Nuclear weapons non-proliferation and disarmament developments seemed to be caught in a holding pattern, despite the upswing in news on the Iran and North Korea programs during recent weeks, including the release of the more detailed IAEA report on Iran’s alleged nuclear weaponization efforts. The United States and NATO were continuing, very quietly, with their own strategic and policy reviews. They had not made any progress on reaching a resolution over missile defense with Russia. The most concrete step forward was the naming of a facilitator for the 2012 conference on a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East.
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BASIC Trident Commission
The BASIC Trident Commission held a “Question Time” in the Palace of Westminster on October 31 in London. Panelists included: Baroness Shirley Williams; Dr. Julian Lewis, MP; Sir David Omand, former senior official, UK Ministry of Defence; Tim Hare, former director, nuclear policy, UK Ministry of Defence; and Prof. Michael Clarke of RUSI, with Anita Anand of the BBC chairing.
Panelists answered questions about the future of the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons posture and the relevant global security environment. Paul Ingram produced a summary of the event.
In conjunction with the event, BASIC consultant Dr. Ian Kearns produced the first study for the Commission: “Beyond the United Kingdom: Trends in the Other Nuclear Armed States”.
Workshop on a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East
BASIC brought together a small group of experts in Malta in early September for an exchange of ideas and perspectives on realizing a 2012 conference on a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East. Moderator Paul Ingram provided a personal summary of the issues that the facilitator of the conference will need to consider, addressing issues such as political interests, process and timing, transparency, and broader regional developments.
The future of NATO’s nuclear weapons
Amb. Rolf Nikel, Nuclear Policy Paper, No. 9 in a series put together by the Arms Control Association, BASIC, and the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, November 2011.
This Week – A view on what is coming up in the nuclear world:
- Iran on the brink, Anne Penketh, November 7, 2011.
- Trident Commission turbines are turning, Paul Ingram, October 31, 2011.
- Hope for North Korea Talks? Anne Penketh, October 24, 2011.
- WMDFZ in the Middle East, Anne Penketh, October 17, 2011.
- Reykjavik: 25 Years, Anne Penketh, October 10, 2011.
BASIC in the Media (external links)
- Will Israel strike Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program?
Anne Penketh interviewed by RT News, November 10, 2011
- A ‘Game-changer’ in Iran?
Paul Ingram quoted in Huffington Post, November 9, 2011
- Nuclear powers plan weapons spending spree, report finds
Ian Kearns’s recent report for the BASIC Trident Commission discussed in this Guardian article, October 31, 2011
- Finland will host 2012 meeting to start talks on nuclear free Mideast
Anne Penketh quoted in this Associated Press article carried by The Washington Post, October 14, 2011
Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone in the Middle East
BASIC’s meeting in Malta was held before the announcement that Finland will be hosting the 2012 Conference on a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East. The Finnish Under-Secretary of State, Jaakko Laajava, has been named as the facilitator of the conference. Attending states have not yet been confirmed as Laajava has indicated he will be holding talks with relevant countries in order to secure their participation. It is widely expected that all of the Arab states will attend. If the conference is going to have any significance, however, the participation of Iran and Israel will be crucial. Iran is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but has been designated by the United Nations as in violation of its treaty obligations. Israel is not a member of the NPT and the only nation in the region with nuclear weapons, although its arsenal remains undeclared. As the main sponsors of the original initiative proposing the establishment of a WMD-Free Zone in the region, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia are also expected to participate in the conference.
- Arabs to avoid targeting Israel at U.N. atom meeting Reuters, September 15, 2011
- The Long Journey to a Middle East WMDFZ
William Potter and Patricia Lewis, Arms Control Today, September 2011
U.N. Secretary General renews plea for disarmament
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon reiterated his plea for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation at the U.N. Nuclear Disarmament Conference on October 24, 2011. The secretary general stated that he wanted to “see disarmament facts on the ground,” calling for leadership by nuclear-weapon States, greater effort to bring the CTBT into force, and more transparency by nuclear-weapon States on their disarmament efforts. He also reiterated the need for nuclear-weapon States to maintain their pledge not to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear State, and called for the elimination of other types of WMD and for the development of controls over missiles, space weapons, and conventional arms. Disarmament, the secretary general noted, is “weapon reduction,” by which he means “weapon destruction.” A key component of this effort is international verification, including over the disposition of fissile materials. He also called for the ratification of nuclear-weapon free zones in Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.
