"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
June 2012
Edition Date: 
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Cover Image: 


The May 2012 article “N. Korea Launches Rocket, Kills U.S. Deal” incorrectly said that the second explosion of North Korea’s April 13 launch of an Unha-3 rocket took place about 47 minutes after takeoff. The explosion occurred about eight minutes after takeoff.

Books of Note

Nuclear Deterrence in the 21st Century: Lessons from the Cold War for a New Era of Strategic Piracy

Thérèse Delpech, RAND, 2012, 181 pp.

Greg Thielmann

In this concise but comprehensive volume, the late Thérèse Delpech explores strategic nuclear concepts in light of historical experience, reopening some assumptions that have long gone unchallenged. The book begins with the argument that a renewed intellectual effort is needed to understand the “second nuclear age,” emerging in the late 1990s following four decades of bipolar nuclear competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. It then deconstructs such pillars of Cold War nuclear strategy as “extended deterrence,” “mutual assured destruction,” and “parity.” Delpech chronicles a long list of nuclear crises, incorporating recent revelations from declassified archives. These range from citing President Dwight Eisenhower’s authorization of preparations to use nuclear weapons against China in 1958 during the second Taiwan Strait crisis to examining the four times President Richard Nixon said he had considered using nuclear weapons during his administration. She then draws historical lessons about the nature of deterrence, such as “superiority is not the decisive factor” and “participants are never in full control of events.” In exploring “the age of small powers,” Delpech concentrates on Iran and North Korea, but also discusses Pakistan and Syria, delivering a pessimistic prognosis on handling each of the four. Finally, she plows new ground in describing challenges from the two “contested global commons” of space and cyberspace. Although readers may reach different conclusions on various aspects of her analysis, few would challenge the rigorous approach Delpech has taken in raising the critical questions—a fitting final tribute to one of France’s foremost international security thinkers.



Sanctions, Statecraft, and Nuclear Proliferation

Etel Solingen, ed., Cambridge University Press, 2012, 402 pp.

Kelsey Davenport

This four-part compilation seeks to influence the debate on the efficacy of sanctions as a mechanism for curbing nuclear proliferation by expanding the discussion to include an examination of the role that positive inducements played in the decisions of certain states on whether to pursue nuclear weapons programs. The first section provides an overview of sanctions and positive inducements. Included is a chapter by Celia L. Reynolds and Wilfred T. Wan that presents a valuable empirical analysis of unilateral and multilateral actions taken by countries to curb nuclear proliferation. To create this comprehensive profile, the authors examined sanctions and inducements directed at Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea from 1990 to 2009. The second part of the book examines the different mechanisms through which sanctions and inducements affect a regime’s decision to pursue or abandon nuclear weapons programs. Daniel W. Drezner makes a compelling argument against so-called targeted sanctions, which seek to pressure regime supporters while minimizing humanitarian suffering. He argues in favor of an “eclectic approach” whereby policymakers consider “multiple causal pathways” and take into consideration potential unintended negative effects when crafting sanctions. He presents nine mechanisms through which more-comprehensive sanctions could pressure a regime to alter national policy. In-depth case studies on the role of sanctions and positive inducements in Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea are presented in part three. In the final section, Etel Solingen synthesizes the overarching policy implications of the previous sections’ conclusions on sanctions and inducements and identifies areas for further research.

Nuclear Deterrence in the 21st Century: Lessons from the Cold War for a New Era of Strategic Piracy

Thérèse Delpech, RAND, 2012, 181 pp.


Sanctions, Statecraft, and Nuclear Proliferation

Etel Solingen, ed., Cambridge University Press, 2012, 402 pp.

Pentagon Defends Arms Buy From Russia

Farrah Zughni

The Department of Defense is responding to congressional criticism of its purchase of helicopters from a Russian firm that also is supplying arms to the Syrian government, saying the aircraft are central to U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and have qualities that the alternatives do not.

In a letter sent March 30, made public several weeks later, the Pentagon said the Mi-17 helicopters from Rosoboronexport, a state-owned Russian arms exporter, are “a key part of our on-going strategy to hand over the security of Afghanistan to the Afghan people” and warned that canceling the procurement would “complicate the maintenance, sustainment, and supply systems required to support the fleet.”

Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller said in the letter to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) that the Pentagon’s plans to buy at least 21 Mi-17 helicopters were “made after considering [their] proven operational capabilities in the extreme environments of Afghanistan.” Cornyn’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Miller’s letter.

