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

16 August 2017



In the United States, we do not just elect a president. We elect a commander-in-chief, and the Constitution grants that person tremendous power to protect and defend the nation. In doing so, the founding fathers entrusted an awesome responsibility to our electorate. No burden on the American president is greater than the authority to use nuclear weapons in defense of the nation. The U.S. nuclear arsenal, as well as the command and control system that surrounds and supports it, is designed to protect the United States and its allies from the most severe and catastrophic threats that are unresolvable through any other measure.

For this reason, the president is granted extraordinary authorities regarding the use of these weapons. But these authorities are not boundless, nor should they be. These authorities depend on context and are constrained by law and policy. Only the president can authorize the use of nuclear weapons, and a rigorous process and protocol exist to ensure that he or she can do so appropriately. These well-practiced procedures and mechanisms are designed to ensure that the president has all necessary information and the best advice from legal experts, military commanders, and civilian leaders, when these extraordinary circumstances arise.

Trump Preparing to End Iran Nuke Deal

By Jack Thompson

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) of 2015, which would have been impossible without close transatlantic cooperation, brought Iran back into compliance with the Nuclear Non-Prolifera­tion Treaty (NPT)

US President Trump and some of his political advisors are preparing to end participation in the JCPOA, possibly as early as October 2017. Iran is gaining ever more influence in the Middle East, they contend, which is why sanctions need to be reinforced, not lifted

If the US were to withdraw from the JCPOA, it would deal another blow to US-European ties and could weaken the NPT

Hence, European governments need to talk to Trump’s most influential advisers and convince them that withdrawal from the JCPOA would leave the US isolated

One of the most successful examples of transatlantic cooperation in recent years was the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was finalized in July 2015. The deal imposes strict constraints on Iran’s nuclear program, and provides for enhanced transparency, in return for relief from international sanctions.

12 August 2017

North Korea, Nukes and Negotiations

By George Friedman

The narrative about North Korea, a narrative I believe to be true and have since early March, is simple: The North Koreans have reached a point in their nuclear and missile programs where they could soon have the capability to strike the United States. The U.S. isn’t prepared to let itself be vulnerable to the whims of what is seen as a dangerously unpredictable regime in Pyongyang. Therefore, the U.S. is prepared to strike at North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities.

At the same time, the U.S. is extremely reluctant to attack. The nuclear program sites are dispersed and hardened, making airstrikes difficult, and North Korean artillery concentrated near the demilitarized zone could devastate Seoul. So as it considers not just whether a strike should be made, but whether one is even possible, the U.S. has been trying to motivate China to use its influence in North Korea to get Pyongyang to halt its weapons development. The U.S. position is that a strike will take place if diplomacy fails, but also that a conflict with North Korea would be difficult, dangerous and potentially devastating to allies. Thus, the U.S. is postponing such an action as long as possible.

As time passes, it is important to re-examine old assessments. The United States didn’t suddenly in the last few months conclude that an attack on North Korea was dangerous. The Americans had to have known the North Korean nuclear development program was dispersed and hardened, and they have publicly spoken about the artillery threat to Seoul. But they might have been galvanized by indications that the North Koreans had a miniaturized and ruggedized warhead and were close to having an intercontinental delivery capability. Given the degree of U.S. focus on North Korea, however, the appearance of sudden apprehension is odd.

This Is How America Would Wage a Nuclear War Against North Korea

Dave Majumdar

The standoff between the United States and North Korea continues to escalate with neither side willing to back down.

With each passing day, the possibility of open warfare breaking out seems to increase as each side ups the ante. Indeed, President Donald Trump has ratcheted up his rhetoric in recent days—seemingly threatening to launch a nuclear first strike against North Korea.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Just hours later, Kim Jong-un’s regime in Pyongyang threatened to preemptively strike at American forces given even a “slight sign of the U.S. provocation.” That, according to the North Korean statement, would include a “beheading operation” such as a special operations forces raid aimed at assassinating Kim.

