nuclear weapons - will need to take action from the beginning. One such step would be to vigorously renegotiate START before it expires in 2009.

In Episodes 3 and 4 , Shultz discusses the cases of Iran and North Korea. He first identifies that an international consensus for a world free of nuclear weapons will put immense pressure on these countries to refrain from starting or to abandon their nuclear weapons programs. The best strategy for dealing with North Korea? Lean on China and Japan. Thoughts on Iran? A nuclear-armed Iran may be unacceptable, but he cautions against the use of empty threats. His one piece of advice for the next President? Give consideration to changing the environment in which you're working by forming an international consensus among nuclear-weaponized states that we'll all be better off without them.

Shultz interestingly talks about John McCain - whom he supports for President - and his lack of discussion of these issues in the presidential campaign in Episode 5. But when asked if McCain should call for the elimination of nuclear weapons during his campaign, Shultz actually says no. What Shultz, Kissinger, Nunn, Perry, and two thirds of former national security officials are advocating is not meant to be bipartisan - it's meant to be non-partisan. He hopes that all candidates issue support for the group calling for abolition, and, if elected, will listen to them.

Overall, a basic, but well-reasoned and potentially quite useful (depending on your outreach on these issues) look at the movement calling for abolition. If you've only read about Shultz on paper or computer screen, I'd highly recommend a break to watch.

Missile Defense Highlights of Bush-Putin Sochi Meeting

On Sunday, President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled a joint “U.S.-Russia Strategic Framework Declaration.”

The Declaration addresses a number of issues central to U.S.-Russia relations, including missile defense, the proliferation of WMD, arms control and disarmament, Iran, North Korea, achieving WTO accession for Russia, and climate change. The full text of the Strategic Framework can be found here and the transcript of the President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin news conference Sunday in Sochi can be found here. In this post I will focus exclusively on the implications of the Sochi meeting for U.S.-Russia missile defense cooperation.

The Strategic Framework declares that “Both sides expressed their interest in creating a system for responding to potential missile threats in which Russia and the United States and Europe will participate as equal partners.” Russia reiterated its opposition to the plan to deploy missile defense assets in Poland and the Czech republic and again floated its proposed alternative (which would allow the United States to (1) use data from Russian early-warning radars in Azerbaijan and Armavir, Russia and (2) station interceptors in Iraq, Turkey, or certain southern European locations). Nevertheless, Russia welcomed “the measures that the U.S. has proposed” and agreed that they would “be important and useful in assuaging Russian concerns.” Finally, the two sides resolved to step up their discussions “on issues concerning MD cooperation both bilaterally and multilaterally.”

Based on Monday's media reports out of Sochi, the immediate post-meeting conventional wisdom appears to be that while Bush and Putin did not reach an agreement on missile defense in Europe, they “left behind a road map for their successors.”

In his press conference with Bush, Putin admitted to having a “certain cautious optimism,” but warned that “the devil is in the details.” Bush went a step further, describing the Declaration as a “significant breakthrough.”

Though the tone of U.S.-Russia relations on missile defense has certainly been marked by less acrimony in recent months, characterizing Sunday’s Declaration as a “significant breakthrough” is wildly off the mark. In terms of the substance of the disagreement between the U.S. and Russia, no real progress was made. Said Putin: “I would like to be very clear on this. Our fundamental attitude to the American plans has not changed.”

In the end, the two sides agreed to continue to discuss various confidence-building measures and proposals (described here, here, and here) which, if agreed to, would “be important and useful in assuaging Russian concerns.” Yet as Putin noted, “the devil is in the details,” and the reality is that the details (1) remain embryonic and (2) could prove to be as controversial as the proposed system itself. In the words of White House Press Secretary Dana Perino:

We’re going to have to do more work after Sochi… No one has said that everything would be finalized and everyone would be satisfied with all the preparations because we haven't even started to work on the technical aspects of the system… We’re still in the early part of these discussions [emphasis mine].

In other missile defense news, during last week’s NATO Summit in Bucharest, it was announced that the United States and the Czech Republic reached an agreement on placing an early warning radar base in the Czech Republic. However, as was noted in this space last month, it is likely to take some time before the base is deployed. What’s more, it remains to be seen how Prague will react to a formal U.S. proposal to allow Russia access to the radar base, which is one of the confidence-building measures currently being discussed by U.S. and Russian officials.

