Getting to Zero Update

Negotiations between Russia and the United States on the follow-on agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) resumed in Geneva, but appeared to face continuing challenges over the issues of telemetry, delivery vehicles carrying conventional warheads, and missile defense. Read more below.


BASIC and Getting to Zero (GTZ)

Visions for a New Century

BASIC, with Board Member Brian Eno, and in partnership with the Ploughshares Fund, brought together policymakers and artists to launch Visions for a New Century, a new public conversation to support progress on multilateral nuclear disarmament. Eno hosted the private celebration in his London studio on February 1st. He is a musician known for his creation of “ambient” music, and has also produced albums for bands including U2 and Coldplay, and was a member of Roxy Music.

Among those attending the event were musician Peter Gabriel, comedian Rory Bremner, film maker Stephen Frears; philanthropist Vanessa Branson, and high-level politicians, including U.S. Under-Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher, the Rt. Hon. Des Browne, MP (former UK Defence Secretary), the Rt. Hon. Baroness Shirley Williams, the Rt. Hon. Sir Menzies Campbell, MP, Lord Geoffrey Howe, and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, who is now Co-Chair and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative. For additional information and photos of the event, click here.


  • Executive Director on the NPT Review Conference
    BASIC’s Executive Director, Paul Ingram, was interviewed by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office on prospects for the NPT Review Conference, during the Wilton Park Conference, December 14-18, 2009.
    (Interviews in the FCO “Nuclear Debate” series are also available on YouTube.)


Commitments to Disarmament and Arms Control

Update on START Follow-on

Negotiations between Russia and the United States on the follow-on agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) resumed in Geneva, but appeared to face continuing challenges over the issues of telemetry, delivery vehicles carrying conventional warheads, and missile defense. U.S. Ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, in an apparent effort to respond to Russian concerns, reported in his Russian language blog that the U.S./NATO missile defense system (now planned with interceptors to be based in Romania) is only intended to counter threats from the Middle East, and specifically missiles that are of an intermediate-range, which Russia does not have. Beyrle reiterated that language in the treaty would address these strategic defensive concerns, but the State Department later denied that there will be a direct linkage. The Russians now seem intent on issuing a unilateral declaration that they would withdraw from the treaty at a future point in time if they believed U.S. ballistic missile defense would unbalance ‘strategic stability’. The original START agreement, which expired on December 5th, addressed only strategic offensive weapons, but as the effectiveness of defenses develops and the numbers of missiles decline, the strategic impact of missile defenses becomes more significant.

Further Reading

Europe and U.S. Tactical Nuclear Weapons

Four Belgian statesmen joined the growing number of Europeans calling for a world free of nuclear weapons, issued through their op-ed (De Standaard) of February 19th. Willy Claes, former minister of Foreign Affairs, former NATO secretary general; Jean-Luc Dehaene, former prime minister of Belgium, member of the European Parliament; Louis Michel, former minister of Foreign Affairs, former member of EU Commission, member of the European Parliament; and, Guy Verhofstadt, former prime minister of Belgium, chairman liberal fraction European Parliament, all notably called for the removal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Europe in an effort to support the vision. Belgium is thought to host a number of these weapons.

Belgium’s Prime Minister, Yves Leterme, followed the op-ed with a press release, affirming that his government supports the overall nuclear weapons-free vision. He also noted that Belgium will work with allies to take the nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation agenda forward during the review of the Alliance’s Strategic Concept. His spokesman, Dominique Dehaene, told the AFP that Belgium, in concert with Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Norway, will be calling in the coming weeks for NATO to consider the removal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from Europe within the context of the review of the Strategic Concept.

Lauding the efforts to reduce strategic nuclear arsenals, Carl Bildt, Swedish Foreign Minister, and Radek Sikorski, Polish Foreign Minister, wrote an op-ed on February 1st in The New York Times, arguing that tactical nuclear weapons no longer serve any useful purpose for European security and that the United States and Russia should work toward the eventual elimination of these weapons. They also noted that, “These measures could be the result of negotiations, but there is also room for substantial unilateral confidence building efforts.” The involvement of the Polish Foreign Minister was particularly notable, given Poland’s previous suspicion of reduced deployments.

