Showing posts with label WMD. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WMD. Show all posts

23 June 2017

The Proposed Nuclear Ban Treaty: The Road to Utopia?

By Ephraim Asculai

In late 2016, the United Nations decided to launch discussions on the establishment of a treaty banning all nuclear weapons, and on May 22, 2017 the Chair of the conference dealing with this issue presented a first draft of the proposed treaty. The proposed draft is of a treaty negotiated among states, not taking into account the existence of non-state entities that could be holding a trump card in the case of universal nuclear disarmament. Moreover, in many respects, the draft falls into the same troubling trap of previous treaties. It is a detailed treaty but with a number of loopholes that come to placate the diverse opinions and approaches of the states to the issue. Thus while striving toward nuclear disarmament is a noble goal, one must be realistic and not really expect the proposed treaty to achieve it.

A short time after nuclear weapons were used in World War II, a movement to eliminate these weapons, the most horrific weapons of mass destruction (WMD), began with what is known as the Baruch Plan. Although many governments and hundreds of non-governmental organizations supported and still support nuclear disarmament, their achievements(including the disarmament of South Africa, reductions of stocks, and a moratorium on testing that was not universally upheld) have been partial.

18 June 2017

Keine Atombombe, Bitte Why Germany Should Not Go Nuclear

By Ulrich Kuhn, Tristan Volpe

The election of U.S. President Donald Trump last November confounded Berlin. What, German politicians, policymakers, and journalists wondered, should they make of Trump’s vague or even hostile stances toward the EU and NATO or his apparent embrace of Russia? Some hoped that Trump meant to push NATO members to spend more on defense but would, in the end, leave the long-standing U.S. guarantee of European security intact. Others, less optimistic, argued that the days when Germany could rely on the United States for its defense were over—and that the country must start looking out for itself. 

Those fears have given new life to an old idea: a European nuclear deterrent. Just days after Trump’s election, Roderich Kiesewetter, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said that if the United States no longer wanted to provide a nuclear shield, France and the United Kingdom should combine their nuclear arsenals into an EU deterrent, financed through a joint EU military budget. Then, in February, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, spoke out in favor of the idea of the EU as a “nuclear superpower,” as long as any EU deterrent matched Russian capabilities.

16 June 2017


Colin S. Gray

There is nothing extraordinary about current Russian-American dislike, distrust, and antagonism. What is happening today is not a return to the much unbeloved Cold War of quite recent memory (only 26 years), but rather to the enduring reality of international politics as usual. This persisting condition has always been characterized by competition – political, economic, and inevitably military also. If we read history as we should, we learn that distrust or more active dislike among great powers, including actual warfare, is both normal and to a degree inevitable. The most persisting reason is not hard to fathom. When security/threat analysts of national security scan the current and anticipatable international horizon, quite properly they look out first and primarily for the larger, indeed existential, threats to the wellbeing of their home country. Americans today are almost spoiled for choice among somewhat villainous regional and even sub-regional local states, as well as a more serious malevolent one. The latter category only has one member, Vladimir Putin’s recovering Russia.

The Problem of Russia

When considered in historical context it is unlikely that Putin would warrant nomination even for the ‘B’ list of ‘bad guys’. Yes, he lies, cheats, bullies and threatens neighbors, and flexes his growing military muscles to change borders, which makes him seriously unsuited for partnership in a top state duopoly of cooperative powers alongside Uncle Sam. Lest we forget, the sundry crimes and misdemeanors his particular Russian regime has committed have been entirely standard practice by Moscow for decades. It is necessary to remember always that Russia lives, and has always lived, in a very rough geopolitical neighborhood, one bereft of geographical help for defense, save for sheer space with the distances it provides and its weather. From the time of Tamerlane’s rampaging Mongols in the late 14th Century to Hitler’s storming Teutons in the 20th, Russians have learnt that national history has been one characterized by loss of life on a very large scale. They know, really know, that history periodically produces horrific tragedies. Even if or when victory eventually is achieved, not infrequently it has been earned at an extremely high price.

The Challenge of Modernizing Nuclear Weapons

The Senate Armed Services Committee hosted a hearing last week on defense nuclear acquisition programs and doctrine.

Gen. Robin Rand, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, offered a robust defense of the United States’ follow-on intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). He argued that extending the life of the currently deployed Minuteman III ICBMs would not be cheaper than building a follow-on ICBM.