Monday, April 7, 2008

National Security Legislative Wrap-up

Congress returns this week from recess.

On April 8 and 9, Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will testify before the Senate and House Armed Services Committees and the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees. These hearings will provide the focus for questions about the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Click on The Iraq Insider early and often for live blogging during the hearings.

The first mark-up or writing of the second portion of the Fiscal Year 2008 Supplemental Appropriations bill totaling more than $100 billion is likely to begin next week or the week after in the House Appropriations Committee. That bill is expected to be the vehicle for many legislative fights on ending the Iraq war, including a deadline for troop withdrawal, mandates for training and equipping troops, longer rest time between deployments, blocking long-term commitments to the Iraqi government and increasing education benefits for veterans.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Has NATO Really Endorsed U.S. Plans for Missile Defense?

Friday’s media reports out of Bucharest suggest a major triumph for President Bush on missile defense. According to the Washington Post:

President Bush advanced his plans Thursday to build a controversial missile defense shield in Eastern Europe by winning the unanimous backing of NATO allies and sealing a deal with the Czech Republic to build a radar facility for the system on its soil.

Bush’s success in winning over once-skeptical European governments bolsters his position heading into talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has denounced the shield as the start of a new arms race. The alliance said the system should be expanded, with participation of NATO countries and Russia, to protect all of Europe.
Yet the picture painted by the Post doesn’t comport altogether comfortably with what has actually transpired at the NATO summit.

According to global security consultant Martin Bucher, who is covering the proceedings in Bucharest and Sunday’s upcoming Bush-Putin meeting in Sochi for the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, NATO will not offer an endorsement of the Bush administration’s plan before 2009. The official report on the Romanian Summit website merely notes that:
The Secretary General of the Alliance, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, mentioned in a press conference that the allied leaders decided for NATO to develop “options for a defense architecture” that should cover the states which are not in the protection range of the USA project. These options are to be discussed in 2009, explained Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
As Bucher aptly observes,
This falls short of actual endorsement by the Alliance of the system, and represents “the best we could get and short of what we wanted”, according to Czech government sources speaking a few weeks ago when the formula was put to Foreign ministers… [M]any Europeans are content to wait and see what happens next year before actually committing themselves.

Russian Nuclear Weapons for Belarus?

Blogging on the NATO Summit in Bucharest, the Acronym Institute’s Martin Butcher recently posted this interesting tid-bit on a possible nuclear defense pact that would allow Belarus to host Russian nukes:

Russian Nuclear Weapons for Belarus?

Lithuanian paper Respublika is summarised in English by Ria Novosti on the possibility of a nuclear defence link between Russia and Belarus.

"The media are quoting Belarusian political analysts as saying that Washington is violating the 2004 Budapest memo under which signatories may not impose sanctions against Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan; this violation could provoke Minsk into a renouncement of nuclear neutrality. "Experts are emphasizing that this does not mean that Belarus will go nuclear. But Minsk will receive a legal opportunity to host Russian nuclear weapons on its territory. Now, if the United States toughens its economic sanctions, Belarus will be able not only to use this 'nuclear right,' but also to demand that Russia should extend such a guarantee to all members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization." (Respublika, March 29)."

In truth, NATO would be hard put to object to such a development without the strong taint of hypocrisy. The United States maintains around 350 nuclear weapons in Europe. A good proportion of those are allocated for the use of nominally non-nuclear NATO states in time of war. Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Turkey all train their air forces for nuclear missions under NATO's nuclear sharing programme. The US stores B61 bombs at these nations air bases and could hand the weapons over if NATO was attacked.

This Cold War arrangement has been severely criticised at Non-Proliferation Treaty meetings as fundamentally against the treaty obligations of these countries. This is not the first time that Belarus has been suspected of wanting to enter into a similar arrangement with Russia. NATO needs to end nuclear sharing immediately, and look for ways to eliminate the US arsenal in Europe. Then, and only then, could they address this subject from the high ground.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Upcoming Bush-Putin Meeting Could be Momentous

George W. Bush and Russian President Valdimir Putin are scheduled to meet this Sunday in the Russian city of Sochi to discuss missile defense and a multi-point strategic framework document to guide U.S.-Russian relations in the near and medium term. Sunday’s meeting comes on the heels of this week’s NATO summit in Bucharest, and will be the last scheduled meeting between Bush and Putin as heads of state.

