Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

A groan-inducing article at The Diplomat asks the intentionally provocative question ‘Is the U.S. Starting an Asian Space Race?”

The answer, although you would never gather it from the article’s tone and presentation, is a resounding ‘no.’

The article uses the X-37, the re-usable space platform that looks like a quarter-scale space shuttle and launched earlier in the year, as a springboard to ominously suggest that such “ambiguous” U.S. space activities may “pose a strategic risk.” (more…)


A Glonass Three-Pack

Russia plans to make their positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) satellite system, Glonass–the Global Navigation Satellite System–operational.  How? With a needed three-pack launch on a Proton-M planning to a 2 September launch date.

This launch will provide Glonass with enough operational satellites for continuous navigation services covering the Russian territory.

The EU’s Galileo PNT system seems to be trailing the international field…by a large margin.

New Nuclear Cuts Must Be Multilateral, Ergo There Will Be No More Cuts

Russia appears to be happy with their place in the nuclear world.

Why is that?  Because they are satisfied with where they think new START will leave them on the strategic side vis-a-vis the U.S. and the rest of the world, and they will also be keeping their massive inventory of tactical nuclear weapons.

At least that’s the conclusion you can draw from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

This first means that Russia can modernize their strategic forces as they see fit.

Next, strategically speaking , it also means they don’t plan to go much lower than new START unless such efforts are done multilaterally (pretty unlikely).

Finally, it also signals that Russia is unwilling to cut their tactical nuclear weapons unless such an effort is done multilaterally, again, pretty unlikely.

Not Your Grandfather's Russian Spaceport

Russian PM Vlad Putin promises $800 million for a new Russian spaceport that will be ready for use by 2015.

I’m not holding my breath.  The Russians also say they’ll be testing 10 to 12 ICBMs and SLBMs a year for a decade which just isn’t going to happen.

The Washington Times and the Washington Post both report on Russian ‘compliance issues,’ regarding the 1991 version of START, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the international convention banning biological weapons.

Compliance issues is of course code for both purposeful cheating and inadvertent non-compliance.

Are these compliance issues serious?  Well, the headline in the Post says this could sink new START.

I expect the script from the arms control industry to be something like  “I’m shocked, shocked to find that non-compliance is being accused of the Russians!  People need to get out of their Cold War mentality.  These are minor and easily explained issues.”

Hmm.  Didn’t we just catch, trade, and release a dozen Russian spies?

At what point is non-compliance considered cheating and based on outcomes, how much more serious is the later?

The way ahead for new START should be to perform due diligence, and to have full understanding and knowledge of the capabilities, limitations, and vulnerabilities associated with the treaty.  As it is, the tension in the political theater includes the significant treaty issues both of pace and content.

The Times article goes w-a-y further into nuclear proliferation issues regarding North Korea, Iran, Syria, China, Russia, and Myanmar AKA Burma.

Anti-nuclear proliferation versus arms control appears to be where the real security issue–right now–most seriously lies.

Why do we have treaties?  There are a number of possible answers.  They could be used to codify things we were going to do anyway.  They could be used to build relationships with other nations.  They could be used to improve security or trade, or as a symbol of shared values.

Does the new START do any of these?  Yes.  Should it be ratified accordingly? According to Senator Richard Lugar, yes.

The new START is addressed in an interview with National Journal (posted by the Global Security Newswire) with Senator Lugar.

The interview is Lugar’s endorsement for new START, which he describes as modest.  For those who have been exposed to the Senator on arms control issues, he answers the questions true to form.  One question, “Do you support the so-called race to zero nuclear weapons?” gets a lengthy response, but the “up or down” intent of the question is ignored.

Late in the interview, Senator Lugar tells us that “Russia’s tactical (nuclear) weapons are not a direct threat to the United States or our NATO allies.”  Who are they a direct threat to?  Lugar says a “large percentage” of the Russian tactical nuclear weapons are deployed along its border with China.  While this may be true, these weapons can of course be moved around.  Like to NATO borders.

In fact, tactical nuclear weapons should be of a much larger concern than START itself as just these sorts of weapons are most easily stolen, moved, and transferred.  Why weren’t tactical nuclear weapons addressed?  Because the Russians don’t want to address the issue.

The Russians warrant scrutiny.

Let’s see: public announcement Russia will provide fuels for Iran.  Despite being off-limits via the recent UN sanctions, selling Iran S-300 air defense systems hasn’t been waved off.  Also, Iran is capable of making trouble in Russian “areas of influence.”

This means the administration will have to keep sweetening their deals to keep the Russians holding fast to their current position, which regarding Iran, has recently supported general U.S. actions.

Wonder if the spy trade was part of the sweetening?  That could have been embarrassing…

This also brings to mind the reliability of the Russians in important things like missile warning and missile defense.  We need stone-cold reliable partners and it would take a hand-waive of miraculous proportions to describe the Russians in such a manner.