“Over the past 50 years, ACA has contributed to bridging diversity, equity, inclusion and that's by ensuring that women of color are elevated in this space.”
– Shalonda Spencer
Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, and Conflict Transformation
June 2, 2022
October 2013
Edition Date: 
Thursday, October 3, 2013
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Books of Note

Nuclear Terrorism and Global Security: The Challenge of Phasing Out Highly Enriched Uranium

Alan J. Kuperman, ed., Routledge Global Security Studies, 2013, 238 pp.

Yuta Kawashima

Alan J. Kuperman, an associate professor of public affairs and the coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin, has assembled a set of studies exploring the feasibility of a global phase-out of the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU). The studies, written by graduate students for a course organized by the project, cover the non-nuclear-weapon uses of HEU—primarily in research reactors, naval propulsion reactors, and medical isotope production facilities—and the effort involved in converting HEU to low-enriched uranium (LEU) for these uses. In his introduction and conclusion, Kuperman highlights the risks of nuclear terrorism and proliferation posed by continued use of HEU, but also says that the obstacles to an HEU phase-out project are significant. According to Kuperman, “Many scientists and engineers will favor continued HEU use because it is efficient and familiar—and because their main concerns are cost and performance, rather than global security.” In making his case for the phase-out, Kuperman draws lessons from the case studies, which cover countries on five continents. (There is also a chapter on conversion of space reactors.) Among the factors he cites are strong leadership by at least one powerful country, a strengthened international norm against HEU use, and multilateral agreements to create a “level playing field” and reduce the fear of competitive disadvantage. He also argues for positive incentives, such as the $25 million grant that the United States provided to South Africa to encourage conversion.

Ballistic Missile Defense and US National Security Policy: Normalisation and Acceptance After the Cold War

Andrew Futter, Routledge Global Security Studies, 2013

Eric Wey

In this book, Andrew Futter, a lecturer in international politics at the University of Leicester, tracks the evolution of U.S. ballistic missile defense through the lens of U.S. national security policy and domestic politics. Futter argues that missile defense traditionally has been a contentious issue in U.S. politics, with those who believe in the capabilities and inherent benefits of missile defense arrayed against those who believe that missile defense undermines the deterrent effect of mutual assured destruction. In recent years, policymakers have become more willing to fund unproven missile defense technology as the capabilities of missile defense systems improve, Futter says. He traces the evolution of the missile defense debate in U.S. politics, including its origins during the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, and the subsequent debates on the utility of missile defense. The book’s central tenet is that domestic politics, in conjunction with gradual changes to the international system, has been critical in shaping ballistic missile defense but that this factor has been underappreciated. Futter argues that it is easier for policymakers to make the case for missile defense than for the logic of mutual assured destruction. He concludes that, despite significant political differences over missile defense in the past, the maturation of missile defense technology and recent political debates suggest that there is a growing consensus among U.S. policymakers on the utility of integrating missile defense into U.S. defense strategy, at least in a limited way.

Plan Set to Rid Syria of Chemical Arms

Daniel Horner

The UN Security Council on Sept. 27 unanimously adopted a plan for destroying Syria’s chemical arsenal, endorsing a blueprint that the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had approved a few hours earlier.

The actions by the 41-member Executive Council, which generally operates by consensus, and the 15-member Security Council establish timelines for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. The two councils were building on a framework agreement for control and elimination of Syria’s arsenal concluded by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sept. 14 after days of intensive bilateral negotiations in Geneva.

The two council decisions spell out ways in which the United Nations and the OPCW are to coordinate in overseeing Syria’s chemical disarmament. The documents approved by the two councils cite Article VIII of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which says that the Executive Council should refer compliance issues “of particular gravity and urgency” to the Security Council. The OPCW is the international body that implements the CWC.

In its resolution, the Security Council says that, in cases of noncompliance, “including unauthorized transfer of chemical weapons, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone” in Syria, it would “impose measures” under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. That chapter authorizes the Security Council to take measures, which can include the use of armed force, “to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

With the Security Council resolution, “the international community has delivered,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after the vote. But he acknowledged that “[s]ecuring and destroying weapons of mass destruction in a civil war will be daunting.”

Kerry praised the “precedent-setting” resolution in remarks at the UN on Sept. 27. Lavrov said it did not contain “coercive” measures and that violations would have to be proven “100 percent” before the council could take punitive measures. Russia has been Syria’s strongest ally on the Security Council.

Timeline Established

The OPCW Executive Council decision document says that the OPCW “shall…initiate” inspections in Syria by Oct. 1. The document requires Syria to provide information on its chemical weapons program beyond what it submitted to the OPCW on Sept. 19.

The Sept. 14 U.S.-Russian agreement said the two countries “expect Syria to submit, within a week, a comprehensive listing, including names, types, and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and location and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.”

By submitting information within that time frame, Syria met what many observers viewed as the first test of its willingness to give up its chemical weapons, although the submittal reportedly had several gaps.

It is not clear when or if the information in Syria’s initial inventory will be made public. In a Sept. 26 e-mail to Arms Control Today, OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan said that, under the OPCW’s confidentiality policy, the organization does not release details of a state-party’s declaration unless the country “expressly authorizes it.”

The Executive Council decision document requires Syria to provide by Oct. 4 specific information on the types, quantities, and locations of materials and facilities that make up its chemical weapons program. By Oct. 27, it must submit the more detailed information required by Article III of the CWC. Among the information that the article requires, in addition to a cataloguing of a country’s material and facilities, are details on any cases in which it has “transferred or received, directly or indirectly,” chemical weapons or equipment for producing them since Jan. 1, 1946.

Under the CWC, countries do not have to submit the Article III information until 30 days from the time the treaty enters into force for them. The treaty will formally enter into force for Syria on Oct. 14, but in submitting its accession documents last month, the Syrian government said it would begin complying with the CWC’s terms immediately.

The Executive Council decision document sets Nov. 1 as the date by which Syria must complete “the destruction of chemical weapons production and mixing/filling equipment.” Mixing and filling equipment is used to load chemical agents into munitions. Syria is required to “complete the elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014,” a process for which the Executive Council is to set “detailed requirements, including intermediate destruction milestones,” by Nov. 15, according to the document. Prioritizing destruction of this equipment would help to ensure that Syria’s ability to use chemical weapons would be seriously degraded early in the elimination process.

Differences Over Removal

The Sept. 14 framework agreement and the decisions by the Security Council and Executive Council contemplate significant cooperation with other countries to ensure that Syria and the OPCW can carry out the necessary tasks within the fairly short time frames.

In one of the most dramatic departures from normal practices under the CWC, the framework agreement repeatedly refers to the possibility of removal of chemical weapons from Syria for destruction outside the country. For example, the framework agreement states that “the most effective control of these weapons may be achieved by removal of the largest amounts of weapons feasible, under OPCW supervision, and their destruction outside of Syria, if possible.” In particular, the document specifies that this approach would apply mostly to precursor chemicals and chemical agents that have not yet been put into weapons form. “For these materials, [Russia and the United States] will pursue a hybrid approach, i.e., a combination of removal from Syria and destruction within Syria, depending upon site-specific conditions,” the Sept. 14 agreement says.

UN Team Finds Sarin Use in Syria

A UN inspection team that is investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria’s ongoing civil war found “clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin” were used in an Aug. 21 attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.

