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

15 December 2019

Why Does China Say It Won't Use Nuclear Weapons First in War?

David Axe

China has reaffirmed its policy of never being the first in a conflict to use nuclear weapons. Experts refer to this policy as “no first use,” or NFU.

The NFU policy reaffirmation, contained in Beijing’s July 2019 strategic white paper, surprised some observers who expected a more expansive and aggressive nuclear posture from the rising power.

Notably, the United States does not have a no-first-use policy. “Retaining a degree of ambiguity and refraining from a no first use policy creates uncertainty in the mind of potential adversaries and reinforces deterrence of aggression by ensuring adversaries cannot predict what specific actions will lead to a U.S. nuclear response,” the Pentagon stated.

Chinese state media posted the government’s white paper in its entirety. "Nuclear capability is the strategic cornerstone to safeguarding national sovereignty and security," the paper asserts.

13 December 2019

And the prize for global nuclear security goes to… China

By Sara Z. Kutchesfahani

In the mass media lately—and in presidential tweets—China has often come off poorly, due in part to the Chinese government’s authoritarian stance on human rights, its trade practices, its reliance on heavy-handed surveillance of its population, and its recent history of suppressing debate.

But in at least one area, the Chinese government shines: nuclear security.

In fact, when it comes to nuclear security policies and practices, as well as laws, regulations, management, monitoring, and the structure of emergency response, the country is unusually transparent—and readily meets international standards. As a result, China is poised to play a leading role in global nuclear risk reduction efforts in the coming decades, at home and abroad. This trend can be seen by China’s many commitments within the Nuclear Security Summit process, its cooperation in bilateral nuclear security structures with the United States, and its efforts to remove highly enriched uranium from a Nigerian research reactor (that China itself played a role in building).

But what do recent Chinese nuclear security efforts reveal about how China will approach setting the agenda for the future? And how is China’s approach likely to evolve in the coming decades as arms control becomes less prominent, China becomes a larger exporter of nuclear technology and materials, and China asserts its own priorities in other forums?

11 December 2019

Competition and Cooperation in the Maritime Domain

Competition over the world’s maritime resources and territorial disputes over maritime borders are becoming increasingly prominent in international affairs. At the same time, depleted fish stocks and polluted waters make the question of how countries can collectively manage maritime resources a central one, particularly in discussions over climate change.

Against the backdrop of heightened competition in the maritime domain, China has been rapidly modernizing and expanding its naval capabilities thanks to an unprecedented shipbuilding effort. By contrast, the U.S. Navy is struggling to meet its ambitious goals toward expanding its fleet while nevertheless maintaining a demanding operational tempo. As a result, ship maintenance and crew training have suffered, a dynamic that appears to have contributed to several recent deadly incidents.

10 December 2019


By Robert C. Rubel

A lot of ink has been spilled over the past decade or so concerning the viability of the aircraft carrier. Some regard its combination of expense and vulnerability to cruise and ballistic missiles as fatal to its continued utility. Supporters argue that a modern supercarrier’s size and design make it all but unsinkable, and that its power is key to the U.S. Navy’s ability to deter, to punish, and to defeat aggression. It is this author’s contention that the controversy is focused on the wrong thing: the carrier itself. Rather, it is the viability of its primary weapon system – the air wing – that should be at the center of analysis. When some do take on the air wing, it is usually to decry the lack of mission radius of modern strike fighters. But that also misses the point. Instead, what is it that the air wing, irrespective of the range of its aircraft, is supposed to do? That is a function of the ability of aircraft to penetrate to a launch point, and the ability of the weapons they deliver to achieve the effects needed. A valid discussion of those factors involves much more than just “bombs on target.” 

Unfortunately, most if not all of the discourse taking on the matter of aircraft carriers focuses on the vulnerability or impregnability of the ship. The capability of the air wing to do something tactically, operationally, or strategically useful is either assumed or ignored. But it was precisely this consideration that formed the basis for justifying aircraft carriers in the first place, and the argument that won them a reprieve from the scrap heap after World War II.

