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

22 June 2019

A Dangerous Game of Nuclear Brinkmanship

By Keith Johnson, Colum Lynch

By pledging to stockpile uranium and violate key parts of the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran is hoping to force Europe to take drastic action to keep the beleaguered accord alive—but instead risks driving its few remaining defenders to exasperation.

On Monday, Iran reaffirmed previous threats to stop complying with some crucial provisions in the nuclear deal. Iranian atomic agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said the country would surpass, within 10 days, the amounts of low-enriched uranium it was allowed to stockpile under the agreement, and he raised the possibility of further enriching uranium closer to the level needed to make weapons.

The announcement, confirming threats made by President Hassan Rouhani last month, is seen as a way to prod European countries that have supported the deal into delivering on their promises to offer some economic relief for Iran and to help mediate a broader reconciliation with Washington.

12 June 2019

Adapting to a Nuclear North Korea Is Better than Swapping Away U.S. Regional Assets

by Robert E. Kelly

Once Washington's bases and influence are gone, it won't be easy to get back.

There are several possibilities of what, if any, concessions the United States might make to North Korea to achieve at least some denuclearization of that country. But since President Donald Trump began engaging North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un in negotiations early last year, U.S. offers have been consistently one-sided.

America has repeatedly demanded the North’s complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization CVID)—an extraordinary demand tantamount to unilateral disarmament. In exchange, the United States has offered vague future benefits; security guarantees, aid promises, modernization assistance, a peace treaty, diplomatic normalization and so on. This swap is lop-sided in that it expects a huge upfront concession from the North—CVID— in exchange for nothing immediately tangible. Worse, the history of U.S. behavior toward rogue states akin to North Korea, particularly toward Libya and Iran, suggests that Washington will not keep its promises.

The North will not take this trade, interpreting it as CVID for nothing. It would be great if Washington could get this, of course, but it will not happen.

6 June 2019

The Iranian Missile Threat

By Anthony H. Cordesman

There is no doubt that Iran and North Korea present serious security challenges to the U.S. and its strategic partners, and that their missile forces already present a major threat within their respective regions. It is, however, important to put this challenge in context. Both nations have reason to see the U.S. strategic partners as threats, and reasons that go far beyond any strategic ambitions.

Iran is only half this story, but its missile developments show all too clearly why both countries lack the ability to modernize their air forces, which has made them extremely dependent on missiles for both deterrence and war fighting. They also show that the missile threat goes far beyond the delivery of nuclear weapons, and is already becoming far more lethal and effective at a regional level.

Iran's Perceptions of the Threat

2 June 2019

Improvised Explosive Devices, a Near Perfect Asymmetric Weapon System of Necessity Rather than a Weapon of Choice

Paul Amoroso and Michael Solis


The articulation of Counter-IED technical methodology has been reduced to unclear and obscure phrases and concepts that undermine the overall discussion. Specifically, efforts to counter and prevent IED use require precise language; otherwise, the inherent complexity of the problem and associated solutions will be reduced to oversimplified terms and concepts that impair clarity and obscure clear understanding of the problem. The lack of understanding will adversely affect the discussion and the generation of sound and viable solutions. Abstract terms, phrases, and undying allegiances to previously used and often unrealistic solutions undermine our ability to think clearly about the viability of suggested solutions. The reckless regurgitation of words and phrases without thoughtful, clear evaluation perpetuates myths, imprecision, and ignorance. Marc Tranchemontagne broached this subject in his article The Enduring IED Problem, Why We Need Doctrine. He argues that the term weapon of choiceis an uninspired kluge whose meaning is too ambiguous to help us understand the IED problem, and that the expression ought to be retired, especially in policy, doctrine, and other thoughtful writing.[i] Authors Paul Amoroso and Michael Solis seek to dispel this commonly used expression embedded in nearly every brief, paper, or discussion related to the use of IEDs, and that the IED is the weapon of choice among aggressors. They argue, instead, that the IED is a “near perfect asymmetric weapon system of necessity.” For clarity, the terms terrorist, insurgent, and extremist are often used interchangeably depending on the source of information or context from which the information comes. The term IED aggressor[ii] pacifies the sensitive political context and encompasses all perpetrators of IED employment.


