Arms Control Wonk ArmsControlWonk

 

The INF debate continues. The controversy about Russia’s new cruise missile raises a number of key questions about American strategy in Europe: How should the United States respond to Russia’s INF violation? What are the security implications of a new Russian ground launched cruise missiles? Has Russia’s “circumvention” of state sovereignty changed the game? And – in a change from the status quo – the show does not end on a positive note, but rather with a gloomy prediction.

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After the powers and Iran in late 2013 concluded the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), I cautioned that, a year later, when everything else is supposed to be settled, the toughest nut to crack might be what to do about Iran’s nuclear past. Happy talkers who didn’t like that message marginalized it for months. But right now, questions raised by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano about what he calls “possible military dimensions” (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program are standing tall between the negotiators and a comprehensive settlement of the crisis.

While the powers and Iran were negotiating the JPA, they and Iran set up a Framework for Cooperation on a parallel track which committed the IAEA and Iran to resolve PMD issues. That  began with confidence-building steps which were supposed to coax Iran to give the IAEA enough data for it to tell its Board of Governors and the U.N. Security Council that things with Iran were working out.

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The “nuclear enterprise” – as the nuclear weapons complex and force structure in the United States have been successfully rebranded — is bloated and in need of paring. It is also in need of repair. The Pentagon commissioned two high-level studies to clarify particulars and remedies. Repair work on an aging command and control infrastructure and a broken security culture is not optional.

Supporters of the nuclear enterprise also seek far larger expenditures to recapitalize all three legs of the Triad. Whatever sums are spent on strategic modernization programs will not reduce threats unless the United States also repairs and modernizes non-military means of threat reduction. Investing in one without the other is a poor investment strategy. Nuclear weapons deter threats in kind; they don’t reduce them. Deterrence without diplomacy is downright dangerous.

The diplomatic threat reduction enterprise consists of the men, women and institutions, domestic and international, dedicated to reducing threats posed by dangerous weapons. The primary locus of non-military threat reduction in the United States is the State Department, but other agencies provide crucial technical and analytical support. The Arms Control and Disarmament Agency used to be dedicated to this mission, but it was folded into the State Department in 1997 to facilitate the Senate’s consent to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention. If you google ACDA now, the first entry that pops up is the American Choral Directors Association.

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This year we’re switching things up. Instead of combing through lyrics about the Bomb, we’re doing movie monsters linked to the evils of nuclear testing. How many of these  creatures made it to the big screen? (Godzilla, in various permutations, counts as one.)  I’ll hold on to your lists until year’s end. The ACW reader who goes the extra mile and comes up with the longest list of bomb-related cinematic creations will receive the usual prize: a personally inscribed and autographed copy of one of my remaindered books.

 
 

Washington is a mess. We are fighting three wars and we don’t have a Secretary of Defense. In this episode of the podcast, Aaron and Jeffrey discuss the Hagel resignation, Ash Carter, and the dysfunction in Washington. Tune in for commentary on automated systems, the autopen, and Aaron’s defense of Chuck Hagel’s socks.

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Let’s be honest: There is a vast, left-wing, cinematic conspiracy against the Bomb. How many monsters resulting from the evils of nuclear testing were created to scare the bejeezus out of the movie-going public?  Google and Wikipedia can give you a head start on compiling this list. The ACW reader who goes the extra mile and comes up with the longest list of bomb-related cinematic creatures will receive the usual prize: a personally inscribed and autographed copy of one of my remaindered books. Scant compensation, I know. An ACW coffee mug would be better. The winner, with accompanying list, will be announced at year’s end.

 
 

A recent trip to Pakistan gave me reasons for hope as well as despair. Pakistan still has what it takes to succeed, as is evident from the vitality of its black economy. But governance will fail without leadership, revenue generation and internal security. Progress is evident on the third front, but not the first two. Pakistan is still suffering from the effects of dynastic politics and military rule. The latter isn’t in the cards; the former has been shaken up by Imran Khan, the most popular politician in the country who, so far, shows little evidence of being able to govern effectively.

The ongoing military operation against the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan, which was preceded by quiet steps to prevent blow-ups elsewhere, has been successful, suggesting that the powers of the state security apparatus remain intact. One notable exception – the explosion near the Wagah border crossing – occurred not for lack of prior warning, but for a failure to connect the dots, which happens in many countries. Whether the state security apparatus has the will and the means to succeed against groups that have targeted India, like the Lashkar-e-Toiba, remains an open question.

Demography isn’t exactly destiny, but it explains a lot, and has a bearing on nuclear dangers. The Stimson Center’s resident demographer, Wilson Center Global Fellow Richard Cincotta, predicted upheavals in North Africa before they happened by running the numbers. I asked him to take a look at Pakistan, where state failure is often predicted, but whose resiliency has surprised doomsayers. Read Rich’s analysis of demographic trends in Pakistan (in PDF format).

 
 

7 months! Really? 7 Months! Is it over?

After the recent extension of the JPOA, Jeffrey and Aaron felt it necessary to hold an emergency podcast (Jeffrey is speaking from an undisclosed parking lot in Northern California) to discuss the future of the Iranian nuclear negotiations. Tune in to hear our take on the future of the JPOA and the threat posed by new US sanctions and Iran’s IR-5.

The Iran Nuke Extension Is a Death Sentence – Jeffrey’s article in Foreign Policy

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During this Thanksgiving season, let’s try something different: Rather than focus on doom and gloom, what hasn’t been accomplished and what irreconcilables are trying to undo, let’s focus on an improbable success story.

Despite the odds, prolonged efforts to cage the Bomb have been surprisingly successful for major powers. No one confidently predicted this success when the Bomb made its surprise entrance, and certainly not when early attempts at nuclear abolition quickly failed. And yet, after decades of hard work, the utility of nuclear weapons for major powers has been progressively diminished, even though they retain thousands of warheads.

Success has been achieved despite powerful constituencies that resisted progress every step of the way. Treaties banning atmospheric nuclear tests, limiting yields of underground testing, and then ending all tests with explosive yield were bitterly contested. Opponents mistakenly equated greater national security and public safety with more nuclear testing, but the reverse has proven to be true. Critics also misfired by attacking the Strategic Arms Limitation accords pursued by the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations. These efforts were strongly opposed for allowing the Soviet Union greater leverage and nuclear war-fighting advantages over the United States. Instead, the combination of diplomatic engagement and containment resulted in the Soviet Union’s dissolution from its own contradictions and dysfunction.

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After sitting poolside for two weeks, Arms Control Wonk podcast co-host Aaron Stein returns to talk with Jeffrey and Shashank Joshi about the P5+1’s negotiations with Iran. In it, we discuss the current state of the negotiations, the prospects for an extension to the JPOA, Iranian centrifuge research, and conclude, as always, on a positive note.

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