PONI Debates the Issues Blog

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The Future of Homeland Missile Defense

The annual Space and Missile Defense conference held August 11-14 in Huntsville, Alabama covered a wide range of programs, but among the more prominent was the future of Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD). The most significant remarks for GMD were those given by Missile Defense Agency Director, Vice Admiral James Syring. Buoyed by a successful June 22 intercept, the program's future now seems less uncertain, with some significant improvements on track for the end of this decade—including new sensors, a new booster, and a redesigned kill vehicle.
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by Kaitlyn Duffy

In the aftermath of the Russian accession of Crimea in March 2014, the G8 has receded back into the G7 with the suspension of Russia from the club of industrialized economies. Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian territory violates a number of international laws, including Article 2(4) of the Charter of the United Nations (UN) and the Helsinki Final Act, a Soviet-era declaration ensuring the territorial integrity of states applied to Ukraine through the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. In return for its sovereign territorial security, Ukraine voluntarily surrendered its arsenal of nuclear…

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The Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) and Defense and National Security Group (DNSG) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) are seeking a research intern to support its effort to develop the next generation of leaders in nuclear science and policy. 

The research intern’s primary responsibilities will consist of supporting PONI and DNSG staff in coordinating and organizing events; providing research support for PONI and DNSG staff, including director Clark Murdock; authoring posts for the PONI Debates the Issues blog; assisting in the review and editing of papers submitted for publications; and other administrative duties as assigned. Interns are strongly encouraged to pursue their own research and write about issues of interest to them and will have time to do so. Interns are also encouraged to attend all Nuclear Scholars Initiative meetings and, if funding permits, travel to conferences.…

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Over the course of 30 years, from 1981 to 2011, NASA’s Space Shuttle program carried out 135 missions, completing 21,152 Earth orbits and traveling 542,398,878 miles during 1,334 days of flight time. But when the Atlantis returned to Earth on July 21, 2011 the program came to an end. Three years later, the consequences of NASA’s decision to end the Space Shuttle program are appearing in the U.S. and UK submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) program.

Because both the space shuttles and the U.S. Trident D5 SLBMs rely on solid propellant fuels, NASA’s decisions about its space programs have repercussions in the defense industry. In 2017, NASA plans to launch the first mission of the new Space Launch System (SLS). In 2016, NASA will decide how exactly the SLS will be propelled. If major changes to the rocket propellant system are made, there could be severe…

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by Kaitlyn Duffy

Last week, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott met with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. to discuss and reaffirm the U.S.-Australia alliance with respect to force posture and defense cooperation. One result of the talks is that Abbott confirmed Australia’s previous commitments to supporting expanded U.S. missile defense plans to counter North Korea’s nuclear threat, a policy that has been around since 2003 but has yet to be acted on. The statement, which was not widely broadcast by the media, is timely; it coincides with news that North Korea has apparently acquired a…

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In mid-May India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by hard-liner Narendra Modi, won an unprecedented majority in the Lok Sabha. The BJP’s election manifesto promised to “[s]tudy in detail India’s nuclear doctrine, and revise and update it, to make it relevant to challenges of current times.” India’s 1999 nuclear doctrine contains the following four themes concerning nuclear policy: 1) no first use (NFU) of nuclear weapons (or “retaliation only”); 2) credibility; 3) survivability; and 4) effective command and control procedures. 

To develop the strongest possible nuclear deterrent, the Modi administration should maintain the NFU, and continue previous administrations’ efforts with regards to survivability. Policy changes to address credibility and command and control problems could also help…

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by Kaitlyn Duffy

“In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up." – President Barack Obama

Since the beginning of his first term, President Barack Obama has emphasized that nuclear terrorism poses one of the most critical threats to the world today. This was clearly stated in his 2009 Prague speech, where President Obama noted the vast proliferation of nuclear technology and nuclear material since the end of the Cold War. This belief led to the convening of the first Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) hosted by the United States in 2010. The Summit brought together world leaders to advance a new level of commitment to nuclear security in an effort to prevent nuclear materials trafficking and nuclear terrorism. It turned out to be largely successful,…

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While much has been written from an American perspective about missile defense, there is much less debate in the English-speaking literature about the integration of such a weapons-system in the doctrines and strategies of medium nuclear powers such as France, especially with regards to the articulation between the role of missile defense and nuclear deterrence. This article highlights the shift that has occurred on this matter in French doctrine after the end of the Cold War. France now adheres to the concept of complementarity that it rejected before 1994. Many factors lie at the roots of this shift, but for reasons of space, this analysis will concentrate on the defining role of the changing threat structure France has been facing before and after the demise of the Soviet Union.