The report, released Sept. 16, found that chemical weapons had been used “against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale.” The team’s mandate was restricted to determining whether chemical weapons were used, rather than who used them. But some of the evidence, such as the scale of the attack and the types of rockets used, seemed to add weight to previous analyses that said Syrian government forces were responsible.

The UN team also calculated the arc and direction of some of the rockets that were used in the Aug. 21 attack. The calculations pointed to regime strongholds.

Earlier in September, the nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch released a report on its own investigation of the Ghouta attacks. “The evidence concerning the type of rockets and launchers used in these attacks strongly suggests that these are weapon systems known and documented to be only in the possession of, and used by, Syrian government armed forces,” the report said.

A U.S. intelligence summary released Aug. 30 said the U.S. government had “high confidence” that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical attack in Ghouta. (See ACT, September 2013.)

U.S. officials embraced the UN report while Russian officials dismissed it. Russia, a strong ally of Syria, argues that the chemical attack came from Syrian rebel forces.

Michael Elleman, who served as a missile expert for the UN team that conducted weapons inspections in Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, said in a Sept. 26 e-mail to Arms Control Today that “given the scale of the attacks, the timing, the amounts [of chemical agent] delivered reasonably competently, [and] the implicit planning that had to have been done, there is little doubt the regime is responsible.”—DANIEL HORNER

    Independent analysts who have met with U.S. government officials said the United States estimates that, of Syria’s approximately 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, a large majority is not weaponized, making it easier to move and destroy them in Syria. The analysts say they were told that the removal option was under consideration to take into account the possibility that the security situation on the ground in Syria might deteriorate and make the removal of bulk agent or precursor chemicals from the country necessary.

    Russia has said it would not import Syrian chemical weapons for destruction. Russia and the United States at one time had the world’s largest chemical weapons programs and are in the process of destroying their arsenals, which at their peaks had a combined total of more than 65,000 metric tons.

    In a Sept. 29 e-mail to Arms Control Today elaborating on Moscow’s position, a Russian official said the option of removal “was looked at” following a U.S. request and “discarded.” He added that “removal has always been something that Washington was fixated on, and given that Russia is not an option, I do not know what else they have in mind.”

    Removal is not mentioned in the OPCW Executive Council decision document.

    Some analysts say there may be a legal hurdle to that approach. In a Sept. 26 interview, Jean Pascal Zanders, a former research fellow with the European Union Institute for Security Studies, noted that Article I of the CWC bans countries from “transfer[ring], directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone.” He added that the article also bans treaty parties from “acquir[ing]” the weapons and that all of Syria’s neighbors except Israel are parties to the CWC.

    Zanders, now a researcher with The Trench, a research initiative focusing on disarmament and arms control, said it might be possible to address that problem by neutralizing the chemicals in question so that they no longer are classified as weapons. Under the CWC’s definition, the term “chemical weapons” includes “[t]oxic chemicals and their precursors” and equipment designed to be used in connection with chemical weapons, as well as the weapons themselves.

    Zanders said he was exploring with chemical experts whether this approach would be feasible. The Article I language “raises a big challenge,” he said.

    In a separate Sept. 26 interview, Thomas Moore, a former top Republican staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also said there could be complications from the prohibitions in Article I. He said it was “not necessarily a huge impediment” but that “other people are likely to make these arguments.”

    Aside from the legal issues, there are likely to be “basic political problems” that would prevent some countries from accepting Syrian chemical weapons for destruction, said Moore, who now is deputy director of the Proliferation Prevention Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Countries in this category include Syrian neighbors Jordan and Turkey, he said.

    Dramatic Shift

    The September developments marked a sharp turnaround from the situation Aug. 30, when Kerry made a speech that many observers interpreted as an indication that the United States was on the verge of carrying out punitive military strikes on Syria in response to the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons in the suburbs of Damascus on Aug. 21. (See ACT, September 2013.) The next day, however, President Barack Obama announced that he would seek authorization from Congress for the military action.

    By initial counts, the prospects for congressional support, particularly in the House of Representatives, appeared very doubtful. That seemed to leave Obama with a choice between abandoning his military plan or carrying it out without the backing of Congress.

    The situation turned abruptly when Kerry, speaking at a Sept. 9 press briefing in London with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, was asked if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could do anything to forestall the U.S. attack. Kerry replied, “Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that. But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.”

    Lavrov immediately responded to that remark, and the two men set in motion the series of events that culminated in the Sept. 14 U.S.-Russian agreement and the Sept. 27 UN Security Council and OPCW Executive Council decisions.

    The UN Security Council on Sept. 27 unanimously adopted a plan for destroying Syria’s chemical arsenal, endorsing a blueprint that the Executive Council of the OPCW had approved a few hours earlier.


    The September 2013 “By the Numbers” item misstated the number of Chinese nuclear tests between 1964 and 1980. It was 22.

    The September 2013 “By the Numbers” item misstated the number of Chinese nuclear tests between 1964 and 1980. It was 22.

    Trident Tribulations: Understanding the UK’s Trident Alternatives Review

    Nick Ritchie

    The United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons policy is in flux as the country debates whether to replace its current Trident strategic nuclear weapons system and remain in the nuclear weapons business for another generation.

    Choices about nuclear weapons are certain to feature in the next general election in May 2015. The debate is deeply political and parochial, but also involves a much broader set of issues related to nuclear deterrence and steps toward nuclear disarmament. Some of this debate came to a head with the publication of the government’s “Trident Alternatives Review” in July.[1] This article examines the political issues surrounding the report and sets them in the broader context of deterrence and disarmament.

    Current UK policy is to have a single Vanguard-class submarine on patrol somewhere in the Atlantic ready to fire as many as 40 highly accurate thermonuclear warheads on U.S.-designed and -built Trident II (D-5) ballistic missiles within days, or even hours, of a prime ministerial decision. (“Trident” technically refers to the missile, but the term is used in the UK to mean the entire system.) Four such submarines are based at the Faslane naval base in Scotland that enable the UK to have one permanently at sea in a posture called continuous at-sea deterrence.

    The submarines were commissioned into service between 1994 and 2001 and will begin to reach the end of their service lives in the early 2020s. Trident is now the UK’s only nuclear weapons system after the country divested itself of gravity bombs, theater nuclear weapons, and forward-deployed U.S. nuclear weapons during the 1990s and 2000s. If the submarines are not replaced in some form, the UK will effectively cease to be a nuclear-weapon state.[2]

    In 2006 the Labour government under Tony Blair gave the green light to a long, expensive, and controversial process of replacing the Trident system with a “like-for-like” capability starting with the procurement of a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines, then a new warhead, and a new U.S. missile much later still. A decision was needed at that time because a new submarine would take approximately 17 years to design and deploy.[3] In May 2010, the Labour government was voted out of office and replaced by a coalition government comprising Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, the latter as the junior party.