As part of growing congressional opposition to the Mi-17 deal, a bipartisan group of 17 senators, including Cornyn, sent a letter in March to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta calling for an end to the U.S. government’s relationship with the Russian firm because of its ties to Syria, citing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s violent suppression of a popular domestic uprising. (See ACT, April 2012.)

In his letter, Miller acknowledged there was evidence that the company’s arms were being used by Syrian forces against the country’s civilian population. He said the Defense Department had registered objections with Russia and would continue to do so “at all levels and at every opportunity.”

Miller also stated that the decision to purchase the Mi-17s was made in light of their “low technical complexity,” making it easier for members of the Afghan air force to maintain and operate the equipment.

“The contract with Rosoboronexport is the only legal method to purchase the military version of the Mi-17 and to provide ensured cognizance of safety and airworthiness,” said a Defense Department spokeswoman in a May 18 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

The Russian embassy in Washington declined to comment on the helicopter sale.

The Department of Defense is responding to congressional criticism of its purchase of helicopters from a Russian firm that also is supplying arms to the Syrian government, saying the aircraft are central to U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and have qualities that the alternatives do not

U.S., Russia Discuss Cyber Hotline

Timothy Farnsworth

Russian and U.S. negotiators are working on an agreement to establish a hotline for cyberattacks similar to one used since 1988 to prevent accidental nuclear war, a Department of State official said in a May 25 interview.

The hotline is one of several measures that Washington is discussing with Moscow to build greater confidence and create an environment that would lessen misperceptions in cyberspace that could result in potential cyberconflicts. The United States does not have such an agreement with Russia or any country, the official said.

Russian negotiators requested the creation of a cyber hotline that would be used by Russia or the United States only in cases of malicious cyberactivity that might originate in the other’s territory and be perceived as threatening to national security, the official said. The request is part of a series of bilateral talks between the United States and Russia, which began in February 2011, about confidence-building measures to prevent cyberconflict between the two countries.

According to the official, the hotline request would be in addition to three measures originally proposed by the United States: an exchange of cybersecurity white papers between the two militaries, establishment of a link between the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team and its Russian counterpart, and the creation of a crisis prevention mechanism through the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, which began operations in 1988 and includes a number of bilateral and multilateral international communications links dealing with nuclear, chemical, and conventional arms alerts. The Russian proposal is in addition to the risk reduction center and would establish a direct physical phone line between the Kremlin and the White House, the official said.

According to a July 2011 blog post by White House Cybersecurity Coordinator and Special Assistant to the President Howard Schmidt, the two sides had planned to have all three original mechanisms completed by the end of 2011.

They met that goal for the exchange of white papers. The United States sent its paper—the unclassified “Department of Defense Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace” (see ACT, September 2011)—last summer, and the Russians sent theirs in December, the official said.

The other three pieces are close to completion, but have not been finalized, the official said.

Russian and U.S. negotiators are working on an agreement to establish a hotline for cyberattacks similar to one used since 1988 to prevent accidental nuclear war, a Department of State official said in a May 25 interview.

North Korea Urged Not to Test

Kelsey Davenport

China, Japan, and South Korea agreed not to “accept further nuclear tests or provocations from North Korea,” according to a May 13 statement by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Lee issued the statement from Beijing at the end of a trilateral meeting in May, which included a discussion of Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

North Korea is believed to be preparing for a nuclear test at its Punggye-ri test site, following a failed attempt to launch a satellite into orbit with a Unha-3 rocket in April. (See ACT, May 2012.) It has conducted two previous nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009.

Although Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao did not directly mention North Korea in his statement at the end of the meeting, he said that all parties in the region needed to “display goodwill” to “ease confrontation and return to the right track of dialogue and negotiations.”

Despite the ambiguity of Wen’s statement, China is reportedly working behind the scenes to urge North Korea not to detonate a nuclear device and is considering retaliatory steps if Pyongyang moves forward with the test, according to a May 16 Reuters report. The news service quoted several sources as saying that China was concerned that a third test would give the United States greater cause to increase its military presence in the region and would cause environmental damage along the Chinese-North Korean border. The sources also said that Beijing would consider sanctioning North Korea in response to a nuclear test.

According to Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency, “a military measure such as a nuclear test” was not planned around the failed launch, but the country would “bolster” its nuclear deterrence for self-defense against “hostile policy.”

Some analysts predict that North Korea will use highly enriched uranium in the anticipated test to demonstrate progress in its uranium-enrichment capabilities. The earlier tests used plutonium.