“The U.S. should remembered, however, that once there observed a sign of action for ‘preventive war’ from the U.S., the army of the DPRK will turn the U.S. mainland into the theatre of a nuclear war before the inviolable land of the DPRK turns into the one,” reads a North Korean Foreign Ministry statement. “We do not hide that we already have in full readiness the diversified strategic nuclear strike means which have the U.S. mainland in our striking range.”

11 August 2017

Why Russia's Nuclear Submarine Fleet Might Be 'Sinking'

Robert Beckhusen

In March 2017, Russia’s new Yasen-class nuclear attack submarine Kazan launched at the northern port city of Severodvinsk. Perhaps the quietest Russian submarine ever, the event was further evidence the Kremlin can still build capable and lethal subs capable of a variety of missions, including cruise-missile attack.

But it won’t be enough. The Russian navy — already badly depleted since the collapse of the Soviet Union — can’t quickly replace most of its existing nuclear submarine fleet, which is approaching the end of its collective lifespan. The outcome will likely mean a shrinking of the Russian nuclear submarine force in the years ahead.

By 2030, the bulk of Russia’s nuclear-powered attack and cruise-missile submarines will be in their mid-thirties at least — with some pushing into their forties. For perspective, the three oldest active American attack submarines, the Los Angeles-class USS Dallas, Bremerton and Jacksonville, are all 36 years old and waiting to be decommissioned during the next three years.

Submarines wear out in old age, particularly due to hull corrosion. Another serious concern is corrosion affecting components inside the nuclear reactor compartments, but data surrounding this subject are tightly guarded secrets among the world’s navies.

10 August 2017

Ordering Nuclear War: Gen. Selva Tells Us What Happens


CAPITOL HILL: The security of nuclear command and control is the Holy Grail of the US military. Nothing, especially in these turbulent days, matters more. Aside from occasional talk about the nuclear football — as the case containing the nuclear codes is known — most Americans know little about what would happen in the event that the president needed to order a nuclear strike.

In a moment of utter lucidity on the topic, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva outlined this morning just what the standards and broad actions are governing the most grim order anyone would ever have to make. He spoke at a breakfast on nuclear issues sponsored by the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute.

I asked Selva if there were lessons to be learned for the next iteration of the nuclear command and control system from the Air Force’s early work on the Multi-Domain Command and Control system (MDC2), designed to take data from as many sources around the world as possible and allow commanders to use that data to good effect no matter whether it’s from a ship, a submarine, a plane, a soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or a satellite.

I spoke after his remarks with a very experienced nuclear warfare expert who said Selva’s description was the clearest and most concise he had ever heard about nuclear command and control.

9 August 2017

A Nuclear Command and Control System for India

The recent missile tests have brought to the fore, once again the talks on south Asian nuclear arms race and scenarios. It is imperative to understand that mere capability in terms of Agni V or any other nuclear delivery capability does not signify step-change in nuclear postures. The overall nuclear capability requires integration of delivery systems, technology, doctrine, and command and control (C2) system, that a nation has in place. The C2 system becomes the glue that converts disparate elements of potential into usable strategic capability to deter others. In this regard, we explore the key elements of a command and control system (C2) and propose a high-level structure of a national nuclear C2 system.

Command and Control (C2) is defined as the exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated commander over assigned forces in the accomplishment of a mission. The C2 functions are performed through an arrangement of personnel, equipment, communications, facilities and procedures which are employed by a commander in planning, directing, coordinating and controlling forces and operation in the accomplishment of the mission. The command system include sensors, communication links and command centers that form the physical network as well as the plans, procedures, organizations and widely shared assumptions that allow the parts to work together coherently. In essence C2 affects the human interface with mechanical/electronic, in fact the physical structures, that allows weapons to be deployed and utilized in real operations.

A Grim Future For Russia’s Nuclear Sub Fleet

In March 2017, Russia’s new Yasen-class nuclear attack submarine Kazanlaunched at the northern port city of Severodvinsk. Perhaps the quietest Russian submarine ever, the event was further evidence the Kremlin can still build capable and lethal subs capable of a variety of missions, including cruise-missile attack.