    The Liberal Democrats had never accepted the case for a like-for-like replacement.[4] They have long argued that the UK no longer requires such a “fantastically expensive insurance policy”[5] procured in the depths of the Cold War to flatten Moscow and other major Russian cities or, to use more diplomatic language, “hold at risk key centres of Soviet state power.”[6] The world had moved on, and at a time of severe pressure on government spending, including the defense budget, it was surely right to question the logic of committing 25 billion pounds to a new fleet of submarines in this “age of austerity.”[7] Nevertheless, “unilateral nuclear disarmament” has become a pejorative term in Westminster politics ever since Labour’s sojourn in the political wilderness in the 1980s partly as a result of its electorally unpopular platform of relinquishing nuclear weapons. In 2005 the Liberal Democrat leadership began instead to make the case for a middle way: a smaller, cheaper nuclear weapons system more in keeping with the geopolitical realities of today’s complex conflicts.

    Once in government, the Liberal Democrats successfully pushed back the main spending decision on the new submarines (the “main gate” decision, in Ministry of Defence jargon) from 2014 to 2016, which is after the next general election. The party also negotiated an agreement with the Conservatives to undertake a review to determine if the program was providing sufficient “value for money.” That assessment was part of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. The accord between the two parties also called for an in-depth, formal government study of alternatives to a like-for-like replacement of the Trident system.[8]

    The Trident Alternatives Review

    The alternatives review was initiated in May 2011, and after some delay, the report was published in July of this year. The document presents a hierarchy of nuclear postures at decreasing levels of operational readiness. The first two postures are the current “continuous deterrence” and “focussed deterrence,” the latter based on continuous deterrence for a specific period against a specific adversary. Absent a specific threat, the system would be maintained at “reduced readiness.” Three reduced readiness postures are outlined: “sustained deterrence,” “responsive deterrence,” and “preserved deterrence,” at progressively lower levels of readiness and ability to return to the higher levels.

    The review then applies these postures to four delivery systems: the combination of a Trident ballistic missile with a missile-carrying submarine, a new cruise missile and warhead deployed aboard the UK’s new Astute-class attack submarines, a nuclear bomb or a stealthy or supersonic cruise missile for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter the UK is procuring from the United States, and a stealthy cruise missile for a new large aircraft. The report concludes that “there are alternatives to Trident that would enable the UK to be capable of inflicting significant damage such that most potential adversaries around the world would be deterred.”[9]

    The Liberal Democrats had initially championed the idea of arming Astute-class attack submarines, which currently are equipped to fire U.S. conventionally armed Tomahawk cruise missiles, with a new nuclear-tipped cruise missile. The report states, however, that this would be more expensive than replacing the Trident system on an equivalent basis because of the cost and time of developing a new cruise missile warhead—24 years, according to the report. This would exceed the service life of the current submarines and require building two new ballistic missile submarines to cover the gap until a new cruise missile could be deployed.

    With that option no longer economically and politically viable, the Liberal Democrats now appear set to support a reduced version of the current system by ending the outdated requirement for continuous patrols, building two or three instead of four new submarines, further reducing the stockpile of missiles and warheads, and perhaps exploring the possibility of using the submarines in roles beyond a dedicated nuclear mission. Ending continuous patrols would also ease pressure on overstretched submarine crews and alleviate ongoing problems in recruitment and retention. In fact, a variant of the current Trident system represents the path of least technical, financial, and political resistance in any discussion of alternatives.[10] The Liberal Democrats debated their defense and nuclear policies for their 2015 general election manifesto at their party conference in September in Glasgow—an interesting choice given the anti-Trident sentiment of the Scottish electorate—and passed the leadership’s motion to support this policy.[11]

    Conservative Party leaders remain committed to nuclear business as usual. They insist it is essential to continuously deploy a very sophisticated nuclear capability of global reach aboard a fleet of dedicated submarines.[12] Anything less than such “essential protection” risks fatally undermining the nation’s security, they argue.[13] The Conservatives will use the report to delegitimize a middle way as dangerous, naive, or incompetent in favor of their preferred default position.[14]

    The big political question is how Labour will respond. When Ed Miliband was elected leader of the party, he said the UK now needs “to look very carefully at whether renewing Trident is the necessary or the right thing to do.”[15] There is now an active debate. Some former defense secretaries in the party, such as George Robertson and John Hutton, are firmly in favor of a like-for-like replacement. Others, such as Des Browne, are in favor of dropping continuous at-sea deterrence but still retaining nuclear weapons. Former Chief Whip Nick Brown and many backbenchers support relinquishing nuclear weapons altogether.[16]

    Miliband confirmed at the party conference in October 2012 that Labour’s policy on Trident replacement would be revisited after the publication of the alternatives report and another report by the British American Security Information Council’s Trident Commission. The commission is an independent cross-party body established in 2011 to review UK nuclear weapons policy and led by Browne (now a Labour peer in the House of Lords) and two current members of Parliament, Malcolm Rifkind (Conservative) and Menzies Campbell (Liberal Democrat).[17] With the former report now published and the latter due in early 2014, Miliband will face a difficult choice: stick with the Blair and Tory plan of like-for-like replacement or pursue an alternative nuclear posture.

    Minimum Deterrence

    There is more at stake in the Trident debate than domestic electoral positioning. Anything other than a direct like-for-like replacement of the current system will mean rethinking the commitment to continuous at-sea deterrence. This, in turn, means rethinking conceptions of what constitutes a credible and effective minimum deterrent threat and could have wider ramifications.

    A Spectrum of Nuclear Deterrence

    There are a number of conceptions of nuclear deterrence, differing in elements such as force size, posture, and adversarial context. These conceptions can be seen as existing on a spectrum whose contours can be sketched from the nuclear histories of nuclear-armed states.

    At one end lies the maximum deterrence practiced by the United States during the Cold War. This version based effective, credible deterrence on nuclear superiority over the Soviet Union, using a range of nuclear forces from nuclear shells for frontline troops to helicopter-borne nuclear depth bombs. The next step along the spectrum moves toward current conceptions of Chinese, French, and UK minimum deterrence. These involve warheads numbers in the low hundreds, a general rejection of nuclear weapons as war-fighting tools, and a limited number of roles for nuclear weapons.[1] Further down the spectrum, one encounters the so-called recessed form of nuclear deterrence practiced by India through the 1980s and 1990s based on nonweaponization of its nascent nuclear weapons capability. This approach was judged to exert a sufficient deterrent effect on Pakistan based on the mere possibility that major aggression could result in a nuclear encounter.[2]

    Moving further along the spectrum, one goes from nondeployment to nonproduction of nuclear weapons. A “virtual” deterrent effect is exerted at this point through a proven but disassembled nuclear arsenal capable of reconstitution and redeployment within a specific time frame.[3] Further yet, the spectrum reaches the notion of weaponless deterrence, which envisages zero nuclear weapons or components but a residual military nuclear industrial base that could, over time, generate or regenerate a basic deliverable nuclear capability.[4]


    1. See Li Bin, “China’s Potential to Contribute to Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament,” Arms Control Today, March 2011.

    2. See George Perkovich, “Trip Report: Pakistan and India,” September 10-12, 1992, pp. 5-6.

    3. Michael Mazarr, ‘The Notion of Virtual Arsenals,” in Nuclear Weapons in a Transformed World: The Challenge of Virtual Nuclear Arsenals, ed. Michael Mazarr (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997).

    4. Jonathan Schell, The Abolition­ (London: Picador, 1984).

      UK nuclear weapons policy has long been characterized as one of minimum deterrence. The country has a comparatively small nuclear arsenal that is restricted to a single delivery system for strategic, as opposed to war-fighting, purposes. In addition, the UK has established a series of declaratory constraints on the circumstances in which it would consider using or threatening to use its nuclear weapons.

