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  • Author: George Perkovich
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: For decades, policy debates in nuclear-armed states and alliances have centered on the question, “How much is enough?” What size and type of arsenal, and what doctrine, are enough to credibly deter given adversaries? This paper argues that the more urgent question today is, “How much is too much?” What size and type of arsenal, and what doctrine, are too likely to produce humanitarian and environmental catastrophe that would be strategically and legally indefensible? Two international initiatives could help answer this question. One would involve nuclear-armed states, perhaps with others, commissioning suitable scientific experts to conduct new studies on the probable climatic and environmental consequences of nuclear war. Such studies would benefit from recent advances in modeling, data, and computing power. They should explore what changes in numbers, yields, and targets of nuclear weapons would significantly reduce the probability of nuclear winter. If some nuclear arsenals and operational plans are especially likely to threaten the global environment and food supply, nuclear-armed states as well as non-nuclear-weapon states would benefit from actions to physically reduce such risks. The paper suggests possible modalities for international debate on these issues. The second initiative would query all nuclear-armed states whether they plan to adhere to international humanitarian law in deciding if and when to detonate nuclear weapons, and if so, how their arsenals and operational plans affirm their intentions (or not). The United Kingdom and the United States have committed, in the words of the 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, to “adhere to the law of armed conflict” in any “initiation and conduct of nuclear operations.” But other nuclear-armed states have been more reticent, and the practical meaning of such declarations needs to be clarified through international discussion. The two proposed initiatives would help states and civil society experts to better reconcile the (perceived) need for nuclear deterrence with the strategic, legal, and physical imperatives of reducing the probability that a war escalates to catastrophic proportions. The concern is not only for the well-being of belligerent populations, but also for those in nations not involved in the posited conflict. Traditional security studies and the policies of some nuclear-armed states have ignored these imperatives. Accountable deterrents—in terms of international law and human survival—would be those that met the security and moral needs of all nations, not just one or two. These purposes may be too modest for states and activists that prefer the immediate prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons. Conversely, advocates of escalation dominance in the United States and Russia—and perhaps in Pakistan and India—will find the force reductions and doctrinal changes implied by them too demanding. Yet, the positions of both of these polarized groups are unrealistic and/or unacceptable to a plurality of attentive states and experts. To blunt efforts to stifle further analysis and debate of these issues, the appendix of this paper heuristically rebuts leading arguments against accountable deterrents. Middle powers and civil society have successfully put new issues on the global agenda and created political pressure on major powers to change policies. Yet, cooperation from at least one major nuclear power is necessary to achieve the changes in nuclear deterrent postures and policies explored here. In today’s circumstances, China may be the pivotal player. The conclusion suggests ways in which China could extend the traditional restraint in its nuclear force posture and doctrine into a new approach to nuclear arms control and disarmament with the United States and Russia that could win the support of middle powers and international civil society. If the looming breakdown in the global nuclear order is to be averted, and the dangers of nuclear war to be lessened, new ideas and political coalitions need to gain ascendance. The initiatives proposed here intended to stimulate the sort of analysis and debate from which such ideas and coalitions can emerge.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Environment, Nuclear Power, Weapons , Deterrence
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Russia, China, India, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Henry Sokolski
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Abstract: In the next decade, it is all too likely that the past success of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons among the world’s nations will be reversed. Three trends make more proliferation likely. First is the decay of nuclear taboos. Second, and arguably worse, is renewed vertical proliferation—the increase in size and sophistication of nuclear arsenals by states that already have them. Third, the technical information to fuel nuclear breakouts and ramp-ups is more available now than in the past. These trends toward increased proliferation are not yet facts. The author describes three steps the international community could take to save the NPT: making further withdrawals from the NPT unattractive; clamping down on the uneconomical stockpiling and civilian use of nuclear weapons materials (plutonium and highly enriched uranium); and giving real meaning to efforts to limit the threats that existing nuclear weapons pose.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Nuclear Power, Disarmament, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: Russia, North Korea, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Greg Thielmann
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: Growing concerns about third-country nuclear threats led the United States to withdraw from the ABM Treaty’s constraints on the size and scope of ballistic missile defense arsenals in 2002. Inaccurate and alarmist projections of “rogue state” ICBM threats were critical in winning support for the decision to withdraw from the treaty and to sustain the multi-billion dollar annual price tag for developing, deploying, and expanding strategic missile defenses. But 18 years after Washington abandoned the treaty, North Korea is the only rogue state that could pose a near-term nuclear threat against the American homeland—and U.S. missile defense interceptors and radars have not even delivered high confidence of being able to protect against this threat. Meanwhile, the absence of limits on U.S. strategic missile defenses and prudent, worst-case concerns in Moscow and Beijing about their future expansion are fueling resistance to additional nuclear arms reductions and stability measures. The end result is that the exponential threats posed by Russia and China are getting worse and the chances of a disastrous nuclear arms race are increasing. This analysis argues that the nuclear threat confronting the United States is multilateral, three-dimensional, and interrelated. Unless the United States acknowledges the role of missile defenses in this complicated reality, it will not be able to realize the full benefits that arms control offers.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Nuclear Power, Missile Defense