1. Redundancy during the Cold War

Contrarily to the superpowers, France did not develop any kind of missile defenses during…

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On September 18, 2014, ordinary Scots will make a fundamentally important defense decision about the fate of nuclear deterrence in Europe, voting in a referendum to answer the question: Should the UK nuclear deterrent be dismantled?

In actuality, the referendum is on Scottish independence, and the real question up for a vote is: should Scotland be an independent country? But, the security implications of Scottish independence make the two questions strongly parallel. A “yes” vote would, according to the current Scottish Government (lead by the pro-independence Scottish National Party [SNP]), create an independent Scotland within the EU. At the same time, it would jeopardize the UK nuclear deterrent, which is currently housed in Scotland. A “no” vote would leave the structure of the United Kingdom unaltered, and plans to modernize the UK’s Vanguard-class nuclear submarines could continue unimpeded.

Since…

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Last month, in an address to the International Conference on Euro-Atlantic Security, NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow stated, “For 20 years, the security of the Euro-Atlantic region has been based on the premise that we do not face an adversary to our east. This premise is now in doubt.” The crisis in Crimea has fundamentally re-ordered post-Cold War security dynamics in Central and Eastern Europe. Now, Russia has once again become a NATO adversary, and its nuclear arsenal looms to the east. Such a radical shift in European security dynamics necessitates a NATO response.

One important element of the NATO response, the role of tactical nuclear weapons in Central and Eastern Europe, was temporarily decided this week. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen…

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Likened to a Rubik’s Cube, nuclear negotiations with Iran involve multiple, interrelated points of contention. Most interested parties agree that a successful deal with Iran will include robust, verifiable limitations on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for significant sanctions relief for Tehran. However, deciding how robust; how verifiable; how long additional safeguards will be imposed; and what kind of sanctions relief – from whom, and sequenced how – are among the various questions still up for debate. On Tuesday, May 13, 2014, the U.S. Institute of Peace hosted a panel discussion entitled “The Rubik’s Cube of a Final Agreement,” in order to evaluate the many intricacies, possibilities, and challenges of the P5 + 1 nuclear negotiations with Iran. This event was the first of a three-part series entitled “The Countdown Begins: All You Need to Know about an Iran Nuclear Deal.” Parts two and three of the…

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Amidst the growing chorus of specific proposals concerning Iran and an evolving Middle East, the United States should quietly choose a strategy from the same drawer as the one that contributed to the longest span of peace between rival powers in European history. The United States should prioritize stability over regional dominance.

The interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and continuing dialogue on a longer-term settlement have stirred the United States’ leading minds to paint a picture of the security implications of a more empowered Iran. In the Washington Post on April 9th, David Petraeus and Vance Serchuk offered the most recent addition to this line of commentary, proposing five actions that the United States must execute successfully to protect against specific downsides of a more influential Iran. Although each item raises important issues, collectively they fail to address a more fundamental question: if sanctions disappear and Iran heals and grows, how…

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During a March 2014 speech to Iran’s Defense Ministry, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani asserted, “We are not after weapons of mass destruction. That’s our red line. If Iran was after weapons of mass destruction, it would build chemical weapons. Those are easier to make. It would build biological arms, which are even easier than making chemical weapons.” Rouhani’s recent statement represents yet another one of the defiant repudiations that have come to epitomize Iranian foreign policy. For much of the last decade, Iranian leaders have outwardly insisted that their country’s nuclear ventures are aimed at generating an efficient energy source, but the opaque and clandestine details surrounding Iran’s nuclear program suggest a different story. Although Iranian officials publicly allege that their country is committed to benign nuclear ambitions, Iranian centrifuges have…

