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"I actually have a pretty good collection of Arms Control Today, which I have read throughout my career. It's one of the few really serious publications on arms control issues."
– Gary Samore
Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism
April 2011
Edition Date: 
Friday, April 1, 2011
Cover Image: 

Books of Note

Getting to Zero: The Path to Nuclear Disarmament

Catherine McArdle Kelleher and Judith Reppy, eds., StanfordUniversity Press, 2011, 404 pp.

This collection of 19 essays looks at a wide range of issues and challenges associated with the global elimination of nuclear weapons. As Catherine McArdle Kelleher, a professor at the University of Maryland and a member of the Arms Control Association’s board of directors, writes in the introduction, Getting to Zero takes for granted that a nuclear-weapon-free world is a desirable outcome. It then seeks to address “what nuclear zero will mean for existing institutions, issues, and practices,” as well as “what has to change for nuclear states to embrace nuclear disarmament as a pressing goal.” The essays deal with past and current visions of a nuclear-weapon-free world, attitudes of major powers toward nuclear weapons, and regional and functional issues that are likely to serve as particular impediments to eliminating nuclear weapons. Contributions include Avner Cohen’s essay on Israel, where the bomb is seen “as the nation’s sacred insurance policy,” and Dennis Gormley’s suggestions on how the United States might allay concerns that nuclear disarmament would serve only to bolster Washington’s conventional military superiority. Peter Dombrowski’s closing chapter offers a series of “practical steps toward nuclear zero,” including a world summit, to be organized soon, with the principal aim of focusing the international community “on the singular purpose of getting to zero.” —ROBERT GOLAN-VILELLA

 


 

Toward a Theory of Spacepower: Selected Essays

Charles D. Lutes and Peter L. Hays, eds., Institute for National Strategic Studies and NationalDefenseUniversity, 2011, 348 pp.

According to its editors, this collection of essays aims to “develop a theoretical framework for examining the fundamental aspects of space power and its relation to the pursuit of national security, economic, informational, and scientific objectives.” The viewpoints come from a wide range of backgrounds including the academic community, the private sector, think tanks, the U.S. government, and international organizations. National security is a central theme in the book; several authors highlight the connection between space capabilities and national security. Everett Dolman and Henry Cooper say that “the United States should deploy weapons in space to assert control of low Earth orbit.” They argue that if the United States deployed weapons in space, its adversaries “would be discouraged from fielding opposing systems.” Michael Krepon, Theresa Hitchens, and Michael Katz-Hyman propose an alternate approach that involves “hedging” against space threats with practices including “situational awareness” (the capacity to monitor objects orbiting the planet), redundancy, and hardening of satellites. They see hard power, or weapons capabilities, in space as an “extraordinarily risky undertaking.” The three authors say that deploying weapons in space would be counterproductive to U.S. economic and security interests because it only would spur other countries to follow suit. —NIK GEBBEN

 

Letter to the Editor: Cluster Munitions and the CCW: Is There a Happy Ending?

Lou Maresca

As highlighted by François Rivasseau (“The Past and the Future of the CCW,” March 2011), review conferences have been important landmarks in the evolution of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The conferences have been used by states-parties to adopt new protocols, strengthen existing provisions, and decide on proposals for work on new weapons issues. They also have adopted tools to facilitate compliance and implementation and to promote universalization. The conferences have added important protections to the fabric of international humanitarian law.

Nonetheless, these meetings also have struggled at times to find agreement on important issues. Despite three years of intense negotiations, CCW parties in 2006 were unable to finalize a protocol to improve the rules on anti-vehicle mines. As a result, 25 states committed themselves to new national standards on anti-vehicle mines similar to those proposed for a new protocol. Dissatisfaction with the modest amendments adopted for Protocol II (on mines, booby traps, and other devices) in 1996 led to a process to develop a treaty outside the CCW to impose a comprehensive ban on anti-personnel mines.

As Rivasseau suggests, there is a risk that the 2011 CCW Review Conference could have a similar outcome, namely, that CCW parties again will fail to reach agreement on rules for a weapon about which there is widespread concern or, if they do agree, that the rules adopted are likely to be criticized and viewed by many states and organizations as inadequate. This time, the issue is cluster munitions. After deciding not to negotiate rules on cluster munitions in 2006, parties later changed course and have struggled over the past four years to develop a protocol to address the humanitarian impact of these weapons.

The CCW’s work on cluster munitions is complicated by the fact that 73 out of 114 CCW parties already have signed or ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), which prohibits the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of these weapons. The proposals currently under consideration in the CCW are far less comprehensive than those of the CCM and would allow the continued use, production, and transfer of models of cluster munitions known to have severe consequences for civilians. It is difficult to predict at this stage if a CCW protocol on cluster munitions will be adopted. Yet, a protocol based on existing proposals is likely to be widely criticized for having weak standards and for “relegitimizing” weapons that many CCW states deemed to cause “unacceptable harm” to civilians when those states signed the CCM in 2008.