      The prevailing wisdom in London is that a credible and effective threat requires an assured capability to retaliate against a strategic attack in any and all conceivable circumstances. Because no one has a crystal ball, this argument runs, there is no guarantee that the UK never will face a direct threat that could be countered only through an assurance of nuclear retaliation. Therefore, the UK should retain its current capability, just in case. Any sign of vulnerability, any chink in the nuclear armor, could have catastrophic consequences in a crisis.[18]

      This translates into a requirement for highly accurate ballistic missiles of global reach capable of delivering dozens of thermonuclear warheads from a nuclear delivery platform on continuous alert that is invulnerable to a “bolt from the blue” first strike.[19] If the UK government still considers it essential to permanently deploy strategic nuclear weapons on alert at sea, then keeping the current arrangement is the obvious choice, particularly given the cost efficiencies and risk reduction that come with being embedded in a much bigger U.S. Trident program.

      This orthodoxy, however, has been challenged in the current debate. Skepticism abounds as to the strategic necessity of maintaining the current nuclear posture. When Trident was originally procured in the early 1980s, Defence Secretary John Nott said its purpose was to provide “an ultimate defence of this country against a nuclear strike, a pre-emptive strike by a nuclear power.”[20] The only country that can deliver such an attack against the UK now and for the foreseeable future is Russia.

      Yet, it is widely and officially acknowledged that the Cold War is truly over and that the possibility of a surprise Russian nuclear first-strike is so low as to be near zero.[21] Indeed the UK government acknowledges that the country faces no major, direct nuclear threat and has not since the early 1990s when it stopped targeting its nuclear weapons at Russia on a day-to-day basis.[22] That is about one-third of the time that the UK, which first tested a nuclear weapon in 1952, has been a nuclear-weapon state.

      Adherents of the nuclear orthodoxy see an ongoing requirement to maintain strategic nuclear weapons on permanent high alert as an ultimate “insurance” against existential military threats to the state. Inescapable uncertainty creates an enduring need for strategic nuclear weapons, advocates of this view argue. Yet for many in the UK, the strategic security case does not add up.

      This has led many to question the necessity of the Trident system and the continuous at-sea deterrence posture and to explore a range of alternative nuclear postures and systems that open up when these requirements are dropped. In fact, the alternatives review was established to push the envelope of what constitutes a credible capability at varying degrees of readiness below continuous at-sea deterrence.[23] This requires a different conception of credibility that says an effective nuclear deterrent threat does not require 100 percent certainty of retaliation. Instead, the very presence of nuclear weapons in a country under attack or threatened with attack, together with the uncertainty of total success in any pre-emptive attack, will induce sufficient caution into adversarial relations if one believes in the logic of nuclear deterrence at all.[24] This view of nuclear deterrence argues that as long as a country has a proven ability to deploy nuclear weapons, the size of the stockpile and the ability to deliver them against an adversary are of secondary concern.

      The fundamental core of nuclear deterrence lies in the possession of the weapons. Shai Feldman, a scholar of nuclear weapons and the Middle East, has concluded that Saddam Hussein “probably” was deterred from attacking Israel with ballistic missiles armed with chemical warheads in 1991 “not by the certainty that Israel would retaliate with nuclear weapons, but rather by his inability to rule out this possibility.”[25] This supports the observation in 2006 by Michael Quinlan, former UK permanent undersecretary of state in the Ministry of Defence, that “[e]ven a modest chance of a huge penalty can have great deterrent force,”[26] assuming, of course, an aggressor is deterrable.

      One therefore can think of nuclear deterrence not as an either/or dichotomy (either do deterrence this way or have zero deterrent effect) but as a spectrum. The debate over the Trident review has opened up the possibility of shifting UK ideas of minimum deterrence further along that spectrum (see box).

      This challenges the idea of an objective set of criteria for nuclear deterrence and instead more accurately characterizes it as a subjective political assessment. It is worth noting two things in this regard. First, ending continuous at-sea deterrence is not a new or outrageous idea. In the current debate, Browne, former Chief of the Defence Staff Charles Guthrie, former Foreign Secretary David Owen, and Quinlan all have questioned the strategic necessity of continuous at-sea deterrence.[27] Second, many of the criteria for minimum deterrence are defined by the capabilities of the current Trident II missile system, which was procured from the United States in the early 1980s, rather than deduced from an abstract theory of nuclear deterrence.[28]

      A UK decision to end continuous at-sea deterrence and move the country’s collective notion of minimum deterrence a notch or two down the spectrum would have implications beyond the country’s borders. Pressure for serious progress toward nuclear disarmament is increasing as non-nuclear-weapon states become ever more frustrated with slow progress by the nuclear-weapon states toward nuclear disarmament as one review after another for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) rolls by.[29] The non-nuclear-weapon states are looking for significant steps that will radically devalue nuclear weapons in the security policies of the weapon states.[30]

      This means qualitative changes in prevailing nuclear doctrine as an essential component of a nuclear disarmament process and indicator of the nuclear-weapon states’ commitment to that goal alongside quantitative changes in nuclear numbers. The non-nuclear-weapon states elicited such a commitment at the 2010 NPT Review Conference when, in the meeting’s final document, the treaty parties formally agreed “[t]o further diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons in all military and security concepts, doctrines and policies” as part of a 64-point action plan.[31]

      Reducing the readiness of nuclear forces, or de-alerting, is part of a package of measures long advocated by non-nuclear-weapon states to diminish the role of nuclear weapons. Ending continuous at-sea deterrence in the UK and adopting a “reduced readiness” posture would constitute an important qualitative change in nuclear posture and a crucial next step in reducing the value of nuclear weapons.

      Such a move would be in keeping with the UK’s self-identification as the most forward leaning of the nuclear-weapon states on nuclear disarmament. London has taken a number of important steps to reduce the size of its nuclear arsenal and increase transparency of its production of fissile materials and warhead numbers. It has modified its declaratory policy by further restricting the circumstances under which it might consider using nuclear weapons. It has ended nuclear testing, ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, ended production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons, and declared its full commitment to a nuclear-weapon-free world and supported a number of initiatives toward that end.

      An opportunity now exists for the UK to continue on this trajectory and demonstrate international leadership in new ways. In particular, it could take concrete steps to further diminish the salience of UK nuclear weapons in national security policy by reducing the size and operational readiness of its nuclear arsenal. This is eminently plausible in an era of negligible military threats to the survival of the UK. Furthermore, none of the main political parties in Westminster are advocating UK nuclear disarmament. The current debate over the alternatives review is about the more limited aim of rethinking nuclear deterrence with a view to reducing the salience of these weapons while retaining the capability to deploy them within a specific period of time should a major military threat to the survival of the state ever re-emerge.

      Additional constraints on UK nuclear weapons policy could set important precedents for progress toward complete nuclear disarmament by establishing new norms of deterrence doctrine and practice for one of the five original nuclear-weapon states and one of the three depositary states of the NPT. Such a move would clearly indicate that the UK no longer sees a compelling reason to deploy nuclear weapons for immediate use but is temporarily retaining them, pending their global elimination.

