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Mark Fitzpatrick is a highly respected, careful chronicler of nuclear proliferation. His monograph of A.Q. Khan’s activities is required reading. So, too, is his latest, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers, in which he recommends that Pakistan be treated as a normal nuclear state if it facilitates the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, negotiation of the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, and helps reinforce other nuclear norms. Mark correctly identifies an intensified nuclear competition on the subcontinent as a grave danger. He reasons that by bringing India and Pakistan into the existing nuclear order, dangers might be averted. He’s right. But will inducements succeed in persuading Pakistan (and India) to accept the limits inherent in signing up to the CTBT and FMCT?

Pakistan’s official narrative is that of a reluctant, unwilling party to a nuclear competition with India. In reality, Pakistani leaders, civil as well as military, have viewed the Bomb as absolutely essential to maintain national sovereignty and territorial integrity. They rightly predicted that New Delhi would develop nuclear weapons and gain conventional military advantages, and countered by engaging in “anticipatory” proliferation.

As Mark writes, “Pakistan assumed the worst about India’s intentions and spared no effort in preparing a nuclear counterpunch.” Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s set the wheels in motion to acquire a nuclear deterrent two years before India’s first test of a nuclear device. Pakistan produced a deliverable nuclear warhead and possessed confidence in its reliability before India’s second round of tests. Today, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal compares favorably to that of a neighbor whose economy is eight times bigger.

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On September 18, 1990, long-held suspicions about Brazil’s nuclear intentions seemed to be officially and dramatically confirmed. Brazil’s first popularly elected President in 29 years, Fernando Collor, on the scene of what his aides suggested was a nuclear test site, terminated a covert nuclear weapons project which had been steered by the military. The New York Times reported it out from Brazil:

In a first step to dismantle the bomb project, Mr. Collor flew photographers and officials to a previously off-limits air base in the Cachimbo mountain range of remote central Amazon. As the heads of the three military services watched – looking ill at ease in the photographs – the President threw a symbolic shovelful of cement into a hole four feet in diameter and 1,050 feet deep.

I read this article the day after it appeared in print, and its conclusion–neatly summarized by the International Herald Tribune‘s front-page headline: “Brazil Uncovers Plan by Military to Build Atomic Bomb and Stops It”–has been with me and has probably subconsciously influenced my thinking about Brazil’s nuclear program for nearly a quarter-century.

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If you follow me on Twitter or happen to be friends with me on Facebook, then you know I don’t think very much of Mr. Edward Snowden. From the beginning of this story, I have said that Snowden is more like Phillip Agee, than Daniel Ellsberg.  I do not consider him a whistleblower, but rather an agent of a hostile power, in this case Moscow.

It occurred to me the other day, however, that I’ve never set down in writing the precise nature of my concerns about Snowden and his actions. Now that Snowden is doing propaganda shorts for the Russians and the Guardian has joined Walter Duranty as a Pulitzer Prize winner, I figured I should say a few words about why I don’t think Snowden is on the level.

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Accidents happen. The least accident-prone nuclear weapons are the ones that are not in motion — but not always: see Eric Schlosser’s account of the Damascus incident in Command and Control.

Nuclear weapons in transit are more accident prone. The dangers associated with transit multiply with the number of vehicles carrying weapons in transit, which can spike during a crisis. The most accident-prone nuclear weapons are those in motion when hostilities commence, when standard operating procedures are subject to change. In this event, the most accident-prone nuclear weapons are those moved close to the forward edge of battle.

Nobel Prize-winning economist and strategic thinker Thomas C. Schelling (right) wrote about accidents in the September 1960 issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Here are some excerpts from “Meteors, Mischief and War:”

“The point is that accidents do not cause war. Decisions cause war. Accidents can trigger decisions; and this may be all that anybody meant. But the distinction needs to be made, because the remedy is not just preventing accidents but constraining decisions.

“If we think of the decisions as well as the accidents we can see that accidental war, like premeditated war, is subject to “deterrence.” Deterrence, it is usually said, is aimed at the rational calculator in full control of his faculties and his forces; accidents may trigger war in spite of deterrence. But it is really better to consider accidental war as the deterrence problem, not a separate one…

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Syria, Forgeries and False-Flags

Whoops, somehow I initially published my notes for this piece instead of the piece itself. Here is the correct post.

Well, there are plenty of reasons to doubt Sy Hersh’s recent reporting implying that the chemical weapons attack on Ghouta was some sort of Turko-Saudi-Al Nusra false-front attack — I am rolling my eyes as I write it — and not a single one to buy any of it. Dan Kaszeta has explained all the technical problems with the scenario, while Aaron Stein provided a lot of the missing context here at ACW for things asserted about Turkey and Turkish foreign policy.

I don’t have much to add, the but the erstwhile Washingtonian in me noticed this passage:

Asked about the DIA paper, a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence said: ‘No such paper was ever requested or produced by intelligence community analysts.’

