Arms Control Wonk ArmsControlWonk

 

If you follow me on Twitter or happen to be friends with me on Facebook, then you know I don’t think very much of Mr. Edward Snowden. From the beginning of this story, I have said that Snowden is more like Phillip Agee, than Daniel Ellsberg.  I do not consider him a whistleblower, but rather an agent of a hostile power, in this case Moscow.

It occurred to me the other day, however, that I’ve never set down in writing the precise nature of my concerns about Snowden and his actions. Now that Snowden is doing propaganda shorts for the Russians and the Guardian has joined Walter Duranty as a Pulitzer Prize winner, I figured I should say a few words about why I don’t think Snowden is on the level.

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Accidents happen. The least accident-prone nuclear weapons are the ones that are not in motion — but not always: see Eric Schlosser’s account of the Damascus incident in Command and Control.

Nuclear weapons in transit are more accident prone. The dangers associated with transit multiply with the number of vehicles carrying weapons in transit, which can spike during a crisis. The most accident-prone nuclear weapons are those in motion when hostilities commence, when standard operating procedures are subject to change. In this event, the most accident-prone nuclear weapons are those moved close to the forward edge of battle.

Nobel Prize-winning economist and strategic thinker Thomas C. Schelling (right) wrote about accidents in the September 1960 issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Here are some excerpts from “Meteors, Mischief and War:”

“The point is that accidents do not cause war. Decisions cause war. Accidents can trigger decisions; and this may be all that anybody meant. But the distinction needs to be made, because the remedy is not just preventing accidents but constraining decisions.

“If we think of the decisions as well as the accidents we can see that accidental war, like premeditated war, is subject to “deterrence.” Deterrence, it is usually said, is aimed at the rational calculator in full control of his faculties and his forces; accidents may trigger war in spite of deterrence. But it is really better to consider accidental war as the deterrence problem, not a separate one…

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Ever seen a picture of the Taiwan Research Reactor?  Me neither!

Readers may know that I am very interested in the history of Taiwan’s nuclear weapons efforts, as well as the death of IAEA Inspector Pierre Noir (although I do not suspect foul play).  If you are interested in the history of Taiwan’s bomb program, I can’t highly enough recommend David Albright and Corey Hinderstein’s “Nuclear Nightmare Averted” in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, along with the two document troves released by the National Security Archive (1|2).  And, if Pierre Noir interests you, there is  my research with Catherine Dill on the death of the IAEA inspector in 1978: 1|2|3.

A couple of years ago, I found the TRR in satellite images but never put it online.  I recently gave the assignment to a student who got close, but couldn’t quite find it.  So, here it is, just for the record.

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Whoops, somehow I initially published my notes for this piece instead of the piece itself. Here is the correct post.

Well, there are plenty of reasons to doubt Sy Hersh’s recent reporting implying that the chemical weapons attack on Ghouta was some sort of Turko-Saudi-Al Nusra false-front attack — I am rolling my eyes as I write it — and not a single one to buy any of it. Dan Kaszeta has explained all the technical problems with the scenario, while Aaron Stein provided a lot of the missing context here at ACW for things asserted about Turkey and Turkish foreign policy.

I don’t have much to add, the but the erstwhile Washingtonian in me noticed this passage:

Asked about the DIA paper, a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence said: ‘No such paper was ever requested or produced by intelligence community analysts.’

Normally, the response is to “no comment” specific reporting on intelligence matters. Does that mean it is a forgery? Because I love forgeries.

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For his first term, President Barack Obama selected Significant Outsiders for his key foreign policy and national security posts. In his second term, he depends heavily on known commodities and loyalists. He promotes from within and keeps the State Department on a short leash. As his original appointees leave, their successors have less clout. Some senior positions in his inner circle have turned over three times in six years.

The Secretary of State has his hands full fire-fighting and trying to alter the ugly trajectory of the Israeli-Palestinian stand-off. It’s not apparent what portfolios the national security adviser has decided to make her own. The Pentagon’s resources are contracting, and the Secretary of Defense cannot successfully downplay this fact when he travels abroad. The President’s advisers are hard-pressed to provide him cover in dealing with political foes, skeptical friends or foreign challengers. With some fires burning and others smoldering, senior officials find it hard to engage in preventive diplomacy except in the most immediate cases.

The White House is therefore susceptible to new crises and will be short-handed to deal with them if and when they arise. Since bad news in foreign affairs usually comes in bunches, this is a particularly vulnerable period for the Obama Administration.