However, in a report for the Centre for European Reform, titled “Germany Opens Pandora’s Box,” former UK Defence Secretary and NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson, along with Franklin Miller, former Pentagon and the White House official, and Kori Schake, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, argued that Germany has harmed alliance relations by calling so prominently for the removal of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from its bases. They do suggest that entering into negotiations with Russia to reduce these types of weapons could be worthwhile, noting, “Moscow has sought to redesign European security architecture in recent years, and in 2009 it proposed a new treaty to this effect, which received a cool response in the West. If Russia were to include tactical nuclear weapons among the subjects for talks, it would stand a better chance of convincing its European neighbors that it does not intend to threaten their security. …A new treaty on tactical weapons would also strengthen Russia’s disarmament credentials ahead of the NPT review.” Wolfgang Ischinger, organizer of the annual Munich Conference and former German Foreign Minister, along with Ulrich Weisser, a former defence ministry official, responded in The New York Times pointing out that Germany’s actions were consistent with recent developments in NATO posture and in negotiations.

Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists reported in the FAS Strategic Security blog on a group of peace activists who recently breached the security perimeters at Belgium’s Kleine Brogel Airbase, where 10-20 U.S. tactical nuclear weapons are thought to be stored. The incident, which the activists recorded and posted to YouTube on February 1st, has placed into question the extent to which NATO bases have responded to findings of a 2008 U.S. Air Force Blue Ribbon Review. The review had previously noted security weakness at some of these bases where nuclear weapons may be stored.

Further Reading

Conference on Disarmament

The Conference on Disarmament in Geneva has continued without any progress over a fissile material treaty. The main holdout from the 65-member required consensus is reportedly Pakistan, which is unwilling to join a multilateral agreement to stop producing weapons-grade nuclear fuel because of its concerns over parity with rival India’s nuclear weapons program. Pakistan has contended that the CD should also address regional conventional weapons and missiles. The current session runs from January 18-March 26.

Increasing Pakistan’s Sense of Security
Michael Krepon, Henry L. Stimson Center, February 12, 2010

Philippines hosts NPT workshop

The Philippines hosted a two-day workshop on the NPT at the beginning of February. The workshop was intended to allow more consultations ahead of the Review Conference, which will take place from May 3-28 in New York. The workshop addressed, among other issues, a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East and the nuclear standoff over North Korea. Filipino Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, who has been elected to serve as the president of the upcoming Conference, offered during a press briefing that the discussions were “frank, candid and informative.”

Global Nuclear Security Summit

On February 9th-11th, The Netherlands hosted a Preparatory Meeting in The Hague for sherpas to the Global Nuclear Security Summit. The meeting looked to drafting of a joint statement that will come out of the summit, which will take place in Washington, DC on April 12-13th.

Further Reading

  • Getting Bomb-Grade Uranium Out of Civilian Hands: Toward the Nuclear Security Summit
    Summary of discussion hosted by CNS and the Royal Embassy of Norway held at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, Washington, DC, February 1, 2010

Country Reports

United States

President affirms Prague Agenda in State of the Union Address; Administration’s budget calls for increase in nuclear weapons-related spending

President Barack Obama delivered his first State of the Union Address on January 27th and declared “Even as we prosecute two wars, we are also confronting perhaps the greatest danger to the American people— the threat of nuclear weapons.” [emphasis added] The Administration released its proposed Fiscal Year 2011 budget on February 1st. According to this brief on the proposed budget for the Department of Energy (the department over the National Nuclear Security Administration, NNSA):

“The Budget provides $2.7 billion, an increase of $550 million over the 2010 appropriation, to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. This increase supports the strategy to move toward a world without nuclear weapons that the President announced in his April 2009, speech in Prague. This investment fully funds efforts to: secure nuclear material; develop technology to detect and deter nuclear testing and smuggling; and support international nonproliferation treaties, regulatory controls, and safeguards. Development work on the reliable replacement warhead has ceased. The 2011 Budget funds $8.1 billion, $750 million over the 2010 Budget, to improve the nuclear stockpile’s safety, security, and effectiveness with more extensive life extension programs, upgrades to the infrastructure supporting the life extension programs, and new initiatives in naval reactors work.”