Underlying Rivasseau’s points on cluster munitions is the often-asked question of whether the failure to conclude a new protocol on cluster munitions would undermine the CCW’s credibility and the success of the upcoming review conference. It should be noted that the CCW does not seem to have been harmed by its failure to conclude a protocol on anti-vehicle mines in 2006. Few outside CCW circles mention it today, nor is it a critical issue in discussions with nonparty states considering adherence to that convention. On the other hand, the amendments agreed on by CCW states in 1996 on anti-personnel mines, which are weaker than those of the Mine Ban Treaty, are often raised as a matter of concern. States that are not parties to the CCW regularly question the value of adhering to a convention that contains obligations weaker than those already binding on it from other instruments.

Thus, assessments of the CCW’s credibility should consider whether parties should settle for a protocol that may not be effective in addressing the humanitarian problem at hand if they are unable to agree on clear and strong standards. Such assessments also should include other measures. Rivasseau is right to highlight the valuable lessons that can be drawn from the 2006 review conference and the approach it took on anti-vehicle mines. If it is not possible to adopt strong standards for cluster munitions at this year’s review conference, states not party to the CCM could still make a contribution through national action such as transfer prohibitions, the elimination of old stockpiles, and vigorous implementation of the CCW’s Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War, which was adopted in 2003.


Lou Maresca is a legal adviser at the International Committee of the Red Cross.

 

Pyroprocessing Is Reprocessing: U.S. Official

Daniel Horner

In what appears to be the U.S. government’s strongest public statement to date on the issue, a Department of State official said last month that the U.S. government now views pyroprocessing, a spent fuel treatment process that South Korea is developing, as a form of reprocessing with proliferation risks similar to those of other forms.

In March 29 remarks at a nuclear policy conference in Washington, Richard Stratford, the State Department official who is responsible for U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements, said the Department of Energy “states frankly and positively that pyroprocessing is reprocessing. Period. Full stop.” The Energy Department, which is the U.S. government’s main source of technical expertise on nuclear issues, “did not say that five years ago when we started down the road of cooperation on pyroprocessing,” Stratford said. “Then the product was not weapons usable.”

However, he said, electroreduction and electrorefining, the key elements of pyroprocessing, have “moved to the point that the product is dangerous from a proliferation point of view. So, for that reason, pyroprocessing is reprocessing, and that’s part of the problem.”

Previous public statements on pyroprocessing by the Bush and Obama administrations had indicated proliferation concerns about the technology, but had not been as unequivocal as Stratford’s. (See ACT, July/August 2009.)

Pyroprocessing differs from PUREX (plutonium-uranium extraction) reprocessing, which has been used in nuclear energy and weapons programs around the world, because the plutonium separated from spent fuel by pyroprocessing remains mixed with other elements. South Korean officials have argued that this difference makes pyroprocessing more proliferation resistant than traditional reprocessing.

The current U.S.-South Korean nuclear cooperation agreement, which is due to expire in 2014, gives the United States a strong say in South Korean reprocessing of U.S.-origin fuel. As part of the negotiations on the successor to that pact, South Korea is hoping to gain a freer hand in activities such as pyroprocessing.

The two countries have agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding to conduct a 10-year joint feasibility study on pyroprocessing and other options for handling spent fuel. The study is to be conducted in parallel with negotiations on other aspects of nuclear cooperation.

 

A spent fuel treatment process that South Korea is developing has proliferation risks similar to those of traditional spent fuel reprocessing, a State Department official said.

Chinese-Pakistani Reactor Deal Moves Ahead

Daniel Horner

A planned civilian nuclear deal between China and Pakistan moved a step closer to completion, as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors on March 8 approved safeguards agreements for the two power reactors that would be involved.

The units would be built at Pakistan’s Chashma site, which already houses two Chinese-built power reactors.

The deal is controversial because the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which China joined in 2004, allow members to export nuclear goods such as reactors and fuel only to countries that accept IAEA safeguards on all their nuclear facilities. Pakistan does not apply these so-called full-scope safeguards.

When China joined the NSG, it had already built a power reactor at the Chashma site. It claimed at the time that, under the NSG’s “grandfather” provisions, it was entitled to build a second reactor, on the grounds that the second project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan. According to several accounts, the NSG agreed that the second reactor would be allowable under the grandfather provision but that subsequent power reactor sales would not.

The 46-member NSG is not a formal organization; its export guidelines are nonbinding.

Reiterating the position the United States has held since mid-2010 (see ACT, June 2010), Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake told reporters in Beijing March 18, “We expect China to abide by the commitments that it made when it joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2004, and in particular we think the construction of new nuclear reactors such as the Chasma 3 and 4 would be inconsistent with those commitments,” according to a Department of State transcript.

“We’ve been very clear in the Nuclear Suppliers Group context about that position, but we’ve also been very clear on the need to support Pakistan’s energy development,” Blake said. “[T]here’s a lot that can be done in non-nuclear areas that help do that,” he said.

