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

20 October 2018

Nuclear Weapons Don’t Matter But Nuclear Hysteria Does

By John Mueller

The unleashed power of the atom,” Albert Einstein wrote in 1946, “has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” Winston Churchill noted in 1955, however, that nuclear deterrence might produce stability instead and predicted that “safety will be the sturdy child of terror, and survival the twin brother of annihilation.” Einstein’s view became the touchstone of the modern peace movement. Churchill’s view evolved into mainstream Western nuclear strategy and doctrine. Both argued that the nuclear revolution had fundamentally transformed international politics. Both were wrong.

14 October 2018

The Unknowable Fallout of China’s Trade War Nuclear Option

By Andrew Ross Sorkin

In the trade war between the United States and China, economists and investors have long tried to game out how both sides might use their clout. In virtually all the predictions, at least until recently, they revolved around a tit-for-tat tariff war. Even in the gloomiest of doomsday scenarios, there is one weapon that has long been considered unthinkable: the Chinese, the biggest holder of United States foreign debt with more than $1 trillion, publicly taking a step back from buying United States Treasuries — or worse, dumping what they own in the open market. The very idea is typically dismissed as a waste of time to even consider, and the reason is a sort of mutually assured destruction. It would be wildly irrational in economic terms, the thinking goes. China selling Treasuries would send interest rates up and hurt the United States, but it would simultaneously severely damage the value of China’s own Treasury holdings. As the industrialist J. Paul Getty famously said, “If you owe the bank $100, that’s your problem; if you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem.” In the United States-China relationship, China is very clearly the bank.

5 October 2018

Russia’s High-Precision Strike Capabilities and ‘Pre-Nuclear’ Deterrence

By: Roger McDermott

Moscow is paying increasing attention to the development and strengthening of its Armed Forces’ conventional high-precision strike capabilities. This encapsulates its cruise missile, coastal-defense, operational-strategic and operational-tactical high-precision weapons. Some of these have been tried and tested during combat operations in Syria. And undoubtedly, such weapons will become more of a prominent feature in Russian military operations in the future: the authorities have promised to fully outfit the Missile and Artillery Troops by 2021 with the latest systems as well as to diversify the types and production of such assets. But at the same time, this advanced conventional weaponry is closely tied to the embellishment of Russia’s so-called “pre-nuclear” deterrence. Since they are so expensive, such systems feature more in actual combat operations in Syria and less in the testing that takes place during strategic exercises; although these kinds of experiments utilizing high-precision strikes also occurred during Vostok 2018 (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, September 25).

2 October 2018

Can Europe Become a Nuclear Power?

By Manuel Lafont Rapnouil, Tara Varma and Nick Witney

Only if Europeans resume a serious debate about their responsibilities for their own security

“Do we need the bomb?” asked the front page of Welt am Sonntag, one of Germany’s biggest newspapers, last month. In an essay in the paper, political scientist Christian Hacke answered “yes”, arguing that, “for the first time since 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany is no longer under the United States’ nuclear umbrella.”

It is extraordinary that the anti-nuclear, peace-loving Germans should be toying with such ideas. For 70 years, the NATO alliance has ultimately rested on the belief that, in extreme circumstances, the US president would be willing to risk the destruction of Chicago to protect Berlin. Yet Donald Trump’s catastrophic summer foray into Europe – in which he mused to alliance leaders that, unless Europeans shaped up, the US might “go our own way” – has rendered any such belief untenable.

30 September 2018

Five Ways U.S. Nuclear Strategy Might Fail -- Maybe Soon

Loren Thompson

U.S. nuclear strategy rests on a foundation of fear. Its core precept is that if adversaries know they cannot avoid retaliation, they will not attack. That is why Washington spends billions of dollars each year sustaining a strategic force no enemy can destroy in a surprise attack. It is the fear of what follows that deters nuclear aggression.

