Arms Control Wonk ArmsControlWonk

 

Arms control has boom-and-bust cycles. We’re now going through very tough times. They remind me of the Carter administration. As Yogi Berra has said, it feels like déjà vu all over again – only Obama’s challenges are more severe. This time, instead of a sclerotic Kremlin leadership bungling into Afghanistan – the graveyard of great power follies – Obama faces a brazen Kremlin leader who seeks to upend the post-Cold War order on NATO’s doorstep.

In tough times, it’s good to remember this timeline: eight years after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty. I don’t expect another reversal of this magnitude in my lifetime, but I do expect U.S.-Russian relations to stabilize eventually. The challenge now is to respond effectively to adversity, to reassure friends and allies, to minimize losses, and to position ourselves for future gains.

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What is the status of China’s and the United States’ hypersonic weapons programs? What can open source tell us about China’s most recent rest? What happened at Kodiak Island? Are hypersonic weapons destabilizing? And why were Jeffrey and James searching for resorts in Mongolia?

Today, Jeffrey and Aaron speak with James Acton, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, about hypersonic weapons.

Jeffrey, Aaron, and James discussed a number of articles and tweets during the podcast:

James Acton, “Silver Bullet: Asking the Right Questions about Prompt Global Strike,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2013.

James Acton, “The Arms Race Goes Hypersonic,” Foreign Policy, January 30, 2014.

James Acton, “Target?,” Foreign Policy, May 6, 2014.

Drew Herman, “Failed Rocket Launch in Kodiak Under Investigation,” August 26, 2014.

As always, you can subscribe to the (now better sounding) Arms Control Wonk Podcast on iTunes.

 
 

For the second year in a row, a PSA regarding the Isodarco conference!

Isodarco
since 1966
Italian Pugwash Group
International School on Disarmament and Research on Conflicts
28th Winter Course on:
“GLOBAL NUCLEAR GOVERNANCE: ACTORS, POLICIES AND ISSUES”
ANDALO (TRENTO) – ITALY    -    7 – 14 January 2015
Directors of the Course: Paolo Foradori (School of International Studies, University of Trento, Italy)
Tariq Rauf (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Sweden)

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Our nuclear future would take a significant turn for the worse if Beijing and New Delhi begin to mimic Cold War thinking about the utility of nuclear weapons. So far, they haven’t. New Delhi waited 24 years in between nuclear tests, and Beijing took about as long to begin sea trials of second-generation ballistic missile-carrying submarines. Both have issued “No First Use” declarations, focused on economic metrics of national influence, and generally dealt with nuclear deterrence in ways that are hard for Washington and Moscow to comprehend. Their parallel nuclear postures are all the more remarkable because they have fought a limited war over a longstanding border dispute. Can the uncommon strategic constraint of these two rising powers continue? Important tests lie ahead, like those facing Washington and Moscow in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

One test will be whether China, and then India decide to place multiple warheads atop their new long-range ballistic missiles. Given the small number of nuclear powered SSBNs China plans to build, the small number of ballistic missiles they can carry, and concerns about the effectiveness of U.S. anti-submarine warfare capabilities, it would not be surprising if Beijing moved toward multiple maneuverable or independently-targetable warheads at sea. And if at sea, then perhaps on land. With more warheads, plus improved guidance capabilities, counterforce options could become more interesting. A second test is whether China and India will go beyond technology demonstrations toward limited ballistic missile defense deployments.

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Are NATO based nuclear weapons an advantage in a dangerous world? Or are they an expensive and obsolete weapon that undermine NATO burden sharing? Is NATO divided about US nuclear weapons in Europe? Are the weapons secure? Are Euro-Hippies a threat to world peace?

Today, Jeffrey and Aaron discuss Brent Scowcroft, Stephen Hadley, and Frank Miller’s recent op-ed in the Washington Post about US nuclear weapons based in Europe.

Jeffrey and Aaron discussed a number of articles, videos, and images during the podcast:

Brent Scowcroft, Stephen Hadley, and Frank Miller, “NATO-based nuclear weapons are an advantage in a dangerous world,” The Washington Post, August 17, 2014.