In a March 23 e-mail to Arms Control Today, another State Department official drew a distinction between the IAEA and the NSG in the context of the deal. The United States supported approval of the safeguards pact because such agreements “play the key role of providing greater assurance and transparency that civilian activities are not diverted to other purposes,” the official said. “We believe the Nuclear Suppliers Group is the appropriate venue to discuss concerns about this transfer, not the IAEA,” the official said.

Waiting for Information

According to the official, the United States has “asked China to present the scope and details of its intended nuclear cooperation with Pakistan to the NSG,” but “China has yet to provide such details.”

The NSG discussed the matter last year during its plenary meeting in New Zealand. (See ACT, July/August 2010.) In recent interviews, diplomats said it is not on the agenda for this year’s plenary meeting, which is scheduled for June in the Netherlands, but could be discussed there.

Some observers have said the United States needs to raise the issue in venues other than the NSG. State Department officials declined to say whether Washington has done so.

In a March 14 interview, a European diplomat said many countries are “uneasy” about the situation, as they do not believe the planned reactor is covered by the grandfathering agreement. As the diplomat noted, China could request an exemption from NSG guidelines to allow nuclear trade with a country that does not accept full-scope safeguards. In response to a U.S.-led initiative, the NSG granted such an exemption in 2008 for sales to India. (See ACT, October 2008.)

“We would be very interested in the Chinese arguments,” the diplomat said, adding that Beijing probably will not request an exemption.

“We are really struggling with this issue,” the diplomat said.

In a March 29 interview, a State Department official said, “Everything [the Chinese] have said would indicate that [the deal] is going forward.”

Extracting Benefits

Some current and former diplomats have begun thinking about how to salvage from the deal “an outcome that would be kind of positive,” as the European diplomat put it. For example, the diplomat said, the NSG could press for a Chinese commitment that was “more explicit” than the one in 2004 in stating that Beijing would not conduct additional trade that fell outside the NSG guidelines.

In March 29 remarks at a nuclear policy conference in Washington, John Carlson, the former director-general of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, said NSG members could try to convince China to insist on high standards of safety and physical protection for the reactors. Appearing on the same panel, Henk Cor van der Kwast, head of the Non-Proliferation, Disarmament, Arms Control and Export Control Policy Division in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said, “We don’t know how this question will go.” If the sale does take place, one possibility is a Chinese declaration making certain commitments, along the lines of the one that India made as part of the process of obtaining the exemption in 2008, he said. In a brief interview after the panel, van der Kwast said he was not suggesting that he thought China would seek an exemption for the sale to Pakistan.

The third panelist, Richard Goorevich, a senior policy adviser in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, commented, “When it comes to building nuclear reactors, it’s really not a done deal until it’s actually done.”

After the panel, he said he was not referring to a particular current obstacle. Reactor construction is a “laborious, complicated thing” and could be stalled by issues such as financing or, in Pakistan’s specific case, rebuilding from last year’s devastating floods, he said.

In his panel comments, he also said that, in the NSG, there is an “aspect of transparency with regards to each other’s nuclear cooperation,” and that is what would be discussed with China if the deal went ahead.

 

 

A planned civilian nuclear deal between China and Pakistan is moving to completion although it has prompted concerns within the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

 

States Continue Work on Arms Trade Treaty

Jeff Abramson

In a recent meeting that many governments and nongovernmental organizations called a success, states grappled with some of the issues that lie at the heart of the effort to create a legally binding arms trade treaty (ATT).

During the Feb. 28-March 4 preparatory committee meeting at the United Nations, countries dealt with the question of what types of weapons and transfers might be included in a future accord, as well as the criteria that countries should use in deciding whether to make a particular arms deal. Under his own authority, the meeting’s chairman, Roberto García Moritán of Argentina, presented draft papers without requiring consensus, as he had done when countries met last July. (See ACT, September 2010.)

Despite disagreement on specific topics by major arms suppliers and recipients, that approach has kept controversial items in the discussion. Final decisions are unlikely to be made before states meet in 2012 for a four-week UN conference that will aim to “elaborate a legally binding instrument.” That meeting, according to the UN General Assembly resolution authorizing it, will operate “on the basis of consensus.”

In the chairman’s papers, circulated before the recent meeting and revised on March 3, conventional weapons were defined rather broadly and included small arms, light weapons, and ammunition. The United States, while supporting the inclusion of small arms and light weapons, rejected ammunition. China argued for an even more limited scope, saying that a future ATT at first should include only those weapons defined in the seven categories of the 20-year-old UN Register of Conventional Arms. (See ACT, November 2010.)

Whether that register serves as a good model for the treaty has long been a point of debate. The voluntary register lists seven categories of major conventional weapons, such as tanks, combat aircraft, and warships. It does not include small arms and lights weapons as a core category, despite the efforts of many states-parties to change it to do so. (See ACT, September 2009.) Ammunition is also not an official category.

