Category Archives: Nuclear

The End of Arms Control in the Second Nuclear Age?

Between 1972 and 2015, the number of U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear weapons peaked at roughly 13,000 in each country’s arsenal, then declined to between 1,800-2,500. This reduction represents a cut of more than 80% in their respective deployed arsenals, a remarkable accomplishment.

Despite this progress, advocates of what is termed “global zero” are pressing the United States to reduce even further its deployed and stockpiled weapons to no more than 500-1000 strategic weapons.

The problem, if examined closely, is that such proposals will simply make the military balance between the two nuclear powers, Russia and the United States, highly unstable.

The Russians have between 2,000-6,000 tactical, or theater, nuclear weapons while the United States deploys 500 such weapons — all in the NATO European Theater.

A second area that concerns the Admiral is that Russia also has the capability to build upwards of 2,000 new nuclear warheads a year. The United States cannot at the moment produce nuclear warheads on a sustained basis beyond 10 or 12 a year, although there are approved plans to build a “responsive” nuclear infrastructure capable of doing more in the future.

While Moscow’s nuclear arsenal exceeds that of the United States, there is no current arms control agreement to address these disparities. Monitoring such small nuclear weapons and weapons production capability by satellite is nearly impossible. Thus, the assurances that the U.S. can always “verify” deals with its adversaries is totally inoperable in this case.

The End of Arms Control in the Second Nuclear Age?

North Korea May Have Taken Steps for New Nuclear Bomb Test – WSJ

North Korea has prepared for a fourth nuclear bomb test, South Korea’s intelligence agency told local lawmakers, as officials from Seoul and Tokyo held a rare meeting to improve ties and discussed Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

Detonation of a nuclear bomb doesn’t appear to be imminent, however, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told the lawmakers on Tuesday during a regular parliamentary audit.

A fresh nuclear test would suggest North Korea continues to hone its weapons of mass destruction and would aggravate tensions with Seoul and Washington. It would also anger Pyongyang ally China.

Lim Dae-sung, who attended the briefing as an aide to a ruling party lawmaker, declined to say what evidence the NIS gave to back up its conclusion. South Korea’s intelligence agency has an inconsistent record in assessing events in North Korea. A spokesman for the NIS declined to comment.

North Korea May Have Taken Steps for New Nuclear Bomb Test – WSJ

U.S. Nuclear Forces: The Russian and Chinese Factor

The current Chinese nuclear modernization program when combined with that of Russia is greater than at any time during the Cold War. As my colleague and friend Michael Pillsbury, author of “The 100 Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower”, told our recent AFA conference, the Chinese are aggressively building up their nuclear capability quietly–their new submarine is now on patrol targeting American cities–but without any overt public challenge to America’s nuclear deterrent.

But as Pillsbury warned, the PRC is moving in just that direction and is overall seeking to have a hegemonic military superiority over the US and its allies especially in the Pacific and Asia–even as it practices the art of economic sabotage to help achieve its goals.

Although China’s expenditures for nuclear forces and actual nuclear force levels are state secrets and are not published anywhere, I have calculated along with former top OSD official Phil Karber that China spent $50 billion just on a series of tunnels and rail lines to hide their mobile land based missiles.

This is also true for their total defense and security related expenditures–they are not published. When the available partial data on Chinese military spending is converted to what it would cost China to actually pay its soldiers what America pays its armed forces, China’s estimated military expenditures easily double to $400 billion using Tiefer’s numbers.

But that in of itself is not even the most egregious of Charles Tiefer’s errors. The $1 trillion figure he cites for US strategic nuclear modernization is a fairy tale cited by many determined to eliminate upwards of two-thirds of the planned nuclear modernization effort by the United States and to make our planned nuclear modernization effort look vastly too expensive.

As one top US general told me “they first got the bumper sticker and then made the rest up”.

The three legs of the US nuclear Triad will cost roughly $220 billion to fully modernize over the next three decades although the costs of the new conventional strategic bomber are also included in this number which increases these cost estimates by $50 billion. The nuclear costs of the bomber are some 3% of the total program costs according to former top OSD official James Miller.

I have written extensively on this subject but Harrison and Montgomery for CSBA are two of the top analysts in this area and their assessments show that the total program costs will go from $24 billion this year–including NNSA and DOE costs–to roughly $30+ billion by the middle of the next decade when the total costs will then proceed to decline.

To reach $1 trillion the average costs would have to be $33 billion every year for three decades and peak somewhere around $45 billion which is simply a urban legend developed through an artful cooking of the books–including double counting sustainment and modernization accounts, adding in an arbitrary $50 billion extra in inflation, including conventional aircraft modernization costs which would be expended anyway, mis-estimating ICBM modernization costs, and discounting any current and future cost savings as between the Navy and Air Force commonality programs as has been successfully accomplished in the Fuze program.