9 December 2019

Bad Idea: Integrating Artificial Intelligence with Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications

Bryce Farabaugh

The plotline is a tired trope by now: machines wrest control of a nuclear arsenal from their human creators and either initiate apocalypse (à la Terminator’s Skynet) or avert disaster (à la WarGame’s War Operation Plan Response). The scenarios are potent and their relevance lasting because they serve as a parable for people’s hopes and fears about technology: in combining the terrible destructive potential of nuclear weapons with human suspicion about artificial intelligence (AI), we hope the outcome is less promethean and more deus ex machina. Although this anxiety has existed for decades, one would be hard pressed to have predicted the debate around AI and nuclear weapons would continue to this day.

Most recently, a piece published in War on the Rocks in August 2019, titled “America Needs a ‘Dead Hand’” resurrected the debate. The authors argued that due to advancements in emerging technologies like hypersonic weapons and nuclear cruise missiles, attack-time compression will put an unacceptable amount of stress on the ability of American leadership to adequately make decisions during a nuclear crisis. The article made such waves that even senior military leaders, including the director of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, expressed their skepticism of the authors’ argument. Ultimately, while the authors’ diagnosis may be correct, their prescription is wrong: their proposal of a nuclear “dead hand” that integrates AI with nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) to create an automated strategic response system underestimates AI’s potential to inadvertently precipitate a catastrophic mistake.

In order to understand AI’s possible impact on nuclear weapons policy, it’s important to have a solid foundation of what AI is, what it isn’t, and what is meant by NC3.

5 December 2019

To Survive Enemy Missiles, the British Landing Force Must Evolve

by David Axe 
Source Link

The world’s population increasingly is congregating in near-shore areas. Meanwhile, those same littoral zones are becoming more and more heavily-armed and thus dangerous for attacking amphibious forces. Into this dichotomy sails the Royal Navy’s small beach-landing fleet.

Into this dichotomy sails the Royal Navy’s small beach-landing fleet. The challenge for the U.K. amphibious force -- currently with five assault ships plus landing craft, helicopters and marines -- is to evolve for the world’s dangerous littorals, all without costing a lot more money.

One possible solution to this problem is a mixed fleet of traditional assault ships working alongside commercial-style vessels. That’s the same solution the U.S. Navy is considering as it mulls the littorals dilemma.

“On the one hand, the clustering of states’ economic assets and population centers in littoral areas will make the ability for the joint force to impact the littoral ever-more critical over the course of the coming decades,” the Royal United Services Institute explained in a November 2019 study.

2 December 2019

America's Chemical Warfare Tour: How Agent Orange Destroyed Vietnam

by Jason von Meding
Source Link

In the end, the military campaign was called Operation Ranch Hand, but it originally went by a more appropriately hellish appellation: Operation Hades. As part of this Vietnam War effort, from 1961 to 1971, the United States sprayed over 73 million liters of chemical agents on the country to strip away the vegetation that provided cover for Vietcong troops in “enemy territory.”

Using a variety of defoliants, the U.S. military also intentionally targeted cultivated land, destroying crops and disrupting rice production and distribution by the largely communist National Liberation Front, a party devoted to reunification of North and South Vietnam.

Some 45 million liters of the poisoned spray was Agent Orange, which contains the toxic compound dioxin. It has unleashed in Vietnam a slow-onset disaster whose devastating economic, health and ecological impacts that are still being felt today.

This is one of the greatest legacies of the country’s 20-year war, but is yet to be honestly confronted. Even Ken Burns and Lynn Novick seem to gloss over this contentious issue, both in their supposedly exhaustive “Vietnam War” documentary series and in subsequent interviews about the horrors of Vietnam.

Vietnam’s half-century of disaster

1 December 2019

Drones and Air Defense

By Mike Rogers

The September 14th attacks on the Saudi oil facilities were a master class the application of new technologies in non-traditional ways. Someone fired cruise missiles and drones, circumventing an apparently advanced air defense network, scoring remarkable—if un-attributable—successes for relatively low costs.

If you take a step back, the strikes themselves were masterful in their signaling despite their opacity. From where did the attacks originate? That's unclear. Who is responsible for the attacks? That too is unclear. Houthi rebels from Yemen claimed responsibility, but such an attack is well beyond their capabilities. It is all but certain that their patron and regional destabilizer in Tehran is behind the strike, escalating the long simmering, but largely covert, conflict with Riyadh fought with proxies.