Reliability and survivability are increasingly challenged in the current system, which was developed during the 1960s and 1970s. Rand mentioned how U.S. ICBMs complicate adversaries’ targeting because of their quantity and geographic dispersion, also mentioning how they provide the president with a timely response option.

In combination with other elements of the nuclear triad, strategic submarines, and bombers, the system forces adversaries to spread their resources to take into account each of the legs of the triad as opposed to focusing on defeating one or two strategic systems.

Later, Robert Soofer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, argued that Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty are not sustainable and that the United States must take action and increase pressure on Russia on this issue.

10 June 2017

Explained: India, NSG, And The Chinese Roadblock

Arka Biswas

Ahead of this month’s meet of the Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG) in Switzerland, China has repeated that it does not support India’s entry into the group. 

Why does India want to enter the NSG? What do both NSG and India stand to gain from it? Why is China opposing India’s entry? All that, and more, answered here.

Diplomats invested in on-going consultations at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on India’s membership application have suggested that more member-countries now support India’s inclusion in the Group that lays out guidelines for exports of nuclear and related sensitive items. Yet, China’s apparent unwavered opposition to India’s entry to the NSG, that runs on consensus, continues to hurt New Delhi’s prospects. This logjam brings to fore larger questions for NSG members on what they see as the future objectives of the Group and how best could those be met. Two, and often conflicting, objectives that feature prominently in the NSG’s agenda are expanding the Group to include all nuclear suppliers in order to enhance its credibility, and including only like-minded countries that are committed to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons to improve its efficacy. Assessment of these objectives leads to the conclusion that including India would help NSG enhance its credibility as well as efficacy simultaneously.

Why does India want to join the NSG?

8 June 2017

** ‘Last Secret’ of 1967 War: Israel’s Doomsday Plan for Nuclear Display


Israeli armored forces advanced against Egyptian troops at the start of the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. 

On the eve of the Arab-Israeli war, 50 years ago this week, Israeli officials raced to assemble an atomic device and developed a plan to detonate it atop a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula as a warning to Egyptian and other Arab forces, according to an interview with a key organizer of the effort that will be published Monday.

The secret contingency plan, called a “doomsday operation” by Itzhak Yaakov, the retired brigadier general who described it in the interview, would have been invoked if Israel feared it was going to lose the 1967 conflict. The demonstration blast, Israeli officials believed, would intimidate Egypt and surrounding Arab states — Syria, Iraq and Jordan — into backing off.

Israel won the war so quickly that the atomic device was never moved to Sinai. But Mr. Yaakov’s account, which sheds new light on a clash that shaped the contours of the modern Middle East conflict, reveals Israel’s early consideration of how it might use its nuclear arsenal to preserve itself.

“It’s the last secret of the 1967 war,” said Avner Cohen, a leading scholar of Israel’s nuclear history who conducted many interviews with the retired general.

Does China Now Have a Viable Nuclear Triad?

Zachary Keck

The Big China Nuclear Threat No One Is Talking About 

One of the most consistent aspects of China’s military policy is likely to undergo a significant transformation. Since its first nuclear test in 1964, China has maintained a relatively small nuclear arsenal designed to hold adversaries’ population centers at risk. Even as it has modernized its conventional forces to “fight and win wars” against first-class militaries like that of the United States, China’s nuclear arsenal is estimated to contain [3] just 264 warheads, far smaller than the 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads Russia and America will each deploy under the New START Treaty, to say nothing of the nearly thirty thousand warheads they maintained during the Cold War.

This smaller arsenal is consistent with China’s different perspective [4] about the nature of deterrence, as well as its no-first-use nuclear doctrine. At the same time, a couple of technical developments are likely to propel China to undertake a significant nuclear buildup in the coming years.

The first of these is China’s acquisition of a viable nuclear triad for the first time. For most of its history as a nuclear power, Beijing has primarily relied on single-warhead land-based ballistic missiles to deliver its nuclear weapons. After decades of false starts, however, China has now deployed a sea-based deterrent in the form of the JIN-class (Type 094) nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs). China has already commissioned four JIN-class SSBNs and will build at least another one of these vessels. Each Jin-class SSBN has twelve missile tubes and carries JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) [5], which have a range of 7,500 kilometers. Some reports suggest the JL-2 can be equipped with Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs) that allow each missile to carry between two and eight warheads. Thus, the five Jin-class SSBNs will require somewhere between sixty and 480 nuclear warheads. Even the low end of this estimate represents nearly one-quarter of China’s estimated warheads.

