Author: Ivan Oelrich

START in a Lame Duck

The Senate should vote on the New START during the "lame duck" session. The New START arms control treaty, negotiated between the United States and Russia and signed by the presidents of both countries last April, is awaiting ratification by the United States Senate.   Objections to the treaty rest primarily upon misunderstandings or misrepresentation.  In addition, though, some opponents of the treaty are arguing that, whether one supports or opposes the treaty, it is improper for the Senate to vote on the treaty during the post-election or “lame duck” session of Congress.  But there is neither a constitutional nor a commonsense reason to delay a vote. Some of us who hope to dramatically and rapidly reduce the salience of nuclear weapons were disappointed that the treaty was rather modest, but it clearly moves in the right direction.  This treaty is not a radical departure from past treaties, it is not even a post-Cold War treaty;  it is an extrapolation of the Cold War SALT and START treaties stretching back to the days of the Soviet Union.  Given the current strategic security environment, neither Richard Nixon, nor Ronald Reagan, nor George H. W. Bush would blink an eye at this treaty.

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Nonsense about New START and ICBMs

Because of what appears to have been a computer glitch, a group of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) was temporarily off-line last week and not ready to launch on a moment’s notice. According to an article in The Atlantic, some Republicans have suggested that this means that New START, the nuclear arms control treaty awaiting Senate ratification, is unwise and should be rejected. This assertion is nonsense but is a useful illustration of how much of current nuclear “thinking” is just a holdover from now irrelevant Cold War doctrine.

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FAS video, Paths to Zero, released.

As Alicia already mentioned in the previous post, in conjunction with the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, FAS yesterday held the “big screen” premiere of its new video, Paths to…

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Hardly a Jump START

Four months past a “deadline” imposed by the expiration of the old START treaty and amid much fanfare, President Obama announced that he and Russian President Medvedev had agreed…

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Changing the Nuclear Posture: moving smartly without leaping

Release of the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) is delayed once again.  Originally due late last year, in part so it could inform the on-going negotiations on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty Follow-on (START-FO), after a couple of delays it was supposed to be released today, 1 March, but last week word got out that it will be coming out yet another 2-4 weeks later.  Some reports are that the delay reflects deep divisions within the administration over the direction of the NPR.  That means that there is really only one person left whose opinion matters and that is the president. We can only hope that President Obama makes clear that he meant what he said in Prague and elsewhere.  This NPR is crucial.  If it is incremental, if it relegates a world free of nuclear weapons to an inspiring aspiration, then we are stuck with our current nuclear standoff for another generation.  This is the time to decisively shift direction.  But we should not be paralyzed by thinking that the only movement available is a giant leap into the unknown.  We need to move decisively in the right direction, sure, but we can do that in steps.

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Flight Testing a Centrifuge

On 13 January, Ivanka Barzashka and I gave a briefing at the AAAS on our work regarding Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity.  Joshua Pollack also gave a briefing, which he has described.  Joshua’s analysis is thorough and interesting but I think I would use a different distinction than the “actual” and “nominal” values that he defines. Pollack shows how the estimates of the capability of Iran’s centrifuge, the IR-1, have declined over time.  That is intriguing but I worry that it makes the calculations that Ivanka and I and others have performed using data reported from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on-site inspections seem like the next step in a series of similar estimates.  They are not.  There are two very different types of approaches being taken here.  Here I present an analogy that I think might make the differences clear.

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Nuclear Doctrine and Missing the Point.

The government’s much anticipated Nuclear Posture Review, originally scheduled for release in the late fall, then last month, then early February is now due out the first of March.  The…

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