Michael KreponYear-End Review

Shall we label 2012 as The Year of Waiting?

The fourth year of a U.S. presidential term is usually marked by the absence of big initiatives and the presence of partisan gridlock. This year was no exception. Compound this with leadership transitions in Russia and China, add extended economic duress in the European Union, and what have you got? Not much with respect to positive movement related to the Bomb.

A year of waiting for substantive engagement with Tehran while Iran’s leaders continue to spin centrifuges.

A year of non-engagement with the DPRK’s new kingpin as he puts his own team in place and sends a satellite into orbit.

A year of fumbling in South Asia marked by the inability of political leaders to govern effectively. Some bright spots, especially the liberalization of visa requirements and stated intentions to increase cross-border trade. Otherwise, improved bilateral relations are being slow-walked by leaders facing national elections. On the nuclear front, diplomacy took a back seat to bomb building. Pakistan and India extended the duration of some nuclear risk-reduction measures, a weak damper to growing nuclear arsenals.

In the Middle East, it was a year of turmoil in the Arab world, while the Israeli government planned to extend settlements that will undermine its security. The initiation of discussions on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction was postponed.

It was a year in which the regime of Bashar Al-Assad continued to disintegrate with stocks of chemical weapons.

A year in which the European Union dropped the ball in advancing an International Code of Conduct for outer space.

A year waiting for Pakistan to lift its hold on FMCT negotiations.

A year in which the “sweeteners” for New START and the CTBT turned sour with U.S. budget deficits, making it harder to sway skeptical Senators to support new treaties.

A year in which Vladimir Putin announced his disinterest in extending Nunn-Lugar and his interest in MIRVed, liquid-fuelled missiles.

In other words, not a good year for dealing with nuclear dangers. A year when diplomatic engagement did not begin to do justice to the problems at hand. A year of waiting.

By my reckoning, there will be less waiting in 2013 with respect to Iran, but plenty more on other fronts.


  1. Jon (History)

    How likely is an Israeli attack on Iran after the New Year?

    • krepon (History)


      My sense is that there will be a significant diplomatic push in 2013, and no military strikes by the US or Israel while diplomacy is pursued.

      The November, 2012 issue of The Chronicle, a monthly summary of meetings and news about the Council on Foreign Relations, reports that the Foreign Minister of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, had this to say in an on-the-record meeting in New York on October 2nd:

      Had Iran chosen to go nuclear, in the sense of weaponization, that certainly would not be a deterrent for Iran. On the contrary, it would invite more threat… Suppose we wanted to go nuclear and manufacture one or two rudimentary bombs. Who is on the other side? It’s not India and Pakistan. Seemingly, it is Iran and the U.S. Does any rational person think to challenge the U.S. nuclear-wise? Certainly not.

      If this analysis reflects the thinking of the Supreme Leader, there is a possibility of a Big Bargain. And if so, then I would expect squabbling over the price of this carpet, i.e., the sequencing of implemtation.

      If Iran’s leaders want a near-nuclear weapon capability more than they want a Big Bargain, the likelihood of military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities increases greatly in 2013, in my view. And my guess is that the likelihood of US strikes is greater than Israeli strikes.


  2. sferrin (History)

    “A year in which Vladimir Putin announced his disinterest in extending Nunn-Lugar and his interest in MIRVed, liquid-fuelled missiles.”

    You forgot to mention they also see fine with the idea of a conventionaly-armed ICBM too – as long as they’re the ones doing it.

  3. Juuso (History)

    Why are Russians still toying around with liquid-fueled ICBMs? RS-24 should be more than enough if they want land-based missile with MIRVs. US has the De-MIRVed Minuteman III’s, and Chinese have single warhead DF-31 series.

    Someone should ask Russians to relax a bit.

    • Artjom Hatsaturjants (History)

      >>Why are Russians still toying around with liquid-fueled ICBMs?

      Because someone needs to keep the engineers at Makeyev and Krasmash employed making missiles for Russia and not contemplating a quick trip to Pyongyang. Who would you rather have making ICBMs: Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong Un?

