NATO: Nuclear Transparency Begins At Home

What’s wrong with this picture? Despite NATO’s call for greater nuclear transparency, old-fashioned nuclear secrecy prevents media access to the Nuclear Planning Group.

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By Hans M. Kristensen

Less than six months after NATO’s Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR) adopted at the Chicago Summit called for greater transparency of non-strategic nuclear force postures in Europe, the agenda for the NATO defense minister get-together in Brussels this week listed the Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) meeting with the usual constraint: “no media opportunity.”

Why should the news media not have access to the NPG meeting just like they have access to other meetings discussing NATO security issues? After all, the high stakes that justified nuclear secrecy in the past disappeared with the demise of the Soviet Union, no urgent military mission is (publicly) attributed to the remaining nearly 200 U.S. nuclear bombs left in Europe, and NATO now officially advocates greater nuclear transparency.

Whatever the reason, the “no media opportunity” is symbolic of the old-fashioned secrecy that continues to constrain NATO nuclear policy discussions. The nuclear planners are insulated deep within the alliance with little or no public scrutiny. Even for NATO officials, tradition, past political statements, and turf can make it difficult to ascertain and question the rationales behind the nuclear posture.

The DDPR determined “that the Alliance’s nuclear force posture currently meets the criteria for an effective deterrence and defense posture.” The reasons for that conclusion remain elusive and the news media should have access to the NPG meeting to ask the questions. Not least because the conclusion is now resulting in significant modernization of NATO’s nuclear forces at considerable cost to the Alliance and some of its member countries. Another potential cost is how it will affect relations with Russia.

If NATO wants to increase nuclear transparency, it should and could break with old-fashioned nuclear secrecy and disclose the broad outlines of its non-strategic nuclear deployment in Europe. It is already widely known and NATO’s nuclear members are already transparent about the broad outlines of their strategic nuclear forces – those that unlike the non-strategic weapons in Europe are actually tasked to provide the ultimate security guarantee to the Allies.

Rather than limiting nuclear transparency efforts to prolonged negotiations for what’s likely to be small incremental steps that essentially surrender the agenda to hardliners in Moscow, unilateral disclosure of NATO’s non-strategic posture would jump-start the process, put pressure on Russia to follow suit, and be consistent with the already considerable transparency of NATO’s strategic forces.

See also: Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons, FAS, May 2012.

This publication was made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

DOD: Strategic Stability Not Threatened Even by Greater Russian Nuclear Forces

Russia’s nuclear forces, even if carrying out a surprise disarming first strike against the United States with significantly more warheads than allowed under the New START Treaty limit, would have “little to no effects” on the US the ability to retaliate with a significant second strike, according to the Department of Defense.

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By Hans M. Kristensen

A Department of Defense (DOD) report on Russian nuclear forces, conducted in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence and sent to Congress in May 2012, concludes that even the most worst-case scenario of a Russian surprise disarming first strike against the United States would have “little to no effect” on the U.S. ability to retaliate with a devastating strike against Russia.

I know, even thinking about scenarios such as this sounds like an echo from the Cold War, but the Obama administration has actually come under attack from some for considering further reductions of U.S. nuclear forces when Russia and others are modernizing their forces. The point would be, presumably, that reducing while others are modernizing would somehow give them an advantage over the United States.

But the DOD report concludes that Russia “would not be able to achieve a militarily significant advantage by any plausible expansion of its strategic nuclear forces, even in a cheating or breakout scenario under the New START Treaty” (emphasis added).

The conclusions are important because the report come after Vladimir Putin earlier this year announced plans to produce “over 400” new nuclear missiles during the next decade. Putin’s plan follows the Obama administration’s plan to spend more than $200 billion over the next decade to modernize U.S. strategic forces and weapons factories.

The conclusions may also hint at some of the findings of the Obama administration’s ongoing (but delayed and secret) review of U.S. nuclear targeting policy. Continue reading

FAS Roundup: October 9, 2012

New START data, Supreme Court ruling on FISA, India’s SSBN and much more.