In a world of only two nuclear powers and few foreign entanglements, that might be a simple story to tell. But this is not a simple world -- at least, not for the sole remaining superpower. America has allies on every continent, and it has extended nuclear guarantees to many of them. For instance, if Germany or Japan were the victim of nuclear aggression, Washington might decide to retaliate in kind against the attacker. What happens after that is anyone's guess.

25 September 2018

SCARY! What Pakistan and China's nuclear weapons mean for India

'Once the military starts to draw up plans for using nuclear weapons, then nuclear weapons could be used earlier in a crisis than otherwise.'

Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is growing at a faster rate than predicted, with a reliable report from the non-profit Federation of American Scientists putting the figure at about 150 warheads now.

In the FAS's Nuclear Notebook: Pakistani Nuclear Forces, 2018, the authors, Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris, suggest that this could mean the country is not only on target to have up to 250 warheads by 2025, but that its production of tactical nuclear weapons risked a quicker slide from conventional clashes to a nuclear war.

22 September 2018

Point and Nuke Remembering the era of portable atomic bombs.


When Dwight D. Eisenhower took the oath of office as the 34th president of the United States in 1953, the total U.S. nuclear stockpile was approaching 1,000. When Ike left, eight years later, that number had grown to around 20,000—with further increases programmed in. Those weapons included one of the strangest creations of the Cold War: an atomic bazooka, putting nuclear destruction in the hands of as few as two soldiers. For the U.S. military planners of the 1950s, nuclear weapons were not merely strategic assets to deter conflict but munitions ready for use in the event of hostilities. Eisenhower looked to nuclear weapons as a cheaper alternative to conventional troops at a time when U.S. forces were dangerously, and expensively, overstretched.

3 September 2018

Bioterrorism: Fear accidents more than attacks

Rebecca L. Brown

Experts and politicians have long stoked fears of a biological terrorist attack. But in the 17 years since the coordinated terrorist attacks of 9/11, no bioterrorist attack has come to fruition. Terrorists have tried to launch biological attacks, but their attempts have been plagued with failures. In fact, terrorists are more likely to cause a local epidemic by accident than to succeed in launching a sophisticated biological attack. Governments and the public should still be concerned about bioterrorism. But considering the risk that terrorists will accidentally cause a dangerous outbreak, government spending should focus more heavily on public health.

he Nuclear Power Plant of the Future May Be Floating Near Russia

By Andrew E. Kramer

MURMANSK, Russia — Along the shore of Kola Bay in the far northwest of Russia lie bases for the country’s nuclear submarines and icebreakers. Low, rocky hills descend to an industrial waterfront of docks, cranes and railway tracks. Out on the bay, submarines have for decades stalked the azure waters, traveling between their port and the ocean depths.Here, Russia is conducting an experiment with nuclear power, one that backers say is a leading-edge feat of engineering but that critics call reckless. The country is unveiling a floating nuclear power plant. Tied to a wharf in the city of Murmansk, the Akademik Lomonosov rocks gently in the waves. The buoyant facility, made of two miniature reactors of a type used previously on submarines, is for now the only one of its kind.

2 September 2018

New IDF strategy to focus on missiles

Ben Caspit 

Israel’s military-strategic advantages over its adversaries are many, but no one doubts that Israel’s air force is the true game-changer. For dozens of years already, Israel’s top decision-makers and army chiefs refer to the air force as “the insurance policy of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.” The Israel Defense Forces invests the better part of its funds, its energies and its qualitative human resources in the air force, and has become the first foreign army to have tested the United States' F-35 stealth fighter jets under real combat conditions. The missions and sorties the Israeli air force had accomplished in two weeks of fighting in the Second Lebanon War can now be carried out in a 24-hour timeframe. The air force is viewed as Israel’s awe-inspiring strategic arm and its most effective instrument of deterrence.