China, Japan, and South Korea agreed not to “accept further nuclear tests or provocations from North Korea,” according to a May 13 statement by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Lee issued the statement from Beijing at the end of a trilateral meeting in May, which included a discussion of Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

Libya Sets Date to Destroy Chemical Arms

Daniel Horner

Libya has set a target date of December 2013 for complete destruction of its most potent chemical weapons, according to documents circulated at a May 1-4 meeting on the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

The meeting of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) came days after the date by which all parties to the treaty were to have destroyed their holdings of chemical weapons. It had been known for years that Russia and the United States, which held the vast majority of the chemical weapons that were declared when the CWC entered into force in 1997, would not meet the deadline of April 29, 2012.

In a document adopted at their annual meeting last year, the treaty parties essentially recognized that those two countries and Libya would miss the deadline, but said they should complete the work “in the shortest time possible.” The document also spelled out reporting and monitoring requirements for the destruction work, including a requirement for a “detailed plan” that specifies “the planned completion date.” (See ACT, January/February 2012.)

Under the regime of Moammar Gaddafi, Libya joined the CWC in 2004. It began destroying its chemical stockpiles in October 2010 and was able to destroy about 13.5 metric tons—slightly more than half—of its supply of Category 1 chemical weapons before a heating unit in the disposal facility broke down in February 2011. Under the CWC, Category 1 covers agents, such as the chemicals sarin, soman, and VX, that are considered to pose the highest risk.

The breakdown occurred at about the same time as the beginning of the protests that ultimately toppled the Gaddafi regime. Chemical weapons destruction has not yet resumed, OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan said in a May 29 e-mail to Arms Control Today. “The destruction facility has been repaired but additional infrastructure work and security arrangements must be completed by the Libyan authorities before OPCW inspectors can be deployed on-site and operations resumed,” he said.

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü discussed the destruction program in a May 27 meeting in Tripoli with Libyan Foreign Minister Ashour Saad Ben Khaial, “who expressed his strong commitment that Libyan authorities will continue to closely coordinate with the OPCW on these operations,” Luhan said.

Last November and this February, the new Libyan government declared additional quantities of Category 1 and Category 3 chemical weapons to the OPCW. Luhan said the newly declared weapons included “several hundred” munitions loaded with sulfur mustard agent together with a few hundred kilograms of sulfur mustard stored in plastic containers.

Libya has declared a total of 26.3 metric tons of Category 1 weapons and has destroyed 13.5 metric tons, according to the documents distributed at the meeting. The remaining 12.8 metric tons are to be destroyed by December 2013.

According to the documents, the Category 3 weapons—a category that includes unfilled munitions, devices, and equipment designed specifically for use with chemical weapons agents—would be destroyed by May 2013. Category 2 weapons, precursor chemicals, would be destroyed by December 2016. Libya, which already has destroyed 556 metric tons of Category 2 weapons, has another 846 metric tons to destroy, according to the documents.

Russia has previously said it plans to complete its destruction by the end of 2015. (See ACT, July/August 2010.) The United States recently extended its timetable by two years, from 2021 to 2023. (See ACT, May 2012.)

According to OPCW figures circulated at the meeting, the United States had, as of April 29, destroyed 24,924 metric tons of its 27,769 metric tons of declared Category 1 weapons. That figure does not include another 1,434 metric tons that the United States destroyed prior to the CWC’s entry into force. Russia had destroyed 24,961 metric tons of its declared total of 39,967 metric tons.

The documents circulated at the May meeting also provide a timetable for the destruction of so-called abandoned chemical weapons in China, which are a legacy of Japan’s occupation of the country during World War II. Under that schedule, the goal is to destroy by 2016 the chemical weapons at locations other than Haerbaling in northeastern China. The target date for the weapons at Haerbaling, where more than 300,000 chemical munitions are estimated to be buried, is 2022.

Libya has set a target date of December 2013 for complete destruction of its most potent chemical weapons, according to documents circulated at a May 1-4 meeting on the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

Work Seen Needed on Mideast Meeting

Daniel Horner

Although there has been “substantial progress” in organizing a planned conference on creating a Middle Eastern zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), it is “clear that further and intensified efforts are needed,” the conference’s facilitator said last month.

The comments came in the first report by the facilitator, Finnish Undersecretary of State Jaakko Laajava, to the parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Delegates from NPT member states gathered in Vienna from April 30 to May 11 for the first of three meetings to prepare for the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

Laajava said the increased efforts would have to come from him and “the conveners and the States of the region.” The conveners are Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the UN secretary-general. The three countries are the depositary governments of the NPT and were the co-sponsors of a resolution at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference calling for the establishment of a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone.