García Moritán’s March 3 draft strengthened the language on criteria, removing earlier draft terms such as “take into consideration.” Instead, the paper said states “shall apply criteria” and “shall not authorize a transfer of conventional arms if there is a substantial risk” that those weapons would be “used to commit or facilitate serious violations of” international humanitarian law or human rights law. The draft also references UN Security Council resolutions, terrorist acts, genocide, crimes against humanity, socioeconomic development, and other topics as criteria to be used in the treaty.

In a March 4 statement, Alistair Burt, parliamentary undersecretary of state in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said, “This week real progress was made on developing the shape and content” of the ATT. Baffour Amoa, a spokesman for the international nongovernmental Control Arms coalition, praised the meeting for its “big step” toward a “robust” pact. “Despite serious efforts by some states to derail or weaken the process, we are now beginning to see a principled treaty take shape,” he said.

The UN process continues with another preparatory meeting July 11-15. How to implement an ATT will be a central topic at that gathering.

 

A recent meeting showed signs of progress in the international effort to create an arms trade treaty. Countries discussed key questions such as what types of weapons and transfers the pact would cover.

NATO Sets Up Arms Control Committee

Oliver Meier

NATO defense ministers agreed in principle during a March 10-11 meeting to set up a new arms control body, but discussions about the committee’s task and its relationship to a broader review of NATO deterrence posture continue.

The creation of the new body, known as the WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Control and Disarmament Committee, was in response to a directive from member states at last November’s Lisbon summit, where they agreed to a new Strategic Concept to guide alliance actions in the coming years. At that meeting, the members directed the NATO Council, the alliance’s principal political decision-making body, to establish a new arms control committee in the context of a larger review of NATO’s deterrence and defense posture. (See ACT, December 2010.)

A senior U.S. official told Arms Control Today March 17 that he expects the new committee not only to provide arms control and disarmament input into NATO’s deterrence review, but also to offer a forum for appropriate consultations among NATO members on nuclear and conventional arms control more generally. “We hope that this committee would remain completely independent of the deterrence review and will become a permanent body, though that is still opposed by one party,” he said, clearly referring to France. Paris in the past has argued the disarmament body should cease to exist once the deterrence review is completed. (See ACT, March 2011.) Germany supports the U.S. positions, diplomatic sources said.

The committee could meet at the level of deputy heads of NATO missions in Brussels, but could be reinforced by officials from capitals when needed, the U.S. official said. There is no agreement yet on the mandate of the committee and how it will be related to other NATO bodies concerned with arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation, he said.

The U.S. official described possible areas of work of the disarmament body by saying that “it could support NATO’s role in arms control if and when tactical nuclear weapons are included” in talks about a New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty follow-on agreement or “if we have talks on a [Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty] follow-on agreement.”

Defense ministers also approved terms of reference for the deterrence and defense posture review, but NATO members continue to disagree on the focus and timing of that review. Because of these disagreements, diplomatic sources said, the classified guidelines simply repeat broad language from the Lisbon summit declaration, which stated that essential elements of the review “would include the range of NATO’s strategic capabilities required, including NATO’s nuclear posture, and missile defence and other means of strategic deterrence and defence.”

A work plan for the deterrence review is likely to be approved by NATO foreign ministers when they meet in Berlin April 14-15. That meeting also could mark the beginning of an exploratory phase, to last through the summer, during which member states are expected to present their views on the scope and purpose of the review. Even though the terms of reference do not explicitly say so, most observers expect the review to be finished by the next NATO summit, likely to take place in the United States during the spring of 2012.

 

 

NATO defense ministers agreed in principle to set up a new arms control body, but key questions about the group’s task and its relationship to a broader NATO review have not been resolved.

 

Russia Makes New Proposal on Missile Defense

Tom Z. Collina

Seeking to build a cooperative relationship with the United States on missile defense, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told reporters March 15 that Moscow would like a formal, legally binding agreement with NATO that neither side would target the other’s offensive missiles with missile defense interceptors. According to a senior Obama administration official, a version of this proposal, along with an agreement on sharing missile early-warning information, could form the basis of a deal by this summer.

Since last November, when NATO agreed for the first time to deploy territorial missile defenses against emerging missile threats from Iran, the United States and Russia have been trading proposals on how to cooperate on missile defense. (See ACT, March 2011.) NATO and Russia agreed to develop proposals for cooperation and produce a progress report for a NATO-Russia Council meeting of defense ministers in June.

Although the United States has stated repeatedly that its missile defenses pose no threat to Russia, Moscow apparently remains unconvinced. Russian leaders are concerned that U.S.-NATO missile defense interceptors could target their strategic nuclear force, “which is the basis and guarantee of our sovereignty and independence,” Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, said in February.

“This is not the first time we are being told, ‘This is not directed against you,’ and then end up with problems on our hands,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said March 2, apparently referring to NATO expansion. Moscow would like to have a legal commitment from NATO before going ahead with missile defense cooperation, Lavrov said. “Needless to say, for our part, we are ready to provide such guarantees,” he said.