      A posture that abandons continuous at-sea deterrence would all but eliminate any intention to use nuclear weapons first in a crisis. Such a posture would reinforce political and legal commitments to non-nuclear-weapon states and provide a degree of strategic reassurance to other possessors of nuclear weapons that the UK is confident that it is not going to face a nuclear attack and therefore can scale back its reliance on nuclear weapons. It would signify an important “de-coupling”[32] of nuclear weapons from the broad, day-to-day calculus of national security by demonstrating that the UK is prepared to learn to live without nuclear weapons operationally deployed at sea on a permanent basis as a precursor to learning to live without nuclear weapons at all.



      Nick Ritchie is a lecturer in international security at the University of York in the United Kingdom. This article draws on themes developed in his book A Nuclear Weapons-Free World? Britain, Trident, and the Challenges Ahead (2012).




      1. UK Cabinet Office, “Trident Alternatives Review,” July 16, 2013, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/212745/20130716_Trident_Alternatives_Study.pdf.

      2. For an overview, see Nick Ritchie, A Nuclear Weapons-Free World? Britain, Trident and the Challenges Ahead (London: Palgrave, 2012), ch. 1.

      3. For the government’s case in detail, see UK Ministry of Defence and UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent,” December 2006.

      4. “Policy Options for the Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Weapons,” 2010, http://www.libdems.org.uk/siteFiles/resources/docs/News/MCTrident%20Review.pdf.

      5. Nick Hopkins, “Trident Replacement Plans Are Based on Outdated Ideas, Says Former Minister,” The Guardian, April 22, 2013 (citing Nick Harvey, member of Parliament for the Liberal Democrat party, then minister for armed forces in the Ministry of Defence).

      6. David Owen, Nuclear Papers (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2009), p. 48 (quoting Michael Quinlan, “The Future United Kingdom Strategic Nuclear Deterrent Force,” Defence Open Government Document 80/23, July 1980).

      7. Many figures have been cited in relation to the Trident replacement program. The government stated in 2011 that the projected capital cost of the “successor” submarines (not the warheads, missiles, or new infrastructure) is 25 billion pounds (at the time of spending). See UK Ministry of Defence, “The United Kingdom’s Future Nuclear Deterrent: The Submarine Initial Gate Parliamentary Report,” 2011, p. 10.

      8. For the rescheduling of the submarine program and results of the value-for-money review, see UK Government, “Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review,” Cm 7948 (2010), http://www.direct.gov.uk/prod_consum_dg/groups/dg_digitalassets/@dg/@en/documents/digitalasset/dg_191639.pdf.

      9. UK Cabinet Office, “Trident Alternatives Review,” p. 10.

      10. Nick Ritchie, “Stepping Down the Nuclear Ladder: Options for Trident on a Path to Zero,” Bradford Disarmament Research Centre Briefing Paper, No. 5 (May 2009), http://www.york.ac.uk/media/politics/documents/research/Trident_Options.pdf.

      11. Nigel Morris, “Lib Dem Conference: Members Back Nuclear Deterrent Alternative to Trident,” The Independent, September 17, 2013; Danny Alexander, “On Trident, We’re Still Fighting the Cold War,” The Independent on Sunday, July 21, 2013.

      12. Philip Hammond, “The Alternatives to Trident Carry an Enormous Risk,” The Telegraph, February 2, 2013.

      13. Ibid.

      14. David Cameron, “We Need a Nuclear Deterrent More Than Ever,” The Daily Telegraph, April 3, 2013.

      15. Andrew Grice, “Lib Dems Push for ‘Stand-by’ Trident Replacement Deal,” The Independent, July 19, 2012.

      16. George Robertson and John Hutton, “There Is No Magic Alternative to Trident—Britain Has Got to Keep It,” The Telegraph, February 28, 2013; Des Browne and Ian Kearns, “Trident Is No Longer Key to Britain’s Security,” The Daily Telegraph, February 5, 2013; Nick Brown, “Dropping Trident Will Lead to a Richer, Safer Britain,” New Statesman, June 21, 2012.

      17. “Miliband Trident Review Stance Welcomed,” DefenceManagement.com, October 4, 2012, http://www.defencemanagement.com/news_story.asp?id=21058. For details of the BASIC Trident Commission, see http://www.basicint.org/tridentcommission/.

      18. See UK Ministry of Defence and UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent,” pp. 22, 27 (box 5-2).

      19. Frank Miller, “The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent,” RUSI Journal, Vol. 155, No. 2 (2010): 34-39.

      20. UK House of Commons Defence Committee, “Strategic Nuclear Weapons Policy,” HC 266 (1982), p. 21.

      21. “Joint Declaration by the President of the Russian Federation and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,” Moscow, February 15, 1994.

      22. See UK Ministry of Defence, “Strategic Defence Review,” Cm 3999 (1998), para. 23; UK Cabinet Office, “National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom,” Cm 7590 (2009), p. 65.

      23. For the review’s terms of reference, see http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2011-0825/DEP2011-0825.zip (file containing Trident Alternatives Review terms of reference).

      24. For further information, see Nick Ritchie and Paul Ingram, “A Progressive Nuclear Policy: Rethinking Continuous-at-Sea Deterrence,” RUSI Journal, Vol. 155, No. 2 (2010), pp. 40-45.

      25. Shai Feldman, “Middle East Nuclear Stability: The State of the Region and the State of the Debate,” Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 49, No. 1 (1995), p. 217.

      26. Michael Quinlan, “Deterrence and Deterrability,” in Deterrence and the New Global Security Environment, ed. Ian R. Kenyon and John Simpson (London: Routledge, 2006), p. 5.

      27. UK House of Lords, Official Report, March 26, 2009, col. 806 (Guthrie); Owen, Nuclear Papers, p. 13; Browne and Kearns, “Trident Is No Longer Key to Britain’s Security”; Michael Quinlan, “The Future of United Kingdom Nuclear Weapons,” International Affairs, Vol. 82, No. 4 (2006), p. 636.

      28. Michael Quinlan, permanent undersecretary at the Ministry of Defence at the time of Trident procurement, wrote in 2004,

      Purely in weight of strike potential, the United Kingdom could have been content with less than Trident could offer, even in C4 version originally chosen (let alone D5 version to which the United Kingdom switched in early 1982, when it had become clear that the United States was committed to proceed with its acquisition and deployment). The original choice and the switch were driven in large measure by the long-term financial and logistic benefits of commonality with the United States. After the end of the Cold War, the United Kingdom announced a series of discretionary reductions in warhead load to well below what Trident was capable of carrying.

      Michael Quinlan, “The British Experience,” in Getting MAD: Nuclear Mutual Assured Destruction, Its Origins and Practice, ed. Henry D. Sokolski (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, November 2004), p. 271.

      29. Nick Ritchie, “Waiting for Kant: Deterrence, Devaluing, and Delegitimising Nuclear Weapons” (paper presented at the ISA Annual Conference, San Francisco, April 2013).

      30. Nick Ritchie, “Valuing and Devaluing Nuclear Weapons,” Contemporary Security Policy, Vol. 34, No. 1 (2013): 146-173.

      31. 2010 Review Conference of States Parties to the Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document,” NPT/CONF.2010/50 (Vol. I), 2010, p. 21.

      32. Michael Mazarr, “Nuclear Doctrine and Virtual Nuclear Arsenals,” in Nuclear Weapons in a Transformed World: The Challenge of Virtual Nuclear Arsenals, ed. Michael Mazarr (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997), p. 47.