But it won’t be enough. The Russian navy — already badly depleted since the collapse of the Soviet Union — can’t quickly replace most of its existing nuclear submarine fleet, which is approaching the end of its collective lifespan. The outcome will likely mean a shrinking of the Russian nuclear submarine force in the years ahead.

By 2030, the bulk of Russia’s nuclear-powered attack and cruise-missile submarines will be in their mid-thirties at least — with some pushing into their forties. For perspective, the three oldest active American attack submarines, the Los Angeles-class USS Dallas, Bremerton and Jacksonville, are all 36 years old and waiting to be decommissioned during the next three years.

Submarines wear out in old age, particularly due to hull corrosion. Another serious concern is corrosion affecting components inside the nuclear reactor compartments, but data surrounding this subject are tightly guarded secrets among the world’s navies.

Surviving a Nuclear Attack

By Arik Eisenkraft

Acute radiation syndrome (ARS) results from exposure to high levels of ionizing radiation. This may be the result of an accident, such as exposure of individuals to x-ray diagnostic and therapeutic devices, or a possible large scale exposure following a nuclear facility accident (for example the Chernobyl and Fukushima incidents). It may also be the result of an intentional act of terrorism, involving the use of a radiological dispersal device (i.e., dirty bomb), an improvised nuclear device, or may involve an attack on a nuclear power plant, or any number of potential nuclear scenarios. Following the 9/11 attacks, and more recently the use of non-conventional weapons and toxic industrial compounds in the Syrian civil war and in Iraq by both state and non-state actors, the possibility of intentional exposure to radiation seems to be rising. Since the primary objective of these perpetrators is to create fear and panic to the general public, and since most of the public, as well as first responders, healthcare providers, and the mass media, may have misunderstandings regarding such an event, radiation is attractive. On top of that, the shortage of available medical countermeasures (MCMs) against ARS could make it even worse. The major goals of a response plan to a radio-nuclear emergency are to protect the public, as well as the emergency personnel while performing their duties. To achieve these goals, local, regional and national resources should be brought together to address such an incident of national impact. In a radio-nuclear exposure scenario, the numbers of casualties, some with life-threatening injuries and resulting complications, may be very high. This means major challenges of assessing the precise levels of individual exposure, and possible delayed medical support and care to those who need it. In any case, these are regarded as complex and resource-intensive efforts, driving research towards approving novel MCMs against ARS. This syndrome involves life-threatening injuries especially to the hematopoietic, gastrointestinal, and the neurovascular systems. Victims exposed to high levels of ionized radiation show a prodromal phase in the first few hours following exposure, followed by a latent phase, which shortens as the radiation dose increases, and finally, develop a manifest phase. The bone marrow involvement is considered as the major contributor to mortality.

8 August 2017

Back to Basics: Pledging Nuclear Restraint

How should India respond to the growing nuclear capabilities of Pakistan and China? This paper argues that rather than compete with its neighbors, India should pledge to avoid open-ended growth in warhead numbers and the acquisition of new nuclear war-fighting capabilities. The text´s author believes this would allow India, China and Pakistan to adopt credible minimum deterrence postures and avoid a wasteful, dangerous competition over the development of new counterforce capabilities.

U.S. Nuclear Strategy in the Face of China’s Rise

By Bradley A. Thayer

The strategic challenge of the 21st Century for the United States will be for it to maintain its position in international politics in the face of a competitive peer challenge from China. While this challenge has many facets, one of the most important is the role nuclear strategy plays in allowing the United States to maintain its position. The founders of U.S. nuclear strategy—in particular, Herman Kahn and Albert Wohlstetter—were quick to discern the value of nuclear weapons and their usefulness for America’s interests. As these nuclear founders identified, nuclear weapons are used for purposes of deterrence and coercion. To deter aggression, or to deter escalation within a conflict, the United States must have a counterforce nuclear strategy and nuclear superiority at the tactical, theater, and strategic levels. In order to coerce, it must possess nuclear superiority in each of these domains as well. The result of this was strategic stability during the Cold War.