- A democratic theory of disarmament
Kennette Benedict, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 9, 2011
- Perception in First Committee ‘World Cannot Afford to Stand Still’ on Disarmament, but Divergent Views Emerge on Reasons for Stagnation, Ways to Overcome it
United Nations General Assembly, GA/DIS/3445, October 25, 2011
- New START Treaty Aggregate Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms
U.S. State Department, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance Fact Sheet, October 25, 2011 (figures as of September 1, 2011, taken from required data exchange between Russia and the United States)
- The CTBT: Verification and Deterrence
John R. Walker, VERTIC Brief, October 2011
- Decoding the NPT: A Discussion
James Acton, Christopher Ford, and Daniel Joyner, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September 30, 2011
- Documents from Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
United Nations, September 23, 2011 (on website of the CTBTO)
- Free the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty: Functionality over forum
Paul Meyer, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September 19, 2011
- Pakistan Will Not Compromise on Its Stance
The Express Tribune (Pakistan), editorial, September 15, 2011
- CD closes another failed session
Beatrice Fihn and Gabriella Irsten, Reaching Critical Will, September 15, 2011
U.S. lawmakers have sought to offer proposals for how nuclear weapons-related programs will be treated among pending budget reductions, which currently face a deadline of November 23. Representative Ed Markey (Democrat-Massachusetts) has called for cutting $20 billion a year from nuclear weapons-related programs for the next ten years, which he has highlighted in a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the “Super Committee”. Senator Tom Coburn (Republican-Oklahoma) has also called for reducing the nuclear weapons force structure, saying such cuts could save $79 billion. However, support for reductions in nuclear weapons spending is not unanimous. The House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Mike Turner (Republican-Ohio) and panel member Martin Heinrich (Democrat-New Mexico), called for Obama to request again this year a funding anomaly to protect nuclear weapons-related programs from pending government cuts.
The United States continued its strategic guidance review in order to plan for the military’s potential use of nuclear weapons. The review process with the military is set to conclude by the end of this year, and may identify where cuts could be made in order to go to levels lower than those agreed under New START, and could also help to inform where budget savings might be made. The entire process will go into next year, and will include the production of a new presidential “policy directive”, new war plans, a revised list of targets and other requirements for nuclear forces.
Shortly before ending his term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen was asked by BASIC Program Director Anne Penketh what his personal views were on possibly eliminating one leg of the nuclear triad. He responded:
“At some point in time, that triad becomes very, very expensive, you know, obviously, the smaller your nuclear arsenal is. And it’s – so at some point in time, in the future, certainly I think a decision will have to be made in terms of whether we keep the triad or drop it down to a dyad. I didn’t see us near that in this recent – over the last couple of years, with respect to the New START. But I spent enough time to know, at some point, that is going to be the case.”
The transcript from the session from September is available online at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
- Leading With Diplomacy to Strengthen Stability in Space
Frank A. Rose, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Remarks before the USSTRATCOM Cyber and Space Symposium in Omaha, Nebraska
November 17, 2011
- Deterrence Under Sequestration
Jeffrey Lewis, Arms Control Wonk blog, November 16, 2011
- How Many Nuclear-Armed Subs Do We Really Need?
Tom Z. Collina, Arms Control Now blog, November 16, 2011
- OMB Plan to Slice SSBN-X Fleet Won’t Save Dough, DoD Says
Colin Clark, AOL Defense, November 16, 2011
- Panetta: Budget Sequester Could Force Elimination of ICBMs
Global Security Newswire, November 15, 2011
- Thinking outside the Cold War nuclear box
Walter Pincus, opinion in The Washington Post, November 14, 2011
- Nuclear Certification for a New Bomber
Baker Spring and Michaela Bendikova, Heritage Foundation, November 7, 2011
- The Current Status and Future Direction for U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy and Posture
House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, November 2, 2011
- Reviewing Nuclear Guidance: Putting Obama’s Words Into Actions
Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris, Arms Control Today, November 2011
- The Bloated Nuclear Weapons Budget
The New York Times, editorial, October 29, 2011
- U.S. Dismantles Last 10,000 Pound Cold-war Era Nuclear Bomb
Glopal Ratnam, Bloomberg News, October 24, 2011
- Global Zero: Obama’s Distant Goal of a Nuclear-Free World
Zachary Roth, The Atlantic, September 29, 2011
The Russian navy recently completed a test-launch of a Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from the White Sea. The launch was the third successful attempt in a row, after Russia had suffered a string of setbacks with the program. The Bulava’s warheads ultimately reached a testing range on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Pacific, following a journey of 3,500 miles (5,500 km). The Bulava has a maximum range of 5,600 miles (9,000 km) and can carry multiple independently-targeted nuclear warheads. The missile was launched from a new Borey-class nuclear submarine, which is designed to hold up to 16 missiles. Russia is planning for a total of eight Borey-class submarines, and will gradually phase out the Soviet-era Typhoon-class. Russian officials have emphasized that the Bulava is specially designed to evade and overcome any potential missile defense systems. Russia hopes to conduct one more test of the Bulava before the end of the year.