      The United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons policy is in flux. A UK decision to end continuous at-sea deterrence would be in keeping with the country’s self-identification...

      U.S. Names Possible Missile Defense Sites

      Tom Z. Collina

      The Defense Department announced last month that it has identified five possible locations in the eastern United States for a new ballistic missile defense interceptor site, but said it still has no plans to actually build such a site.

      In a Sept. 12 letter to members of Congress, U.S. Missile Defense Agency Director James D. Syring wrote that his agency is “conducting a study of possible additional locations to determine their suitability for a potential future interceptor deployment site.” The five candidate sites are Fort Drum in New York, Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Vermont, SERE Training Area at Naval Air Station Portsmouth in Maine, Camp Ravenna Joint Training Center in Ohio, and Fort Custer Training Center in Michigan.

      Madelyn Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, told Reuters on Sept. 12 that no decision had been made to build an additional site for missile interceptors and there was no money to do so in the Pentagon’s future budget plans. Because of the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, “we get very worried about whether or not we’re even going to have enough money to do what we’ve decided to do,” she said, adding that an additional interceptor site would be “extraordinarily expensive.”

      In a June 10 letter to Capitol Hill, Syring wrote, “There is no validated military requirement to deploy an East Coast missile defense site.” (See ACT, July/August 2013.)

      Congressional Republicans have been pushing the Obama administration to build a missile defense site on the East Coast in addition to existing sites at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Proponents of a new site say the United States needs better defenses against a possible missile attack from Iran. Opponents counter that Iran does not have long-range missiles capable of reaching the United States and, if it did, the West Coast sites could intercept them. Others argue that the West Coast system is ineffective and would be no more effective if fielded in an eastern state.

      In the 2013 defense authorization law, Congress required the Defense Department to identify three possible new interceptor sites, including at least two on the East Coast. The department has a congressionally mandated deadline of Dec. 31 to decide which of the five announced sites to include in an environmental impact study expected to take 18 to 24 months. All of the sites are on federal land, operated by the Defense Department, the National Guard, or both.

      The Defense Department announced last month that it has identified five possible locations in the eastern United States for a new ballistic missile defense interceptor site, but said it still has no plans to actually build such a site.

      Foreign Ministers Urge Action on CTBT

      Daryl G. Kimball

      More than 50 foreign ministers and senior government representatives met Sept. 27 at the United Nations to call for prompt action toward entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

      One hundred eighty-three states have signed the treaty, and 161 have ratified it. But under the terms of the treaty, eight more listed in Article XIV of the treaty, including the United States and China, must ratify it to achieve entry into force.

      This year’s conference on facilitating entry into force, the eighth such meeting held since 1999, adopted a final declaration reaffirming the participants’ “determination to take concrete steps towards early entry into force” and pledging “support for bilateral, regional, and multilateral outreach initiatives” to that end. The conference did not produce a work plan for such an effort.

      In an effort to spur progress, the new executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Lassina Zerbo, announced the formation of 18-member Group of Eminent Persons to boost national and international efforts to bring the treaty into force. It includes several former foreign and defense ministers and senior diplomats, plus the co-chairs of the Sept. 27 conference, Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

      U.S. and Chinese officials reiterated their support for the treaty, but did not make any commitments on ratification. Mirroring comments made at the 2011 conference, Rose Gottemoeller, the acting U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said that “there are no set time frames to bring the treaty to a vote, and we are going to be patient, but persistent in our outreach efforts.” Pang Sen, director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Arms Control Department, pledged that his government would continue to “push forward the deliberation process” for Chinese ratification.

      In August, following a visit by Zerbo to Beijing to meet with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, China agreed to transmit data from the CTBTO’s monitoring stations in China to the organization’s International Data Center (IDC) in Vienna. According to an Aug. 7 CTBTO press statement, “This is part of the testing and evaluation process that marks the first formal step towards certification of the monitoring stations in China.”

      The International Monitoring System will consist of 337 monitoring facilities when complete. Around 85 percent have already been installed and are sending data to the IDC. To date, 10 of the 11 CTBTO monitoring stations hosted by China have been built.

      More than 50 foreign ministers and senior government representatives met Sept. 27 at the United Nations to call for prompt action toward entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

      Myanmar Signs Agreement With IAEA

      Kelsey Davenport

      Myanmar signed a key nuclear nonproliferation agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Sept. 17.

      The agreement—an additional protocol to Myanmar’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA—will give the agency expanded access to information and sites related to the country’s nuclear activities. Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been suspected of pursuing a nuclear weapons program in the past, but announced last November that it would sign and implement an additional protocol.

      In an official statement released by Myanmar on Sept. 19, the country said it was “actively pursuing nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation” in international forums and that the additional protocol would contribute toward those goals.

      According to a Sept. 17 press release from the IAEA, implementation of the additional protocol in Myanmar will “significantly increase” the agency’s ability to verify that nuclear material in the country is being used for peaceful purposes.

      The additional protocol will enter into force when Myanmar notifies the IAEA that it has the statutory requirements in place to meet its obligations under the agreement.

      There are currently 121 countries with additional protocols in place.

      Myanmar signed a key nuclear nonproliferation agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Sept. 17.

      Images Signal N. Korean Reactor Restart

      Kelsey Davenport

      Satellite images indicate that North Korea is restarting a nuclear reactor that could produce plutonium for nuclear weapons in the future, analysts say, but one of the analysts estimates it will be about 18 months before Pyongyang will have more plutonium available for weapons.

      In a Sept. 11 piece published by 38 North, a website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, Nick Hansen and Jeffery Lewis concluded that satellite images from Aug. 31 showed steam coming from a building near the reactor that was consistent in “coloration and volume” with bringing the reactor’s electrical generating systems online. The reactor is “in or nearing operation,” said Hansen, a former military imagery analyst, and Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

      In April 2013, Pyongyang said it intended to rebuild and restart the reactor at its Yongbyon facility. Given the disabling of the reactor in 2007 and the destruction of the reactor’s cooling tower in 2008, it was unclear if North Korea would be able to operate the reactor. (See ACT, May 2013.) The reactor, built in the 1980s, provided North Korea with the plutonium that it separated for use in its nuclear arsenal, an amount estimated to be sufficient for six to 12 warheads.

      Although the steam indicates that the reactor is restarting, the facility may not be fully operational. In a Sept. 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Mark Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, said that the initial steam “probably indicated a test” of the reactor. Fitzpatrick, now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that, after six years of dormancy, the reactor will have to go through a “series of start-up tests” before normal operations begin. Imagery showing “successive days of steam” will prove that the reactor is operating, he said.

      The reactor at Yongbyon was first shut down in 1994 as part of an agreement reached with the United States, under which Pyongyang was to freeze all nuclear activity and eventually eliminate its nuclear arsenal. In exchange, North Korea was to receive energy assistance in the form of fuel oil and light-water reactors, which are less proliferation sensitive than the heavy-water reactor at Yongbyon.

      In 2002 the agreement broke down, and North Korea restarted the reactor. It operated until 2007, when Pyongyang shut it down and sealed it, as required under a 2005 agreement that was negotiated with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States during the so-called six-party talks that began in 2003. U.S. experts verified the disabling of the reactor in November 2007.