23 May 2019

Nuclear War Is Still Very Possible and Very Scary

Tyler Cowen

One of the most striking facts of today’s world is that young people do not seem to worry very much about nuclear war. Climate change is by far the larger concern, while nuclear war is seen as a threat of the past. As Chapin Boyer, who is in his late 20s, wrote in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists a few years ago: “I cannot remember a time when the threat of nuclear weapons seemed real. … My generation grew up believing that the problem of nuclear weapons had been solved.”

In contrast, I am inclined to think that the risk of nuclear war remains the world’s No. 1 problem, even if that risk does not seem so pressing on any particular day.

21 May 2019

Nuclear Weapons Are Getting Less Predictable, and More Dangerous


Facing steerable ICBMs and smaller warheads, the Pentagon seeks better tracking as the White House pursues an unlikely arms-control treaty. 

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, to discuss, among many things, the prospect of a new, comprehensive nuclear-weapons treaty with Russia and China. At the same time, the Pentagon is developing a new generation of nuclear weapons to keep up with cutting-edge missiles and warheads coming out of Moscow. If the administration fails in its ambitious renegotiation, the world is headed toward a new era of heightened nuclear tension not seen in decades.

That’s because these new weapons are eroding the idea of nuclear predictability.

19 May 2019

What Does Israel’s Missile Strike on Hamas Hackers Mean for Military Cyber Response?

To date, nation-states have been extremely hesitant about responding to cyber attacks with physical military force. That’s what makes Israel’s early May attack on Hamas so unusual. While it’s not uncommon for the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to respond to rocket attacks from Gaza with targeted strikes, this is the first time they have done so in response to hacking. The move has left many wondering how common an armed cyber response will be going forward.

The IDF released video showing an air strike on a Hamas-occupied building that the cyber attacks were being launched from. The IDF did not release any details of the nature of the cyber attacks, other than describing them as a threat to “the quality of life of Israeli citizens.”

Not only is this the first time that Israel has responded to a cyber threat in this way, it is believed to be the first time any military has responded to a digital threat with immediate force.

A lethal cyber response

17 May 2019

China’s Great Nuclear Wall

BY: Aaron Kliegman

When it comes to nuclear arms control, China is great at playing hard to get. Beijing is the elusive beauty, a difficult but attractive target for those who seek nuclear disarmament. Powerful yet mysterious, shrouding its nuclear program in a haze of opacity, the Chinese government never actually gives its pursuers what they want. And China knows that only makes them more interested. Indeed, Beijing leads on its suitors with seductive promises of reducing its arsenal of nuclear weapons, only to demand more in return from other states before taking any steps. And then the cycle begins anew, with no fewer nuclear weapons in China.

To illustrate the point, go back to June 1982, when the United Nations General Assembly held a second special session on disarmament. At the gathering, the late Huang Hua, then China's foreign minister, presented a concrete proposal: if the United States and the Soviet Union halted the testing, improving, or manufacturing of nuclear weapons and reduced their arsenals by 50 percent, the Chinese government would be ready "to join all other nuclear states in undertaking to stop the development and production of nuclear weapons, and to further reduce and ultimately destroy them altogether." Just six years later, however, as the United States and the Soviet Union were drafting the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START I, which significantly reduced each country's nuclear arsenal, China changed its standard for joining arms-control talks. The 50-percent threshold was just a start; Moscow and Washington also had to make further "drastic reductions" in their arsenals. Then, in 1995, after Moscow and Washington signed START I and START II, Beijing changed its standard yet again. China would not, according to nuclear expert Brad Roberts, consider disarmament until the Americans and Russians "reduced their arsenals far beyond START II numbers, abandoned tactical nuclear weapons, abandoned ballistic missile defense, and agreed to joint no-first-use pledge," under which they would vow never to be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict. No matter the circumstance, China was simply not interested in nuclear arms control.

