Arms Control Wonk ArmsControlWonk

 

What is the status of China’s and the United States’ hypersonic weapons programs? What can open source tell us about China’s most recent rest? What happened at Kodiak Island? Are hypersonic weapons destabilizing? And why were Jeffrey and James searching for resorts in Mongolia?

Today, Jeffrey and Aaron speak with James Acton, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, about hypersonic weapons.

Jeffrey, Aaron, and James discussed a number of articles and tweets during the podcast:

James Acton, “Silver Bullet: Asking the Right Questions about Prompt Global Strike,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2013.

James Acton, “The Arms Race Goes Hypersonic,” Foreign Policy, January 30, 2014.

James Acton, “Target?,” Foreign Policy, May 6, 2014.

Drew Herman, “Failed Rocket Launch in Kodiak Under Investigation,” August 26, 2014.

As always, you can subscribe to the (now better sounding) Arms Control Wonk Podcast on iTunes.

 
 

Our nuclear future would take a significant turn for the worse if Beijing and New Delhi begin to mimic Cold War thinking about the utility of nuclear weapons. So far, they haven’t. New Delhi waited 24 years in between nuclear tests, and Beijing took about as long to begin sea trials of second-generation ballistic missile-carrying submarines. Both have issued “No First Use” declarations, focused on economic metrics of national influence, and generally dealt with nuclear deterrence in ways that are hard for Washington and Moscow to comprehend. Their parallel nuclear postures are all the more remarkable because they have fought a limited war over a longstanding border dispute. Can the uncommon strategic constraint of these two rising powers continue? Important tests lie ahead, like those facing Washington and Moscow in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

One test will be whether China, and then India decide to place multiple warheads atop their new long-range ballistic missiles. Given the small number of nuclear powered SSBNs China plans to build, the small number of ballistic missiles they can carry, and concerns about the effectiveness of U.S. anti-submarine warfare capabilities, it would not be surprising if Beijing moved toward multiple maneuverable or independently-targetable warheads at sea. And if at sea, then perhaps on land. With more warheads, plus improved guidance capabilities, counterforce options could become more interesting. A second test is whether China and India will go beyond technology demonstrations toward limited ballistic missile defense deployments.

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Are NATO based nuclear weapons an advantage in a dangerous world? Or are they an expensive and obsolete weapon that undermine NATO burden sharing? Is NATO divided about US nuclear weapons in Europe? Are the weapons secure? Are Euro-Hippies a threat to world peace?

Today, Jeffrey and Aaron discuss Brent Scowcroft, Stephen Hadley, and Frank Miller’s recent op-ed in the Washington Post about US nuclear weapons based in Europe.

Jeffrey and Aaron discussed a number of articles, videos, and images during the podcast:

Brent Scowcroft, Stephen Hadley, and Frank Miller, “NATO-based nuclear weapons are an advantage in a dangerous world,” The Washington Post, August 17, 2014.

Jeffrey Lewis, “Activists Breach Security at Kleine Brogel,” Arms Control Wonk, February 4, 2010.

Jeffrey Lewis, “Yes, It’s the Other Area,” Arms Control Wonk, February 6, 2010.

Jeffrey Lewis, “Another Kleine Brogel Bombspotting,” Arms Control Wonk,  October 8, 2010.

Jeffrey Lewis, “Release the Hounds!,” Arms Control Wonk,  October 22, 2010.

Jeffrey Lewis, “Security Lapse at Volkel,” Arms Control Wonk,  March 24, 2014.

Jeffrey Lewis, “A Steal at $10 Billion,Foreign Policy, September 5, 2012.

As always, you can subscribe to the (now better sounding) Arms Control Wonk Podcast on iTunes.

 
 

Original Caption: “Professor Bernard Brodie conducting a class.” September 1946. Walter Sanders, photographer.

It’s been awhile since I’ve steered aspiring wonks and ACW readers to the virtues of reading Bernard Brodie’s first take about the Bomb. Brodie made some incorrect predictions, but on the whole, nobody was more prescient about the nuclear future, and no-one wrote more gracefully about nuclear dilemmas. Brodie used the word “deter” before it became common parlance. Check out his essays in in The Absolute Weapon (1946), from which these quotes are taken:

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Korla Missile Test Complex

I have a new column at Foreign Policy, as well as a podcast with Aaron Stein, on China’s testing of hit-to-kill technologies against satellites and ballistic missiles. I’ve been trying to figure out where Arms Control Wonk fits in between my columns for Foreign Policy and 38North, on one hand, and Twitter on the other.  Stuff like this I guess.

One detail that has cause confusion is the so-called “Korla Missile Test Complex.” According to a State Department cable released by Wikileaks, China conducted the January 2010 missile defense test using an interceptor fired from Korla. There are no previous open source references to this site. (Those cables are located here and here.)