      According to Fitzpatrick, it will be about 18 months before the “first new bomb-ready plutonium” is available. For North Korea to maximize plutonium production, irradiation of the reactor’s fuel should continue for about eight months before the spent fuel is unloaded, he said. It will then need to cool for at least six months before reprocessing. Fitzpatrick said that reprocessing takes about three months but there could be some disruptions because the reprocessing facility also has been dormant.

      Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told the organization’s Board of Governors on Sept. 9 that he remains “deeply concerned” about North Korea’s nuclear activities. Amano said the agency’s knowledge of Pyongyang’s nuclear program remains limited because the IAEA has been unable to carry out any verification activities in the county since 2009.

      Talks Remain Unlikely

      The State Department declined to comment on reports of the reactor restart. But in a Sept. 13 briefing, spokeswoman Marie Harf said restarting would be a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and North Korea’s 2005 commitment to denuclearize.

      The denuclearization agreement was part of the six-party talks that have been stalled since 2008 despite various calls by different states to revive the talks since then. On Sept. 18, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan called for the resumption of the six-party talks “without preconditions.”

      The United States has repeatedly said that North Korea must take steps to demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization before negotiations resume.

      Glyn Davies, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, reiterated that position during a recent trip to Japan. In Sept. 13 remarks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo, Davies said that the North Koreans are trying to make the talks about “their right” to be a nuclear-weapon state, which the United States “cannot countenance.”

      Davies, whose trip included stops in Beijing and Seoul, said denuclearization is the “most important issue” of the six-party talks for the United States.

      Current U.S. policy toward North Korea also includes tightening sanctions and working with China to pressure North Korea to resume negotiations based on Washington’s preconditions.

      Fitzpatrick said that although the reactor restart is a “prima facie case of U.S. policy failure,” a different policy might not have been any more successful. He recommended that, for now, the United States pursue a “quiet exploration of a return to the 2012 Leap Day deal.”

      He was referring to a February 2012 U.S.-North Korean agreement under which North Korea accepted a moratorium on its nuclear and ballistic missile tests in return for food aid. (See ACT, March 2012.)

      The agreement broke down when North Korea attempted to launch a satellite in April 2012. The United States maintained that the satellite launch violated the missile launch moratorium, while North Korea said it was permitted. (See ACT, May 2012.)

      Illicit Trafficking Continues

      North Korea also continues to flout UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting the import and export of conventional weapons.

      According to new accounts, UN inspectors found that the Chong Chon Gang, a North Korean ship detained by Panama on July 15, was carrying a variety of small arms and light weapons. At a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing Sept. 26, Chairman Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) said that “small arms and light weapons ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades, and artillery ammunition for anti-tank guns” were part of the shipment.

      After the ship was seized, it was found to be carrying large weaponry systems, such as MiG aircraft. Havana said the weaponry was to be repaired in North Korea and sent back to Cuba. UN Security Council resolutions ban the export or import of weapons by North Korea. (See ACT, September 2013.)

      Hugh Griffiths, who heads the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s project on illicit trafficking, said that “only a very small proportion” of North Korean violations are detected. In a Sept. 22 e-mail, he said that a wide range of companies may be “inadvertently involved” in violations of the sanctions on imports and exports because they do not have the “capacity to recognize risk indicators.” Seizure of the North Korean ship’s cargo was unusual, Griffiths said, because only a few states have the “awareness and capacity to know what constitutes a vessel or voyage of proliferation concern.”

      Panama originally detained the ship because it was suspected of trafficking drugs.

      Griffiths said that a “major issue” is the difficulty that UN member states have in working out how to share classified information with the United Nations. This results in an “information deficit” on monitoring and sharing information about North Korean ships or flights that pose a proliferation concern, he said.

      Griffiths said that it is necessary to keep the option of further sanctions on the table. He said that North Korean-owned vessels and aircraft are often used to transfer prohibited items to and from North Korea, so “designating these assets at a later stage could be a potent form of leverage.”

      Satellite images indicate that North Korea is restarting a nuclear reactor that could produce plutonium for nuclear weapons in the future...

      Pakistan to Focus on Short-Range Missiles

      Kelsey Davenport

      Pakistan is likely to remain focused on developing and improving short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles to deter India’s conventional military superiority despite the second successful test of India’s long-range, nuclear-capable Agni-5 missile, experts said in recent interviews.

      Although India and Pakistan are nuclear rivals, New Delhi’s forays into longer-range missile systems do not seem to be spurring reciprocal developments in Islamabad.

      In a Sept. 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Naeem Salik, a retired Pakistani brigadier general, wrote that Pakistan is “not unduly concerned” with India’s development of longer-range missiles, such as the Agni-5, because it would not be cost effective to fire them at reduced ranges to target Pakistan. Because Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are “aimed only at India,” Salik said, Pakistan does not require longer-range systems because Islamabad can reach “any target” in India with its current inventory of missiles.

      Salik added that Pakistan’s “self[-]imposed restraint” on its missile ranges also is a “conscious decision” not to develop missiles that would allow Islamabad to target Israel. This prevents “unnecessary hostility” from Israel and “pro-Israel lobbies in the United States,” he said.

      India’s Sept. 15 test of the Agni-5, its longest-range missile, “met all the mission objectives,” Ravi Kumar Gupta, spokesman for India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said in a statement released following the test. The Agni-5 is a three-stage, solid-fueled ballistic missile that can carry a 1,500-kilogram payload 5,000 kilometers, according to reports. It was first tested in April 2012. (See ACT, May 2012.)

      In a Sept. 19 e-mail, Toby Dalton, a former senior policy adviser to the Office of Nonproliferation and International Security at the U.S. Energy Department, offered an analysis similar to Salik’s on some key points. Pakistan is not responding “solely or even primarily” to India’s nuclear developments but rather to New Delhi’s “conventional military plans and growing [conventional] capabilities,” he wrote.

      Dalton, now the deputy director of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that India’s nuclear developments are “primarily driven” by China’s growing nuclear arsenal and Beijing’s presumably growing conventional forces.

      The reported 5,000-kilometer range of the Agni-5 puts it just below the 5,500-kilometer threshold for classification as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), but it is capable of reaching most of China, including Beijing, and the Middle East.

      Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Sept. 15 that China “noted relevant reports” of the Agni-5 test and that “both sides should make concerted efforts to enhance” political trust and stability in the region.

      Pakistan’s Focus

      As India pursues longer-range systems, Salik said that Islamabad is focused mainly on development of two types of missiles: cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles.

      The emphasis Islamabad is placing on cruise missile development is important, Salik said, because of India’s “ongoing efforts to indigenously develop or acquire ballistic missile defense systems.” Ballistic missile defense systems are not designed to target cruise missiles.

      For the past several years, Pakistan has been testing several types of cruise missiles, including the Babur, which has a range of 700 kilometers with a 300-kilogram payload. The Babur can also be launched from naval surface platforms. Islamabad also is testing an air-launched cruise missile, the Raad, which has a range of 350 kilometers. Salik noted that the Raad will give Pakistan a “stand-off capability,” which allows pilots to launch a weapon at a distance from the target, thus allowing them to avoid defensive fire.

      Pakistan also has been focusing more attention on its short-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, including the Nasr. Islamabad began testing the Nasr, which has a range of 60 kilometers, in April 2011. It is “ostensibly for use as a battlefield nuclear weapons delivery system” to deter India from launching its Cold Start strategy, Salik said.