The NNSA budget text emphasizes the Obama Administration’s efforts to assuage those who had fears about an RRW-type program and any resulting new weapons systems, but also underlines the commitment to re-invigorating the nuclear weapons infrastructure. It is also a tactical move to lay the groundwork for eventual ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), saying, “Technical issues within the stockpile will be identified and addressed because new weapons systems will not be built. The stockpile management program will undertake life extension work on legacy weapons systems to assure their effectiveness, while enhancing warhead safety and security, without requiring additional underground nuclear tests.” (NNSA budget [PDF], p. 49)

Less than a week before the budget was released, Vice President Joseph Biden wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, arguing that more spending would be required to maintain the current nuclear arsenal:

“For almost a decade, our laboratories and facilities have been underfunded and undervalued. The consequences of this neglect—like the growing shortage of skilled nuclear scientists and engineers and the aging of critical facilities—have largely escaped public notice. …This investment is long overdue. It will strengthen our ability to recruit, train and retain the skilled people we need to maintain our nuclear capabilities. …Our budget request is just one of several closely related and equally important initiatives giving life to the president’s Prague agenda. Others include completing the New START agreement with Russia, releasing the Nuclear Posture Review on March 1, holding the Nuclear Security Summit in April, and pursuing ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.”

The Vice President also delivered a speech on the topic at the National Defense University in Washington, DC on February 18th. The full text is available here.

Earlier in January, the “Four Statesman,” George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, also wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal and argued on the same theme, “But as we work to reduce nuclear weaponry and to realize the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, we recognize the necessity to maintain the safety, security and reliability of our own weapons.”

Quadrennial Defense Review

The Defense Department released its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), also on February 1st (Report, 6.74 MB). Although the QDR leaves nuclear weapons issues to the Nuclear Posture Review, it does focus on “Weapons of Mass Destruction” under which it includes nuclear threats. Thus the QDR did contain several nuclear-related policy guidance points. The QDR makes clear that one of the Defense Department’s main missions is: “Sustaining a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal at the lowest levels consistent with U.S. and allied interests as we pursue the peace and security of a world free of nuclear weapons,” and goes on to say:

“To reinforce U.S. commitments to our allies and partners, we will consult closely with them on new, tailored, regional deterrence architectures that combine our forward presence, relevant conventional capabilities (including missile defenses), and continued commitment to extend our nuclear deterrent. These regional architectures and new capabilities, as detailed in the Ballistic Missile Defense Review and the forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review, make possible a reduced role for nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.” (p. 14)

The QDR also details how the Defense Department will: establish a Joint Task Force Elimination Headquarters to plan, train, and execute WMD elimination operations; enhance nuclear forensics; secure vulnerable nuclear materials; and develop new verification technologies, speed the development of radiological/nuclear detection, and strengthen interdiction capabilities.

Nuclear Posture Review Update

The NPR’s submission to Congress, which was originally to come out on the same date as the budget, has been delayed until March 1 (or possibly a little later). General James Jones, National Security Advisor to the President, spoke before the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC on January 29 (audio and video). Although not going into the details of the NPR, he affirmed that the review will “open the door to deeper cuts and reduce the role of nuclear weapons.”

Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn, III, echoed Gen. Jones’ comment while speaking at the House of Commons All-Party Parliamentary Group on Transatlantic Security, London, January 25th:

“It was in Europe that President Obama first shared a vision of a world that will some day be free from nuclear threat. His speech in Prague has motivated our department’s nuclear posture review, which must balance the President’s bold call for eventual disarmament with his commitment to protect our country, and our allies, as long as a nuclear threat remains.”

Senator Lugar on nuclear arms control

Senator Richard Lugar (Republican-Indiana), Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, delivered a detailed speech on nuclear arms control issues on January 28th. He expressed his wish that strong verification measures continue under a new START-follow-on agreement, and called for an expansion of Nunn-Lugar Threat Cooperation programs to secure fissile materials around the world.

Decertification of Air Force Squadron that oversees nuclear weapons

The 898th Munitions Squadron at Kirtland Air Force Base in Nevada has lost its certification to oversee about 2,000 nuclear warheads at what is one of two of the United States’ largest nuclear storage bases. The reason for the decertification, which happened on January 27th, was not entirely clear, although a spokesperson said that the squadron had exhibited problems of an administrative nature, such as recordkeeping, and that the decision to decertify the squadron was intended to provide more time for corrections to be made. The squadron and its parent unit, the 498th Nuclear Systems Wing, and another Wing at Kirtland (377th Air Base Wing) had failed a nuclear surety inspection conducted at the end of November. The Air Force has another inspection of the base scheduled for June, and the squadron could be recertified at that time. Until their recertification, personnel from another squadron have been brought in to fulfill their duties.