Of course, the Iranians denied any involvement, but Tehran must be patting themselves on the back at finding vulnerabilities in the armor of the Saudi air defense network. The Russians, for their part, are clearly happy with the strike.

30 November 2019

The Coming Nuclear Crises

by Richard N. Haass

Until just a few years ago, it looked as if the problem posed by nuclear weapons had been successfully managed, if not solved. American and Russian nuclear stockpiles had been reduced substantially from their Cold War highs, and arms-control agreements were in place that limited both intermediate- and long-range systems. But all of this now could come undone.

Progress over the last generation was not limited to the United States and Russia. Libya was persuaded to abandon its nuclear ambitions, Israel thwarted Iraqi and Syrian nuclear development, and South Africa relinquished its small nuclear arsenal. Iran signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which constrained its ability to acquire many of the essential prerequisites of nuclear weapons. Most recently, the UN Security Council imposed tough sanctions aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its still modest and comparatively primitive nuclear weapons program, clearing the way for high-level talks between North Korean and US officials. And, of course, no nuclear weapon has been used in combat for three-quarters of a century, since the US dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan to hasten the end of World War II.

26 November 2019

China’s nuclear arsenal was strikingly modest, but that is changing

“I’m not afraid of nuclear war,” boasted Mao Zedong, China’s leader, in Moscow in 1957. Mao noted that even if half of China’s population were to perish in a radioactive inferno, 300m would remain. His Soviet hosts, who were hardly known for their softhearted devotion to human rights, were shocked. Yet despite Mao’s insouciance, China did not follow America and Russia into the arms race that saw them pile up 60,000 nuclear weapons in the three decades after that speech.

China is a military behemoth, but a nuclear minnow. It accounts for well over half the increase in global defence spending since 1990, but its nuclear stockpile is just 2% of the world’s total, with a paltry 290 bombs—about the same as France or Britain. Nor does it have much to deliver them with. The country is thought to have fewer than 90 launchers for its land-based missiles (compared with America’s 400) and just 20 nuclear-capable bombers (America has 66), according to the Federation of American Scientists, a research group.

16 November 2019

The United States’ Nuclear and Non-Nuclear Weapons Are Dangerously Entangled

By James M. Acton , Nick Blanchette

In October 1973, an unreliable radiation detector could have caused the end of the world. The setting was the Yom Kippur War between Israel and a coalition of Arab states, and the superpowers found themselves being sucked into the conflict. In the war’s febrile final days, the United States detected what appeared to be radiation from a Soviet freighter headed for Egypt and concluded—almost certainly incorrectly—that Moscow was transferring nuclear warheads to Cairo. Partly in response, on Oct. 24, Washington placed its nuclear forces on a global alert for only the fourth time in history—a step it has taken only twice since. The U.S. alert prompted the Soviet Union to reportedly issue a preliminary order to begin the alerting of its own nuclear forces.

This chain of events, which could have culminated in a nuclear war, provides a timely warning. The United States’ ability to detect and track nuclear warheads has improved immeasurably over the last 46 years, making an exact replay of 1973 unlikely. However, growing entanglement between nuclear and nonnuclear weapons is exacerbating closely related dangers. In particular, nuclear-armed states are relying ever more heavily on dual-use weapons, which can accommodate nuclear or nonnuclear warheads, thus exacerbating the risk that one side might wrongly conclude that another had deployed nuclear weapons. In a crisis or conflict, the result could be an escalation spiral that, unlike in 1973, spins all the way to nuclear devastation.

14 November 2019

JUST IN: Department of Energy Not Studying Nuclear-Armed Hypersonic Weapons

By Connie Lee

Although hypersonic missiles are a top modernization priority for the Pentagon, there are no efforts underway to arm such weapons with nuclear warheads, according to a Department of Energy leader.