That resolution was critical to the decision at the 1995 conference to make the NPT permanent. For the next 15 years, however, there was no progress on the creation of a zone. In the final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the parties reaffirmed their commitment to “a full implementation” of the 1995 resolution and mandated that a conference on the issue be held in 2012.

The language on a Middle Eastern zone was the last major sticking point at the 2010 conference, and agreement on it allowed the parties to reach consensus on the final document. (See ACT, June 2010.) Last October, Laajava was named the facilitator, and Finland was designated as the host country for the conference. (See ACT, November 2011.)

In his report, Laajava said he has encouraged the Middle Eastern states “to adopt an open and forward-looking approach and to engage with each other in constructive dialogue and cooperation.” He emphasized that although “the international community and the facilitator can provide important support, the ownership and ultimate responsibility for a successful Conference and the establishment of the zone lies with” the Middle Eastern countries.

In a joint statement during the Vienna meeting, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States made a similar point but more emphatically: “We are prepared to assist in any way requested, recognizing that zones free of nuclear [weapons] and other WMD cannot be created counter to the will of the region by the efforts of extra-regional powers or international organizations…. The impetus for the establishment of such a zone, must originate from the States of the region, who are ultimately responsible for creating and establishing the political and security conditions that will provide a sustainable foundation for such a zone.”

Another statement at the Vienna meeting, delivered by Egypt on behalf of the Nonaligned Movement, called on Laajava and the four conveners to accelerate and intensify their efforts to ensure a successful 2012 conference. A statement by the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Arab League noted that the 2010 final document called for the conference “to be attended by all States of the Middle East.” That is because “it is the participating regional States that will determine the follow-up procedures that will be undertaken by the facilitator,” the Arab states said.

Iran and Israel

The issue of full participation is widely seen as crucial to the conference; in particular, Iran and Israel must attend, officials and other observers say. Iran is an NPT party, but is suspected of using its nuclear program to lay the groundwork for a weapons capability. Israel is not a party to the treaty and has an undeclared nuclear weapons program.

Ensuring that these two key countries attend is an area in which “the depositary states have some leverage,” an official from a Persian Gulf country said in a May 21 telephone interview. The United States could intercede with Israel, and Russia could do the same with Iran, he said.

Iran’s “noncompliance” with its NPT safeguards obligations is a “serious concern” and will have to be rectified as part of the process of establishing a WMD-free zone, just as Israel will have to join the NPT and place its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, the official said. However, Iranian compliance issues “shouldn’t distract” people from the need for Iran to attend the conference, he said.

In a May 21 interview in Washington, a U.S. official said the United States could not pressure Israel to participate. There is “nothing the U.S. can do on the ground” if the Arab states insist on singling out Israel for criticism and refuse to address Israeli concerns that they would use the conference as a forum for doing that, he said.

With regard to Iran, he said Russia does not have an “obligation” to bring Iran to the table. Engaging Iran directly is a task for which the organizers might rely heavily on Laajava, he said. However, as with Israeli and Arab participation, the states of the region must take ultimate responsibility for working to ensure that Iran participates, he said.

Timing Uncertain

Another potentially troublesome issue is the timing of the conference. Over the past year, U.S. officials have expressed attitudes ranging from caution to outright pessimism that the conference could take place in 2012, given the upheavals in the region resulting from the Arab Spring. (See ACT, April 2012.) In a May 8 statement at the Vienna meeting, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman said “these fundamental political shifts” have created a situation in the region “much different” from what it was in May 2010, when the review conference met. These shifts “will be a factor in determining how to move forward…in a manner that is most conducive to a constructive dialogue and positive outcome,” he said.

In contrast, Mikhail Uliyanov of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “We are determined to spare no efforts in order that this most important international event takes place exactly within the determined timeframe, i.e., in 2012.” Holding it in December, as has been “frequently mentioned,” is “quite acceptable,” he said. “We consider it utterly erratic and counterproductive to raise the idea that it is worth[while] to postpone the Conference until the total stabilization of the situation in the Middle East and creation of the ‘necessary political conditions’ first,” he said.

For his part, Laajava said in his report, “The facilitator and the conveners have a clear goal and commitment towards the organization of the Conference in 2012 as agreed.” The U.S. official said he fully agreed with that characterization but that the prospects do not look good for holding the meeting this year. “I don’t see the regional states taking the steps that need to be taken,” he said, but he emphasized that the United States was “not walking away” from its commitment.