In both a deterrent and coercive role, nuclear weapons have greatly served the interests of the United States. Nuclear weapons allowed the United States to credibly extend deterrence to Europe and Japan without generating an economically debilitating level of conventional power—the “First Offset” strategy of the Eisenhower administration. Nuclear superiority contributed greatly to the stability of the Cold War and U.S. dominance in its wake. 

7 August 2017

** US Military Eyes New Mini-Nukes for 21st-Century Deterrence


The Joint Chiefs’ vice chair says smaller-yield weapons are needed to deter the use of same. 

The future of nuclear weapons might not be huge and mega destructive but smaller, tactical, and frighteningly, more common. The U.S. Air Force is investigating more options for “variable yield” bombs — nukes that can be dialed down to blow up an area as small as a neighborhood, or dialed up for a much larger punch. 

The Air Force currently has gravity bombs that either have or can be set to low yields: less than 20 kilotons. Such a bomb dropped in the center of Washington, D.C., wouldn’t even directly affect Georgetown or Foggy Bottom. But a Minuteman III missile tipped with a 300-kiloton warhead would destroy downtown Washington and cause third-degree burns into Virginia and Maryland.

Throughout much the Cold War, the thinking in Washington and especially Moscow was that bigger yields was better: the more destruction, the more deterrence. This thinking drove the Soviet Union to build the most powerful bomb ever, the Tzar Bomba, whose 100,000 kilotons, detonated over DC, would burn Baltimore.

Secrecy and Signaling

By Rastislav Bílik

One of the most pressing issues of mankind remains the issue of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. They remain on the fringes of our awareness, researched by academics and portrayed in films and television shows at plot catalysts (sometimes with debatable accuracy of their portrayal). Unfortunately, these weapons are often sought by states as “the ultimate weapon,” believed to be the best instrument of deterrence. Israel is no exception, and its nuclear policy presents a compelling case of a nuclear-armed state. This policy contradicts the very foundations of deterrence theory; it is distinctive for its secrecy and ambiguity, very unique characteristics when compared to nuclear policies of other nuclear powers. It has not changed for several decades, and its effectiveness and adequacy for present conditions is thus, after the emergence of Iranian nuclear ambitions, often subject of debates.

Israel belongs to the group of the so-called de facto nuclear states, a group which also includes India and Pakistan; these countries built their own nuclear arsenal outside the framework of Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Because Israel is not a signing party of the treaty, there is no legal obligation for Israeli nuclear facilities to be subject to regular inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.[1] In the case of Israel, these inspections are voluntary and only conducted in declared facilities. The program as a whole is not overseen by the international community, and there is no official way to get information about it. The majority of available information is thus based on expert estimates, in some cases open source information (such as satellite images), or even information leaks, such as the 1986 leak in which Mordechai Vanunu, a technician at the Dimona nuclear facility, published details and photographs about the situation in the facility and disclosed a considerable amount of information about Israel’s nuclear programme.[2] Availability of information is thwarted not just by secrecy, however, but also by censorship. Israeli authors are required to submit any publication dealing with issues of security to the censor, who is charged with assessing the degree of ambiguity of the text in terms of government’s requirements.[3]

The Scariest History What-If Ever: Nazi Germany with a Nuclear Weapon

The most nightmarish of World War II alternative history scenarios is the one in which Nazi Germany acquires atomic weapons. In fact, by the spring of 1945, when America’s massive nuclear program was reaching its culmination, the Nazi atomic program consisted of one experimental reactor in a cave in southern Germany, operated by scientists who lacked a clear conception of how to build an atomic weapon.

Even if the German scientists had known what they were doing, they still lacked suitable radioactive material to produce a weapon. One of World War II’s most remarkable and controversial stories is just how the Nazi atomic program came to this sorry pass.

