FAS Roundup: May 6, 2013

Russia’s nuclear arsenal, chemical weapons in Syria and much more.


U.S. Kicks Syria Chemical Weapon Can Down The Road: In a new op-ed published on CNN’s Global Public Square Blog, Senior Fellow on State and Non-State Threats Charles P. Blair writes about the U.S. government’s wait and see approach with the current situation in Syria, and potential outcomes for Syria’s chemical weapon arsenal.

The Bomb, The Test Ban and Nuclear Disarmament: In February 2012, Indonesia ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, (CTBT), which bans explosive testing in all environments and sets a huge hurdle to development of nuclear weapons. The treaty has been stuck in limbo, as a number of states whose ratification is required for it to enter into force have hesitated to do so. With the ratification by Indonesia, there are only eight countries who are still holding out. In a new article in the Strategic Review, Director of Special Projects Mark Jansson takes a closer look at the timing of Indonesia’s ratification of the CTBT and how this pivot will allow the CTBT to improve future global security.

Russian Nuclear Forces, 2013: In the new Nuclear Notebook, Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris provide an overview of Russia’s nuclear forces in 2013. Russia has a stockpile of approximately 4,500 nuclear warheads, of which roughly 1,800 strategic warheads are deployed on missiles and at bomber bases. Another 700 strategic warheads are in storage, along with 2,000 nonstrategic warheads. Russia is in the middle of a comprehensive modernization of its nuclear forces that began more than a decade ago. In a decade, virtually all of the Soviet-era weapons will be gone. This will leave in place a significantly smaller but effective force that will be more mobile than the one it replaces.

From the Blogs

Sequestration Slows Document Declassification: The process of declassifying national security records, which is hardly expeditious under the best of circumstances, will become slower as a result of the mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) said in a statement last week that due to the sequestration, there is reduced funding for declassification of national security records.

Russian SSBN Fleet- Modernizing But Not Sailing Much: Hans Kristensen writes that the Russian ballistic missile submarine fleet is being modernized but conducting so few deterrent patrols that each submarine crew cannot be certain to get out of port even once a year. According to data obtained from U.S. Naval Intelligence under the Freedom of Information Act, the entire Russian fleet of nine ballistic missile submarines only sailed on five deterrent patrols in 2012. The patrol level is barely enough to maintain one missile submarine on patrol at any given time.

DoD Policy on Non-Lethal Weapons and Other New Directives: Secrecy News has obtained copies of new Department of Defense directives on topics such as the use of non-lethal weapons, excess ballistic missile defense for space and counterfeit prevention.

Declining Deterrent Patrols Indicate Too Many SSBNs: Does the U.S. Navy have more ballistic missile submarines than it needs? Dramatic reductions in deterrent patrols – but not submarines – suggest so. The development indicates that the U.S. Navy may currently be operating more SSBNs than are needed for U.S. security needs, and that the current patrol rate could in fact be maintained with fewer submarines.

FBI Terrorism Investigations and More from CRS: Secrecy News has obtained recently released CRS reports on topics such as FBI investigations of terrorism incidents, international investment agreements, sanctions on Iran and Japan-U.S. relations.

FISA Surveillance Applications Rose Slightly in 2012: This week, the Justice Department filed its latest annual report to Congress on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, disclosing that “During calendar year 2012, the Government made 1,856 applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for authority to conduct electronic surveillance and/or physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes.” This is about 5% higher than the number of applications submitted in 2011. However, the number of applications does not correspond directly to the number of targets, since multiple applications may be submitted in the course of an individual investigation.

FAS in the News

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