The United States insists there should be two independent missile interceptor systems, while Russia had been advocating for a joint system. Moscow’s position, however, seems to be softening. In his March 2 remarks, Lavrov said Moscow’s stance is that NATO should defend the territory of NATO member states while Russia defends its own territory, with no shared authority to launch. “NATO’s [control] button will always be the U.S. button. The same goes for our button. We will have sole control of our button,” Lavrov said.

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher said March 21 at a missile defense conference in Washington that the United States is “eager to begin a joint analysis, joint exercises, and sharing of early-warning data that could form the basis for a cooperative missile defense system.” However, she said, “in the end, NATO will defend NATO, and Russia will defend Russia.”

“We’ve disagreed before, and Russia still has uncertainties,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said March 21 in a speech to Russian naval officers in St. Petersburg. “However, we’ve mutually committed to resolving these difficulties in order to develop a road map toward truly effective anti-ballistic missile collaboration.”

Political Agreement Has Precedent

Russia’s proposal for a legally binding agreement not to target each other with missile interceptors is a nonstarter on Capitol Hill, according to administration officials and Senate staff, as Senate Republicans have been clear in their opposition to any legally binding limitation on U.S. missile defenses. However, according to Senate staff, politically binding commitments would not require Senate approval and have a precedent: In 1994 the United States and Russia made a political commitment not to target each other with nuclear weapons. Even so, say Senate staffers, a U.S. political commitment not to target Russia’s missiles with U.S.-NATO missile interceptors would not go unnoticed by missile defense supporters. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), for example, has been critical of the Obama administration for not seeking a missile defense capability that could counter Russia’s force of more than 1,000 nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles. The United States currently fields 30 interceptors in Alaska and California to counter a limited attack from Iran or North Korea. Those interceptors would not be able to stop a full attack from Russia. Moreover, the U.S. system has failed numerous intercept tests, including the last two attempts, and none of the tests has attempted to simulate realistic threats such as simple countermeasures.

It is not clear if a commitment that is not legally binding would be enough to convince Russia to cooperate with NATO’s missile defense plans. On the other hand, as U.S.-NATO missile defense deployment moves ahead, Moscow appears to have little leverage to prevent it, Senate staffers said.

Joint Data “Fusion” Center

In addition to a possible political commitment not to target each other with interceptors, a NATO-Russia agreement on missile defense cooperation could include the sharing of early-warning information and other intelligence data. Gates said in St. Petersburg, “This collaboration may include exchanging launch information, setting up a joint data fusion center, allowing greater transparency with respect to our missile defense plans and exercises, and conducting a joint analysis to determine areas of future cooperation.”

The Pentagon has been interested in gaining access to data from Russian radars located northwest of Iran, such as the Gabala radar in Azerbaijan, that could provide useful tracking information to NATO on an Iranian missile launch toward Europe.

Under the U.S. proposal, the joint data fusion center would allow Russian and NATO officers to have simultaneous access to missile launch data from sensors in NATO countries and Russia, giving both sides a full, real-time picture of potential threats, U.S. officials said. These centers would combine data from fixed and mobile radar sites, as well as from satellites, according to media reports.

Meanwhile, on March 7 the United States began deploying its Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense in Europe by sending the USS Monterey to the Mediterranean Sea. The guided-missile cruiser is armed with SM-3 BlockIA missile interceptors and the Aegis radar system, which is capable of tracking short- and medium-range missiles. Other Aegis-capable ships have been deployed by the United States to the Mediterranean since 2009, but the Monterey is “the first sustained deployment of a ballistic missile defense-capable ship” to support the phased approach, Tauscher said March 21.

As another part of the first phase of the U.S. approach, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) plans to deploy a ground-based AN/TPY-2 radar in southeastern Europe. U.S. plans originally had the radar going to Turkey, but the host country has not been announced. Turkey reportedly has not granted its consent out of concern that information from the radar might be shared with Israel.

Under the current schedule, the MDA will have 23 Aegis-capable ships by the end of this fiscal year, mostly in the Pacific, and 107 SM-3 Block I/IA missile interceptors, according to budget documents. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30. According to the documents, the MDA also will have 26 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor missiles for two THAAD batteries that could be deployed in Europe.

In the second phase, land-based interceptors would be deployed in Romania in 2015, followed by interceptors in Poland in the third phase, planned for 2018. Each phase calls for increasingly sophisticated and capable SM-3 interceptors. The fourth phase, planned for 2020, calls for fielding the SM-3 IIB interceptor, which is supposed to be capable of knocking down long-range ballistic missiles. That system, which has drawn the strongest objections from Russia, is still in the early stages of design and development.

 

U.S. Alters Non-Nuclear Prompt-Strike Plan

Tom Z. Collina

Wrestling with an issue that has proven controversial with the U.S. Congress as well as Russia, the Department of Defense has decided not to develop systems for its Conventional Prompt Global Strike mission based on traditional ballistic missiles, according to a Feb. 2 White House report to Congress.

Instead, the report says, the Pentagon will continue to explore “boost-glide” concepts that have a nonballistic flight trajectory, which is deemed less likely to be mistaken for a nuclear attack and would not be counted by the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which limits only missiles with a ballistic trajectory.