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On 6 April 2014, Seymour Hersh published “The Red Line and the Rat Line” in the London Review of Books. The piece builds on his previous article, “Whose Sarin?,” which calls into question the White House’s framing of the 21 August 2013 chemical weapons attack in the Damascus neighborhood of Ghouta. The latest article accuses Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erodgan of working with the rebels to stage the 21 August attack to trip President Barack Obama’s “red line,” so as to trigger a US military strike on Bashar al Assad’s forces. Blogger Eliot Higgins has already written a scathing rebuttal of the piece, that you can read here.

Higgins forcefully argues that the volcano rockets used in the 21 August attack is a clear indication of regime culpability. In September 2013, Dr. Igor Sutyagin, a research fellow at RUSI in London, used open source analysis to confirm that the rockets in question are still in service with the Russian Navy and have likely been exported to Syria. Uzi Rubin, the first Director of Israel Missile Defense Organization, argues, “The ‘330 mm’ rockets discovered in Zamalka and Ein Tarma were not improvised, jury rigged devices that could be casually made in any workshop; rather, they were part of a well designed range of weapon systems contrived to fulfill Syrian Army’s operational needs.” And finally, Dan Kaszeta, a former US Army officer and consultant based in London, has estimated that the perpetrator of the attack would have needed an industrial facility to produce the amount of Sarin used.

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Russian ICBMs
NATO RUSSIA Warheads Stages Fuel Basing Range (km) No.
SS-18 Mod 5 (SATAN) RS-20/R-36M2 (Voyevoda) 10 2 +PBV Liquid Silo

10,000+

About 50

SS-19 Mod 3 (STILLETO) RS-18/UR-100NUTTH 6 2 +PBV Liquid Silo

9,000+

About 50

SS-25 (SICKEL) RS-12M 1 3 +PBV Solid Road-mobile

11,000

More than 150

SS-27 Mod 1 RS-12M2 (Topol M) 1 3 +PBV Solid Silo & road mobile

11,000

About 80

SS-27 Mod 2 RS-24 (Yars) Multiple 3 +PBV Solid Silo & road mobile

11,000

About 20

New ICBM RS-26 (Rubezh) Undetermined At least 2 Solid Road mobile

5,500+

Not yet deployed

(Samart) Multiple Liquid Silo

Not yet deployed

Source: NASIC, Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat, with a lot of help from Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces.

Sorry about the eye-chart, but I am trying to sort through the mess of Russian ICBMs. Having done what I think is a passable first cut, I wanted to crowdsource the rest of it.

The Russians have been modernizing their ICBM force, which means there are a mess of new designations in the past few years. Sometimes, these get confused in the press. I wanted to sort through them for something I plan to write on Russian compliance (or lack thereof) with the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Additional notes below the jump.  Comments welcome:

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Massive retaliation is a siren song that appeals to states that cannot afford a nuclear competition but can afford to let an adversary cross the nuclear threshold first. It’s a money-saver, and it sounds persuasive, until the threat of massive retaliation is actually tested — when a nation’s nuclear bluff is called. What national leader would actually respond to the use of a single nuclear weapon, or just a few, with massive retaliation?

Of course, a single thermonuclear weapon targeted on a major city might be considered massive retaliation when compared to the use of a low-yield, tactical nuclear weapon. Great Britain and France are postured to do far worse – one of the consequences of relying on MIRVed missiles aboard submarines — but it’s hard to imagine their bluff being called, because plausible tripwires are so remote.

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Regular readers know I love public policy, especially perverse effects.  One of my favorite perverse effects is what I call “the cookie” problem after the plight of a beleaguered friend.  Let’s say you’ve come thisclose to cheating on a spouse or partner — but you don’t. Then you tell your spouse or partner about your heroic restraint. You’re going to catch hell, not get credit.  As I said to my friend, “What?  Did you expect a cookie?”

Drawing attention to something unwelcome often overwhelms any credit you get for taking steps to address that problem.  Even if other people are objectively better off, you will only suffer for bringing it up.

Tokyo discovered this phenomenon, when it announced it was returning more than 300 kilograms of plutonium and other fissile material.

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Richard H. Speier, K. Scott McMahon and George Nacouzi have a new RAND monograph out entitled Penaid Nonproliferation: Hindering the Spread of Countermeasures Against Ballistic Missile Defenses.

The report is very simple, which is not to say simplistic. Speier et al believe the MTCR should be expanded to cover Penetration Aids (PENAIDS), which seems eminently reasonable to me.

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