Further Reading

  • Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, Ellen Tauscher,
    speech at Nuclear Deterrence Summit

    Remarks as Prepared for Delivery, Virginia, February 17, 2010
  • Deputy Secretary of Energy, Daniel Poneman, speech at
    Nuclear Deterrence Summit

    Remarks as Prepared for Delivery, Virginia, February 17, 2010
  • How the US took on Dr. Strangelove and tried to make Americans love the bomb
    (“Recently unearthed film, made to counter fears after release of
    Peter Sellers movie, claimed US power was best war deterrent.”)
    Chris McGreal, The Guardian, February 11, 2010
  • Film: SAC Command Post
    U.S. Air Force Special Film Project 1236, n.d, Produced by Air Force Audio Visual
    Service (Military Airlift Command), 1365th Photo Squadron,
    Source: National Archives, Motion Pictures Unit, Record Group 342.
    Available online via The National Security Archive, The George Washington University
  • Japan Hates TLAM-N
    (Blog entry on Japanese Foreign Minister Okada’s letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton clarifying that Japan does not demand that the United States retain the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile-Nuclear — which was sent in response to news reports and as a result of findings of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States) Jeffrey Lewis, Arms Control Wonk, January 25, 2010


President approves revised military doctrine and nuclear policy

President Dmitry Medvedev approved Russia’s revised military doctrine and the “Fundamentals of the state policy on nuclear deterrence until 2020,” on February 5th. The doctrine reaffirms the strategic triad, and states that nuclear weapons would be used only when Russia’s existence is threatened but keeps open the option of first-use. NATO expansion was highlighted as a particular military threat, a point raised by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov when he spoke at the Munich Security Conference the day after the doctrine’s release. According to an analysis by Nikolai Sokov of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, the military doctrine tends to reduce the emphasis on nuclear weapons overall when compared to the previous doctrine and also emphasizes “strategic deterrence capability,” possibly indicating a preference for lowering the visibility of its sub-strategic, or tactical, nuclear weapons.

United Kingdom

Conservatives considering delay for Trident replacement by five years

The upcoming General Election (due by June 3rd but likely to be held on May 6th), dominates debate within the United Kingdom. The Telegraph covered tensions within the Conservative Party, as some propose to save money in the short term by delaying the program. Conservative Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox has resisted supporting such a delay, but has said that he would accept going down from four to three submarines if the United Kingdom could still maintain a 24-hour patrol. The comments by the Conservative candidate for the Barrow shipyard due to build the next generation of submarines suggested there may have been serious discussion on the frontbench about delaying the project to time it better with the U.S. replacement program.

The Labour government had already confirmed its intention to exclude Trident from defense spending reviews, a move criticized by Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg. The Guardian issued an editorial on February 5th, calling for a pause in spending on aircraft carriers and Trident replacement until thorough defense reviews have been conducted.

Debates over U.K. defense spending heated up after the Ministry of Defence released its “Green Paper,” formally titled “Adaptability and Partnership: Issues for the Strategic Defence Review“. A comprehensive defence review is planned for after the election whatever the result. Budget shortfalls have been placing pressures on all of the armed services, and Trident replacement is the most expensive planned program, with a capital cost likely to reach well over £25 billion (BASIC’s Green Paper on Trident Replacement, 2007, p. 13). Currently Trident will not be considered as part of the review, though BASIC is pressing hard for this exclusion to be reviewed.

United States and United Kingdom consider shared development of new fuse for nuclear weapons

Global Security Newswire reported on January 7th that the United Kingdom and United States might look to jointly develop a replacement fuse for their nuclear warheads, controlling the altitude of detonation. Joint production is being considered as a cost-saving measure and the new fuse would possibly replace three fuses that are currently used. Sandia National Laboratory is conducting a program feasibility assessment, due in October.

Further Reading


Iran announces enrichment of uranium to higher levels

In an effort to shape negotiations over the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) proposal, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization notified the IAEA on February 8th that Iran will further enrich its own uranium to a level sufficient for the reactor (though it is yet unclear how Iran will fabricate the fuel). The TRR proposal, which the IAEA had put forward last fall, would have set the framework for a uranium fuel swap. Iran would export about 70% of its current stock of enriched uranium (enriched to 3.5%), to be enriched abroad, fabricated, and returned some months later as fuel rods for the research reactor that is used primarily for medical purposes. Iran, lacking any trust in the process and the partners involved in this proposal, were concerned at the lack of any guarantee once it lost control of its stock, and proposed different terms that have so far been rejected. These have included export in smaller batches or to conduct the swap simultaneously on Iranian soil. Turkish officials are participating in talks to help find agreement, including the possibility that Turkey might host the fuel swap on its soil as part of a compromise deal.

