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The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Terry Atlas

Cost of Wars Exceeds $5.9 Trillion


A U.S. Army carry team moves the transfer case holding the remains of Major Brent Taylor, a member of the Utah Army National Guard, upon its arrival at Dover Air Force Base on November 6 in Dover, Delaware. Taylor, the 39-year-old mayor of North Ogden, Utah, was killed November 3 in Afghanistan. (Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images)U.S. war operations around the world have cost more than $5.9 trillion since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to a study issued Nov. 14 by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. The report notes that the estimate “differs substantially” from lower figures released by the Pentagon because the new study includes not only war appropriations made to the Defense Department but also spending across the federal government that is a consequence of these wars, including past and obligated spending for war veterans’ care, interest on the debt incurred to pay for the wars, and the prevention of and response to terrorism by the Department of Homeland Security. A related report on Nov. 8 estimates that deaths in the various wars totaled at least 480,000, including almost 7,000 U.S. servicemembers, almost 8,000 U.S. contractors, more than 100,0000 military and police members from other countries, more than 244,000 civilians, and more than 100,000 opposition fighters. The author of the two reports is Neta Crawford, a political science professor at Boston University who is a project director for the Watson Institute’s Costs of War Project, a team of 35 scholars, legal experts, human rights practitioners, and physicians.—TERRY ATLAS

Cost of Wars Exceeds $5.9 Trillion

NATO Displays Military Might


British Army Royal Engineers take part in a patrol exercise October 25 in Telneset, Norway, ahead of Trident Juncture 18, NATO’s largest exercise since the Cold War. (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images)Amid growing tensions with Russia, NATO held its largest exercise since the Cold War, involving about 50,000 military and support personnel from 31 NATO and partner countries, 250 aircraft, 65 naval vessels, and up to 10,000 military vehicles. The Oct. 25–Nov. 7 exercise, called Trident Juncture 18, was conducted in central and eastern Norway; the surrounding areas of the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea, including Iceland; and the airspace of Finland and Sweden. About 20,000 U.S. forces participated. In September, Russia held what it described as its largest military exercise since 1981, involving some 300,000 troops, 1,000 aircraft, and 900 tanks along with some participation by Chinese forces. The Russian exercise was a bit of saber-rattling, directed toward the United States and NATO, and a demonstration to Russians of how their leader, President Vladimir Putin, has restored great-power status after years of decline and disarray following the end of the Soviet Union. The NATO exercise provided a chance to showcase sustained allied unity, something that is in question in the Trump era, and to reinforce deterrence against an emboldened Russia.—TERRY ATLAS

NATO Displays Military Might

DOE Terminates Troubled MOX Project


After years of delay and controversy, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) on Oct. 10 formally terminated the mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication facility project at the Energy Department’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The termination note sets in motion a yearlong winding down of construction, an outcome long fought by South Carolina lawmakers and other backers of the project intended to turn surplus weapons-grade plutonium into commercial reactor fuel. (See ACT, September 2018.) Sharply rising costs, long construction delays, and doubt about the financial feasibility of the project led U.S. officials to favor a less costly alternative known as dilute and dispose. The NNSA, a semi-autonomous agency in the Energy Department, is proposing to adapt the MOX fuel facility into a site for producing plutonium cores, a plan that critics say is excessively costly compared to expanding current pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. In a last-ditch appeal, a group of South Carolina officials, including the state’s two senators, met on Oct. 18 at the White House with President Donald Trump, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, and other senior officials.—TERRY ATLAS

DOE Terminates Troubled MOX Project

Murder Puts Heat on Saudi Arms Deals


A protester dressed as Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman demonstrates with members of the group Code Pink on October 19 outside the White House in the wake of the killing of Saudi Arabian Jamal Khashoggi. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)U.S. President Donald Trump said any U.S. penalties in response to the Saudi killing of dissident journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi should not include curtailing planned and potential U.S. arms sales, even as some U.S. lawmakers and human rights advocates have advocated that they should. The United States is Saudi Arabia’s largest arms supplier, and Trump cited varying inflated figures for the dollar value and U.S. jobs at stake, as well as noting the importance of maintaining the historic alliance with a country that is an oil power and bulwark against Iran. Even so, Saudi arms deals may face tougher scrutiny in Congress, where opponents critical of Saudi conduct of its war in Yemen unsuccessfully sought last year to block the sale of $500 million in precision-guided munitions to the kingdom. The European Parliament on Oct. 25 overwhelmingly approved a nonbinding measure for its member states urging them to halt sales of weapons and surveillance technology to the Saudis, which may have little practical impact. German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Oct. 22 vowed to halt German arms exports to Saudi Arabia until the Khashoggi case is “cleared up,” but officials were uncertain whether that applies to existing or only future sales. Like Trump, UK Prime Minister Theresa May was wary of actions that could cost domestic jobs, hurt the economy, and complicate relations with a key Middle Eastern ally.—TERRY ATLAS

Murder Puts Heat on Saudi Arms Deals

France Sued Over Past Nuclear Tests


A mushroom cloud rises above the Mururoa atoll, French Polynesia, after the explosion of a French atomic bomb in 1971. (Photo: Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)France is facing a legal complaint filed Oct. 2 at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague over its nuclear testing in French Polynesia during almost four decades, ending in 1996. Oscar Temaru, a former president of French Polynesia and now opposition figure, accused France of crimes against humanity for the almost 200 nuclear tests France conducted on the Pacific atolls of Mururoa and Fangataufa. The action seeks “to hold all the living French presidents accountable,” he said. After long resisting such action, France in 2010 established a compensation program for military veterans and civilians whose cancer could be attributed to the nuclear tests, but few have received benefits under restrictive rules. France’s overseas minister, Annick Girardin, called the lawsuit an abuse of the international court for domestic political purposes. It is uncertain whether the ICC will agree to proceed with the case.—TERRY ATLAS