Steve Leonard 

Few books are worthy of a one-word review, but Jeffrey Lewis’s The 2020 Commission Report is certainly one of them. With a narrative that captures the gradual de-evolution of long-running geopolitical patterns, Lewis takes readers on a dystopian literary adventure that is maddening one minute and gut-wrenching the next. What makes this book unforgettable, however, is its plausibility. Although Lewis subtitles The 2020 Commission Report as “A Speculative Novel,” the events unfold in a manner readers with any familiarity of the standoff with North Korea will find absolutely plausible. The result is a provocative military thriller that will draw the reader into a fictional world on the precipice of nuclear extinction.

31 August 2018

Brazil Considers the Nuclear Option

Brazil will revive its nuclear energy program as part of a proposal that the government expects to present before Congress later this year. In the absence of any grave threats in South America, Brazil's nuclear program will largely focus on energy, medicine and agriculture, but the country will leave the door open to developing nuclear weapons by mastering atomic technology. The fate of Brasilia's nuclear plans could hinge on October's presidential elections, as one of the leading candidates, Marina Silva, vociferously opposes the atomic program.  For four years, a corruption scandal has kept Brazil down for the count on some of its biggest projects, including a third nuclear energy plant. Now, however, things appear set to change as the country emerges from the graft probe and stalled construction work resumes on nuclear facilities — particularly the third nuclear plant. Boasting the world's sixth-largest uranium reserves, Brazil is also eager to attract investments to its uranium-mining industry, including the Caetite mine in the northeastern state of Bahia. In all, Brazil hopes to meet the demand for nuclear plants, construct a multipurpose nuclear reactor and further harness atomic energy for medicine and agriculture. But in turning its face once more to nuclear power, Brazil could also leave the door open to the production of nuclear weapons — a development that could elicit far more pushback at home and abroad.

30 August 2018

Russian Ground-Launched Non-strategic Nuclear Weapons

By Mark B. Schneider

Russia maintains the largest force of ground-launched non-strategic or tactical nuclear weapons in the world. Even more striking is the fact that essentially 100% of these weapons violate Russian arms control commitments. According to the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), “Russia continues to violate a series of arms control treaties and commitments, the most significant being the INF Treaty. In a broader context, Russia is either rejecting or avoiding its obligations and commitments under numerous agreements, including…the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives.”[1] The 1988 INF Treaty prohibits ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500-km and Russian commitments under the 1991-1992 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives include, among other things, the complete elimination of short-range ground-launched nuclear missiles of less than INF range, nuclear artillery and nuclear land-mines.[2] Russian now has a monopoly on these weapons because the U.S. honored its commitments to dismantle these weapons. In 2014, the Obama administration concluded, “…that the Russian Federation was in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.”[3] This missile type is now operational.[4]

29 August 2018

Brazil Considers the Nuclear Option

Brazil will revive its nuclear energy program as part of a proposal that the government expects to present before Congress later this year. In the absence of any grave threats in South America, Brazil's nuclear program will largely focus on energy, medicine and agriculture, but the country will leave the door open to developing nuclear weapons by mastering atomic technology. The fate of Brasilia's nuclear plans could hinge on October's presidential elections, as one of the leading candidates, Marina Silva, vociferously opposes the atomic program.

25 August 2018

The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Chem­i­cal Weapons

By Zach Dorf­man for Carnegie Coun­cil for Ethics in In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs

In this ar­ti­cle, Zach Dorf­man de­scribes how chem­i­cal weapons have been used in al­most every decade since Ger­man troops first re­leased chlo­rine gas in an at­tack at Ypres, Bel­gium, on 22 April 1915. He also high­lights how af­ter a few decades of rel­a­tive non-use, chem­i­cal weapon at­tacks have again ex­ploded on to the scene and why their oc­cur­rence will likely con­tinue un­abated. This ar­ti­cle was orig­i­nally pub­lished by the Carnegie Coun­cil for Ethics in In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs on 7 Au­gust 2018. Im­age cour­tesy of Ryan An­der­son/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) Af­ter the ad­vent of nu­clear weapons, the two su­per­pow­ers sud­denly pos­sessed the abil­ity to al­ter the very con­di­tions for life. Hi­roshima and Na­gasaki shook the foun­da­tions of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions. Even the most prag­matic and in­ci­sive schol­ars of power, like Hans Mor­gen­thau, thought world gov­ern­ment was now an ur­gent moral ne­ces­sity (if not soon ac­tu­ally in the off­ing).

