Showing posts with label WMD. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WMD. Show all posts

25 April 2018

Rhetoric aside, the US commitment to preventing nuclear terrorism is waning


With the world focused on the United States and North Korea, it’s easy to forget that every president for a quarter-century has said preventing nuclear terrorism was a national security priority. This includes the Trump administration, which identified in its Nuclear Posture Review that nuclear terrorism is one of “the most significant threats to the security of the United States.” It appears, however, despite this strong rhetoric, the administration may not be putting its money where its mouth is.

19 April 2018

Relationships Between Highly Asymmetric Nuclear Powers

By Rod Lyon

The current tensions between Washington and Pyongyang aren’t just about history. Nor are they simply the result of personal frictions between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. At their core, they reflect the difficulties that typically attend adversarial relationships between two highly asymmetric nuclear powers. Bernard Brodie, one of the doyens of deterrence thinking during the early days of the Cold War, canvassed some of the problems in this sort of relationship in his 1958 essay, The anatomy of deterrence. There he considered how the Soviet Union might be strategically hampered by the emergence of a much inferior adversary which could, however, threaten nuclear damage to a small number of Soviet cities. The following extract is taken from pages 7–9 of his essay: [D]eterrence effect in itself does not depend on superiority … Let us assume that a menaced small nation could threaten the Soviet Union with only a single thermonuclear bomb, which, however, it could certainly deliver on Moscow if attacked … [This] would be sufficient to give the Soviet government much pause … If we think of five to ten H-bombs delivered on as many … cities, the deterrence would no doubt be significantly greater.

14 April 2018

Relationships Between Highly Asymmetric Nuclear Powers

By Rod Lyon

The current tensions between Washington and Pyongyang aren’t just about history. Nor are they simply the result of personal frictions between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. At their core, they reflect the difficulties that typically attend adversarial relationships between two highly asymmetric nuclear powers. Bernard Brodie, one of the doyens of deterrence thinking during the early days of the Cold War, canvassed some of the problems in this sort of relationship in his 1958 essay, The anatomy of deterrence. There he considered how the Soviet Union might be strategically hampered by the emergence of a much inferior adversary which could, however, threaten nuclear damage to a small number of Soviet cities. The following extract is taken from pages 7–9 of his essay:

11 April 2018

Pakistan Calls India's Nuclear Bluff in a Subcontinent Standoff

The nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan will escalate as both countries seek to introduce new technologies and strategies. Pakistan's improved ability to retaliate to an Indian strategic nuclear strike will make it more difficult for India to deter Islamabad from using tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield. If India acquires its own tactical nuclear weapons, New Delhi and Islamabad will be more likely to use nuclear weapons in the event of a major conflict between them. 

9 April 2018

Russian Tactical Nukes Are Real

By Mark B. Schneider

Russia has the most extensive arsenal of naval tactical nuclear weapons in the world. In stark contrast to President Vladimir Putin’s frequent discussion of the country’s strategic nuclear weapons, the Russian government generally is quite secretive about its tactical nuclear weapons. The country claims it has reduced its tactical nuclear weapons inventory by 75 percent from late Cold War levels. This is probably true, but the Soviet tactical nuclear weapons arsenal was so large that this still could leave 5,000 or more tactical warheads available today, as Pravda reported in 2014. [1] The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) reports that Russia has 2,000 non-strategic nuclear weapons and is increasing and modernizing them. [2] If Russian press reports are correct, the NPR number is a considerable underestimate.

The Attack on the Nuclear Reactor in Syria: The Intelligence Dimension

Although the public discourse after Israel took official responsibility for the attack in Deir ez-Zor has primarily revolved around the issue of the reactor’s discovery, it is important to recognize that intelligence operations did not end with the collection breakthrough. Intelligence had to cope with two particular challenges. First, at the strategic level, it had to assess the type of reaction - or lack of reaction - to an attack likely to come from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In this context, developing the idea of Assad’s “room for denial” constituted a conceptual innovation. Regarding the second challenge, namely, the attack itself, the intelligence community had to provide accurate information on the facility, on the reactor, and on its surroundings. Execution of the attack necessitated close cooperation between the regular intelligence entities and the operational and operations research entities in the air force. In retrospect, it seems that the intelligence community, in its various elements, succeeded in uniting its efforts and operating with a high level of “jointness.” This was true regarding the transfer of intelligence missions from Military Intelligence to the Mossad as an intelligence collection organization, as well as the clarification of differences of opinion on the threat assessment and possible reactions to the attack.

7 April 2018

Patriot Missiles Are Made in America and Fail Everywhere


The evidence is in: the missile defense system that the United States and its allies rely on is a lemon. On March 25, Houthi forces in Yemen fired seven missiles at Riyadh. Saudi Arabia confirmed the launches and asserted that it successfully intercepted all seven. This wasn’t true. It’s not just that falling debris in Riyadh killed at least one person and sent two more to the hospital. There’s no evidence that Saudi Arabia intercepted any missiles at all. And that raises uncomfortable questions not just about the Saudis, but about the United States, which seems to have sold them — and its own public — a lemon of a missile defense system.