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In his 1966 publication Arms and Influence, Thomas Shelling wrote, “Military strategy can no longer be thought of as the science of military victory. It is now equally, if not more, the art of coercion, of intimidation and deterrence.” Shelling’s doctrine of coercive diplomacy is a strategy to prevent (deter) an enemy from engaging in unwanted activities while avoiding war. He argued that deterrence is most powerful when held in reserve, leaving the aggressive action up to the enemy. Successful deterrence relies on influencing an enemy’s intentions through the threat of retaliation, which requires both the capability to inflict unacceptable harm in response to an enemy provocation, and the ability to credibly and persuasively project one’s own intentions (to cause harm) to the enemy.…

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Critics of the U.S. response to the crisis in Crimea have provided no shortage of hindsight solutions. Some - like the suppositions that we should have been less “indecisive” toward Russia or that we just should have seen it coming – have been less helpful than others. But the most interesting retrospective proposals have surrounded Ukraine’s choice to give up its nuclear weapons. After the Cold War, Ukraine secured financial aid and security guarantees in exchange for disarming and surrendering its inherited Soviet arsenal.  The argument, according to the Ukrainian proliferation optimists, is that nuclear weapons would have deterred Russia from…

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In his 2009 Prague address, President Obama clearly defined nuclear nonproliferation and arms control as issues central to U.S. foreign policy.

Following the nonproliferation achievements of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia and a landmark interim nuclear agreement with Iran, the Obama administration appears eager to make progress on its next nuclear policy priority – the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT).

At the opening ceremony of the first session…

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Japanese Nationalism: A Cause for Concern?

On December 26, 2013, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine located in Chiyoda, Tokyo. Abe’s trip marked the first time in seven years that a Japanese Prime Minister traveled to the shrine, and the visit was met with harsh criticism by both the U.S. government as well as leaders of Japan’s neighboring countries. Founded by Emperor Meiji in 1869, the Yasukuni Shrine commemorates Japanese soldiers who died in service of their country from the 1868 Boshin War through World War II. Yet, the shrine also serves as the resting place for several convicted Japanese war criminals from World War II, and the memorial has been interpreted by China and the Korean Peninsula as a controversial and even repugnant sign of Japanese imperialism and aggression. After Abe’s actions attracted international ire, the motives behind the Prime Minister’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine should be called into question.

In recent years, a nationalist fervor has swept…

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What's at Stake for the World in Ukraine

The US and Russia keep nearly 2000 strategic nuclear weapons deployed and ready to launch. Modern strategic nuclear weapons generally have much larger yields than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A single nuclear warhead has easily enough explosive power to destroy a city and kill millions. An exchange of 100 of these weapons—which would be devastating in itself—would kick enough soot into the atmosphere to disrupt the global climate and cause a worldwide famine. A more total conflict between the US and Russia could threaten the survival of the human race and of life on Earth more generally.

No country wants to fight a nuclear war over Ukraine. Nor is it very likely that Russian intervention in Crimea will lead to a nuclear war. But it's not just the lives and…

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Stories broke late last week about South Korea’s investment in creating cyberweapons “similar to Stuxnet” designed to damage or disrupt North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure. Cyberwarfare represents a largely unfamiliar and ill-defined frontier to the nuclear field, so it’s no surprise that assessments of and reactions to the news have varied widely; some, like the University of Surrey’s Alan Woodward, have warned against opening the Pandora’s Box of cyberwarfare. It’s safe to say that if South Korea actually makes meaningful progress on cyberwarfare capabilities in the near future – or receives assistance to that end – it could have a range of implications for crisis stability on…

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By Daria Azarjew

 

The global community currently finds itself on the threshold of an historical agreement, as negotiations on the final deal with Iran have begun this week.  Iran and major powers have been working hard together to reach a consensus and repair broken relationships, making the interim deal itself a monument of progress in international cooperation and diplomacy. Implemented on January 20, 2014, it is an important first step towards halting the development of Iran’s nuclear program for six months, setting up limited sanctions relief in exchange for permission for unprecedented monitoring and verification.  

The clock is now ticking, as the two sides need to move quickly to reach an agreement while the circumstances still make it possible. The P5+1 have six months to arrive at a final consensus, with the possibility of only one additional six-month extension. While the interim agreement was a large success, it was much easier to…

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