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Erwin van Veen
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: On the eve of the US elections, the nuclear deal (JCPOA) stands on the edge of the precipice. The US strategy of ‘maximum pressure’ has not (yet) achieved its implicit objective of 'regime change' but tanked Iran’s economy, caused its government to dig in and increased regional instability. The geopolitical consequences of US sanctions, EU prevarication and Iran’s deep presence throughout the Middle East have been equally profound. At the global level, they include nudging Iran towards China/Russia, the US alienating its European ‘partners’ and encouraging them to develop greater strategic autonomy. At the regional level, US sanctions risk creating an alternative economic regional order, ensuring Yemen remains a protracted war and making a regional security initiative more necessary, but less likely. It is not yet too late to turn the tide. The focus should now be on reducing regional tensions and especially the stress that sanctions have put on Iran’s population and government. Radical action looks more inviting when one stands against the wall, but the Middle East does not need more conflict than it already has. To do so, the EU should first support Iran with a large-scale Covid-19 humanitarian economy recovery package. As such measures are already sanctions-exempt, they will create few new tensions. An economic initiative should follow that grants preferential access to the EU’s internal market for industrial and agricultural goods from the entire Middle East (for Iran via an upgraded INSTEX). Such interventions will not resolve existing security dilemmas but can show there is an alternative to confrontation.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Sanctions, Nuclear Power, Elections, European Union
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Iran, Yemen, United States of America
  • Author: Marco Siddi, Marcin Kaczmarski
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Russia and China share a number of interests in the Middle East: limiting US power and maintaining good relations with all players in the region while remaining aloof from the key conflicts, especially between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and Iran and Israel. Russia’s position has been based on political support for particular states, arms sales and the provision of civilian nuclear energy technology. Moscow has boosted its role by intervening militarily in the Syrian civil war. China has been strengthening its political position in the region for the last decade and its presence is more substantial from a financial-economic perspective. The current Chinese and Russian regional posture further marginalises the influence of the EU in MENA. In the Middle East, the EU is already a weaker economic actor than China and a weaker military player than Russia. However, the EU can cooperate with Russia and China on upholding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, International Cooperation, Nuclear Power, Military Intervention, Strategic Interests
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Whatever his other limitations, Vladimir Putin has shown he is a master in exploiting Russian nationalism and American and European sensitivities. His latest gambit—publicizing new Russian nuclear systems—several of which are still developmental, may have key components that are untested, or do not yet exist—give him political credibility in asserting Russian national strength in a Russian election year, and emphasize the one key area where Russia remains a leading global super power: its possession of nuclear weapons. The key question is whether they represent any real change in the nuclear balance, Russian and U.S. ability to pose an existential threat to the other state, and mutual assured destruction. If they do not, they are more technological status symbols or “toys” than real threats, although the proliferation of such weapons might allow smaller nuclear powers like Iran and North Korea to defeat today’s missile and air defense systems and technologies. An analysis of the actual content of his speech, the changing nuclear and conventional balance between the superpowers—the U.S., Russia, and China, the global balance of deployed nuclear weapons, the shifts taking in US and Russian balance since the Cold War, and as a result of START, the full range of new U.S. and Russian nuclear programs, and of what Putin did and did not say about Russia's new programs, provides a very different picture from the one Putin portrayed in his speech. It shows that Putin focused on the "toy factor" in emphasize technology over any real world aspects of the balance, arms control, and war fighting.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Nationalism, Military Strategy, Authoritarianism, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Siemon T. Wezeman, Alexandra Kuimova
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
  • Abstract: The Black Sea region is experiencing a changing military balance. The six littoral states (Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine) intensified their efforts to build up their military potential after Russia’s takeover of Crimea and the start of the internationalized civil war in eastern Ukraine in 2014. As a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Bulgaria aims to support NATO’s security objectives of increasing military spending, enhancing defence capacities and developing interoperability. Bulgaria contributes to NATO’s military activities in the Black Sea region and regularly hosts and participates in exercises with NATO partners. However, Bulgaria also tries to remain on good terms with Russia by way of bilateral economic and political cooperation.