Israel Planned An Atomic Detonation In The Egyptian Sinai If Their Political/Military Leadership Felt The Arabs Might Prevail In The 1967 Six-Day War; Might North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un Plan A Similar Atomic Operation — Should He Believe U.S./South Korean Forces Were About To Defeat His Military?

Today’s (June 3, 2017) edition of the Times Of Israel, reports that Israel’s senior political and military leadership had decided to detonate an atomic weapon in the Sinai — if they believed that the Arab armies would likely prevail in the 1967, Six-Day War. “On the eve of the Six-Day War, with the country surrounded by enemies; and, unsure of its future, Israel developed a ‘Doomsday Plan,’ to detonate an atomic bomb in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula — as a warning to the Arabs,” the New York Times reported on its website, June 3, 2017. According to the Times of Israel, this report “is based on an interview between leading Israeli nuclear scholar Avner Cohen, and retired Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Brigadier General Itzhak Yaakov, — who reportedly oversaw the plan,” and presumably would have made the operational decision to do so.

“It is the last secret of the 1967, Six-Day War,” Mr. Cohen told the New York Times. The full interview, including this most significant, new revelation, is to be published in Monday’s edition of the publication, as part of the 50th anniversary of the war that significantly altered the political, military, and strategic landscape of the Middle East.

Brig. Gen. Yaakov told the New York Times, that Israel was “deeply fearful before the war.” Israel’s senior political and military leadership, took at face value, Arab threats to “throw Israel into the sea;” and, Israeli leaders apparently decided that to save their country, they would detonate an atomic bomb in the Sinai Peninsula — to prevent such an outcome. 

4 June 2017

The Location of America’s Nuclear Submarines Isn’t Really a Secret


First things first: Donald Trump didn’t reveal the location of U.S. nuclear-powered attack submarines in his phone call with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Trump comes off as a braggart and bully in the transcript, but what he said about submarines is far less interesting than our reaction to it.

It’s clear that whatever signal Trump was trying to send got fouled up. But that shouldn’t make us angry about the Trump administration’s clumsiness. It should make us wary about the overconfidence of all policymakers who think they can use the deployment of military forces to signal resolve to adversaries and allies without getting the rest of us killed.

Trump did say a fair number of awful and stupid things to Duterte. He told him that his campaign of extrajudicial executions was working (it isn’t) and that North Korea’s missiles are crashing (they aren’t). But on the subject of submarines, Trump is blameless. Here is what he said in reference to North Korea:

We have a lot of firepower over there. We have two submarines — the best in the world. We have two nuclear submarines, not that we want to use them at all.

It is entirely unclear where Trump thinks “over there” is, but in recent days U.S. Pacific Command had announced two port calls for nuclear-powered submarines, one in South Korea and another in Japan.



There is no more urgent threat to the global nuclear nonproliferation order than North Korea’s accelerating and unconstrained nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Pyongyang is estimated to possess enough nuclear explosive material for at least 10 nuclear warheads, and in all likelihood already has the capability to deliver some of these weapons on its arsenal of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. By 2020, some experts believe Pyongyang may have enough fissile material for 100 warheads.

With more nuclear tests, North Korea can further refine its warhead designs to increase the explosive yield and further develop a lighter, more compact warhead to fit atop ballistic missiles. North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year and its next nuclear test explosion, which would be its sixth, could happen at any time.

Since Kim Jong-Un took power in December 2011, North Korea has conducted 78 ballistic missile tests and continued development of a new generation of solid-fueled missiles (which can be fired more quickly than their liquid-fueled counterparts). In the past few weeks alone, North Korea has successfully tested a new type of mobile, solid-fueled medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM) and a new type of intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) capable of reaching the U.S. military bases on Guam. While North Korea has yet to demonstrate a capability to strike the United States with a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), it could begin flight-testing such a missile as soon as this year.

3 June 2017

Russian Lawmaker: We Would Use Nukes if US or NATO Enters Crimea


BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Russia would be forced to use nuclear weapons in any conflict in which U.S. or NATO forces entered eastern Ukraine, a member of Russia’s parliament told an international gathering of government security officials on Sunday.