I was going to find the site. Chinese language blogger “KKTT” beat me to it. KKTT identifies a site located at 41°32’16″N 086°22’19″E as the Korla Missile Test Complex. I believe that is correct.  It is close to the Chinese city of Kù’ěrlè (库尔勒) or Korla.

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Satellites Under Threat: The Spread of Hit-To-Kill

What are the implications of the spread of hit-to-kill? What are the differences between ground based missile defense interceptors and anti-satellite weapons? Why is China continuing to develop ground based anti-satellite weapons? Why did the US feel the need to shoot down its own satellite, USA-193, in February 2008? And what are the implications of the spread of hit-to-kill for space security?

Today, Aaron and Jeffrey talk about anti-satellite weapons, the spread of hit-to-kill, and the need for a general code of conduct for ASATs.

Jeffrey and Aaron discussed a number of articles, videos, and images during the podcast:

Jeffrey Lewis, “They Shoot Satellites, Don’t They?,” Foreign Policy, August 8, 2014.

George Kulacki and Jeffrey Lewis, “Understanding China’s Antisatellite Test,” The Nonproliferation Review, vol. 15, no. 2 (2008).

 
 

Responding to Treaty Violations

Gray-haired readers of ACW will remember when the acronym RSVP was treaty-related. During the first term of the Reagan administration, arms-control opponents compiled a long list of the Kremlin’s treaty violations and circumventions, real or imagined. They then commissioned studies on how to respond. RSVP became shorthand for Responding to Soviet Violations Policy.

The question arises once again after the Obama administration’s finding that the Kremlin has violated the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. There has been no shortage of suggestions how to respond.

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The Myth of Deterrence Stability

This summer, I’ve been thinking and writing about the delusional, aspirational notion of deterrence stability between antagonistic nuclear-armed states. For the short form of my argument, see my essay in Dawn. The long form will be part of a second collection of essays on deterrence stability and escalation control to be published by the Stimson Center.

Deterrence stability between nuclear-armed states works just fine when they have nothing to fight about. When, on the other hand, states acquire nuclear weapons because of serious friction, the quest for deterrence stability is chimerical. Conceptualizers of deterrence stability predicated that the mutual acquisition of secure, second-strike capabilities would be the precondition of success. The United States and Soviet Union met this requirement early on – and kept going. The more they competed, the less secure they felt, regardless of overkill capabilities.

I think there’s still a reasonable chance that India and China will avoid repeating on a smaller scale the mistakes made by the United States and the Soviet Union. If, however, these two rising powers embrace MIRVs and counterforce targeting, negative ramifications will spread well beyond southern Asia. More on this in another post.

At present, the clearest manifestation of the chimerical pursuit of deterrence stability is between Pakistan and India. Both are in the process of achieving secure, second strike capabilities – if they haven’t already gotten there – but their competition isn’t winding down.

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Everything You Wanted to Know About Iraq’s Residual CW, But Were Afraid to Ask

On June 11th, during its rapid conquest of large portions of the Sunni Arab regions of Iraq, ISIS captured the Al Muthanna chemical-weapons production facility (Iraq’s primary production plant under Saddam). However, the plant has largely disappeared from news coverage, following State Department reassurances of its inability to be used for production purposes due to heavy bombardment during the First Gulf War. What, in fact, was inside the plant?  And what remains? This roundup is intended to give an overview of the Al Muthanna facility, and offer resources to help assess the risk it poses in ISIS hands.

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Will Pakistan and India Break the Fissile Material Deadlock?

Pakistan is ramping up fissile material production capabilities for military purposes while vetoing a fissile material cut-off treaty negotiation at the Conference on Disarmament. India is also increasing production capacity, but the FMCT’s problems extend well beyond these two states. Non-aligned members at the CD believe a cut-off treaty isn’t ambitious enough, and it’s hard to gin up much enthusiasm from Russia and China.

There is, however, some forward movement. Useful discussions have begun in March in a newly-convened Group of Governmental Experts chaired by Canada. India has a seat at this table. Pakistan, which voted against the establishment of the GGE, is not among its 25 members. Pakistan has now felt obliged to engage more substantively on these issues in parallel, informal discussions at the CD. For the first time ever, two diplomatic channels are wrestling with the challenges of dealing with fissile material production for weapons.

Pakistan has long held the view that existing stocks should be covered under a treaty – hence its use of the acronym FMT, as opposed to FMCT, to broaden the agreement’s scope. Pakistan’s veteran Ambassador to the CD, Zamir Akram, argues for an expanded scope “because of the asymmetry existing in our region – that has been compounded by the discriminatory civil nuclear cooperation agreements and NSG waivers.” The object of Pakistan’s nuclear diplomacy is to constrain India’s nuclear capabilities without placing any constraints on its existing stocks. Failing this unlikely outcome, Rawalpindi has sought, so far successfully, to compete effectively with Indian nuclear weapon capabilities.

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