6 April 2018

Early Warning Tools Needed for Chem-Bio Defense

By Vivienne Machi

The U.S. military is in need of new tools that can provide early warning for chemical and biological contamination on the battlefield and connect to commanders’ networks, one defense official said. Integrated early warning is “probably our No. 1 priority,” said Ronald Hann, director of the chemical and biological technologies department at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. “If we can know where an attack is at, we can avoid it, we can make sure people are protected.”

4 April 2018

Exclusive: On board the 'Doomsday' plane that can wage nuclear war

By Jamie Crawford and Barbara Starr

Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska (CNN)If Russia aimed a long range missile like the "Satan 2" it just tested or North Korea suddenly targeted the headquarters of the US nuclear arsenal, top commanders would have a small window to get to safety. But the US is ready for such a scenario and the four-star general tasked with executing the US response to a nuclear strike would take to the air within minutes. He'd be able to carry out the President's orders and launch a nuclear attack in response from the safety of a specially equipped jet, known as the "Doomsday" plane. "I have a certain amount of minutes to get on that plane and for that plane to get off and to a safe distance before a nuclear weapon went off here," John Hyten, the head of US Strategic Command, told CNN in an exclusive interview earlier this month from his headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base in eastern Nebraska.

28 March 2018

More Than A Nuclear Threat: North Korea’s Chemical, Biological, and Conventional Weapons

North Korean development of biological weapons both poses a serious potential threat to the United States and its strategic partners, and illustrates the broader dangers of proliferation. Biological weapons pose dangers that are growing steadily with the proliferation of the civil, dual- use, and military technologies that can be used to develop and manufacture biological weapons – such as genetic engineering and drones. Figures One to Three show that some estimates indicate that Cold War biological weapons could be even more lethal that nuclear weapons, and they have always far cheaper. Such weapons can also substitute for nuclear proliferation. They also do not require and high cost delivery systems like large ballistic missiles that are relatively easy to detect and locate, although they can supplement them. Moreover, they can act as a powerful threat and deterrent on their own, or act as compensation for inferiority in nuclear forces.

26 March 2018

Saudi Arabia Goes Shopping for a Nuclear Deal

Saudi Arabia will strive to develop a civilian nuclear energy program due to the need to diversify its energy mix away from oil. But Saudi Arabia's push for ownership of the nuclear fuel cycle will open up the possibility that Riyadh will use its greater nuclear capabilities to satisfy its security imperatives, including defending itself from its biggest nemesis, Iran.
The United States will weigh its desire to maintain leverage over Saudi Arabia by helping it develop a peaceful civilian nuclear program against its concerns about Riyadh's security motives.If an agreement is not reached, Saudi Arabia will look to other nuclear powers such as Russia, whose limits on enrichment ownership are weaker than those of the United States. 


After the raid, Israel kept silent—and so did Assad. Syria didn’t want to admit it had violated its international commitments. Israel, for its part, figured out that if it said nothing in public, Assad would swallow his pride and not retaliate. Privately, Israeli leaders and chiefs of the military and intelligence contacted or met their allies in the West—the U.S., UK, France, Germany—and in the Arab world (Egypt and Jordan) to share with them the information behind the raid. Olmert also personally called Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Israel’s calculation that Syria would not strike back proved correct, and the world seemed relieved that someone had removed a potentially serious threat to peace.

25 March 2018


Steven Aftergood

The number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. nuclear stockpile dropped to 3,822 as of September 30, 2017, down from 4,018 a year earlier. (Retired weapons awaiting dismantlement are not included in the totals.) Meanwhile, 354 nuclear weapons were dismantled in 2017, up from 258 the year before. These figures were declassified in response to a request from the Federation of American Scientists and were made public yesterday. The declassification of the current size of the US nuclear arsenal was a breakthrough in national security transparency that was accomplished for the first time by the Obama Administration in 2010.

Inside Israel’s Secret Raid on Syria’s Nuclear Reactor


Even if President Donald Trump is able to reach an agreement with Kim Jong Un, with North Korea promising to freeze or even dismantle its nuclear program, there will always be uncertainty about possible cheating.Just ask Israel—which, despite having one of the world’s most competent and aggressive intelligence services, the Mossad—nearly missed the fact that North Korea was helping build a nuclear reactor in next-door Syria, a country long viewed by Israel as a dangerous threat. The American CIA missed it, too, and now, 11 years after Israeli air force jets bombed the clandestine Syrian facility, Israel’s military censor is finally lifting the veil of secrecy and permitting locally based reporters to publish interviews with participants in the operation for the first time. We spoke with dozens of former cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as well as military and intelligence chiefs and commanders and even some of the pilots who took part in the operation. The codename for the Sept. 6, 2007, raid, conducted near the remote desert city of Deir ez-Zur: “Outside the Box.” Before today, Israel has never officially acknowledged its existence.

