Arms Control Wonk ArmsControlWonk

 

Catherine here.  For the past year, Jeffrey and I have been looking at China’s Korla Missile Test Complex in Xinjiang, which is where we believe China conducts test launches of its hit-to-kill interceptor.  Jeffrey put up a brief post about part of the site in August, after China conducted a missile defense test this summer on July 24, 2014. The US State Department characterized the event as an anti-satellite test, but Jeffrey likes to point out that it’s better to call it a hit-to-kill test.  What it kills isn’t so important.

In this test, as well as tests on January 11, 2010 and January 27, 2013, China has reportedly launched the HTK interceptor, usually called the SC-19 in the US press, from a site near Korla (库尔勒市), in Xinjiang province.  A possible test occurred on September 25, 2010, but was not officially acknowledged. In that past, China used a CSS-11 missile launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center as a target. (Side note, the US intelligence community calls Jiuquan “Shuangchengzi”, which is where the SC in in SC-19 comes from.)

We can now say with high confidence, based on some open-source research, many things about the Korla MTC including the location of many of its assets, that it is subordinate to the General Armaments Department (GAD) and the location of a number of previous missile defense tests.

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Another rare interview with our wet and muddy guest contributor, Chauncey Gardiner:

MK: Chauncey, I love it when you get down and dirty.

CG: Mucking the ponds.

MK: What’s your technique?

CG: Work around the gooey masses of frog eggs. Remove leaves by hand in the shallows. Use the pole and net for deeper ledges. Scrape the mud and pull up soggy leaves. Throw back the salamanders.

MK: Sounds like heavy lifting.

CG: Compared to what? Cleaning up the muck in Washington? There are no salamanders on Capitol Hill.

MK: Not good vote-getters.

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Greetings ACW readers! I’m Catherine Dill, the newest contributor around here.

I am a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. I dabble in research and training related to all sorts of things, but I spend most of my time looking at nonproliferation and arms control in East Asia, open source analysis for nonproliferation, and strategic trade controls.

I’m very pleased to be able to share some of my work with ACW’s readers. To begin my blogging tenure, I’ll give a short geoquiz à la Melissa Hanham.

I heard a rumor that Melissa’s geoquizzes haven’t been hard enough for some readers, so let’s see what I might be able to do about that. Post your answers in the comments section.

I recently went on a three-country trip. Over on twitter I gave two mini geoquizzes from the first two countries I visited (here and here, if you’re interested, #geolocatecatherine), but I didn’t have time to do one from the third. I’ll remedy that now.

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With negotiations between Iran and the E3/EU+3 coming down to the
wire, Aaron and Jeffrey talk about the circus surrounding the talks
including the false allegations about secret underground centrifuge
plants and nastygrams from members of Congress. Jeffrey has a newborn
and a head-cold, but called in anyway. Why? It’s another emergency
podcast!

Jeffrey Lewis, “Why a ‘Bad’ Deal With Iran Is Better Than No Deal at
All,”
Foreign Policy, March 11, 2015

Jeffrey Lewis, “That Secret Iranian ‘Nuclear Facility’ You Just Found?
Not So Much,”
Foreign Policy, March 3, 2015

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Why on earth would Turkey prevent a NATO ally from prosecuting a suspected Iranian nuclear smuggler who had been arrested in Turkey? Police found that companies Hossein Tanideh controlled were used to camouflage exports of German goods to Iran in violation of a United Nations Security Council embargo on assistance to an Iranian reactor that could make weapons-grade plutonium.

When this mini-drama began unfolding in mid-2013 between Germany and Turkey over the fate of Tanideh, an Iranian government procurement agent who landed in pre-trial detention in Istanbul in January 2013, officials from one NATO country government told me, “we didn’t understand why sending [Tanideh] to Germany was causing so much trouble for Turkey.” Turkey finally instead released Tanideh from custody, and last month I gave some tentative answers here to explain why that happened, concerning a closely-held intelligence-sharing relationship between Turkey and Iran.

Since then, Turkish interlocutors have confirmed to me that Ankara last year permitted Tanideh to flee to Iran, and also that that decision followed from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s evolving and complex relationship with the Iranian regime.

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One of the best parts of my job at CNS is working with students. They come from all over the world, speak multiple languages, and are passionate about arms control. They are also digital natives who like problem solving, and will often chase a lead with Jeffrey and me just for the love of the work.

A few weeks ago Iran posted a Notice to Airmen for the area surrounding the Imam Khomeini Space Centre. NOTAMs are cumbersome to find and decode, so I was pleased when Alex Kynerd, a first year MA candidate, took it upon himself to write an explainer and map it out on Google Earth.

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The Obama presidency has greatly disappointed supporters who view the President as being too aloof and for losing his progressive focus. The best rebuttal to these complaints is to read — or better yet watch — the President’s speech in Selma honoring those who were beaten by Alabama state troopers while demonstrating for their right to vote fifty years ago. In this place, on this anniversary, Obama’s words echoed powerfully, part Church sermon, part civics lesson — a reminder of how he won the presidency despite long odds. Seven years later, intractable problems and relentless opposition have turned his hair gray. His commitment to many causes has not wavered, but his passion has been applied selectively.