22 August 2018

Thorium power has a protactinium problem

By Eva C. Uribe,

In 1980, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) observed that protactinium, a chemical element generated in thorium reactors, could be separated and allowed to decay to isotopically pure uranium 233—suitable material for making nuclear weapons. The IAEA report, titled “Advanced Fuel Cycle and Reactor Concepts,” concluded that the proliferation resistance of thorium fuel cycles “would be equivalent to” the uranium/plutonium fuel cycles of conventional civilian nuclear reactors, assuming both included spent fuel reprocessing to isolate fissile material. Decades later, the story changed. “Th[orium]-based fuels and fuel cycles have intrinsic proliferation resistance,” according to the IAEA in 2005. Mainstream media have repeated this view ever since, often without caveat. Several scholars have recognized the inherent proliferation risk of protactinium separations in the thorium fuel cycle, but the perception that thorium reactors cannot be used to make weapons persists. While technology has advanced, the fundamental radiochemistry that governs nuclear fuel reprocessing remains unchanged. Thus, this shift in perspective is puzzling and reflects a failure to recognize the importance of protactinium radiochemistry in thorium fuel cycles.

21 August 2018

Managing Pakistan’s Bomb: Learning on the job

By Pervez Hoodbhoy, Zia Mian

On Saturday, Imran Khan will be sworn in as the next prime minister of Pakistan. His has been a sudden and rapid rise to power; he first came into politics in the late 1990s with no experience and has never held any government office. In his first public address to the nation after winning the July election, with Pakistan’s economy near bankruptcy, Khan said, “The biggest challenge we are facing is the economic crisis.” While this may well be the most pressing issue, the biggest and most important challenge Imran Khan will confront as prime minister is something he did not mention at all in his speech—how to manage the Bomb. The lives and well-being of Pakistan’s 200 million citizens and countless millions in India and elsewhere depend on how well he deals with the doomsday machine Pakistan’s Army and nuclear complex have worked so hard to build.

15 August 2018

Why countries still must prioritize action to curb nuclear terrorism

By Sara Z. Kutchesfahani, Kelsey Davenport

When a Superman-shaped drone crashed into a French nuclear plant on July 3 of this year, officials were lucky it was just Greenpeace demonstrating vulnerabilities at the facility, and not a terrorist group intent on attacking the site. This incident highlights why the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review’s assessment that nuclear terrorism is “today’s most immediate and extreme danger” remains relevant: It underscores the importance of the sustained and persistent six-year effort from 2010 to 2016 to reduce the threat posed by nuclear terrorism, far from the headline nuclear issues of Iran, North Korea, and arms control with Russia.

13 August 2018

In Alarming New Study, Nuclear Lab Scientists Question U.S. Weapons' Performance

This is important. In today's nuclear weapons era, America's existence depends on our nuclear weapons stockpile. The instant readiness of these weapons for launch by our deployed submarines, bombers, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the absolute, unquestioned ability of the weapons themselves to perform meticulously to their certified military characteristics, are our nation's only guarantee of survival. This is what the Cold War was all about, avoiding global thermonuclear war. For 46 years, the Soviet Union and the United States each had tens of thousands of high-yield nuclear weapons poised for instant launch. If there had been any hint of incipient U.S. weapons failure, our nation would have ceased to exist. Our Strategic Air Command used to say that their mission was to ensure that the Kremlin's daily morning meeting ended with the leader saying "Not today, Comrades."

11 August 2018

Dawn of a New Armageddon

Cynthia Lazaroff

A personal essay on the meaning of a ballistic missile alert issued in Hawaii in January 2018, at the height of nuclear tensions between the United States and North Korea.