Iran’s indigenous efforts to enrich its uranium to 19.75% place it further down the path towards the capacity to produce weapons-grade uranium (80-90% U235). Iranian officials have repeatedly said that the nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an interview on Russia’s NTV Channel on February 12th that “the whole world should be free of nuclear weapons because we see such weapons as inhumane.” Iran will be hosting a conference in Tehran on April 17th and 18th to discuss moves towards a nuclear weapon free world.

New IAEA Report

On February 18th, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released an update on Iran’s implementation of NPT safeguards and compliance with key U.N. Security Council Resolutions. The report calls on Iran to “clarify” issues surrounding the “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear program, citing the collection of evidence suggesting that Iran may have conducted “activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile,” work that may have continued past 2004. The report notes that Iran has continued operating the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) and Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz against resolutions of the IAEA Board of Governors and the U.N. Security Council, and has continued constructing the enrichment plant at Fordow. On the issue of Iran announcing that it will further enrich its own uranium for the TRR, “The period of notice provided by Iran regarding related changes made to PFEP was insufficient for the Agency to adjust the existing safeguards procedures before Iran started to feed the material into PFEP,” and noted that Iran had moved most of its LEU stock to the plant for further enrichment. The Director General requested that Iran work towards fully implementing their Safeguards Agreement, as well as the Additional Protocol.

United States leading push for more sanctions

After Tehran’s announcement to enrich its uranium to a higher level, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called on the U.N. Security Council to approve within weeks a resolution for new sanctions against Iran. France holds the Presidency of the Security Council until the end of the month and has made concerted efforts to convince other leaders that new sanctions should be imposed as a matter of urgency.

The calls follow several weeks of lobbying for stronger and more focused sanctions. The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed bills that would specifically target Iran’s gasoline suppliers and elites (the two versions of the bill must be reconciled and signed before becoming law). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was meeting with Russian officials to encourage them to sign onto a tougher sanctions regime, and Russia had indicated in recent weeks that it has become amenable to more sanctions. However, China was continuing to express its wariness over another round, and may well abstain.

Update on Bushehr nuclear plant

After suffering repeated delays over the course of decades, Iranian and Russian officials are saying that Iran’s first nuclear power plant, located at the southwestern coastal city of Bushehr, will be operating by mid-2010. The head of the Russian Rosatom state nuclear corporation, Sergei Kiriyenko, declared, “There is absolutely no doubt that it will be built this year. Everything is going according to schedule.” Given previous such commitments it is not clear which schedule he was referring to.

United States releases annual threat assessment

The public version of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s (IC) annual threat assessment produced for Congress became available on February 2nd. The IC reports:

“We continue to assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that bring it closer to being able to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.” (p. 14)

This public version points to two key developments of concern. First, it cited Iran’s number of installed centrifuges as having increased from 3,000 in 2007 to 8,000, recently. However, the document points to IAEA reports that Iran has been experiencing problems at Natanz, which have resulted in only about half of its centrifuges operating, and with a dramatically reduced output. The other development of concern is the construction of the nuclear facility at Qom; secret until September 2009. The IC is worried about the facility because it believes that it is being built deep underground and appears to be too small to play any significant role in a civilian energy program— suggesting that it may be for the purpose of providing Iran with another option for producing military grade fissile material – if and when it chooses to do so.

Further Reading

North Korea

Diplomatic activity increases

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan travelled to Beijing on February 9th for several days of meetings with Chinese officials in an apparent attempt to revitalize the Six Party Talks, which also include South Korea, Japan, Russia, and the United States. According to Foreign Minister Kim, he and Chinese negotiators discussed issues surrounding a possible peace accord between the United States and North Korea to formally end the 1950-53 war, and for the United Nations to remove sanctions that it has imposed on North Korea. Seoul and Tokyo are maintaining that progress made in North Korea’s nuclear disarmament should be a precondition for these offers. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency was reporting that North Korea’s Foreign Minister would eventually head to Washington for additional discussions, but U.S. officials were denying that such plans have been arranged yet.

During the same week, high-level U.N. envoy B. Lynn Pascoe travelled to Pyongyang to meet with North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun and Kim Yong Nam, deputy to the President. He reportedly delivered a letter from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for President Kim Jong-Il, although details of the letter and the discussions have not been publicly disclosed. Pascoe said subsequently that North Korean officials are “not eager” to return to the Six Party Talks, but may do so because of mounting economic hardship.