13 May 2019


Dr. Mark Schneider

Introduction—The Chinese Quest for Hegemony

The most serious long-term national security threat to the U.S. comes from The People’s Republic of China. Its military forces are being built for information driven high intensity conflict against its neighbors and possibly the United States.[1] China does not assume or plan for a “peaceful rise,” as its actions in the South China Sea demonstrate.[2] At a minimum, China seeks hegemony in the Far East and claims sovereignty over Taiwan, and shifting the balance of nuclear power is an important element of China’s drive to regional hegemony.[3]

Nuclear Weapons and the Chinese Quest for Hegemony

To establish hegemony in Asia, China is building an expanding nuclear force. China appears to see nuclear weapons as a critical tool in its quest for hegemony. The political role of China’s nuclear doctrine is to force its neighbors to acquiesce to China’s hegemony because they fear China’s military power and are uncertain about the U.S. extended nuclear deterrent.

In the event of a conventional war is Asia, China expects its strategic and theater nuclear capabilities to deter a U.S. effort to defend Taiwan, Japan and its other Pacific allies from a Chinese attack. In short, China is attempting to exploit the U.S. and allied fear of nuclear war to support its goal of hegemony.

Iran nuclear deal: Tehran to lift cap on uranium enrichment

Iran will resume high-level enrichment of uranium if world powers do not keep their promises under a 2015 nuclear agreement, President Hassan Rouhani said.

In a speech broadcast on national television on Wednesday, Rouhani said the remaining signatories - the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia - had 60 days to implement their promises to protect Iran's oil and banking sectors from US sanctions.

Rouhani said Iran wanted to negotiate new terms with remaining partners in the deal, but acknowledged the situation was dire.

"We felt that the nuclear deal needs a surgery and the painkiller pills of the last year have been ineffective," Rouhani said. "This surgery is for saving the deal, not destroying it."

The move comes a year after United States President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the landmark nuclear accord.

Since then, the US has restored crippling economic sanctions on Iran, even as Tehran continued to abide by the deal, according to United Nations inspectors.

8 May 2019

PLA’s furtive underwater nukes test the Pentagon

Until recently, China lacked a reliable nuclear second-strike capability. Its ballistic missile submarines, which can deliver a nuclear weapon, are changing that. Now, the United States is pursuing these subs in a cat-and-mouse contest reminiscent of the Cold War.

Recent visitors to the bay surrounding a submarine base on the southern coast of China’s Hainan Island describe a curious nocturnal phenomenon. Powerful spotlights are sometimes trained directly on the ocean frontages of neighboring hotels at night, making visibility out to sea virtually impossible. Some of the lights are mounted on land and others on passing naval patrol boats.

“The effect is incredible,” said one recent visitor. “The glare is so great you can hardly stand it on the balcony. You go inside and draw the curtains tight.”

The blinding lights cannot obscure something of intense interest to the world’s military intelligence agencies: evidence that China has made a breakthrough in its drive to rival America and Russia as a nuclear arms power.

5 May 2019

United States nuclear forces, 2019

At the beginning of 2019, the US Department of Defense maintained an estimated stockpile of 3,800 nuclear warheads for delivery by more than 800 ballistic missiles and aircraft. Most of the warheads in the stockpile are not deployed, but rather stored for potential upload onto missiles and aircraft as necessary. Many are destined for retirement. We estimate that approximately 1,750 warheads are currently deployed, of which roughly 1,300 strategic warheads are deployed on ballistic missiles, 300 at strategic bomber bases in the United States, while another 150 tactical bombs are deployed at air bases in Europe. The remaining warheads – approximately 2,050 – are in storage as a socalled hedge against technical or geopolitical surprises. 