Reports have been circulating during the past few weeks that recent talks between U.S. and Russian officials, including a visit to Moscow by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates last month, have closed the gap between the two countries on missile defense. Washington has reportedly proposed to halt activation of the system until an agreement can be reached with Russia as to what constitutes an “imminent” Iranian threat and has offered to allow Russia access to missile defense sites in the United States and Europe. Nevertheless, the United States and Russia are still far away from an agreement, and it remains to be seen if Sunday’s meeting will include a discussion of these compromise proposals and/or further movement on Russia's suggestions for alternatives to a missile defense system in Europe.

The Bush administration’s proposed plan, which would consist of 10 interceptors in Poland and a radar site in the Czech Republic, has provoked virulent opposition from Russia. In response, Moscow has already suspended compliance with the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. It is also threatening to abrogate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which could pave the way for the reintroduction of large numbers of ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with intermediate ranges in Europe. Moreover, Russia has suggested that it may target Poland and the Czech Republic and deploy medium-range ballistic missiles in Kalingard on the Polish border.

In sum, Sunday’s meeting is an event that merits paying close attention to.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

North Korea Nutshell: Here We Go Again

“Our military will not sit idle until warmongers launch a preemptive strike. Everything will be in ashes, not just a sea of fire, once our advanced preemptive strike begins.”

If nothing else, you can always count on the North Koreans to spice up international diplomacy with some apocalyptic rhetoric. This most recent statement came in response to the South Korea’s top military official commenting that the South would counter-attack against the North’s nuclear sites if the South were to be attacked by nuclear weapons. Normally, these sorts of statements are taken in stride when dealing with North Korea. For example, the North also began threatening to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire” back in 1994 and has used the term many other times when discussing U.S. military installation in the South, with no tangible action in either case. But this time, the statements come at a time when nuclear negotiations are at a standstill and tensions between the two Koreas seem to be increasing by the day.

When South Korea elected their new conservative President, North Korea was strangely silent despite the fact that it was clear that 10 years of engagement policy towards the North was coming to an end. First, there was the announcement that the Unification Ministry, which was fairly controversial as the lead agency behind the “Sunshine” policy towards the North, would be closed. This decision was reversed, but it looks as if most of the decision-making towards North Korea will be given to the Foreign Ministry. Later on, after President Lee officially took power, vitally important fertilizer and farm aid to North Korea was delayed while the new government reassessed whether it would offer this aid while nuclear negotiations remained stalled.

That silence has now been broken with statements such as the one above, as well as several actions that seek to initiate a game of brinkmanship. First, the North kicked out 11 South Korean officials from their joint North-South industrial project in Kaesong. Then, the North fired 3 Soviet-era ship to ship missiles and continued a series of jet flyovers near the DMZ border region. When even this type of dangerous behavior did not lead to South Korea to retreat from their new policy path, the North announced that it was considering ending North-South negotiations and slowing down the process of disabling its nuclear reactor even further.

For anyone who has followed U.S.-North Korean negotiations over the last two decades, these types of activities represent a frustrating kind of “standard operating procedure”. Anytime North Korea feels that it is getting a raw deal or having its honor compromised, it will respond with threats and actions that are supposed to put their opponents on the defensive so that the North can move in and issue further demands for a return to normalcy. Hopefully, some resolution can be found to the current stalemate before the North takes even more drastic steps.

Recently, reports concerning new leaks about the Israeli bombing of a base in Syria have begun to surface. David Ignatius of the Washington Post has apparently spoken to a “senior intelligence official” who confirmed to him the nuclear connection between North Korea and the work going on in Syria at that site. For its part, the Chosun Ilbo reports that the U.S. has obtained a list of nuclear engineers who were “involved in the supple of nuclear technology to Syria, through various intelligence networks.” They claim that Chris Hill showed the list to his North Korea counterpart when they met recently in Geneva. The North Koreans continued to deny any nuclear proliferation to Syria after this meeting.

Although there is still much to be learned about what happened with this incident, I’m still fairly skeptical about reporters that cite unnamed sources. All the governments involved have done a thorough job in keeping information on this event on lock down and there are far too many people with ideological agendas on this issue to simply trust what we find in these reports.