The Pentagon’s interest in a conventional prompt-strike capability stems from the fact that the only weapons in the U.S. arsenal that can reach a target anywhere on the globe in less than an hour are deployed long-range ballistic missiles, all of which are currently armed with nuclear warheads. But using nuclear weapons to attack potential non-nuclear targets, such as leaders of a terrorist group or an adversary’s imminent missile launch, would seem to be inconsistent with current U.S. policy for using such weapons. The 2010 “Nuclear Posture Review Report” states that the “fundamental role” of U.S. nuclear weapons is to “deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners.” The report also says that the United States will continue to strengthen its conventional capabilities “with the objective of making deterrence of nuclear attack on the United States or its allies and partners the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons.”

Moreover, the Bush administration argued that the availability of conventional strike weapons could give the president more options in a crisis, reducing the chance that nuclear weapons would be used. A February 2011 report by the NationalDefenseUniversity made a similar point, saying that a conventional strike weapon “might enhance deterrence and assurance by providing an effective and usable (and thus more credible) strike option.”

On the other hand, skeptics such as Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) argue that conventional strike weapons may prove to be unusable as the United States would lack the necessary intelligence to use them quickly against such time-sensitive targets. The time required to verify that intelligence reports were sufficiently credible to justify action would allow the use of other, slower weapons in the U.S. arsenal, such as conventional cruise missiles, they say. For example, they argue, cruise missile-carrying submarines or airplanes could be moved within range of a potential target while breaking intelligence reports were being assessed.

Moreover, according to defense experts, the United States routinely deploys military assets to most “hot spots” where a crisis could be expected to emerge, such as submarines off the coast of North Korea or bombers in Afghanistan. The only regions where the United States might not have such reach would be deep inside large countries with significant air defenses, such as China or Russia. One possible mission for conventional prompt-strike weapons, congressional staffers say, is to be able to knock out Chinese anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities early in a crisis. China has conducted a series of ASAT tests, most recently on Jan. 11, 2010, according to a Jan. 12, 2010, Department of State cable released by WikiLeaks. “This test is assessed to have furthered both Chinese ASAT and ballistic missile defense…technologies,” the cable said.

The Bush administration had proposed to place conventional warheads on existing Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Congress blocked that plan in 2008 out of concern that Russia might mistake a conventionally armed strategic missile for a nuclear one and perceive that it was under U.S. nuclear attack. For their part, Russian leaders have said they are concerned that even long-range missiles that are clearly identified as non-nuclear could be used against Russia’s nuclear forces and thus should be considered strategic weapons. During the New START negotiations, Russia initially sought to ban the deployment of conventional warheads on strategic ballistic missiles. The United States rejected this proposal, in part because Congress generally has been supportive of preserving the option for a conventional strike mission.

As a compromise, New START’s preamble states that the parties are “mindful of the impact of conventionally armed ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles] and SLBMs on strategic stability.” The treaty does not prohibit conventional strike systems, but it would count those based on treaty-limited strategic delivery systems, such as the Trident II SLBM and the Minuteman III ICBM, toward the treaty’s ceiling of 1,550 nuclear warheads. During last year’s Senate debate on New START, some Republican senators were concerned that a large deployment of conventional strike weapons would prevent the United States from deploying all 1,550 nuclear weapons allowed by the treaty. To reassure these senators, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that if the United States were to deploy treaty-limited conventional systems, they would amount to only a “niche capability.” Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, then the head of U.S. Strategic Command, told Congress that the United States would size a conventional strike force to avoid “perturbing our strategic relationship with Russia and China.”

According to the White House report, a weapons system with a conventional warhead that does not use treaty-limited ICBMs or SLBMs and “does not fly a ballistic trajectory over most of its flight path” would not be counted by New START.

“Boost-Glide”

Addressing some congressional as well as Russian concerns, the Defense Department “at present has no plans to develop or field” conventionally armed ICBMs or SLBMs “with traditional ballistic trajectories,” according to the White House report, which was required by the Senate’s Dec. 22, 2010, resolution of ratification for New START.

Instead, the Pentagon will pursue “boost-glide” systems, which use nontraditional ballistic missiles to “boost” delivery vehicles into space that then “glide” at hypersonic speeds in the upper atmosphere for more than half of their flight. In the United States’ view, these systems would not be limited by New START and could be distinguished by Russia from nuclear-armed missiles.

According to the White House report, the “basing, launch signature, and flight trajectory [of these systems] are distinctly different from that of any deployed nuclear-armed U.S. strategic ballistic missile.”

Unlike U.S. ICBMs and SLBMs, which are based in the central United States and at sea, respectively, boost-glide systems would be based on the coasts, possibly at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Cape Canaveral in Florida, or both. Because Russia is “capable of monitoring U.S. ICBM fields, and possibly [SLBM] deployment areas,” according to the report, Moscow could verify that no nuclear launch had occurred. Moreover, says the report, each missile type has a unique infrared signature, and Russia would be able to tell the difference between a Trident SLBM and a missile used for boost-glide, for example.