United States releases intelligence review on North Korea

The public version of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s (IC) annual assessment produced for Congress became available on February 2nd. The section on North Korea’s nuclear program pointed to fears that Pyongyang, under economic pressure, would repeat past behavior and export nuclear technology. The report noted that the probable May 2009 nuclear test was likely more successful than the 2006 test, and said that the “Intelligence Community continues to assess with high confidence that North Korea has pursued a uranium enrichment capability in the past, which we assess was for weapons.” (p. 14) IC analysts cited the large conventional military imbalance in favor of the South over the North, and President Kim Jong-Il’s desire for international recognition, as major motivations for Pyonyang to continue pursuing a nuclear weapons program. The IC also raised continuing concerns about North Korea’s missile capabilities and development.


India strikes nuclear deal with United Kingdom

Indian and British officials signed an agreement on February 11th which will allow cooperation between the two countries over India’s civilian nuclear program. Britain follows Russia, the United States, and France, which have also reached similar deals. The agreements have been seen as controversial in part because India is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has nuclear weapons.

India successfully tests long-range missile

India’s Defence Ministry announced on February 7th that it has again successfully tested its Agni III, which is a nuclear-capable missile. With a range of 3,000 kilometers, the Agni III would allow India to reach into the Middle East and China.

Prime Minister Singh on CTBT

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama during his visit to New Delhi on December 29th that India is interested in continuing its moratorium on nuclear testing, but that it would not accede to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) until China and the United States ratify the treaty first, a policy that reflects former Prime Minister Vajpayee’s stance. Prime Minister Hatoyama had said during their meeting that he urged all three countries to ratify the CTBT, especially at a time when there is “rising momentum” for the treaty to enter into force. During a joint press conference, the two leaders also noted the possibility of future cooperation over nuclear energy programs.

Further Reading


Pakistan seeks nuclear energy cooperation and more conventional weapons from United States

The Pakistani newspaper DAWN reported on February 15th comments by the Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, that Washington is entering into negotiations for cooperation over the country’s civilian nuclear program. Amb. Haqqani added that his government would like an agreement similar to the one that the United States reached with India. He remains worried about India’s conventional military purchases, and noted that Pakistan would be looking to purchase more conventional weapons from the United States, adding, “We cannot be assured by statements that India will not wage a war against us.” Pakistan and India were to re-enter peace talks near the end of February, but the meetings might be put on hold because of a terrorist attack that killed nine people in Pune, a city in western India, on February 13th. Indian officials are investigating allegations of whether Pakistanis and U.S. citizen David Headley are behind the attack. The resumption of peace talks would have been the first since the November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India.

Further Reading

Pakistan’s Nuclear Future: Reining in the Risk
Henry Sokolski, ed., Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College: Carlisle, Pennsylvania, December 2009.

Missile Defense

United States finishes Ballistic Missile Defense Review

The U.S. Defense Department conducted its first ever Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Review, released on February 1st, along with a 48-page report (2.87 MB). The review reached the conclusion that, “the ballistic missile threat is increasing quantitatively and qualitatively” and:

“…[B]allistic missile systems are becoming more flexible, mobile, survivable, reliable, and accurate, while also increasing in range. A number of states are also working to increase the protection of their ballistic missiles from pre-launch attack and to increase their effectiveness in penetrating missile defenses. Several states are also developing nuclear, chemical, and/or biological warheads for their missiles.” (p. iii)

The review emphasized that regional missile threats were more urgent than the more slowly emerging long-range threats, noting that the United States would continue to develop its long-range defense capabilities, but not: “at the same accelerated rate or with the same level of risk as in recent years. Rather, the United States will refocus its homeland BMD program as it began to do with the fiscal year (FY) 2010 budget—maintaining the current level of capability with 30 ground-based interceptors (GBIs) and further developing proven capabilities that will enhance homeland defense should a new threat emerge.” (p. iv)

Particular emphasis was given to the development of mobile and regional defenses, such as the SM-3, for example, with the “phased adaptive approach” for the revamped missile defense system planned for NATO Europe. The report noted that this approach would allow for eventual Russian cooperation, if “political circumstances make that possible.” (p.34)

The review recommended that a comprehensive approach be taken toward ballistic missile threats, with prevention, international engagement, and continued use of deterrence, both conventional and nuclear, saying, “While missile defenses play an important role in regional deterrence, other components will also be significant. Against nuclear-armed states, regional deterrence will necessarily include a nuclear component (whether forward deployed or not).” (p.23)

The Secretary of Defense, in conjunction with the Director of National Intelligence, is conducting the second Space Posture Review in tandem with the Quadrennial Defense Review (view report 6.74 MB), which was released on February 1st. The SPR has been delayed by several months, thus a full report is unavailable, but a summary of the mandate is available here.