The potential power of atomic energy is a corollary of Einstein’s famous Theory of Relativity equation, E = MC2. Simply put, the equation means that all matter is energy. To determine the energy contained in any bit of matter, one need only multiply its mass times the square of the speed of light. As the speed of light is somewhere in excess of 186,000 miles per second, the resulting number is correspondingly huge.

Early in the 20th century, physicists realized that if it was possible to release the atomic energy in a piece of matter, say a brick, they could create a doomsday weapon. Fortunately, the atoms in bricks, and in almost all ordinary matter, are quite stable and not likely to erupt in an atomic chain reaction. However, by the mid-1930s, experiments with the unstable element uranium revealed the potential to tap into its store of nuclear energy and create machines of awesome power.

5 August 2017

*** Modernize the South Asia Nuclear Facility ´Non-Attack´ Agreement

By Tony Dalton 

On January 1, 2017, Indian and Pakistani diplomats exchanged official lists of the nuclear facilities located in their respective countries. According to news accounts at the time, this was the 26th such annual exchange of lists, pursuant to a 1988 bilateral confidence building agreement not to attack each other’s nuclear installations.i The fact that this exchange has been implemented without interruption, during periods of both calm and military crisis, makes it the most enduring nuclear confidence-building measure (CBM) on record in South Asia. At the same time, the banality of this exchange suggests that the agreement has little practical contemporary meaning for peace and security in the region.

When the non-attack agreement was originally negotiated, both countries’ nuclear weapons enterprises were relatively small and secretive, and fears (in Pakistan, at least) of a surprise attack on nuclear facilities had been rampant for several years.ii The agreement in theory helped allay concerns that nuclear facilities could be attacked purposefully, either by surprise or during a conflict, thus mitigating the potential humanitarian or environmental consequences that might result.

Over time, however, the agreement has proven to be merely symbolic and its potential as a building block for enhanced confidence has remained limited. It was never backed by verification provisions, for example. During the period prior to 1998, in which neither state had openly declared its nuclear weapon status, it was widely assumed that both sides omitted nuclear weapons-related facilities from their respective declarations.iii It is almost certainly the case today that neither side declares sites associated with nuclear weapons storage and operations, and perhaps other facilities as well. Any stabilizing influence the agreement contributed in the past has long since dissipated.iv

3 August 2017

Russia and America Had Plans to Attack the Moon with Nuclear Weapons

Matthew Gault

In 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into low earth orbit. It was the planet’s first artificial satellite—and much to the apprehension of the Pentagon and U.S. policymakers, it belonged to the commies. The Space Race had begun and America was losing.

The decades that followed were a parade of Cold War paranoia, technological innovation and bizarre military strategies. Both the East and West wanted to make sure the world knew who was the top superpower. But how?

Being the first to the moon was the top prize. In the early days of the Space Race, both countries thought the best way to prove they’d been to the moon was to nuke it.

Today it seems ridiculous that anyone would try to nuke the moon, but the political and cultural tensions of the 1950s made desperate plans seems sensible. In 1958, the Armour Research Foundation—the precursor to the Illinois Institute of Technology—developed a plan with guidance from the Air Force.

Designated Project A119 or “A Study of Lunar Research Flights,” the ARF’s inquiry looked into the possible effects of a nuclear detonation on the lunar surface between 1949 and 1962. Partly, the studies were a response to growing concern over atmospheric effects of nuclear testing—but not merely.

31 July 2017

North Korea's Nuclear Tipped ICBMs Can Now Hit New York

Dave Majumdar

What will Donald Trump do? 

North Korea has tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the continental United States.

Combined with Pyongyang’s miniaturized nuclear warheads—which many analysts believe North Korea already possesses—Kim Jong-Un’s regime now has the ability to unleash nuclear Armageddon on the American homeland. That means America’s policymakers must make a decision—either live with a nuclear-armed North Korea or launch a military response. There is little prospect of coaxing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. 

“The U.S. Department of Defense detected and tracked a single North Korea missile launch today at about 10:41 a.m. EDT. We assess that this missile was an intercontinental ballistic missile, as had been expected,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement. “The missile was launched from Mupyong-ni and traveled about 1000 km before splashing down in the Sea of Japan. We are working with our interagency partners on a more detailed assessment.”