“We are currently not undertaking a nuclear hypersonic [project], unlike other nations,” Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, undersecretary of energy for nuclear security, told reporters Nov. 7 in Washington, D.C. Gordon-Hagerty also serves as the administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is responsible for maintaining and overseeing the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

To counter great power competitors such as Russia and China, the Defense Department has marked hypersonic weapons as its No. 1 research-and-development priority. The systems will be capable of traveling at speeds of Mach 5 or faster and be highly maneuverable, making them difficult for enemy air-and-missile defenses to defeat.

Beijing and Moscow have publicly stated their intentions to field these types of weapons and are ramping up their R&D efforts. But unlike the United States, both governments have acknowledged that they are pursuing hypersonic missiles that are nuclear-capable. For example, Russian state media such as Sputnik News has reported that Moscow’s Kinzhal air-launched missile system is able to carry both nuclear and conventional warheads. The Congressional Research Service has noted that Russia and China may field an operational hypersonic glide vehicle by 2020. 

13 November 2019

Stealth Fighters, Hypersonic Missiles and Aircraft Carriers: China's Military Has Arrived

by Kris Osborn

Aircraft carriers, stealth fighters, anti-satellite weapons, drones, cyber attack technology and a growing arsenal of ballistic missiles are all among a series of Chinese weapons said to present serious concerns for Pentagon leaders and weapons developers, according to DoD’s annual China report.

The Pentagon 2018 report, called “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” details a broad spectrum of risks to include global economic expansion, massive military modernization and breakthrough weapons technology able to threaten US superiority.

While of course the report emerges within the context of a complicated, multi-faceted and stressed US-China relationship which includes growing tensions, military rivalry and some measure of cooperation as well. A recent DoD news report, for instance, was careful to mention China as a potential “adversary,” not “enemy.”

9 November 2019

US ballistic missile defenses, 2019

Matt Korda, Hans M. Kristensen
Source Link

The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists, and Matt Korda, a research associate with the project. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. This issue examines the status of US missile defense, a key driver of the global nuclear arms race. According to the latest Missile Defense Review, the United States will continue to enhance its four primary missile defense systems – one for homeland defense and three for regional defense – without “any limitation or constraint.” Doing so is likely to be destabilizing, as potential adversaries will attempt to build offensive systems to offset the United States’ defensive systems. This dynamic is currently on display with Russia and China, both of which are developing missiles that are specifically designed to counter US missile defenses.

Missile defense systems can have a significant effect on nuclear weapons postures, the strategy for their potential use, and crisis stability and international security. The defenses don’t even have to work very well; the uncertainty that they might work, or could become more capable in the future, are enough to trigger the effect. Advocates argue that missile defenses don’t threaten anyone and can help deter adversaries, but those adversaries are unlikely to simply give up; they are more likely to be stimulated to try to beat the defenses to ensure their own deterrent forces remain effective and credible. This dynamic is clear from many cases during the Cold War and remains evident today.

6 November 2019

Nuclear strategy in a changing world

By Rod Lyon
Source Link

The immense destructive power of nuclear weapons continues to shape the international strategic balance, not least Australia’s place as a close ally of the United States in an increasingly risky Indo-Pacific region.

What is the continuing utility to America’s allies of extended nuclear deterrence? Where is the risk of nuclear proliferation greatest? How should the world deal with the growing nuclear capabilities of North Korea? Is the nuclear order as sturdy and stable and it needs to be?

These and other pressing issues are addressed in this volume by one of Australia’s leading thinkers on nuclear weapons and the global strategic balance, Rod Lyon.

Rod’s career spans academic research and teaching at the University of Queensland, and strategic analysis for Australia’s peak intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessments (now the Office of National Intelligence). Since 2006 he has been a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and a frequent contributor on nuclear issues to The Strategist, Australia’s best online source of analysis on defence and strategic issues.

Turkey Has Long Had Nuclear Dreams

By Colum Lynch

In September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told members of his party that it is time for his country to acquire its own nuclear bomb.

Such a move would mark a sharp break from previous obligations by Turkey, a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which bars non-nuclear states from acquiring nuclear weapons. But this is not the first time that Turkey—which has played host to U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1950s—has craved its own nuclear weapons program.