Administration releases proposed budget for missile defense

The Obama Administration’s budget, released on February 1st, reflected the conclusions of the BMD Review and recommended that the Defense Department, “…hold the number of deployed Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) interceptors at 30, which provides an adequate near-term defensive capability of the United States, while allowing for additional testing and the resolution of problems with interceptor technology. …The program had planned to deploy 44 interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, by 2011.” (Terminations, Reductions and Savings, p. 79)

The budget also recommended the termination of the Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV) Program, and a shifting of resources to:

“…proven, near-term missile defense programs, such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense programs. The capabilities of the THAAD and Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense programs have been demonstrated through numerous successful flight tests. This termination of MKV will save over $4 billion from 2010 through 2015. In addition, program requirements are uncertain and the program is already behind schedule and over budget because of technological problems.” (Terminations, Reductions and Savings, p. 42)

Furthermore, the Administration advocated for the termination of the second Airborne Laser (ABL) prototype, instead prescribing to “… focus the program’s research and development efforts on resolving the numerous technology problems with the first ABL prototype.” (Terminations, Reductions and Savings, p. 72)

Further Reading

U.S.-long-range missile test failure; Airborne Laser test success

The United States’ test of its long-range missile defense system failed when the associated sea-based X-band radar malfunctioned. The test was conducted on January 31st at the U.S. Army site at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. U.S. defense officials said they would need several weeks before they could report on the cause of the radar’s failure. The system is different than the revised proposal the Obama Administration has put forward for NATO Europe.

The U.S. Defense Department proclaimed a successful test of its Airborne Laser system on February 11th. A laser emitted from a Boeing 747 disabled a Scud-type missile near Point Mugu, a military test range in the Pacific. However, the test was unlikely to change the Administration’s plans to cut back on the program that was already behind schedule.

Russia issues fresh complaints over missile defense plans in Europe

Russian officials have been expressing dismay over recent announcements by NATO-member Eastern European countries interested in hosting aspects of the revised U.S./NATO missile defense system for Europe. Romanian President, Traian Basescu, announced on February 4th that his government has given approval for the United States to base components of a missile defense system in his country. Bulgarian officials have also indicated an interest in hosting part of the revamped system. The announcements seemed to increase tensions around the bi-lateral talks for a follow-on agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Russian envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, said that he wanted “assurances” that the missile system would be incapable of intercepting Russian Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). Russia has also sent an “official query” to Bulgaria on this possible cooperation with the United States. In a show of support to Russia, officials from Moldova’s “breakaway” region of Transdniestria announced that they would be willing to host Russian Iskander missiles in response to such U.S./NATO missile defense deployments, but Russian officials publicly said they are not interested in the offer. The Prague Post reported on February 10th that the Czech and U.S. governments would soon discuss options for the Czech Republic to host the command center for the revised missile defense system.

U.S. officials maintain that the proposed system is for defending against threats from the Middle East and not directed against Russia’s arsenal. The Obama Administration last fall cancelled the previous Administration’s plans for basing 10 long-range missile defense interceptors in Poland, and an associated radar base in the Czech Republic. Administration officials have instead laid out a phased deployment program for Europe designed around SM-3 interceptors.

  • MDAA: Poland’s Deployment of U.S. Patriot Missiles Conflicts With Obama’s Plan
    Riki Ellison, Chairman and Founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA), Defence Professionals, January 25, 2010

China tests ground-based missile defense

The Chinese government announced on January 11th that it has conducted a successful test of a land-based missile defense system, according to Xinhua News Agency. Although the official Chinese announcement said that the test was not aimed at any country and was merely defensive, speculation persisted that the test’s timing was linked to irritation with the Obama Administration’s decision to go ahead with the sale of conventional weapons to Taiwan, a deal which had originally been drafted during the Bush Administration, and also possibly a reaction to India’s announcement that it would be expanding its missile defense work to include anti-satellite programs.

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