- Bulava missile test history
Russian strategic nuclear forces, October 28, 2011
- New Russian Ballistic Missile Sub to Enter Service Next Year
Global Security Newswire, October 26, 2011
- Russia has been testing laser ASAT
Pavel Podvig, Russian strategic nuclear forces blog, October 8, 2011
- Putin’s Return to the Russian Presidency and U.S.-Russian Arms Control
Steven Pifer, The Brookings Institution, September 29, 2011
In the wake of Liam Fox’s resignation in mid-October as Defence Secretary, speculation ensued over whether his replacement, previous Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, would be as adamant on going ahead with the full successor program for the Trident nuclear weapons submarine system. Dr. Fox was known for his threat to resign if the successor submarine plans were scrapped. Hammond had been absent during a key vote on Trident, and has a reputation for focusing on budget lines – also having served as the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury during the previous government. These factors have lead some to speculate that he will be more open to reconsidering Trident replacement with an eye toward cutting costs from a program now projected to reach about £25 billion. However, when asked about Trident in a radio interview, Hammond stated that he was “absolutely committed to the Trident program and always [has] been”.
- British Nuclear Forces, 2011
Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September/October 2011
In early November, Australia witnessed an intensifying debate over whether to approve uranium exports to India. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill pushed their ruling Labor Party to allow Australia to sell uranium to India. So far Australia has refused to join a number of other countries, including the United States, on forging nuclear-related agreements with India because India is not a signatory to the NPT, and some believe that providing uranium to the country will exacerbate a nuclear arms race in South Asia. Indian officials contend that Australia should not hold back uranium exports, especially given that Australia is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which had lifted the ban on civilian nuclear energy-related supplies for India in 2008.
- U.S. still in process of studying content of India’s Nuclear Liability Act
New Kerala, November 18, 2011
- Agni-IV test-flight a ‘stupendous success’
T.S. Subramanian, The Hindu, November 15, 2011
- Australian PM Calls for Uranium Sales to India
Global Security Newswire, November 15, 2011
- U.S. may press India to amend nuclear legislation
Business Standard (India), November 2, 2011
- Further Construction Progress of Possible New Military Uranium Enrichment Facility in India
Paul Brannan, ISIS Reports, October 5, 2011
Pakistani officials were reeling from a report in the December edition of The Atlantic (“The Ally from Hell”) which cites unnamed U.S. and Pakistani officials acknowledging that nuclear weapons are transported around the country in relatively unsecure vehicles, among other highly critical claims. The article, authored by Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder, also includes U.S. intelligence and military officials saying that U.S. forces train for scenarios in which they would seize Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal during a crisis. Pakistani officials have continued to deny that the country’s nuclear weapons are vulnerable to terrorist acquisition, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the report “pure fiction”, but has since announced that the country would task an additional 8,000 personnel with maintaining security around the arsenal.
- Pakistan puts hand up for Aussie uranium
Michael Edwards, ABC (Australia), November 17, 2011
- Whose finger on Pakistan’s nuclear trigger?
Amir Mir, Asia Times Online, November 17, 2011
- U.S. Acknowledges Possible Threats to Pakistani Nukes
Global Security Newswire, November 8, 2011
On November 8, IAEA head Yukiya Amano released another safeguards report on Iran, which included more details on suspected Iranian nuclear weapons-related research and development efforts. The report points to information obtained by the IAEA and other members and confirmed by IAEA inspectors suggesting that Iran has worked in the past on designs and tests for an implosion nuclear device, computer modeling of a nuclear warhead, and designs for a miniaturized nuclear payload that would be fitted on a ballistic missile. It said that some weapons activities “may still be ongoing”.
The IAEA report also points to information on critical assistance from foreign sources, including Vyacheslav Danilenko, a former Russian nuclear scientist. IAEA information indicates Danilenko provided research papers and lectures for Iran’s Physics Research Center, a now defunct facility connected to the country’s nuclear program, as a contractor for a period of five years. Danilenko denies the allegations.
Iran has responded by calling the accusations baseless and maintains its claim that the IAEA’s information is based on forgeries. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also stated that Iran “will not budge an iota” from its path in the face of mounting international pressure. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that Iran would address the allegations, and would be submitting to Amano a detailed written response on the report.