Several hundred of those warheads are scheduled to be retired before 2030. (See Table 1.) Through 2018, the Trump administration followed the Obama administration's practice of declassifying the size of the stockpile and number of dismantled warheads. In April 2019, however, the Defense Department – presumably under guidance from the White House – rejected declassifying the numbers. The decision reverses US nuclear transparency policy and will, if not reversed, create uncertainty and mistrust about the size of the US nuclear arsenal (Kristensen 2019). In addition to the warheads in the Department of Defense stockpile, approximately 2,385 retired – but still intact – warheads are stored under custody of the Department of Energy and are awaiting dismantlement, giving a total US inventory of an estimated 6,185 warheads.

Hypersonics and Modern War

By George Friedman

Hypersonics could introduce a radically new type of war.

The media has been filled with stories recently about Chinese and Russian hypersonic missiles and how these weapons are changing the military balance of power. The U.S. Department of Defense has said it is struggling to keep up with the Chinese and Russian programs. The United States, however, has been working on developing hypersonic missiles since the 1990s; I even wrote an entire chapter in my 1996 book “The Future of War” on the U.S. hypersonics program. In the time since, it’s hard to believe that the U.S. has made little progress on this program, while the Chinese and Russians have surged ahead. Nonetheless, it’s possible that the U.S. has dropped the ball here. It’s also possible that the Defense Department is using this issue to leverage more money out of Congress while obscuring the progress it has made. The Chinese and Russians, meanwhile, are looking for any means to appear powerful and intimidating. But regardless of whether the U.S. has actually fallen behind on this matter, the real question is why hypersonic missiles are an important evolution in the first place.

How Do Hypersonics Work?

3 May 2019

5 Sustainable Solutions for Middle East Security

by James Jay Carafano

The United States is a global power with global interests and responsibilities. Protecting these interests hinges on access to the commons (sea, space, air, cyberspace) and stability in Europe, the Middle East and the Indo-Pacific region (the great trading centers).

In some ways the Middle East is the most important of these three regions. It is the intersection of commercial air and sea travel between the other key regions. It is a global energy hub, a lynchpin of international financial networks and a crossroads for human migration. Much of what is good (and evil) in the world is based in the Middle East or passes through it.

American prosperity and security is always heightened when this part of the world is more stable, peaceful and prosperous. Any serious U.S. strategy looking beyond 2020 must have a serious component for dealing with the Greater Middle East, including North Africa.

Watergate Scandal: President Richard Nixon announces the release of edited transcripts of White House tape recordings relating to the scandal.

Opposite of Leading from Behind

2 May 2019

Barrier is high for developing enabling technologies for hypersonic weapons and missile defense

By John Keller 

THE MIL & AERO COMMENTARY – Of all the forward-looking defense technologies under development to counter perceived threats of the next several decades, hypersonic weapons represent the one with the highest sense of urgency. The reason these future Mach-5 weapons are getting so much attention is the nation's military leaders believe the U.S. is behind -- perhaps far behind -- its chief military rivals, Russia and China.

Hypersonic weapons are particularly scary because today there's no way to defend against them; they're just too fast. These kinds of weapons are considered so formidable and beyond any of today's missile defenses that they will be in the 2020s what some of the first reliable intercontinental ballistic missiles were in the 1960s -- the focal point of billions of dollars in research and development to build ever-faster hypersonic weapons, and new approaches to hypersonic missile defense.

1 May 2019

The Importance of Nepal’s First Satellite Launch

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Earlier this month, the United States launched Nepal’s first satellite, NepaliSat-1, into orbit. The satellite, equipped with a 5-megapixel camera and a magnetometer, is meant to gather information about Nepal’s topography and earth’s magnetic field, and is part of the greater attention the country is paying to the space realm amid domestic and wider regional developments.

The NepaliSat-1 was launched by the United States under the “Birds-3 satellite launch to International Space Station project.” The BIRDS project is a UN initiative to help countries launch their first satellite and the Japanese Kyushu Institute of Technology has been involved in this particular project. Under the project, there was also a satellite from Sri Lanka, named Raavana-1, that was launched along with the NepaliSat-1.