In addition, Russian early-warning systems can track U.S. launches into space, and boost-glide trajectories look very different from ICBMs or SLBMs. For example, the apogee (highest point) for a boost-glide system is typically less than 100 nautical miles, compared to ICBM or SLBM apogees of 800-1,600 nautical miles, according to the report. Finally, U.S. nuclear-armed re-entry vehicles cannot maneuver as they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, but the report says a boost-glide system would, enabling it “to provide precision accuracy and to avoid overflight of selected areas.” However, the report notes that, in addition to providing an observable difference from ICBMs and SLBMs, this maneuverability would give the United States an advantage in carrying out an attack because it adds “an element of uncertainty in terms of impact location.”

According to congressional staff, the boost-glide approach should reduce concerns about Russian misperceptions but not necessarily doubts about the need for the system. There are still significant questions about what the weapon is for, against whom it would be used, and how many would be built and at what cost.

Systems Under Development

The Defense Department has not established an acquisition program for a specific boost-glide conventional-strike system, but is exploring three options: the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2), the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW), and the Conventional Strike Missile (CSM). For fiscal year 2011, the Obama administration has requested $240 million for a conventional strike program that includes the three options; the Pentagon plans to spend approximately $2 billion between 2011 and 2016 for research and development of these systems.

As part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Falcon program, the Pentagon has been developing two HTV-2s at a cost of $308 million from fiscal year 2003 through 2011. The first flight test took place from Vandenberg in April 2010, and “significant hypersonic flight data was captured,” although the HTV-2 signal was lost only nine minutes into flight, according to the report. The second test is planned for this fiscal year, to be launched from Vandenberg, the report says. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

The AHW technology experiment is being run by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and Army Forces Strategic Command. It uses a hypersonic glide body that will have an initial flight test at the Kauai Test Facility in Hawaii in late fiscal year 2011 at a cost of $180 million from fiscal year 2006 to 2011.

The U.S. Air Force Space and MissileSystemsCenter runs the CSM program, the leading contender for the conventional strike mission. Under the current schedule, the CSM program will have a first flight demonstration at Vandenberg in fiscal year 2013 using a kinetic energy projectile (KEP) warhead at a cost of $477 million from fiscal year 2008 to 2013. The report says that an operational CSM could provide “complete global coverage of potential targets” from Vandenberg. The KEP warhead would “neutralize the target” by delivering thousands of “high density, cube-shaped metal fragments” at high speed, the report said.

“New” Strategic Arms?

Although boost-glide systems would not count as existing strategic weapons under New START, they could qualify as “new” kinds of strategic offensive arms, according to an October 2010 report by the Congressional Research Service. As a result, Russia could raise the issue of whether future boost-glide systems should count under the treaty. Nevertheless, the United States would not have to delay its boost-glide programs while such discussions are underway, even if Russia ultimately were to disagree with a U.S. decision to proceed with these systems. The United States would be obligated to try to resolve the issue within New START’s Bilateral Consultative Commission, but, according to the State Department’s article-by-article analysis of the treaty, “there is no requirement in the treaty for the deploying party to delay deployment of the new system pending such resolution.”

The Russian legislature disagrees. According to Russia’s resolution of ratification for New START, questions about new kinds of strategic offensive arms should be resolved within the consultative commission “prior to the deployment of" such new strategic weapons.

 

 

The Pentagon will continue to explore a concept called "boost-glide" for its Conventional Prompt Global Strike mission, rather than pursuing systems based on traditional ballistic missiles, a White House report says.

 

Libya Arms Embargo Precedes Air Strikes

Xiaodon Liang

Members of a UN-authorized coalition began air strikes March 19 against military assets controlled by Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, completing an abrupt reversal in relations that until as recently as three months ago involved significant arms sales. With an arms embargo mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1970 in place since Feb. 26, key coalition members such as France, the United Kingdom, and the United States are now committed to preventing the further influx of weapons to Gaddafi’s forces.

A second Security Council resolution concerning Libya, Resolution 1973 of March 17, authorizes member states “to take all necessary measures…to protect civilians.” Officials from members of the coalition have expressed a range of views on whether the new resolution permits arming of the rebels.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have said that arming the rebels is now permitted but that there has not been a decision to take that step. President Barack Obama said March 29, “I’m not ruling it out. But I’m also not ruling it in.”

The text of the new resolution says the measures to protect civilians are to be taken “notwithstanding paragraph 9” of the February resolution. That paragraph contains the Security Council’s instructions for an arms embargo. The State Department had said it interpreted the first resolution as blocking arms transfers to all parties, a stance that drew criticism from U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

The embargo is the first action by the United Nations to block arms transfers to Middle Eastern states affected by a surge of unrest beginning in January. Some of those states have been the subject of unilateral or EU-organized arms embargoes, but the Security Council has not moved to expand any of these measures to a global scale.