The Gulf state official said the issue of timing is “a critical point.” Although there would be “potentially not much difference” in practical terms if the conference took place in January 2013 rather than December 2012, postponing it beyond the date specified in the 2010 declaration would be “sending the wrong message,” he said.

“We realize that [establishing a WMD-free zone] is not a simple process,” but there need to be “some initial steps” to generate momentum toward “the ultimate goal,” and that is “why we insist on having [the conference] in 2012,” he said.

Other key aspects of the conference also are still open. Laajava’s report called for “intensified consultations in order to finalize the agenda, modalities and rules of procedure.” He added that the meeting “has been proposed to consist of a plenary and, if so desired by the States of the region, a number of subcommittees or working groups relevant to the agenda to be agreed upon.”

The Gulf state official said that “to be realistic is the key here.” As the participants will be meeting for the first time, the main goal should be to create an “environment in which they feel comfortable” so that they can “discuss topics around a table” and agree to meet again.

In his May 8 statement, Countryman seemed to be setting a similar goal. “Our approach should be one of setting realistic expectations and encouraging serious engagement on a difficult set of issues,” he said. “A successful Conference can lead to a continuing process. An unsuccessful Conference cannot lead to a process.”

NPT Context

The Gulf state official said the issue of a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone has played a large role in determining the success or failure of NPT review conferences and that the current “fragile consensus” on the NPT “might not hold for long” if the issue is not addressed.

In the May 21 Washington interview, a second U.S. official argued that other issues also are crucial to the future of the treaty, such as how to handle cases of noncompliance.

She said that the recent preparatory meeting in Vienna suggested that the “spirit of 2010,” which enabled countries to compromise to reach consensus on the final document at the review conference, remains largely intact. At the Vienna meeting, some countries seemed to be modifying their long-standing positions on contentious issues, she said. The changes are “subtle, but you’ve got to start somewhere,” she said.

She noted that the parties were able to take care of the procedural issues in a few hours at the beginning of the meeting, a step that often has required days because countries had used the procedural portion of the meeting to press disagreements on a range of issues. The quick resolution therefore is “a big deal,” she said.

Although there has been “substantial progress” in organizing a planned conference on creating a Middle Eastern zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), it is “clear that further and intensified efforts are needed,” the conference’s facilitator said last month.

U.S. Plans to Sell Bahrain More Arms

Farrah Zughni

The Department of State last month announced plans to deliver military equipment and services to Bahrain despite ongoing allegations of human rights abuses by the Persian Gulf state’s government.

The department, which cited “national security interests,” has not made public an exhaustive list of items in the deal or its overall cost. The deal has drawn criticism from some members of Congress.

The State Department’s May 11 announcement, which took place during Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa’s U.S. visit, sparked the latest round of disputes in recent months between the Obama administration and legislators over U.S. policy on arms sales to Bahrain.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a May 11 statement that the administration was “mindful of the fact that there are a number of serious unresolved human rights issues” in Bahrain.

A Nov. 23 report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) verified many reports of human rights abuses committed by the Bahraini government since a wave of popular uprisings began in the spring of last year and laid out steps for reform.

Nuland said the items being released to Bahrain were intended to help maintain the country’s “external defense capabilities” and would not be used for “crowd control.”

However, a congressional staffer who has been following the Bahrain case called that claim “questionable.” In a May 14 e-mail to Arms Control Today, he said it seemed that “some of the items being transferred could be used internally within Bahrain” although “it’s not 100% clear that any of the items could be used for crowd control.” Thus, he said, “there’s some uncertainty about this.”

During a May 11 conference call with reporters, senior administration officials said Congress had been informed of the decision and would continue to be closely consulted on the matter. One of the officials stressed that the sale “is not a new arms package” but part of a $53 million deal proposed last year that was put on hold until Bahrain implemented the BICI’s proposed reforms. (See ACT, March 2012.)

The sale’s value cannot be revealed because it was still subject to negotiation, the official said. According to the officials, probably only one item in the deal, a U.S. Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, reaches congressional notification thresholds.

In a May 15 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a State Department spokeswoman said a complete list of the deal’s components would not be made public for “security reasons.” However, administration officials did say the package sent to Congress would include harbor security boats, support for an upgrade of Bahrain’s existing turbofan engines which are used in F-16 fighter jets, and draft legislation to allow for a future decision on whether to transfer the frigate.