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China Expanding Regional Nuclear Forces – Washington Free Beacon

China is developing a nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile as part of a military buildup of both its regional and long-range nuclear forces, according to a forthcoming congressional commission report.

The latest publicly available draft of the annual report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission presents a dire picture of advancing Chinese military capabilities and declining relations with the United States.

“U.S.-China security relations continued to deteriorate in 2015,” the report concludes. “China’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea and its unremitting cyber espionage against the United States were the key drivers of growing distrust.”

The military buildup of high-tech weapons “makes clear that China seeks the capability to limit the U.S. military’s freedom of movement in the Western Pacific,” the report says.

On the regional nuclear buildup, the report says “China appears to be pursuing a theater nuclear capability in addition to the strategic nuclear capability it has maintained since it became a nuclear state in the 1960s.”

The growth in regional nuclear forces poses new dangers for a future conflict in the increasingly volatile Asia Pacific region, a zone where China added to destabilization through disputed maritime claims while seeking to drive U.S. forces out of the region.

China Expanding Regional Nuclear Forces – Washington Free Beacon

Russia Adds 111 Warheads Under Arms Treaty

Russia has now deployed more than 100 nuclear warheads in its strategic arsenal above the limits set by the New START arms treaty limits—two years before it must meet treaty arms reduction goals.

New START nuclear warhead and delivery system numbers made public Oct. 1 reveal that since the 2010 arms accord went into force, Moscow increased the number of deployed nuclear warheads by a total of 111 weapons for a total of 1,648 deployed warheads. That number is 98 warheads above the treaty limit of 1,150 warheads that must be reached by the 2018 deadline of the treaty.

At the same time, U.S. nuclear warheads, missiles, and bombers have fallen sharply and remain below the required levels under the New START pact.

Russia Adds 111 Warheads Under Arms Treaty

Cheney Warns U.S. Could Be in Iran’s Nuclear Crosshairs | TIME

Says deal is “madness” on anniversary of his exaggeration of Iraqi atomic threat

Former vice president Dick Cheney—living up to his reputation as the Darth Vader of American politics—warned Tuesday that the pending nuclear deal with Iran will give Tehran “the means to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S. homeland.”

But with ultimate congressional assent for the deal all but assured, Cheney’s amped-up rhetoric seemed to mark a last-ditch, albeit doomed, effort to derail the accord, which the U.S. and five other nations have tentatively struck with Iran.

Cheney Warns U.S. Could Be in Iran’s Nuclear Crosshairs | TIME

IAEA: North Korea Apparently Building Nuclear Site

North Korea appears to be renovating and building facilities at its Yongbyon nuclear site, a central element of its atomic weapons program, the U.N. nuclear agency’s head said on Monday.

A report by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security in April said satellite images showed that activity at the site’s main nuclear reactor may have resumed after a shutdown.

North Korea, which is believed to have carried out nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, has not granted IAEA inspectors access to its facilities since 2009, reducing the agency to monitoring its nuclear activities from outside the country.

IAEA: North Korea Apparently Building Nuclear Site

Hillary Clinton emails compromised spy satellite data on North Korean nukes – Washington Times

One of the most serious potential breaches of national security identified so far by the intelligence community inside Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private emails involves the relaying of classified information concerning the movement of North Korean nuclear assets, which was obtained from spy satellites.

Multiple intelligence sources who spoke to The Washington Times, solely on the condition of anonymity, said concerns about the movement of the North Korean information through Mrs. Clinton’s unsecured server are twofold.

Hillary Clinton emails compromised spy satellite data on North Korean nukes – Washington Times

Iran may have built extension at disputed site: U.N. nuclear watchdog – Yahoo News

Iran appears to have built an extension to part of its Parchin military site since May, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said in a report on Thursday, as part of its inquiry into possible military dimensions of Tehran’s past nuclear activity.

The IAEA says any activities Iran has undertaken at Parchin since U.N. inspectors last visited in 2005 could jeopardize its ability to verify Western intelligence suggesting Tehran carried out tests there relevant to nuclear bomb detonations more than a decade ago. Iran has dismissed the intelligence as “fabricated”.

Iran may have built extension at disputed site: U.N. nuclear watchdog – Yahoo News

CSBA Study Says Modernizing Nuclear Triad Is Affordable

A Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment (CSBA) study released Aug. 4 disputes the widely circulated theory that modernization of the strategic nuclear triad, including replacing the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines and their sea-launched intercontinental missiles, is “unaffordable.”

The study, by CSBA’s well-regarded analyst Todd Harrison, concludes that in the peak years the annual cost of the planned modernization of the Navy’s sea-based leg of the triad, the Air Force’s airborne and land-based legs and the nuclear warheads used on them would amount to less than 5 percent of the total defense budget.

Five percent of the total expected budget “is not unaffordable,” Harrison told reporters at a briefing.

“Is it going to be a challenge? Absolutely! But it’s not a matter of affordability, it’s a matter of prioritization,” he said.

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