The United States and allies have been considering the imposition of more sanctions, pointing to both the alleged Iranian-linked assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador to the United States and as a response to the latest IAEA report’s conclusions. Debate within the United States has ensued over whether Iran’s Central Bank would be an appropriate target for further international penalties because of the potential for world oil prices to jump as a result. China and Russia were still against any new round of sanctions. However, both countries have joined the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany in producing a resolution for the IAEA on November 17 to show their unanimous agreement over their “deep and increasing concern” over Iran’s nuclear program. However this compromise resolution did not produce a renewed referral to the U.N. Security Council or issue a deadline.
Meanwhile, Amano has sent a letter to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization requesting that Iran grant a special visit from the IAEA to permit inspectors to further investigate aspects of the nuclear program related to allegations raised in the IAEA’s latest report.
- Arabs, Israelis to attend nuclear talks, Iran uncertain
Fedrik Dahl, Reuters, November 16, 2011
- The GOP field’s risky saber-rattling
William Luers, Thomas Pickering, and Jim Walsh, opinion in Politico, November 15, 2011
- Iranian missile architect dies in blast. But was explosion a Mossad mission?
Julian Borger and Saeed Kamali Dehghan, The Guardian, November 14, 2011
- IAEA Report Puts Iran on Back Foot
Mark Fitzpatrick, IISS, November 9, 2011
- Iran’s Nuclear Program
Council on Foreign Relations, transcript of event, November 9, 2011
- U.S., Europe Press for Sanctions After UN Shows Atom-Bomb Work
Indira A.R. Lakshmanan and Jonathan Tirone, Bloomberg, November 9, 2011
- Debunking Gregory Jones Again
David Albright and Christina Walrond, Institute for Science and International Security, October 27, 2011
- Greg Jones’ Response to ISIS Critique of NPEC Calculations
Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, October 19, 2011
- Iran’s Nuclear Program: An Interview with Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh
Arms Control Today, October 2011
Direct talks between U.S. and North Korean officials in Geneva at the end of October were described as “useful” by special U.S. envoy Clifford Hart. It was only the second such instance of dialogue since the six-party talks collapsed in 2009 when North Korea backed out, following the imposition of U.N. sanctions in response to its second nuclear test.
U.S. officials indicated that the goal of the “exploratory” discussions was to lower tensions on the Korean Peninsula in an attempt to avoid any “miscalculations” by Pyongyang. Another U.S. goal has been to help restart engagement between South and North Korea. However, expectations are low for these talks to jump-start the six-party process, which included the United States, North Korea, Russia, China, South Korea, and Japan. While North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has stated that he wishes to see nuclear negotiations recommence without preconditions, but the United States and South Korea have insisted that Pyongyang halt nuclear operations and pledge not to attack the South before the six-party talks can resume.
On a week-long tour of Asia, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta expressed skepticism about the possibilities for success. He called on North Korea to halt its nuclear activities. “Denuclearization means they have to stop testing, they have to stop developing weapons, they have to stop enriching in violation of international rules and requirements, and they have to allow the IAEA to go in and inspect those facilities,” he said. President Barack Obama visited the region in mid-November, and during his address to the Australian Parliament warned Pyongyang that it would face repercussions if it failed to reverse its current nuclear efforts.
- U.S. will act vs NKorea nuke proliferation
The Associated Press via The Denver Post, November 17, 2011
- N. Korea makes fast progress on construction of nuclear plant
Chico Harlan, The Washington Post, November 14, 2011
- A Certain Uncertain Certainty
Duyeon Kim, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, October 24, 2011
- China Presses North Korea to Return to Nuclear Talks
Ben Blanchard, Reuters, September 26, 2011
After years of refusing IAEA demands for further visits to the country to investigate the site of a suspected nascent nuclear reactor at Dair Alzour, Syria permitted IAEA officials to visit the country in mid-October, but then they were denied access to visit specifically-requested sites. Agency Director General Amano reported in his address to the Board of Governors meeting on November 17 that the Agency has since been unable to resolve the dispute with Syria. Damascus denies that its activities in Dair Alzour were for a military nuclear program. Israel bombed the suspect facility in 2007.