The Pentagon is already discussing a military response to the North Korean test. “Subsequent to the North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch today, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., and Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris called the Republic of Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, General Lee Sun Jin,” reads a statement from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Nuclear Spirit of Iran

One almost has to admire Iran’s chutzpah. On Wednesday after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, 419-3, which would impose sanctions on Iran’s ballistic-missile program, its foreign ministry called the legislation “illegal and insulting.” On Thursday Iran made a scheduled launch of a huge missile, which it says will put 550-pound satellites into orbit.

The only people who should feel surprised or insulted by this are Barack Obama and John Kerry, who midwifed the 2015 nuclear-weapons agreement with the untrustworthy Iranians. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert rightly called the missile launch a violation of the spirit of that agreement.

That is as far as she can take it because Iran’s ballistic-missile program wasn’t formally in the nuclear agreement, despite Mr. Kerry’s statements of concern during negotiations. In the end he wanted a deal more than limits on those missiles. We assume Iran’s missile engineers are at least as competent as those in North Korea, which is approaching the ability to deploy intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Advocates of the nuclear deal persist in arguing that Iran is in compliance with its provisions. It takes considerable credulousness to believe that over the course of this agreement the Iranian military won’t adapt technical knowledge gained about launch and guidance from projects like its “satellite missile” program. With or without compliance, Iran is making progress as a strategic threat.

30 July 2017

The Surprisingly Simple Reason North Korea Has Nuclear Weapons

Robert E Kelly

Pyongyang knows there is no way to use their weapons for gain that would not immediately provoke massive counter-costs.

Since the launch of a North Korean medium- to long-range intercontinental missile this month, there has been much anxiety about Pyongyang’s ability to strike U.S. cities. It seems likely that North Korea can at least strike Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage. Some analysts have suggested Pyongyang already has the capability to strike the east coast of the United States. Skepticism may be warranted. North Korea may have trouble with missile reentry, guidance, warhead miniaturization and other technical issues. But nonetheless, it appears quite likely that if Pyongyang does not yet have the ability to strike the lower forty-eight American states, it will soon. Last month, I suggested the United States is on countdown of sorts. North Korea is rushing toward a nuclear ICBM, and Americans will soon be forced to adapt to it, or fight. It seems that decision fork is coming sooner than many expected.

Striking North Korea would be incredibly risky, and the United States has learned to live with other states’ nuclear missilization. Russia, China and Pakistan are powers whom Washington would almost certainly prefer were not nuclear. Yet the United States has adjusted. Each of those three, including Pakistan, has treated its weapons reasonably carefully. There has not been the much-feared accidental launch or hand-off to terrorist groups. All appear to think of their nuclear weapons as defensive and for deterrence purposes. Indeed, the offensive potential of nuclear weapons is curiously constrained. They would so devastate an enemy that conquest of said enemy would be pointless—who wants to take-over an irradiated wasteland? Plus, nuclear use would likely bring nuclear retaliation on the attacker, in which case any benefit of a war would be lost to the huge costs of nuclear destruction in the homeland.



A coalition of nations and non-government organizations recently concluded negotiations at the United Nations on the “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” an internationally legally-binding document that would ban the signatories from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, possessing, transferring, stockpiling, hosting, or using nuclear weapons. The treaty will be open for signature on September 20 and is expected to easily pass with one, make that, over 35 major caveats.

No nuclear weapon-possessing state, or any state covered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella of extended deterrence, is expected to vote in favor of the treaty. The only state from this group to even attend the negotiations, the Netherlands, voted against the treaty language.

When the treaty is formally adopted, it will indeed be a historic accomplishment. But, it will remain to be seen whether it will attain the historic fame of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty — which successfully banned an entire class of U.S. and Soviet nuclear weapons — or historic infamy, like the Kellogg-Briand Pact — which (very) unsuccessfully banned war as an instrument of the state.