At Selma, Obama was the best he could be. A second chorus of criticism is that Obama is not a master of the legislative process, twisting arms, building bridges and framing terms of debate. The result has been gridlock on Capitol Hill. In other words, he’s not Lyndon Baines Johnson, whose string of domestic legislative accomplishments was second only to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Supporters yearn for Obama to be the LBJ captured in photographs of him towering over and browbeating Senator John Pastore. One of these photos hangs in President Frank Underwood’s Oval Office in “House of Cards,” evoking this fictional President’s brutal powers of persuasion.

Nobody will confuse Obama for LBJ, but the Grand Old Party of the 1960s was a different breed than the Republican Caucus today. LBJ’s nemesis and foil, 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, famously said during his nomination speech that, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” The current Republican vernacular holds that, “Extremism in opposition to Obama is no vice. And moderation in pursuit of bipartisanship is no virtue.”

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A little how-to guide to measure the height of any most structures on Google Earth. 

As you click through the Twittersphere or even click through TV channels (remember those?), you may hear claims like “North Korea is building a scary big missile” or “Iran’s building a scary big elevator shaft.” Ok, I made that last one up.

But how do we know?  Well, they haven’t shown off their new missiles. Yet. But, they are building some mighty big gantry towers. How big you say? Let me show you. Better yet, let me show you how to do it yourself.

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A serious competition between two nuclear-armed rivals is very hard to stabilize. When one rival increases its nuclear capability, the other does, too. Then both rivals feel less secure – even when they possess secure retaliatory capabilities. It’s even harder to stabilize a triangular nuclear competition. Isosceles triangles don’t exist in the nuclear business, and three unequal sides do not make for stable geometry.

Triangular competitions are never static. Gregory Koblentz characterizes three-sided competitions as “trilemmas.” Like two-party competitions, they can only be stabilized when disputes are resolved or set aside, direct trade increases, and rivals tacitly agree to restrain their nuclear capabilities.

Stabilization requires roughly balanced strategic modernization programs, conventional capabilities and national trajectories. These conditions were absent during the Cold War. The triangular competition among United States, the Soviet Union and China was particularly unstable because it involved shifting allegiances. Moscow and Beijing colluded at first, and then became bitter rivals, even engaging in a border clash. Once Beijing acquired a minimal deterrent, it dropped out of the nuclear competition, focusing instead on domestic and economic priorities. Today’s triangular competition among the United States, China, and Russia is also unstable. Russia is helping China to compete, even though Moscow understands that Beijing will pose as much of a strategic concern in the future as the United States.

The triangular nuclear competition among China, India and Pakistan is inherently unstable, with features that were not present during the Cold War. The Chinese and Indian legs of the triangle are growing taller, but unevenly. Pakistan’s leg is shrinking despite the growth of its nuclear arsenal, because of weak social and economic indicators. Pakistan measures its strategic requirements against India, while India measures against both its nuclear-armed neighbors. Even if Pakistan were to drop out of the nuclear competition, which is unlikely, India will continue to measure itself against China. China and Pakistan are becoming closer, while Washington gravitates increasingly toward New Delhi. Now add border disputes and violent extremist groups in Pakistan to ongoing nuclear modernization programs, disparate conventional military capabilities and national trajectories.

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Russia’s last early warning satellite is dead. It is no more, has ceased to be, is bereft of life, it rests in peace. This is an ex-early warning bird. So should we be worried? Jeffrey and Aaron talk to David Hoffman, author of the magisterial The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy.

David Hoffman, The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms
Race and Its Dangerous Legacy
(Anchor, 2009).

Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces,” Pavel Podvig, editor (MIT Press, 2004).

Valery E. Yarynich, “C3: Nuclear Command, Control, Cooperation.” (Center for Defense Information, 2003).

Pavel Podvig, “Russia lost all its early-warning satellites,” Russianforces.org February 11, 2015.

Anton Valagin, “Guaranteed wages: how the Russian system ‘Perimeter’,” January 22, 2014. Rossiya Gazeta.

Michael Tymoshenko, “Retaliatory Nuclear Strike Will Be Mounted Under Any Circumstances,” Red Star, February 19, 2015.

Bruce Blair, “Russia’s Doomsday Machine,” New York Times, October 8, 1993. See also: William J. Broad, “Russia Has ‘Doomsday’ Machine, U.S. Expert Says,” New York Times, October 8, 1993.

Previously Classified Interviews with Former Soviet Officials Reveal U.S. Strategic Intelligence Failure Over Decades, 1995 Contractor Study Finds that U.S. Analysts Exaggerated Soviet Aggressiveness and Understated Moscow’s Fears of a U.S. First Strike,” William Burr and Svetlana Savranskaya, editors, National Security Archive, September 11, 2009.

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