Normally, the response is to “no comment” specific reporting on intelligence matters. Does that mean it is a forgery? Because I love forgeries.

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Turkey’s Syria Policy: Why Seymour Hersh Got it Wrong

On 6 April 2014, Seymour Hersh published “The Red Line and the Rat Line” in the London Review of Books. The piece builds on his previous article, “Whose Sarin?,” which calls into question the White House’s framing of the 21 August 2013 chemical weapons attack in the Damascus neighborhood of Ghouta. The latest article accuses Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erodgan of working with the rebels to stage the 21 August attack to trip President Barack Obama’s “red line,” so as to trigger a US military strike on Bashar al Assad’s forces. Blogger Eliot Higgins has already written a scathing rebuttal of the piece, that you can read here.

Higgins forcefully argues that the volcano rockets used in the 21 August attack is a clear indication of regime culpability. In September 2013, Dr. Igor Sutyagin, a research fellow at RUSI in London, used open source analysis to confirm that the rockets in question are still in service with the Russian Navy and have likely been exported to Syria. Uzi Rubin, the first Director of Israel Missile Defense Organization, argues, “The ‘330 mm’ rockets discovered in Zamalka and Ein Tarma were not improvised, jury rigged devices that could be casually made in any workshop; rather, they were part of a well designed range of weapon systems contrived to fulfill Syrian Army’s operational needs.” And finally, Dan Kaszeta, a former US Army officer and consultant based in London, has estimated that the perpetrator of the attack would have needed an industrial facility to produce the amount of Sarin used.

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Crowdsourcing Russian ICBMs

Russian ICBMs
NATO RUSSIA Warheads Stages Fuel Basing Range (km) No.
SS-18 Mod 5 (SATAN) RS-20/R-36M2 (Voyevoda) 10 2 +PBV Liquid Silo

10,000+

About 50

SS-19 Mod 3 (STILLETO) RS-18/UR-100NUTTH 6 2 +PBV Liquid Silo

9,000+

About 50

SS-25 (SICKEL) RS-12M 1 3 +PBV Solid Road-mobile

11,000

More than 150

SS-27 Mod 1 RS-12M2 (Topol M) 1 3 +PBV Solid Silo & road mobile

11,000

About 80

SS-27 Mod 2 RS-24 (Yars) Multiple 3 +PBV Solid Silo & road mobile

11,000

About 20

New ICBM RS-26 (Rubezh) Undetermined At least 2 Solid Road mobile

5,500+

Not yet deployed

(Samart) Multiple Liquid Silo

Not yet deployed

Source: NASIC, Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat, with a lot of help from Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces.

Sorry about the eye-chart, but I am trying to sort through the mess of Russian ICBMs. Having done what I think is a passable first cut, I wanted to crowdsource the rest of it.

The Russians have been modernizing their ICBM force, which means there are a mess of new designations in the past few years. Sometimes, these get confused in the press. I wanted to sort through them for something I plan to write on Russian compliance (or lack thereof) with the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Additional notes below the jump.  Comments welcome:

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Massive Retaliation

Massive retaliation is a siren song that appeals to states that cannot afford a nuclear competition but can afford to let an adversary cross the nuclear threshold first. It’s a money-saver, and it sounds persuasive, until the threat of massive retaliation is actually tested — when a nation’s nuclear bluff is called. What national leader would actually respond to the use of a single nuclear weapon, or just a few, with massive retaliation?

Of course, a single thermonuclear weapon targeted on a major city might be considered massive retaliation when compared to the use of a low-yield, tactical nuclear weapon. Great Britain and France are postured to do far worse – one of the consequences of relying on MIRVed missiles aboard submarines — but it’s hard to imagine their bluff being called, because plausible tripwires are so remote.

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Japan’s Pu and the Cookie Problem

Regular readers know I love public policy, especially perverse effects.  One of my favorite perverse effects is what I call “the cookie” problem after the plight of a beleaguered friend.  Let’s say you’ve come thisclose to cheating on a spouse or partner — but you don’t. Then you tell your spouse or partner about your heroic restraint. You’re going to catch hell, not get credit.  As I said to my friend, “What?  Did you expect a cookie?”

Drawing attention to something unwelcome often overwhelms any credit you get for taking steps to address that problem.  Even if other people are objectively better off, you will only suffer for bringing it up.

Tokyo discovered this phenomenon, when it announced it was returning more than 300 kilograms of plutonium and other fissile material.

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PENAID Control & the MTCR

Richard H. Speier, K. Scott McMahon and George Nacouzi have a new RAND monograph out entitled Penaid Nonproliferation: Hindering the Spread of Countermeasures Against Ballistic Missile Defenses.

The report is very simple, which is not to say simplistic. Speier et al believe the MTCR should be expanded to cover Penetration Aids (PENAIDS), which seems eminently reasonable to me.

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