23 April 2019

Great Power Competition Feeds the Threat Posed by Anti-Satellite Technology

By Omar Lamrani

As demonstrated by India's latest anti-satellite (ASAT) test, the number of countries willing to pursue ASAT weapons and capabilities in space is growing. The rising great power competition among Russia, China and the United States is driving ASAT use and development. ASAT technology produces dangerous space debris that can disable important satellites and challenge the long-term sustainable use of space. Unfortunately, adequate norms and treaties do not exist to regulate the ASAT risk, and the tense dynamics among global powers suggest they are unlikely to be formed in the near future.

Another country, another test, yet more debris floating through the crowded realm of near-orbit space. On March 27, India became the latest country to carry out an anti-satellite (ASAT) test resulting in debris. India sought to frame the test as a sign of its prowess in space, but on a global level, the event serves as an important wake-up call about the risks of ASAT-related technology.

The Big Picture

22 April 2019

Anatomy of a Taiwan Invasion Part 2: Missile and Naval Domains

By Rick Joe

This is part 2 of a three-part series considering the way in which a Taiwan invasion may be conducted. Part 1 set the political basis and military parameters and timeline for such a contingency, stating a late 2019 onset of conflict. The air domain of the conflict was also discussed, arguing that Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) fighter forces and Republic of China Armed Forces (ROCArF) air defenses and early warning systems would likely suffer significant early losses and disadvantages in terms of situational awareness, fighter sortie rates, and IADS coherency.

Part 2 now will consider the goals and prospects of other People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) kinetic domains, including missile power, naval power, and the beach landing. As described in part 1, this series will only consider first week of active fighting (T-day to T-day+7), with the conclusion that the PLA will seek to have successfully conducted amphibious assaults to have attained at least one or more major beachheads. Part 3 next month will review methods in which the ROCArF may seek to counter existing PLA capabilities as well as to consider what the likely future trajectory of PLA development may mean for ROCArF prospects in the next decade or more.

PLA Missile Availability

21 April 2019

Advanced gene editing may mutate into WMDs

Shambhavi Naik

Last June, German police arrested a man planning a terror attack by releasing large quantities of the biological toxin ricin, said to be 6,000 times more poisonous than cyanide. The raids on a block of flats in Cologne blew the lid off our worst fears: non-state actors laying their hands on bioweapons.

Technology has always changed war and its arsenal. Scientists, security experts and diplomats are increasingly talking about biological weapons when they discuss strategies to prevent proliferation of conventional and nuclear weapons. While biological attacks have been rare since the end of World War II, isolated incidents have been reported. The ‘anthrax letters’, which killed five people in the US following 9/11, is one such incident.

The renewed attention to biological warfare also stems from advances in gene editing technologies. CRISPR-based technologies have allowed humans to edit genomes and manipulate organisms with precision at a low cost. The use of these technologies in humans, plants, animals and micro-organisms has spread rapidly. CRISPR has broken out of labs into garages and DIY kits. This ‘democratisation’ of science has triggered concerns about the misuse of technology to create pathogens that can be weaponised.

19 April 2019

Resilience: The ´Fifth Wave´ in the Evolution of Deterrence

By Tim Prior 

According to Tim Prior, the ‘fifth wave’ of deterrence development is rising at a point when established approaches are fumbling to provide an effective response to complex contemporary security threats. However, Prior believes that an answer lies in resilience thinking. Indeed, he argues that resilience can increase the ability of security institutions to cope with complex threats, for instance, by reducing vulnerabilities and denying threatening actors suitable targets for their attacks.

The concept of resilience is becoming more relevant for current deterrence debates at a time of evolving threats. The fifth wave of deterrence development is rising at a point when established international security practices are fumbling to respond effectively to security challenges. Resilience can increase the ability of security institutions to cope with and respond to complex threats in a deliberative manner. Security policy decision-making processes must match the complex threat environment they seek to govern by being flexible, proactive, and distributed.