- U.S. concerned about U.N. nuclear work with Syria
Reuters via Yahoo! News, November 14, 2011
- IAEA Finds Signs of Syrian Ties to Khan Network
Global Security Newswire, November 1, 2011
- Syria Pledges IAEA Cooperation Again
Peter Crail, Arms Control Association, October 2011
- Anti-Israel Move ‘Postponed’ at UN Nuke Watchdog: Syria
AFP, September 21, 2011
In mid-September, a number of NATO member states further solidified their plans to host different parts of the Alliance’s emerging missile defense architecture. Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed an agreement to formalize Romania’s offer to host U.S. missile interceptors. The United States will establish a facility at the Deveselu Air Base near Caracal in southern Romania, where SM-3 ballistic missiles will be stationed beginning in 2015. A U.S. accord with Poland entered into force, allowing the United States to move ahead with stationing land-based SM-3 interceptor missiles in the “2018 timeframe”. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry announced its agreement to install an early warning radar system in the southeast region of the country, with the United States planning for deployment by the end of this year. During NATO’s defense ministers meeting in Brussels in early October, Spain announced that it would host four U.S. Aegis ships at Rota Naval Station on the country’s southwestern coast.
Russia remained unsatisfied with emerging U.S. and NATO plans to expand missile defense throughout Europe and the potential long-term impact on Russia’s deterrent capabilities. NATO continued to put forward offers to Moscow on sharing data and coordination. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency in October offered to host Russian observers during a missile defense test. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called the offer “propagandistic”.
Moscow has pushed for other options, including jointly-running missile defense, and calling for legal assurances that the United States and NATO will not target Russia with the system. Such agreements are unlikely because the United States is unwilling to share sensitive technology with Russia or place limits on its missile defenses. During a NATO-Russia meeting in October 2011, Russia’s NATO envoy, Dmitry Rogozin, stated that talks with the United States on missile defense are “still at a dead end”.
Russian President Dimitry Medvedev has warned that if the system becomes a threat to Russian security, a renewed arms race could ensue with Russia deploying new offensive weapons in response. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reemphasized this warning saying that Russia would pursue actions of a “technically military nature” in the event that NATO does not mitigate Russia’s concerns. During conversations between Presidents Medvedev and Obama in November, the two agreed to continue seeking a resolution to the impasse. Russian officials also noted that they may be seeking more discussions with the United Kingdom serving as a possible intermediary.
- U.S. May Offer Russia Some Data on SM-3 Interceptor
Global Security Newswire, November 17, 2011
- Obama, Medvedev agree anti-missile talks should continue
Global Security Newswire, November 14, 2011
- Missile Defence: The Way Ahead for NATO
Raymond Knops, (Netherlands – Rapporteur), NATO Parliamentary Assembly, November 7, 2011
- Transatlantic Missile Defense: Phase II and the Lead Up to the NATO Chicago Summit
Ellen Tauscher, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, presentation before the Atlantic Council Missile Defense Conference, Washington, DC, October 18, 2011
- Turkey to Host NATO Missile Defense Radar
Tom Z. Collina, Arms Control Today, October 2011
- Fact Sheet: Implementing Missile Defense in Europe
The White House Office of the Press Secretary, September 15, 2011
- Reducing Nuclear Risks in Europe: A Framework for Action
Steve Andreasen and Isabelle Williams, eds., NTI report, November 17, 2011
- Who’s a weapons scientist?
Sharon K. Weiner, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 16, 2011
- Nuclear Weapons and their Role in the Security Environment
Christopher Ford, New Paradigms Forum, November 16, 2011
- Looking Beyond Iran and North Korea for Safeguarding the Foundations for Nuclear Nonproliferation
Pierre Goldschmidt, presentation to NPEC Conference in London, November 3, 2011, posted to NPEC website on November 15, 2011
- Anti-nuclear Rudd urged US to keep arsenal for deterrence
Daniel Flitton, The Age, November 14, 2011
- NNSA Conducts Bilateral Technical Nuclear Forensics Exercise with the United Kingdom
NNSA press Release, November 7, 2011
- An interview with Ms. Theresa Hitchens on: Space Security
Disarmament Today podcast, November 4, 2011
- NATO’s Incredible Nuclear Strategy: Why U.S. Weapons in Europe Deter No One
Edmond Seay, Arms Control Today, November 2011
- Returning to Fundamentals: Deterrence and U.S. National Security in the 21st Century
Robert Butterworth, et al, George C. Marshall Institute, 2011
- Chinese nuclear forces 2011
Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November/December 2011
- UN Nuclear Body Ends Annual Meeting in Disunity
Fredrik Dahl, Reuters, September 23, 2011
- UN Confirms Presence of Raw Uranium in Libya
AFP, September 23, 2011
Includes contributions from Suzzette Lopez Abbasciano, Brett DuBois, Chris Lindborg, BASIC