“On the issue of NATO expansion on our borders, at some point I heard from the Russian military — and I think they are right — If U.S. forces, NATO forces, are, were, in the Crimea, in eastern Ukraine, Russia is undefendable militarily in case of conflict without using nuclear weapons in the early stage of the conflict,” Russian parliamentarian Vyacheslav Alekseyevich Nikonov told attendees at the GLOBSEC 2017 forum in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Russian military leaders have discussed Moscow’s willingness to use nuclear weapons in a conflict with military leaders in NATO, as part of broader and increasingly contentious conversations about the alliance’s expansion, Nikonov later told Defense One.

Nikonov’s threat might sound startling, but it’s in keeping with the current state of Russia’s ever-evolving policy on the use of nuclear weapons. While the Soviet Union maintained a policy against the first use of nukes, Putin’s government turned away from that strict prohibition in 2000 with the signing of a new military doctrine that allows for the limited use of nuclear weapons “in response to large-scale aggression utilizing conventional weapons in situations critical to the national security of the Russian Federation.”

2 June 2017

At Least Some of America's Nuclear Weapons Will Be Underwater Until 2080

Kris Osborn

The Navy is modernizing its arsenal of Trident II D5 nuclear missiles in order to ensure their service life can extend for 25 more years aboard the Navy’s nuclear ballistic missile submarine fleet, service leaders said.

The 44-foot long submarine-launched missiles have been serving on Ohio-class submarines for 25 years,service leaders explained.

The missiles are also being planned as the baseline weapon for the Ohio Replacement Program ballistic missile submarine, a platform slated to serve well into the 2080s, so the Navy wants to extend the service life of the Trident II D5 missiles to ensure mission success in future decades.

Under the U.S.-Russia New START treaty signed in 2010, roughly 70-percent of the U.S.’ nuclear warheads will be deployed on submarines.

The Navy is beginning the process of evaluating additional upgrades and technical adjustments to the sub-launched Trident II D5 nuclear weapon such that it can serve for decades well beyond its current service life extending to 2040.

The Risk of Nuclear Catastrophe under Trump

By Rebecca Friedman Lissner

Growing tension on the Korean Peninsula has returned the unimaginable terror of nuclear war to the American public consciousness. The danger is a global one: Nine states possess nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons and the detonation of even one of these weapons could cause humanitarian and economic catastrophe. Although the use of a nuclear weapon by a state or non-state actor is unlikely, it is not impossible, and the risk may be growing. Indeed, such a rare event can be evaluated in terms of a simple risk-assessment formula: probability multiplied by consequences.

Given the enormous consequences of nuclear use, even small fluctuations in probability warrant attention. Some variation will arise from changes in the international environment, such as technological advances that make nuclear command and control systems more or less vulnerable to cyber-attack, or fluctuation in the level of tension between nuclear-armed rivals like India and Pakistan. But as the world’s most powerful state, with its own vast nuclear arsenal as well as a record of leadership in nonproliferation and nuclear security efforts, the United States plays an important role in moderating —– or enhancing —– the likelihood of nuclear use.

28 May 2017

Recalibrating Deterrence to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism

by Robert S. Litwak

Pakistan and North Korea are both on the verge of significantly increasing their stocks of nuclear weapons and weapons-usable materials, necessitating a recalibration of deterrent strategies. Nevertheless, effective strategies of deterrence on the state level remain the prerequisite for countering the non-state threat of nuclear terrorism.

27 May 2017

Hey, NATO, Let’s Move Those 50 US Thermonuclear Weapons Out of Turkey


Why risk it? Even if NATO wants the nukes in Europe, Erdogan’s unstable regime is 68 miles from Syria, the hottest conflict zone on earth. 

When President Donald Trump and other heads of state meet at this week’s NATO Summit it might be a good time to discuss the wisdom of keeping 50 U.S. thermonuclear weapons in Turkey, just 70 miles from Syria, the most intense combat zone on the planet.

Each of the B61 gravity bombs stored at Incirlik Air Base, 68 miles from the Syrian border have a maximum yield of 170 kilotons, or 10 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. But these bombs also have a “dial-a-yield” capability that allows them to be set to explode at various levels, down to less than one kiloton of force. They are the vestige of the thousands of battlefield weapons once deployed by the United States and the Soviet Union to wage nuclear war in Europe. Almost all have been withdrawn from deployment except these at Incirlik and approximately 100 other B-61’s stored at NATO bases in Belgium, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands.

26 May 2017

A first draft of the world's first nuclear weapons ban

Tim Wright

Forty-five years ago, the international community signed a global convention banning biological weapons. Two decades later, it concluded a similar accord categorically rejecting chemical weapons. Now, after decades of deadlock over disarmament, the United Nations is developing a treaty to prohibit the worst of all weapons of mass destruction: nuclear weapons.