According to the Nuland statement and the senior officials’ comments during the conference call, items predominantly or typically used for internal security, such as tear gas, tear gas launchers, and stun grenades, would not be in the package. They also said the department would maintain holds on High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles, known as Humvees, and guided anti-armor and anti-bunker missiles that were in the original $53 million arms sale.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), one of the leading congressional critics of arms sales to Bahrain, said he was “disappointed” by the administration’s decision. “Until there is more substantial and lasting progress on human rights, I will continue to oppose arms sales to Bahrain and work in Congress on legislative options to address this issue,” McGovern said in a May 11 statement.

During the conference call, officials said all articles sold by the United States were subject to end-use monitoring to ensure they are used as stipulated in the sale agreement. “We intend for these items to be monitored the way we would monitor any items that are sold by the U.S. government,” one official said.

The Department of State last month announced plans to deliver military equipment and services to Bahrain despite ongoing allegations of human rights abuses by the Persian Gulf state’s government.

Former STRATCOM Head Calls for Cuts

Tom Z. Collina

As the Obama administration puts the finishing touches on its new nuclear strategy, Gen. James Cartwright, commander of U.S. nuclear forces under President George W. Bush, last month called for making deep reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, doing away with one leg of the U.S. nuclear triad, and removing the threat of a pre-emptive “decapitating” strike against Russia.

Cartwright, who was head of U.S. Strategic Command from 2004 to 2007 and then was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until last August, recommended reducing U.S. forces to 900 total nuclear warheads, an 80 percent drop from current levels; eliminating U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs); and taking weapons off alert. “The threat has changed,” he said at a May 16 press conference. “Nation-states engaging in [large-scale] nuclear exchanges [is] highly unlikely.”

Cartwright, who now is the Harold Brown Chair in Defense Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was presenting a report prepared by a commission he chaired for Global Zero, a nongovernmental organization seeking the elimination of nuclear weapons. The other authors of the report are former U.S. arms control negotiator Richard Burt, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), former U.S ambassador to Russia and the United Nations Thomas Pickering, and retired Gen. Jack Sheehan.

The report, “Modernizing U.S. Nuclear Strategy, Force Structure and Posture,” concludes that the current U.S. and Russian arsenals “vastly exceed what is needed to satisfy reasonable requirements of deterrence.” It finds that there is “no conceivable situation” in which nuclear weapons would be used by either side and that “the actual existing threats to our two countries (and the globe) cannot be resolved by using our nuclear arsenals.”

Echoing the findings of previous reports on the subject, including one in 1997 by the National Academy of Sciences, the Cartwright report suggests an “illustrative” nuclear force of 900 total strategic weapons by 2022. Only half of this force would be deployed, with the remainder in reserve. The 450 deployed warheads would be off alert, requiring 24 to 72 hours to become launch ready. The reserve warheads could be returned to service “within weeks or months.” Currently, U.S. missiles on alert are ready to launch within minutes.

The deployed force advocated by the report would consist of 10 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines armed with a total of 360 warheads, and 18 B-2 bombers with 90 gravity bombs. With two subs in overhaul and two in port, six subs would be on patrol at all times, with four in the Pacific and two in the Atlantic. These subs would no longer be ready to launch their missiles within 15 minutes of receiving an order.

First Strike Not Credible

The report finds that six subs armed with 270 warheads would not pose a credible first-strike threat to Russia. (The other 90 sub-based warheads and 90 bomber weapons would be visibly off alert and thus not be suitable for surprise attack.) The report cited Russian sources as saying that it would take 300 U.S. warheads on alert to mount a decapitating first strike. “The numbers are not there for the pre-emptive, decapitating strike,” Cartwright said at the press conference.

According to the study, this should alleviate Moscow’s concerns about U.S. missile defenses, which Russian leaders say could be used to blunt a relatively small Russian retaliation after a U.S. first strike. Such fears are preventing Moscow from agreeing to further arms reductions and cooperating with NATO on missile interceptor deployments in Europe, the report says.

Under the report’s proposal, the nuclear-armed Minuteman ICBM force would be retired because it is not needed to deter Russia and has no other plausible uses. The report points out that U.S. ICBMs would have to fly over Russia to reach any other potential targets, which “risks confusing Russia with ambiguous attack indications and triggering nuclear retaliation.” U.S. submarines and bombers are more flexible in their routes.

