US Air Force Publishes New Missile Threat Assessment

The Air Force has published a new report about the threat from ballistic and cruise missiles. The new report, Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat, presents the Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center’s (NASIC) assessment of current and emerging weapon systems deployed or under development by Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, Syria and others.

Among the news in the report is a different and higher estimate for China’s future nuclear arsenal than was presented in the previous NASIC report from 2003. Whereas the previous assessment stated that China in 15 years will have 75-100 warheads on ICBMs capable of reaching the United States, the 2006 report states that this number will be “well over 100” warheads. NASIC also believes that a new Chinese cruise missile under development will have nuclear capability.

Also new is that NASIC reports that the Indian Agni I ballistic missile has not yet been deployed despite claims by the Indian government that the weapon was “inducted” into the Indian Army in 2004. Contrary to claims made by some media and experts, the NASIC report states that the Indian Bramos cruise missile does not have a nuclear capability. The Babur cruise missile under development by Pakistan, however, is assessed to have a nuclear capability.

A copy of the report, which was published in March 2006 and recently obtained by the Federation of American Scientists, is available in full along with previous versions here.

NATO Nuclear Policy at Odds with Public Opinion

Almost 70 percent of people in European countries that currently store U.S. nuclear weapons want a Europe free of nuclear weapons, according to an opinion poll published by Greenpeace International. In contrast, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggested in an interview with Der Spiegel last November that the Europeans want to keep U.S. nuclear weapons.

Question: “Do You Want Europe to be Free of Nuclear Weapons or Not?”

Background: U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe

Turkish Parliament Debates US Nuclear Weapons At Incirlik Air Base

Deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey was brought up in a debate in the Turkish Parliament today by Turkey’s former Ambassador to the United States, Sukru Elekdag. According to an article in the Turkish paper Hürriyet, Elekdag called attention to a report, US Nuclear Weapons In Europe, which asserts that the U.S. Air Force stores 90 nuclear bombs at the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey.

The report was published one year ago, but the initiative by Elekdag, who represents the Republican People’s Party (CHP), is the first time the findings have been brought before the Tuskish Parliament. The Tuskish debate follows calls last year in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands for a withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe, something NATO and the Pentagon have rejected. Elekdag pointed out that nuclear weapons were removed from Greece only a few years ago and that Turkey’s continued allowance of U.S. nuclear bombs at Incirlik is hard to explain to Muslim and Arab neighbors.

WMD Commission Seeks to Revive Disarmament

In a whopper 231-page report published today, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission presented 60 specific recommendations for how to move the nonproliferation and disarmament agenda forward.

The recommendations are familiar to anyone involved in these matters over the past 50 years: reduce the danger of nuclear arsenals; prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; outlaw weapons of mass destruction; etc.

The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission (WMDC) was established in 2003 by the Swedish Government acting on a proposal by then United Nations Under-Secretary-General Jayantha Dhanapala to present realistic proposals aimed at the greatest possible reduction of the dangers of weapons of mass destruction. The Commission is chaired by Hans Blix, the former Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), and includes among others William J. Perry, former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Jayantha Dhanapala, the former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, and Alexei G. Arbatov of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
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The New Russia, and the New Russian Warhead

Been to Moscow lately? If you have, it’s impossible not to notice how commercial the city has become. New automobiles clog the wide boulevards and the air reeks with exhaust. Conspicuous consumption is now an ingrained part of life. Despite the staggering rift between rich and poor in Russia as a whole, Moscow has more billionaires than any other city in the world. Although still an emerging economy, Russia has been sailing along on profits made in the oil and gas industries, inspiring Russia’s leaders to reassert to the world that their nation is still a nuclear superpower.

Times are better in Russia than in the 1990s, when the ruble collapsed, and violent crime ran wild. President Putin is leading his country towards joining the global economy in an autocratic — but effective – fashion. Putin has wisely courted Western industry, and has secured Russia’s place as head of the G8. He also agreed to reduce Russia’s overall nuclear warhead count, but has at the same time stabilized the budgets for ROSATOM’s nuclear weapons programs. While not flaunting Moscow-style material wealth, Russia’s nuclear designers at the closed cities are now at least receiving their paychecks. And they’ve been busy building a new generation of warheads:
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German Parliament To Debate US Nuclear Withdrawal

A resolution introduced in the German Parliament last week calls for the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany. The resolution, which was submitted by nine parliamentarians from the newly formed party Die Linken, also calls for the German Air Force to end its controversial NATO mission to deliver U.S. nuclear bombs in times of war.

The U.S. Air Force currently has some 440 nuclear bombs in Europe deployed at eight bases in six NATO countries. About 76 percent of Germans favor a withdrawal, but NATO insists the weapons provide a crucial bond between Europe and the United States.

NATO’s defense ministers are set to meet in Taormina, Italy, on February 9-10 for an informal meeting. Nuclear weapons are not on the agenda.

Russia and the Iran Nuclear Program

Russia, along with twenty-seven of thiry-five member nations on the IAEA board, voted on Saturday to refer Iran to the Security Council due to concerns that its leaders want to develop nuclear weapons. Russia has long maintained an enigmatic relationship with Iran, sponsoring the construction of a civilian nuclear power plant at Bushehr, and offering to enrich uranium for Iran on Russian territory. Russia seems to be siding with the United States and Europe on preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, although Vice Premier and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has stated that the Bushehr project and Iranian nuclear weapons development are unrelated:
A diplomatic solution to this problem should be pursued foremost; Russia may have a large and difficult role to play in this tricky endeavor.

Global Nuclear Energy Partnership

The President did not mention the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership in the State of the Union Address. He did give a half sentence to nuclear power, along with windmills, but no specifics. The Department of Energy budget will be rolled out on Monday, around 2:00 p.m. It might appear there. Will keep you posted if there are details to report.

Plutonium getting a mention in State of the Union Address?

A couple of articles in the energy trade press [link] have said that President Bush may announce a major new energy initiative in the State of the Union Address. This is a program that has been in planning for over a year. Originally it was called the Global Nuclear Energy Initiative, or GNEI, pronounced “genie,” but apparently the Administration decided that acronym was a bit too cute, with too many “getting out of the bottle” snipes. More recent articles in the Washington Post [link] and Wall Street Journal report that the program has been renamed the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) and is not quite ready for prime time so will probably not appear in the Address but will be unveiled in a couple of months. [link] If it does get a mention, I will return to this on Wednesday.

By all accounts, the centerpiece of GNEP will be plutonium reprocessing and recycling. This is one of those ideas that is great in theory but doesn’t work in practice. The plan is to reduce nuclear waste by repeatedly recycling it through a new (in the US at least) type of power reactor, a fast neutron reactor. [more] Continue reading

Article: Preparing For The Failure Of Deterrence

The Royal Canadian Military Institute (RCMI) has published an article by FAS’s director of the Nuclear Information Project about how U.S. nuclear planners are preparing for the failure of deterrence by putting new strike plans into operation onboard long-range bombers and strategic submarines. This includes options to strike preemptively with nuclear weapons, if adversaries make preparations to use weapons of mass destruction. Some U.S. lawmakers (see below) recently objected to such a broadening of the role of U.S. nuclear weapons.

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