At an event in Geneva on May 22, Costa Rican ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez, who is presiding over negotiations on the historic treaty, unveiled the first draft text and took questions from the world’s media. The draft broadly reflects the discussions and input received during the first round of negotiations, held in New York in March.

More than 130 nations participated in that session. Notably absent were the nine nuclear-armed nations and most of their allies that claim protection under a “nuclear umbrella.” But this boycott—which had been widely anticipated—is no barrier to the treaty’s adoption. The new law will advance disarmament by stigmatizing nuclear weapons and establishing the foundations for their elimination.

Formal work on the “legally binding instrument” will resume on June 15. Many of the participating nations are quietly confident that agreement can be reached by July 7, the final day set aside for negotiations this year under the mandate given by the UN General Assembly. As there is no strict requirement for consensus, a troublesome few cannot block the process.

The initial draft provides a solid basis for achieving a successful outcome in July. It clearly conveys the deep humanitarian concerns that gave rise to this important and long-overdue UN initiative, and draws from global norms against other inherently indiscriminate and inhumane weapons, including biological weapons, chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines, and cluster munitions.

15 May 2017

A North Korean Nuclear EMP Attack? … Unlikely : 38 North : Informed Analysis Of North Korea

By Jack Liu

Recent press articles warn about the possibility of the North Koreans launching an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the United States, and there are even suggestions that the recent missile test failures may represent a thinly veiled EMP threat. However, such an attack from North Korea is unlikely, as it would require the North to have much larger nuclear weapons and the missile capability to deliver them.EMP Concerns

The Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the US from EMP Attack[1] states:

When a nuclear explosion occurs at high altitude, the EMP signal it produces will cover the wide geographic region within the line of sight of the detonation. This broad band, high amplitude EMP, when coupled into sensitive electronics, has the capability to produce widespread and long lasting disruption and damage to the critical infrastructures that underpin the fabric of U.S. society.

The effects of the pulse can be transferred directly to sensitive devices or as an electrical surge over power lines.

14 May 2017

PEACE OUT Could World War 3 really happen? How chemical warfare and nuclear weapons could lead to the Apocalypse

By Neal Baker, Tom Gillespie and Mark Hodge

Kim Jong-un has already threatened weekly tests of missile launches, with relations becoming increasingly strained. So are these signs of an outbreak of World War 3?


4 Donald Trump’s attack on the Syrian regime could be viewed as a direct affront to Moscow

4 Russia is a key Syria ally and global nuclear power – so could Putin retaliate and spark World War Three?

Could World War Three happen?

Tensions between US, Russia, China and North Korea are increasing.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and 24 ballistic missile tests in 2016 alone, defying six UN Security Council resolutions banning any testing.

And it has conducted additional missile tests on 2017 – including one that failed when the missile blew up soon after launching.

But the secretive country has shown no signs of slowing down, warning that it is ready for “full out war”.

12 May 2017

Lock Them Up: Zero-Deployed Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons in Europe

How can non-strategic nuclear weapons holders, particularly Russia and the US, ensure these arms are not used in a conflict in Europe? This text advocates 1) transferring these warheads to a small number of storage facilities, and 2) developing verification procedures that would confirm the absence of deployed warheads at nearby, nuclear-capable bases. The virtue of this approach is that the parties involved wouldn’t have to disclose the number of warheads they possess, which has been a serious stumbling block in previous deterrence efforts.

10 May 2017

U.S. Nuclear Security - Insider Threats

By Micah Zenko

This week, I was joined by Professor Matthew Bunn, professor of practice at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and co-principal investigator of the Belfer Center for International Affairs’ Project on Managing the Atom. We discuss insider threats in both the private and national security sectors, the topic of Professor Bunn’s recent book, Insider Threats (co-edited with Scott Sagan). Bunn also shares insights from his invaluable dissertation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Guardians at the Gates of Hell: Estimating the Risk of Nuclear Theft and Terrorism—and Identifying the Highest-Priority Risks of Nuclear Theft, and talks about how nuclear security has evolved over the past quarter-century.

Professor Bunn provides guidance on how one can have an impact on policy, which is useful to policy professionals and those just entering the field, and shares his advice for young scholars who are interested in nuclear weapons and international security. Listen to our conversation, and follow the work of the Project on Managing the Atom @ManagingtheAtom.

Guardians At The Gates Of Hell