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said at a May 16 Brookings Institution event that he did not agree with Cartwright’s recommendation to retire ICBMs, which are under his command. “Why do we have a land-based deterrent force? It’s so that an adversary has to strike the homeland,” he said. In a May 22 e-mail to Arms Control Today elaborating on Schwartz’s remarks, Air Force Lt. Col. Samuel Highley said the ICBM force denies “an adversary any possibility of defeating the U.S. short of large-scale nuclear attack on the ICBM force...a difficult-to-imagine solution because it would entail a nuclear strike on the American homeland and its people.”

The Cartwright report also recommends that all U.S. tactical nuclear weapons be eliminated over the next 10 years, as “their military utility is practically nil.” Tactical weapons remain deployed “only for political reasons” within NATO, the report says. According to the report, the United States can instead reassure its allies with its strategic nuclear and conventional forces.

To mitigate any additional risks incurred by deep reductions and lower alert levels, the United States would keep missile interceptors and conventional forces on constant alert, the report suggests. It also concludes that, for many scenarios, U.S. conventional forces could defeat regional adversaries “without needing to generate any U.S. nuclear forces at all.” The study recommends that a non-nuclear ICBM be developed to provide the ability to strike any target on the globe, such as missile sites in Iran or North Korea, within one hour and that it be able to avoid flying over Russia or China.

An 80 percent reduction in the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal would have significant implications for budgets and plans to modernize the nuclear triad of ICBMs, bombers, and submarines, the report finds. Under the report’s scenario, plans for a new ICBM could be canceled, plans for 100 to 150 new long-range bombers could be scaled back to 30 to 50 for nuclear missions, and the submarine replacement program could be delayed.

The study finds that Russia and the United States could implement the reductions and de-alerting proposals through reciprocal presidential directives, bilateral negotiations, or unilateral steps. Follow-on talks could lead to nuclear arsenals totaling 500 warheads on each side, at which point China and other nuclear-weapon states could be brought into the negotiations.

Administration Review Continuing

The Cartwright report comes at a key time in the ongoing debate between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans about the future of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Obama has promised to follow up with Russia on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which limits each side to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads by 2018, with another round of talks to further reduce the stockpiles of those weapons, as well as tactical warheads and weapons in storage.

According to the Department of Defense, the United States currently has about 5,000 strategic and tactical nuclear warheads deployed and in storage. This does not include thousands of warheads waiting to be dismantled.

The Obama administration is in the final stages of reviewing future requirements for U.S. nuclear forces, a process known as the Nuclear Posture Review Implementation Study, to determine how much lower the force levels can go. The administration reportedly is considering a range of options for lower total numbers of deployed strategic warheads. (See ACT, March 2012.)

Meanwhile, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives are trying to prevent the implementation of New START as well as additional reductions. The fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House on May 18, includes language that could block arsenal reductions under New START if the administration does not increase spending on nuclear weapons-related projects that the Pentagon did not request. The administration issued a warning May 15 that it may veto the defense bill over these provisions, which the White House says would “impinge on the President’s ability to implement the New START Treaty and to set U.S. nuclear weapons policy.” The Senate, controlled by Democrats, is not expected to include a similar provision in its version of the bill.

As the Obama administration puts the finishing touches on its new nuclear strategy, Gen. James Cartwright, commander of U.S. nuclear forces under President George W. Bush, last month called for making deep reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, doing away with one leg of the U.S. nuclear triad, and removing the threat of a pre-emptive “decapitating” strike against Russia.

NATO Fields Interceptors Without Russia

Tom Z. Collina

NATO now has an “interim capability” for its U.S.-built missile interceptor system, the alliance announced at its May 20-21 summit in Chicago, but the future of NATO-Russian cooperation on missile defense remains uncertain.

The announcement of NATO’s capability, which is part of the so-called European Phased Adaptive Approach, was expected, as was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision not to attend the summit in protest. (See ACT, April 2012.) Russia had wanted the cooperation agreement to be worked out before NATO went ahead with the interceptor system.

When NATO leaders first endorsed U.S. missile interceptor plans for Europe in late 2010, NATO and Russia agreed to explore ways to cooperate on missile defenses. Since then, however, the two sides have been unable to agree on the specifics of that cooperation, with Moscow seeking binding assurances that the system would not undermine its security, which Washington refused to provide. Although there has been no agreement in this area, both sides say that the door to cooperation remains open.

According to a May 20 White House summary, “interim capability” means that, in a crisis, NATO could assume operational command of the U.S. missile interceptor system in Europe, currently composed of an Aegis-equipped ship with Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) IA interceptors in the Mediterranean Sea, an AN/TPY-2 radar in Turkey, and a command and control center in Germany.