      If you ignore the “numerical warhead parity” argument, the new heavy ICBM is essentially a corporate welfare expenditure. Very American.

  4. Bradley Laing (History)

    —What about secret activities? Could something good have happened behind all the walls of censorship and government secrecy, world wide?

  5. Wayne (History)

    “There will be less waiting with respect to Iran”

    What makes you say that? Do you think they will finally find a solution to get out of the gridlock?

  6. jeannick (History)

    Give 2012 a break ,
    for a start the world didn’t end ,neither did the Euro
    the world economy hasn’t crashed in flames
    and Japan , the U.S. and China went for keeping with the establisment

    Iran will not be attacked ,
    what would be the point of that!
    beside the U.S. need the Iranian threat to justifie
    spending borrowed money on anti-missile .

  7. Bradley Laing (History)


    Pakistan, India hold talks on nuclear CBMs
    29 December, 2012

    ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India on Friday focused on the existing nuclear CBMs, but also held discussions on possibilities of additional mutually acceptable measures, officials said.

    According to Foreign Office Spokesman Moazzam Khan, pursuant to the agreement between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan during their meeting on September 8, 2012, in Islamabad, the Seventh Round of Expert Level Talks on Nuclear CBMs was held in New Delhi. The Pakistani delegation to the talks was led by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Additional Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, while the Indian delegation was headed by Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary DB Venkatesh Varma.

    The talks, which were held in a cordial and constructive atmosphere, focused on review of implementation and strengthening of existing CBMs in the framework of the Lahore MoU, as well as possibilities for mutually acceptable additional CBMs. Both sides reviewed working of existing agreements on Pre-Notification of Flight Tests of Ballistic Missiles and Reducing the Risk from Accidents relating to Nuclear Weapons and expressed satisfaction that the latter was extended for a further five-year period from February 2012.

    The two sides will report progress made in the talks to their respective foreign secretaries. The two countries engaged in talks on conventional as well as non-conventional weapons. In the Sixth Round of Expert Level Talks on Conventional CBMs between India and Pakistan on Thursday in New Delhi, the two sides reviewed the implementation of existing CBMs, including the ceasefire along the LoC, and exchanged ideas to further advance the CBM process and reaffirmed their commitment to continue discussions with the aim of strengthening conventional CBMs.

  8. Ara Barsamian (History)

    Happy and Hopefully Peaceful 2013 to All!

    The Chimera of Global Zero

    68 years after Hiroshima we have at least nine (9) countries holding over 20,000 nuclear warheads, with 95% held by USA and Russia.

    Is this progress? Not really, since politicians in all countries, while professing a desire to eliminate, and abhorrence at nuclear weapons, are doing exactly the opposite.

    What is the problem? Infinite “justifications”, some more ludicrous than others to have nuclear weapons:

    • Force equalizer: security from being attacked by a more powerful adversary (USA vs. Nazi Germany, India vs. China, Pakistan vs. India, China vs. USA)
    • Immunity for unfettered aggression and conquest: (USSR)
    • A seat at the table (UK, France)
    • Insurance against “regime change”: (N. Korea)
    • Monopoly of the Privileged Club: we know what’s best for you, we will protect you: NATO, Warsaw pact, etc.

    Why Global Zero Will Fail

    US through President Obama’s Global Zero initiative, while a very noble goal, is unrealistic because it does not address the above issues: you cannot treat other countries as “second class” citizens – even if they are failed states – and expect them to disarm.

    Yes, we “strong-armed” Germany, Japan, Taiwan, S. Korea, Brazil, Argentina, Sweden, Switzerland, or “bought them off” to drop their nuclear weapons programs. This works only for countries that were interested in increasing their standard of living; this does not work for everyone, to wit, Pakistan, India, N. Korea, etc.

    And please, do not bring South Africa as an example: they disarmed simply because the racist white apartheid government was afraid of the weapons being inherited by the black majority government.

    We need a new paradigm, which for the moment, unfortunately does not exist.