France Sued Over Past Nuclear Tests

U.S. Space Force to Cost Billions


The initial cost to stand up President Donald Trump’s envisioned Space Force would be $3 billion, according to an Air Force estimate reported Sept. 18 by Defense News. That expense would be part of the total cost of $13 billion over five years for the new branch of the U.S. military, according to the report. The Air Force document, which sets out a plan to transition Air Force space functions to the new command, objects to the White House proposal to create a new high-level post, assistant secretary of defense for space, to oversee the transition, according to Defense News. (See ACT, September 2018). The Air Force document estimated costs for headquarters elements, Space Force elements, additional personnel to staff a new U.S. Space Command, and construction of a new combatant command.—TERRY ATLAS

U.S. Space Force to Cost Billions

Arms Flow Despite Yemen Deaths


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo avoided a diplomatic clash with Saudi Arabia by certifying to Congress that the kingdom is taking “demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure” from its airstrikes in Yemen. In doing so, Pompeo overruled State Department specialists after he was warned that alienating Saudi leaders by failing to make the certification could jeopardize $2 billion in weapons sales, according to a Sept. 20 report in The Wall Street Journal.

The German government confirmed on Sept. 21 that it is proceeding with delivery to the Saudis of counterfire radar systems for artillery. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government deal early this year called for halting weapons sales to any side fighting in Yemen's civil war, although it reportedly excluded already approved exports. (See ACT, March 2018.)

Spain’s new center-left government reversed itself shortly after saying in early September that it had canceled the planned delivery of 400 laser-guided bombs purchased by Saudi Arabia in a 2015 deal under the former conservative government. Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said on Sept. 13 the government will honor the 2015 contract and noted that such so-called precision munitions can reduce dangers to civilians. Halting of the deal had raised concerns in Spain over the risk to a more lucrative contract, signed in July, for state-owned shipbuilder Navantia to supply warships to the Saudis, according to Reuters.

In a late August report, a panel of UN investigators reported that the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had taken actions that may amount to war crimes, including conducting airstrikes that have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians, torturing detainees, raping civilians, and using child soldiers as young as eight. The report also cited Houthi rebels as committing possible war crimes, including shelling civilians and blocking delivery of humanitarian aid.—TERRY ATLAS

 

Arms Flow Despite Yemen Deaths

Trump Eases Rules for Cyberattacks


Sailors work together during an April 2017 U.S. Cyber Command exercise at Fort Meade, Md. (Photo: U.S. Cyber Command)U.S. President Donald Trump opened the path for the United States to use cyberweapons against adversaries, easing restrictions put in place by his predecessor. John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, said on Sept. 20 that the new classified rules will give the Defense Department more authority to use digital weapons to enhance deterrence and to punish foes, with fewer bureaucratic restraints on U.S. action. Bolton’s briefing for reporters came as the administration rolled out its first broad cybersecurity strategy, intended to address cyberthreats to vital infrastructure such as the energy grid and banking networks. Although the United States has considerable offensive cybercapabilities through the U.S. Cyber Command, the country is also widely vulnerable to similar retaliation because of dependence on many vital electronic networks that could be disrupted, compromised, or brought down. Previous U.S. rules on unleashing cyberweapons involved consultation among a range of governmental agencies in an effort to ensure that the possible blowback was considered beforehand. The new rules, in Bolton’s description, ease what had been a lengthy, complicated authorization process.—TERRY ATLAS

Trump Eases Rules for Cyberattacks

NATO Sees Defense Spending Rise


NATO expects to see a 3.8 percent increase in defense spending by its European members and Canada this year, as President Donald Trump hammers the closest U.S. allies to shoulder more of the defense burden.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg gives a press briefing June 7 during a Defense Council meeting at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels. (Photo: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)The increase would be the fourth in a row, although it lags behind last year’s estimated 5.2 percent increase, according to a chart released June 7 by the alliance. “All allies have stopped the cuts,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said following a defense ministers meeting. “All allies are increasing defense spending.”

The increases mean European allies and Canada will have spent an additional $87 billion on defense since 2014, he said. Trump has wrongly claimed credit for this turnaround, which began in 2015 spurred by Russia’s military moves against Ukraine and its subsequent annexation of Crimea, as well as by pressure from the Obama administration.

The increases are unlikely to end the criticism from Trump, who is scheduled to join the leaders of the other 28 countries at the NATO summit July 11–12. Trump’s souring relationship with key European leaders, particularly over his trade policies, may spill over to the defense alliance talks. Following this year’s Group of Seven summit in Canada, Trump tweeted his criticism that the United States spends money “protecting many of these same countries that rip us off on trade.”—TERRY ATLAS

NATO Sees Defense Spending Rise

Trump Weighs Creating a ‘Space Force’


President Donald Trump said he is weighing the creation of a sixth branch of the military, a space force, “because we’re getting very big in space, both militarily and for other reasons.” Trump made the comment May 1, while speaking to the U.S. Military Academy’s Black Knights football team at the White House. Trump previously floated the idea in March, when he told troops at the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station near San Diego that “my new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea.” Currently, the Air Force’s Space Command is responsible for elements of military activities related to space and cyberspace.

Military activities are constrained by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bans the stationing of weapons of mass destruction in outer space, prohibits military activities on celestial bodies, and details legally binding rules governing the peaceful exploration and use of space. The UN General Assembly has passed a resolution annually urging all states to refrain from actions contrary to the peaceful use of outer space and calling for negotiation in the Conference on Disarmament on a multilateral agreement to prevent an arms race in outer space.—TERRY ATLAS

Trump Weighs Creating a ‘Space Force’

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