As part of our Document of the Week series, Foreign Policy is posting a copy of a Sept. 26, 1966, memo describing to then-Ambassador Parker T. Hart a troubling conversation Clarence Wendel, the U.S. minerals attache at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, had with a “reliable” Turkish scientist on Turkey’s nuclear ambitions.

The memo, one of 20 previously declassified documents on nuclear weapons in Turkey compiled this week by the National Security Archive, claims the source disclosed that officials from Turkey’s General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration “had been asked to cooperate with General [Refik] Tulga and Professor Omer Inonu (Professor of Physics at METU) [Middle East Technical University] in a Turkish program to develop an ‘Atomic Bomb.’”

5 November 2019

Was Hack on Indian Nuclear Plant Used to Test Cyber Intrusion Abilities?

Sam Spencer 

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India has confirmed the discovery of malware on its network. According to a statement, the infection was found on a central computer that was not connected to the more sensitive internal systems.

Cybersecurity experts have linked the harmful code to North Korea’s Lazarus Group. The hacker unit uses a spectrum of vector attacks to steal funds for the administration. Pukhraj Singh, a former researcher at India’s National Technical Research Organization (NTRO), indicated via social media that the malware could be traced back to a recent VirusTotal finding.

Dubbed Dtrack, the version uploaded to the platform was specifically coded to target the institution’s IT infrastructure. An analysis of the virus reveals that it was set up to collect data on the facility’s network. The version relies on the Windows SMB Protocol file-sharing permissions to bypass security systems.

Dtrack is primarily configured as spyware and can collect keystrokes, list available files, and record browser history. It can additionally download other malware payloads.

4 November 2019

Small Satellites in the Emerging Space Environment

By Steven Kosiak

Executive Summary

In coming years, constellations composed of large numbers of small, less complex, and less costly satellites are likely to become progressively more cost-effective relative to constellations made up of small numbers of large, more complex, and more expensive satellites. Movement in this direction, which is already clearly visible in commercial space, is the result of a variety of factors, including continued improvements in the miniaturization of computers, sensors, and other technologies and, even more importantly, reductions in space launch costs.

While it would be hazardous to assume that launch costs for satellites will be cut dramatically in the near future, it seems likely that at least some significant further reductions will be achieved, given the success of efforts to reduce those costs in recent years and the number and maturity of ongoing efforts focused on this goal. Because launch costs presently account for a far higher share of overall lifecycle costs for small, less expensive satellites than for large, costly satellites, these reductions are likely to improve the overall cost-effectiveness of the former more than the latter.


The Global Security Pulse (GSP) tracks emerging security trends and risks worldwide, allowing you to stay ahead in new security developments. This month we present novel developments and must-reads on hybrid conflict. 

Our research suggests that the international security environment is increasingly characterized by hybrid strategies that fall under military, political, economic, information, and cyber domains. Hybrid threats are characterized by their complexity, ambiguity, multidimensional nature, and gradual impact, making them difficult for states to effectively respond to and posing a significant challenge to the international order. Whilst hybrid tactics in and of themselves are not entirely new, the availability of diverse and sophisticated (technological) tools is enhancing the impact, reach, and congruence of these strategies. This aspect, paired with states’ unprecedented aversion to engage in conventional war due to nuclear, economic and political deterrence, and recent shifts in global power means that hybrid conflict constitutes an increasingly desirable strategy to achieve political goals.

2 November 2019

Nuclear strategy in a changing world

By Rod Lyon

The immense destructive power of nuclear weapons continues to shape the international strategic balance, not least Australia’s place as a close ally of the United States in an increasingly risky Indo-Pacific region.

What is the continuing utility to America’s allies of extended nuclear deterrence? Where is the risk of nuclear proliferation greatest? How should the world deal with the growing nuclear capabilities of North Korea? Is the nuclear order as sturdy and stable and it needs to be?

These and other pressing issues are addressed in this volume by one of Australia’s leading thinkers on nuclear weapons and the global strategic balance, Rod Lyon.

Rod’s career spans academic research and teaching at the University of Queensland, and strategic analysis for Australia’s peak intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessments (now the Office of National Intelligence). Since 2006 he has been a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and a frequent contributor on nuclear issues to The Strategist, Australia’s best online source of analysis on defence and strategic issues.