The U.S. Department of Defense has been directed to transfer operational control of the radar to NATO, but SM-3-armed ships in the area would operate under NATO control only “when necessary,” the summary said. NATO designated its most senior military commander, U.S. Adm. James Stavridis, to oversee the missile defense mission, the White House said.

Future phases of the European system include increasingly capable SM-3 interceptor deployments at sea and on land in Romania (2015) and Poland (2018). The current interim capability would be followed by “initial operational capability” in 2015 and “full operational capability” in 2018, the White House said. Phase four of the system, including SM-3 IIB interceptors with some capability against long-range missiles, would be deployed in 2020.

“NATO will now have an operationally meaningful ballistic missile defense mission. It will be limited in the initial phase, but it will expand over time,” U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder said at a May 20 press briefing at the summit. “It will, as of today, provide real protection for parts of NATO Europe against ballistic missile attack,” he said. Daalder declined to specify which nations in southern Europe would be protected, explaining that “a wide variety of places” could be protected because “the ship can be moved.”

The next SM-3 interceptor to be deployed, the IB, hit its target in a May 10 test, according to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). Last September, the system failed in its first intercept test. This interceptor would be deployed on land in Romania by 2015 and on ships at sea.

Richard Lehner, an MDA spokesman, declined to say whether the test included countermeasures such as decoys that an enemy likely would use to try to overwhelm the defense. “We don’t divulge presence of countermeasures for any missile defense tests,” he told Reuters May 10.

Moscow’s Concerns

Russia has repeatedly expressed concern that the SM-3 IIB, which is supposed to be deployed in 2020 and is still on the drawing board, could fly fast enough to threaten its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) based in western Russia. At a May 3-4 missile defense conference in Moscow, Nikolai Makarov, chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, raised the possibility of delivering pre-emptive strikes against NATO missile defense systems if the alliance goes ahead with current plans. In addition, Russia tested a new ICBM on May 23 that the military said was designed to evade U.S. defenses.

In its declaration at the Chicago summit, NATO sought to reassure Russia by stating that “NATO missile defense is not directed against Russia and will not undermine Russia’s strategic deterrence capabilities.” The declaration said the allies regretted “recurrent Russian statements on possible measures directed against NATO’s missile defense system” and welcomed Russia’s willingness to continue dialogue “on the future framework for missile defense cooperation.”

In addition to the legally binding commitment that NATO missile interceptors would not be targeted at Russia, Moscow has been seeking limits on numbers, velocities, and deployment locations of SM-3 interceptors. In one of the Russian presentations at the Moscow conference, Col. Evgeny Ilyin said ship-based interceptors in the Baltic Sea or Norwegian Sea traveling at speeds greater than five kilometers per second would be “a real threat to the Russian deterrence capability.” Slower interceptors do not pose the same level of concern, Ilyin said.

House Pushes East Coast Site

Meanwhile, on May 18, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which would increase spending on the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system by $460 million above the $903 million requested by the Department of Defense. Of that additional amount, the bill would authorize $100 million to study the deployment of missile interceptors on the U.S. East Coast by late 2015. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this new project would cost $3.6 billion over five years.

Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee and the leading proponent of an East Coast site, based his position on a forthcoming report by the National Research Council, an independent advisory group to the U.S. government. However, a summary of the report states that the current West Coast interceptor system “has serious shortcomings” and would have to be completely redesigned, retested, and rebuilt before it could be installed on the East Coast, making the 2015 time frame appear unrealistic.

The main conclusions of the council’s report, called “Making Sense of Ballistic Missile Defense: An Assessment of Concepts and Systems for U.S. Boost-Phase Missile Defense in Comparison to Other Alternatives,” were made public in an April 30 letter from report co-chairs L. David Montague and Walter Slocombe to the chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The United States already has one site in Alaska and one in California, with a total of 30 deployed interceptors, to handle potential future attacks from Iran and North Korea. The GMD system has not had a successful intercept test since 2008, with two failures in 2010. Neither Iran nor North Korea has yet deployed long-range missiles that could reach the United States.

The Pentagon did not request funding for an East Coast site, and on May 10, the nation’s top military officer said there was no need for a third site. The current program “is adequate and sufficient to the task,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon news briefing. “So I don’t see a need beyond what we’ve submitted in the last budget.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee, in preparing its version of the fiscal 2013 defense bill, did not authorize an East Coast site.

NATO now has an “interim capability” for its U.S.-built missile interceptor system, the alliance announced at its May 20-21 summit in Chicago, but the future of NATO-Russian cooperation on missile defense remains uncertain.


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