The embargo will affect European and Russian arms suppliers most heavily. According to annual national and EU reports, the EU countries issuing the largest number of licenses for arms exports to Libya were, in order, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Between 2005 and 2009, these states approved export licenses worth about 700 million euros (approximately $1 billion). Licenses were approved for the sale of small arms, ammunition including rubber bullets, tear gas, helicopters, aircraft, ground vehicles, battlefield radar, and military software. The issuance of licenses does not always result in deliveries.

Sergey V. Chemezov, the director of Rostekhnologii, a Russian state-owned arms company, has been quoted in the media as valuing potential Russian losses from the embargo at $4 billion.

In 2007 the United States removed Libya from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. Washington’s resultant loosening of an arms embargo allowed for the sale of nonlethal items to Libya, resulting in limited but increasing sales authorizations that totaled $15.8 million in 2009.

Measures to halt arms transfers to other Middle Eastern states have been uneven. France and the United Kingdom have suspended licenses for arms exports to Bahrain. The United States has launched an investigation to determine whether specific violations of a provision of U.S. law known as the Leahy amendment have occurred. That provision, which was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), prohibits U.S. funding of units of a security force that have committed “gross violations of human rights.”

In a March 10 letter to Leahy, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Miguel E. Rodriguez said the Obama administration is reassessing its procedures for reviewing arms sales to states undergoing periods of unrest, specifically including Bahrain.

As the security situation in Yemen has deteriorated, concerns have arisen about possible attacks on protesters by specialized units trained with foreign assistance. At a March 12 press briefing in Sana’a, U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein responded to a question on that point by saying, “We have not seen evidence that the units that we work with are being used for crowd control. We don’t have any evidence, we maintain our relationships with them, and we haven’t seen them on the street.”

 

Key members of the coalition conducting air strikes in Libya to protect opponents of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi were until recently selling arms to the Gaddafi regime.

Syria Allows Uranium Plant Inspection

Peter Crail

Syria has given the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to an additional site tied to the country’s nuclear program, a move the agency characterized in a Feb. 25 report as a positive but insufficient step to address concerns about Syria’s nuclear activities.

The report indicated that Syria agreed in February to allow inspection of a pilot plant near the city of Homs that produces a uranium concentrate called yellowcake through the purification of phosphoric acid. Yellowcake is a precursor in the production of fuel for nuclear reactors. In April 2008, the United States formally accused Syria of constructing a nuclear reactor at Dair al Zour for the purpose of developing nuclear weapons, a charge Syria denies. Israel destroyed the suspected reactor building in September 2007.

The Homs visit is part of a “plan of action” agreed between Syria and the IAEA last September to address the agency’s concerns about undeclared nuclear experiments Syria conducted at its Miniature Neutron Source Reactor in Damascus using unreported nuclear material. (See ACT, October 2010.) In 2009 the agency discovered chemically processed uranium particles not declared as part of Syria’s nuclear research efforts. After initially providing explanations inconsistent with the IAEA findings, Syria admitted to carrying out small-scale uranium-conversion and -irradiation experiments at the facility using yellowcake produced at Homs.

The agency is seeking to determine whether the Homs plant had produced larger quantities of yellowcake than Syria has reported.

According to a November 2010 IAEA report, Syria told the agency last October that the Homs plant was not subject to IAEA safeguards and that “further aspects of the Agency’s request for access needed to be discussed and clarified” before Syria could admit inspection. The IAEA does not apply standard safeguards to yellowcake because it is a form of uranium at the very early stages of creating nuclear fuel or material for a nuclear weapon.

In its recent report, the agency said that Syria’s decision to provide access to the Homs plant and to work with the agency to resolve outstanding technical issues “could represent a step forward.” However, the report added that “Syria’s responses to date under the agreed plan of action do not resolve the inconsistencies identified by the Agency.”

Syria allowed the agency to visit the suspected reactor site at Dair al Zour only once, in June 2008, and has refused repeated IAEA requests for a return inspection. Damascus also has rejected IAEA visits to three additional locations the agency has said in its reports are “allegedly functionally related to the Dair al Zour site.”

The agency detected traces of chemically processed uranium at Dair al Zour in 2008; the existence of such material may indicate the presence of nuclear fuel. It is unclear, however, what the source of the fuel for a suspected nuclear reactor would have been and whether the uranium originated in Syria.

The United States welcomed Syria’s decision to provide the IAEA access to the Homs plant but insisted that it does not address the primary concern of Syria’s suspected reactor construction at Dair al Zour.

Glyn Davies, U.S. permanent representative to the IAEA, told the agency’s governing board March 9, “We must not accept Syria’s attempts to pick and choose those aspects of the plan of action—or, indeed, of Syria’s Safeguards Agreement—on which it would like to cooperate.”

Davies added that even without Syrian cooperation in providing information on the activities at the Dair al Zour site, the IAEA director-general can give the board “his best assessment as to whether the Dair al Zour facility was in fact an undeclared nuclear reactor.”

 

 

Syria has given the International Atomic Energy Agency access to a facility linked to the country’s nuclear program, but the agency and the U.S. government say Damascus must do more to address concerns about suspected undeclared activities.

 

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