From the Blogs

  • Fusion Centers Flayed in Senate Report: Steven Aftergood writes that the state and local fusion centers supported by the Department of Homeland Security have produced little intelligence of value and have generated new concerns involving waste and abuse, according to an investigative report from the Senate Homeland Security Committee Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
  • New START Data Released- Nuclear Flatlining: This week, the U.S. State Department released the fourth batch of START data which shows that the United States and Russia since January 5, 2011, have reduced their accountable deployed strategic delivery vehicles by 76 and 30, respectively. Parts of those numbers are fluctuations due to delivery platforms entering or leaving maintenance. Also, the United States and Russia have reduced their number of accountable deployed strategic warheads by 78 and 38, respectively. Much of these numbers are fluctuations due to delivery platform maintenance and it is not clear that either country has made any explicit warhead reductions yet under the treaty. In any case, 38-78 warheads don’t amount to much out of the approximately 5,000 nuclear warheads the two countries retain in each of their respective nuclear stockpiles.
  • New Declassification Portal at the National Archives: The National Archives has set up a new online portal that provides an overview of declassification activity in and around the Archives, with input from the National Declassification Center, the Public Interest Declassification Board, the Presidential Libraries, and the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP). The new section on ISCAP declassification decisions is of particular interest, since it provides links to the documents that have been newly declassified at the direction of the ISCAP, which receives appeals from the public for release of documents that agencies have declined to declassify.  Documents declassified through the ISCAP process in the past year include excerpts of several Presidential Daily Briefs from the 1960s, intelligence reports on various topics, and several documents on strategic nuclear forces.
  • Pentagon Sets New Framework for Security Policy: This week, the Department of Defense established a new Defense Security Enterprise that is intended to unify and standardize the Department’s multiple, inconsistent security policies.The new security framework “shall provide an integrated, risk-managed structure to guide DSE policy implementation and investment decisions, and to provide a sound basis for oversight and evolution.” The Defense Security Enterprise, launched October 1 by DoD Directive 5200.43, is a response to the often incoherent and internally contradictory state of DoD security policy.
  • Figure the Odds: Humans like to know what causes what – and particularly what causes bad things to happen. So when something bad – like cancer – happens we want to find a cause; and we also want to know what causes cancer so that we can avoid getting it. How does this concept relate to radiation and cancer?
  • Supreme Court Urged to Grant Standing in Surveillance Challenge: In its new term that began on October 1, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether to affirm the right of journalists and human rights organizations to challenge the constitutionality of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act, or FAA. The FISA Amendments Act authorizes the collection of a broad swath of public communications without a warrant (though not the intentional targeting of the communications of any particular U.S. person).  As such, critics say, it jeopardizes freedom of communication with individuals abroad.
  • 2010 Military Intelligence Budget Request Declassified: This week, the Department of Defense released a redacted version of the budget justification for the FY 2010 Military Intelligence Program (MIP). The MIP budget justification for FY 2010, which was submitted to Congress in 2009, presents dozens of individual military intelligence programs. While budget figures have been censored, along with various other classified matters, the summary descriptions of most of the individual MIP programs were released more or less intact.
  • India’s SSBN Shows Itself: A new satellite image might show part of India’s first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, the Arihant. The image, taken by GeoEye’s satellite and made available on Google Earth, shows what appears to be the conning tower (or sail) of a submarine in a gap of covers intended to conceal it deep inside the Visakhapatnam (Vizag) Naval Base on the Indian east coast.

Event

The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization is hosting an Advanced Science Course, “Around the Globe and Around the Clock: The Science and Technology of the CTBT” from November 12-23 at the Vienna International Centre. The course is also available online.

The course will take an in-depth look at the science behind the verification technologies of the CTBT, as well as the conduct of on-site inspections to verify compliance with the nuclear test ban.

Confirmed guest speakers include Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan of Jordan, Ambassador Linton Brooks and Professor Paul Richards from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University.

For more information on the course, visit the CTBTO website here.

 

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