Archive for the ‘START’ Category


The article Taking disarmament seriously, as with many arms control advocacy pieces, presumes what it sets out to prove.

That doesn’t work for me.  I can’t take disarmament arguments seriously without serious arguments.  Arms controllers tend to be full of “we gotta” while ignoring the “and here’s how we’re gonna” part.

So in the “we gotta” regard, the article attempts to build a sense of crisis regarding nuclear war while attributing the lack of nuclear war to luck, which, sans evidence, is a hard thing to do.  The “we gotta” also always assumes the efficacy of arms control treaties. (more…)


Senator John Kerry has postponed a Foreign Relations Committee vote on the new START.

The original committee vote was scheduled for Wednesday, 4 August but will now be set for sometime in mid-September.

This will allow the Senate more time to review the treaty itself as well as other related supporting documents.

The non-rush to judgement appears to coincide with the pace the Duma has established.

As Henry Sokolski pointed out in early 2010,

“Finally, there is the matter of Senate ratification itself. The first START agreement, signed July 31, 1991, took 430 days to ratify. Ratification of George W. Bush’s Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), which was only three pages long and had the clear backing of the Republican Senate majority, required more than nine months. Even Senate ratification of the INF Treaty, which also enjoyed majority Republican backing and was largely uncontroversial, took a full five months.”

Or to paraphrase Orson Wells, ‘we will get no treaty until it’s ready.’  C’mon, it almost rhymes!

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.

According to the LA Times, if new START is not ratified by the Senate, it will be for three reasons:

  1. Missile defense concerns
  2. Nuclear modernization concerns
  3. Verification concerns

Not mentioned are a few other areas critics bring forward:

  1. Lack of an integrated security effect–Russia’s ten-to-one tactical nuclear weapons are ignored
  2. Lack of effect on nuclear proliferation
  3. Weak or non-effect of a bilateral treaty in a multilateral nuclear world

The second group tends to be glossed over by the arms-control industry.

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.

Defense News relays the obvious, which is news because expectation management is being exercised.  The administration doesn’t expect new START to be ratified quickly.

I’d expect U.S. nuclear modernization and perhaps missile defense will become more closely linked to new START ratification. Months ago the administration attempted to sweeten the deal with a proposed plus-up of $5 billion (across five years) largely for the nuclear labs.

The labs are of course essential but it is useful to address the fact they are only a part of the nation’s overall nuclear enterprise.

BTW, just how new START adds to global stability is unclear because the two participating nations, the U.S. and Russia, are…well, pretty stable, at least as far as our nuclear capabilities go.

New START is instead a bilateral team-building exercise and serves as a confirmation of directions that both Russia and the U.S. are intending to take regardless of the actions of the other.  As such, it is perhaps a convenient exercise.

We’re really much less concerned with Russia’s nuclear intentions than those of China and Pakistan (let alone Iran), but those fall into the ‘wicked problem’ category.

If the Senate thought new START would clearly and demonstrably enhance U.S.national security (versus ‘global stability’ per se) wouldn’t they already have taken action on it?

Air University authors Gary Schaub and Jim Forsyth say the U.S. needs to unilaterally strip down to a nuclear arsenal of 311 weapons.

Not 312, not 310: 311.

The breakdown is 100 single-warhead ICBMs; 192 single-warhead sea-launched ballistic missiles, and 19 B-2s each carrying one single-warhead air-launched cruise missile.

As an area code, 311 sounds pretty reasonable.  As a weapons count, not so much.  Consider the following:

  • In the summer of 2009, Deputy Joint Chiefs Chairman General James Cartwright testified 860 nuclear launchers was the bare minimum.  ‘New’ START goes below that at 800 launchers with 1550 strategic nuclear weapons.  311 is obviously well below new START.
  • The U.S. provides a ‘nuclear umbrella’ to a number of other countries.  It isn’t clear how or if this is considered in the 311 weapons count.  For comparison, who falls under the Russian and Chinese ‘nuclear umbrella’?  That would be Russia and China.
  • What about tactical nuclear weapons?  The U.S. would go to zero based on the authors’ recommendations.  As such, any U.S. nuclear weapons provided to NATO would go away.  Could Russia’s 2000 or so tactical nukes place U.S. allies and interests at risk?

There is no mathematical solution to this issue; conditions change and we’re dealing with deterrence. Weapons system reliability, survivability, modernization, defenses, and the likes are in the details and the details matter greatly.  Deterrence isn’t science, it’s strategy and as a strategy, it is by nature less than completely precise.

Really all the U.S. needs is one weapon.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t yet exist, but to get things started, we’ll call it the “Assured Nuclear Weapon Defeat Weapon” (ANWDW, pronounced ah-new-we-do).  It is 100% reliable and 100% available.

Then we can go to zero nuclear weapons.