22 March 2018


Nerea Cal

Last month, the Trump administration officially unveiled the results of a year-long review of the United States’ nuclear posture and its strategic vision for how to incorporate nuclear capabilities into an overarching security strategy. In the official White House press release announcing the publication of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), President Trump states that this strategy “enhances deterrence of strategic attacks against our Nation, and our allies and partners, that may not come in the form of nuclear weapons.” The NPR makes clear that the American nuclear arsenal serves a deterrent purpose not only against nuclear threats, but also against “non-nuclear aggression,” including cyber threats. It also emphasizes that the United States’ non-nuclear forces, though an important component of its overall deterrent strategy, “do not provide comparable deterrence effects—as is reflected by past, periodic, and catastrophic failures of conventional deterrence to prevent Great Power war before the advent of nuclear deterrence.” Thus, it seems that while the Trump administration’s nuclear strategy considers non-nuclear actions as legitimate causes for retaliation, it sees a nuclear response as the most effective threat against those actions.

21 March 2018

Why we must break the Syria-North Korea WMD trade, and how we can

By Joshua Stanton

Last night, the U.N. Panel of Experts published its latest report. There is sufficient material in it for several posts, but some of the most alarming facts in it have to do with North Korea’s assistance to Syria with its ballistic missiles and chemical weapons, so that’s where I’ll begin.

20 March 2018

The global impacts of a terrorist nuclear attack: What would happen? What should we do?

Irma ArguelloEmiliano J. Buis

As seen by recent events such as the bombing in Manchester, UK, terrorism can occur anywhere, at any time. So far, the terrorist incidents have been relatively low-tech – such as improvised explosive devices detonating inside pressure cookers, trucks driving down crowded sidewalks, or bombs exploding in backpacks containing metal bolts and screws. But what if terrorists were to build a dirty bomb that contained radioactive materials instead of bits of metal shrapnel, and set it off in a major city? Or, worse, what if they managed to build a fully functioning nuclear weapon, cart it to the downtown of a city, and then detonate it – even a small, rudimentary one that was much smaller than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima? What would the social, economic, and political impacts of the successful terrorist use of a nuclear weapon look like? What planning has the international community done for such an event? 

NATO’s Next Nuclear Challenges


A more competitive international environment, and in particular Russia’s assertive policies, has sparked renewed interest in the concept of nuclear deterrence in Western defense strategies. For NATO, this rediscovery has manifested itself (among other things) in a thorough analysis of Russia’s nuclear policy and posture, renewed attention to NATO’s own nuclear arrangements, and a stronger emphasis on nuclear deterrence and nuclear arms control in public statements. But there’s more. Major changes in the global nuclear landscape, including in nuclear governance, may soon put renewed pressure on this important part of NATO’s deterrence strategy. Allies need to look not only at the challenges posed by Russia’s nuclear modernization, but also ponder the implications of other—potentially much more far-reaching—changes. Three areas stand out.

19 March 2018

Why China stopped making fissile material for nukes

Hui Zhang

Some western scholars have expressed growing concern about China’s expansion of its nuclear arsenal and what they see as a “sprint to parity” with the United States. One scholareven claimed that China could have built as many as 3,000 nuclear weapons, far above the estimate of Western intelligence agencies, which assume that China has between 200 and 300. As a comparison, the United States and Russia each keep roughly 7,000 nuclear weapons. If China had any interest in parity, that would leave it with an awfully long way to go.

The Evolution of Chinese Nuclear Doctrine: Updating or Overhauling?

By Lorenzo Termine

What role is played by the atomic weapon in Chinese defense strategies? How has nuclear doctrine changed since 1964? The historical root of Chinese nuclear doctrine dates to the traumatic experiences of the Taiwan Strait crises during the 50’s when the United States, then politically and militarily bound to Taiwan, kept on the table a nuclear attack option against Beijing. Meanwhile, the unbalanced nuclear partnership of PRC with the Kremlin got stuck in a dead end when the USSR abandoned the cooperation in June 1959. Before the first nuclear weapon was tested in 1964, two major theorists had given their contribution to the future Chinese nuclear approach, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. The former elaborated the concept of “people’s war” that, coherently with the Marxist-Leninist war theories, gave very little relevance to the atomic weapon. Mao used to utterly disparage atomic weapons, “paper tigers” in his words. Nuclear capacities could be a part, but not the core of PRC’s strategies. The latter supported a more active nuclear approach with his concept of “existential deterrence.” China had to join the nuclear and thermonuclear clubs on its own terms to ensure its survival in a world of “mass destruction.”