Jeffrey Lewis, “Activists Breach Security at Kleine Brogel,” Arms Control Wonk, February 4, 2010.

Jeffrey Lewis, “Yes, It’s the Other Area,” Arms Control Wonk, February 6, 2010.

Jeffrey Lewis, “Another Kleine Brogel Bombspotting,” Arms Control Wonk,  October 8, 2010.

Jeffrey Lewis, “Release the Hounds!,” Arms Control Wonk,  October 22, 2010.

Jeffrey Lewis, “Security Lapse at Volkel,” Arms Control Wonk,  March 24, 2014.

Jeffrey Lewis, “A Steal at $10 Billion,Foreign Policy, September 5, 2012.

As always, you can subscribe to the (now better sounding) Arms Control Wonk Podcast on iTunes.

 
 

Give it a second to load the map.

As I suspected, some of North Korea’s recent “MLRS” tests are more likely tests of the solid-fueled SS-21 Toksa SRBM.  The missile in question is an extended-range SS-21, that may eventually be dubbed the KN-10. The Chosun Ilbo reported that North Korea was developing such a missile in October 2013.

Based on the images from the 14 August launch, I’ve geolocated both the launch and impact sites.  I’ve embedded the findings.  Tell me what you think.

 

 
 

Original Caption: “Professor Bernard Brodie conducting a class.” September 1946. Walter Sanders, photographer.

It’s been awhile since I’ve steered aspiring wonks and ACW readers to the virtues of reading Bernard Brodie’s first take about the Bomb. Brodie made some incorrect predictions, but on the whole, nobody was more prescient about the nuclear future, and no-one wrote more gracefully about nuclear dilemmas. Brodie used the word “deter” before it became common parlance. Check out his essays in in The Absolute Weapon (1946), from which these quotes are taken:

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I have a new column at Foreign Policy, as well as a podcast with Aaron Stein, on China’s testing of hit-to-kill technologies against satellites and ballistic missiles. I’ve been trying to figure out where Arms Control Wonk fits in between my columns for Foreign Policy and 38North, on one hand, and Twitter on the other.  Stuff like this I guess.

One detail that has cause confusion is the so-called “Korla Missile Test Complex.” According to a State Department cable released by Wikileaks, China conducted the January 2010 missile defense test using an interceptor fired from Korla. There are no previous open source references to this site. (Those cables are located here and here.)

I was going to find the site. Chinese language blogger “KKTT” beat me to it. KKTT identifies a site located at 41°32’16″N 086°22’19″E as the Korla Missile Test Complex. I believe that is correct.  It is close to the Chinese city of Kù’ěrlè (库尔勒) or Korla.

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What are the implications of the spread of hit-to-kill? What are the differences between ground based missile defense interceptors and anti-satellite weapons? Why is China continuing to develop ground based anti-satellite weapons? Why did the US feel the need to shoot down its own satellite, USA-193, in February 2008? And what are the implications of the spread of hit-to-kill for space security?

Today, Aaron and Jeffrey talk about anti-satellite weapons, the spread of hit-to-kill, and the need for a general code of conduct for ASATs.

Jeffrey and Aaron discussed a number of articles, videos, and images during the podcast:

Jeffrey Lewis, “They Shoot Satellites, Don’t They?,” Foreign Policy, August 8, 2014.

George Kulacki and Jeffrey Lewis, “Understanding China’s Antisatellite Test,” The Nonproliferation Review, vol. 15, no. 2 (2008).

 
 

Gray-haired readers of ACW will remember when the acronym RSVP was treaty-related. During the first term of the Reagan administration, arms-control opponents compiled a long list of the Kremlin’s treaty violations and circumventions, real or imagined. They then commissioned studies on how to respond. RSVP became shorthand for Responding to Soviet Violations Policy.

The question arises once again after the Obama administration’s finding that the Kremlin has violated the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. There has been no shortage of suggestions how to respond.

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