      Cold Start is India’s conventional military doctrine aimed specifically at responses to Pakistani incursions into India. It involves quick, limited strikes into Pakistani territory.

      India’s conventional military capabilities exceed those of Pakistan.

      Dalton said that Pakistan is focusing on shorter-range systems to deter Indian conventional operations to address “substrategic” deterrence gaps. Pakistan’s current focus on short-range systems does not preclude the development of longer-range systems in the future, but at this point, “the objective of such a development is not clear,” Dalton said.

      Future Agni Development

      In a Sept. 15 press release, the DRDO called the successful Agni-5 test a “major milestone” and announced that the missile will now be tested from a canister, which is how the missile will eventually be deployed.

      DRDO Director-General Avinash Chander said that the Agni-5 “canister-launch” should take place early next year. In Sept. 15 remarks, Chander said that, after three or four more tests, the Agni-5 will be stored and deployed in canisters to “drastically” reduce the reaction time for launching the missile, a priority for India. (See ACT, September 2013.)

      Recent statements indicate that New Delhi plans to focus on increasing the range of its ballistic missiles in the future. India is in the initial stages of developing an ICBM with a range of at least 6,000 kilometers, the Agni-6, DRDO officials have said on several occasions.

      In his Sept. 15 comments, Chander said that increasing the range of future ballistic missiles is the “least problematic” area for India. New Delhi could develop a missile with a 10,000-kilometer range in two and a half years, he said. India does not currently “see the need” for that range, he said.

      The DRDO is working on technology for multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), which will allow future Agni missiles to carry several warheads. Although the Agni-5 is being tested with a single warhead, the Agni-6 could be equipped to carry up to 10 nuclear warheads, a DRDO scientist told the New Indian Express on Sept. 18.

      Dalton said that on “technical drivers” of Indian missile development, including areas such as MIRVs, the DRDO is “often out front of the rest of the government in claims about its technology developments that may not in fact be settled policy.”

      Pakistan is likely to remain focused on improving its short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, despite India’s advances in long-range ballistic missiles, experts say.

      Navy Seeks More Money for Nuclear Subs

      Tom Z. Collina

      Warning that ongoing defense spending cuts will have a “devastating impact” on its plans to build new ships, the Navy is asking Congress for an additional $60 billion over 15 years to pay for a dozen new nuclear-armed submarines.

      Testifying Sept. 12 before the House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee, Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge, the Navy's director of undersea warfare, said that the Navy’s projected shipbuilding budget cannot afford to pay for the 12 new submarines, known as the SSBN(X). These new boats are to replace the existing fleet of nuclear-armed Ohio-class subs, which the Navy plans to start retiring in 2027.

      “Congress must look at a way to provide an annual supplement to the Navy” during the time that construction costs will peak, Breckenridge said. The Navy is seeking $4 billion per year over the 15-year period that the new subs would be built, starting in 2021. Breckenridge said that the SSBN(X) should be looked at as “a requirement above the Navy” that should be insulated from “the pressures of sequestration.”

      Pentagon Has Not Signed Off

      A Pentagon spokesman told Arms Control Today on Sept. 24 that the Defense Department has not approved nor has the Navy officially requested additional SSBN(X) procurement funding because “such a request would not be required for several years.”

      The SSBN(X) program, a central part of U.S. plans to modernize the nuclear “triad” of sea-launched missiles, ground-based missiles, and bombers, has strong congressional support. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, which would have to vote on a future Navy request for supplemental funding, said in a Sept. 20 statement to Arms Control Today that “[a]s the Pentagon reviews and reprioritizes defense spending, I encourage the Administration to request the necessary resources in the shipbuilding accounts or by some other means.”

      But others say the Navy’s plans should be revised in the face of major budget pressures. A Sept. 23 report, authored by the Stimson Center’s Defense Advisory Committee, made up of retired generals, admirals, and budget experts, found that “the administration and Congress should recognize budgetary realities and make the tough choices now.” The report recommends buying 10 new subs instead of 12, which would delay the need for procurement and save $1 billion per year in the near term, according to the panel’s estimates.

      Acknowledging that $60 billion is “a lot of money,” Breckenridge warned that if no additional funding is approved, the Navy would forgo 32 other ships it is planning to build, including attack submarines and destroyers, to make sure the SSBN(X) program stays on track. The SSBN(X) “will trump all of the other vitally important requirements within our Navy,” he said.

      The Navy first raised the alarm in May that the budget was not big enough to build the 12 submarines and maintain a fleet of 300 ships. The 12 planned submarines, each to be loaded with 16 Trident ballistic missiles and around 80 nuclear warheads, would cost a total of about $90 billion to develop and build. From 2021 to 2035, the Navy would need $19.2 billion per year on average for all shipbuilding, which is almost twice the Navy’s fiscal year 2014 request of $10.9 billion for shipbuilding. That figure does not take sequestration into account. (See ACT, June 2013.)

      The short-term budget outlook is also tight. The fiscal 2014 request for SSNB(X) development is $1.1 billion, which would double the current budget of $565 million. But the Navy might not get this increase. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert testified before the House Armed Services Committee on Sept. 18 that budget cuts due to sequestration expected in fiscal year 2014, which began Oct. 1, will “compel” the Navy to delay the planned start of construction of the first submarine from 2021 to 2022. “This would cause us to be unable to meet U.S. Strategic Command [deployment] requirements when the Ohio-class SSBN retires,” he said.

      Fewer Subs on the Horizon?

      Current military requirements call for 12 nuclear-armed subs, with 10 to be operational at any given time and with another two out of service for repairs after a decade or more of operation. If the Navy sticks to its plan to begin phasing out the current fleet of 14 Ohio-class subs in 2027, with one submarine dropping out each year, nine will be left in service by 2031. Therefore, unless the first SSBN(X) is deployed in 2031, the fleet would drop below 10 operational boats. The Navy says that, for the first sub to be operational in 2031, it must be procured for construction in 2021. The planned start of SSBN(X) construction already has slipped by two years, from 2019 to 2021. It may slip again if, as the Stimson advisory committee suggests, the military reduces the sub requirement.

      President Barack Obama finalized new nuclear policy guidance in June, which could affect the decisions of Congress and the Pentagon. Obama found that the 1,550 limit on deployed strategic warheads under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is “more than adequate” to meet U.S. national security objectives and that the force can be reduced by up to one-third. The new guidance did not call for any immediate changes to currently deployed nuclear forces. That will have to wait a year or so, until the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff translate the new guidance into more-specific directives. (See ACT, July/August 2013.)

      Once U.S. Strategic Command drafts new plans for using nuclear weapons, the administration can make changes to the way in which the United States deploys those weapons. For example, some in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill say they are expecting the new policy to reduce the requirement for nuclear-armed submarines at sea. If the 12-sub requirement is cut to 10, the first SSBN(X) would not need to be procured until 2023 for deployment in 2033, according to Navy schedules.

      But for now, the Navy says the military requirement is unchanged. “It is mandatory that we sustain our survivable sea-based nuclear deterrent with about the same level of at-sea presence as today,” Breckenridge testified at the Sept. 12 hearing. “There is no allowance for any further delay.”

      Warning of a “devastating impact” from automatic spending cuts, the Navy asked Congress for $60 billion to pay for a dozen nuclear-armed submarines.


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