  • Topic: Security, Military Affairs, Nuclear Power, Arms Trade, Disarmament, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eurasia, Bulgaria, Black Sea
  • Author: Judith Reppy, Catherine M. Kelleher
  • Publication Date: 07-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies
  • Abstract: What conditions are needed for a stable transition to a new nuclear order, one in which the total number of nuclear weapons would be reduced to very low numbers, perhaps even zero? We have addressed the myriad issues raised by this question with funding from a grant on “Creating Conditions for a Stable Transition to a New Nuclear Order,” co-directed by Catherine Kelleher and Judith Reppy, from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to the Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at Cornell University. The essays collected here are a sample of the work supported by the grant. The goals of our project are three-fold: to take a fresh look at the theoretical underpinnings of the arguments about strategic security and nuclear doctrines; to encourage members of the younger generation (NextGen) scholars working on nuclear security issues to see themselves as part of a network that stretches from scholars in the field to active participants in the policy process; and to disseminate the products of the project to the policy community, in Washington and elsewhere. We have convened four workshops—in Berlin (December 2014); Ithaca, NY (November 2015); Monterey, CA (February 2016); and Washington, DC (May 2016)—and held several discussion dinners in Washington, DC. We received very welcome assistance in organizing these events from the German Marshall Fund, which hosted our Berlin workshop, and Bill Potter and Jeffrey Lewis at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in Monterey. Elaine Scott and Sandra Kisner at Cornell provided invaluable support throughout, as did Ari Kattan, Jessica Gottesman, and Debak Das.A number of themes have emerged from these meetings, which we outline below. First, however, it is worth discussing the broader context in which the project has unfolded. In a very real sense, the seeds of our project were sown by the “Gang of Four” op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in January 2007 calling for worldwide nuclear disarmament. This call, coming from four highly respected individuals in the policy world, re-invigorated the debate over the usefulness and dangers of nuclear weapons around the world, and spurred a number of similar calls from diplomats and politicians in other countries. In April 2009, President Obama gave an important speech in Prague, in which he stated that the United States was committed “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”2 The shift in the political discussion encouraged scholars to return to the topics of strategic security and nuclear deterrence, topics that had fallen into neglect following the end of the Cold War. One such effort was a series of meetings organized by Catherine Kelleher under a grant from the Carnegie Corporation, which resulted in our co-edited book, Getting to Zero. In that volume the question of what a transition to nuclear zero would look like was broached, but not analyzed in detail. The current project is intended as a step toward filling that gap. The dangers that nuclear weapons pose—from accidents, miscalculation in times of crisis, or their acquisition by non-state actors—have persuaded many people that a nuclear-weapons free world is desirable. The optimism that nuclear disarmament might be feasible was based in large part on the success of European countries following World War II in building a zone of peace across the European continent, historically the site of so many bloody wars, and on the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Russian annexation of Crimea in spring 2014, however, ushered in a period of conflict in Ukraine and threw the validity of the European model into question. In Asia, stability has been threatened by North Korea’s detonation of nuclear devices and a more assertive international policy on the part of China. These shifts in the international situation have made it clear that a new nuclear order will have to be robust enough to weather unexpected political shocks, as well as the challenges arising from technological changes that can undercut strategic balances and other changes that we cannot foresee. As Harald Müller has cogently argued, global nuclear disarmament will not happen in a world that looks like the world of today, minus nuclear weapons. Instead, it will be the result of a step-by-step process of changing ideas, building new modes of cooperation and trust among states, and finding ways to respect regional differences within a global order. The essays in this Occasional Paper offer ideas for this process. We have selected them from the larger number of commissioned papers and commentaries produced by the participants in the project. We have confined our choices to papers by NextGen participants and included examples from each of the four workshops. The issues discussed include new ways to frame deterrence logics, important both for understanding the history of the Cold War and current questions of nuclear learning (Harrington; Akhtar). Security perspectives both within and between regions are analyzed (Zhao; Martin), and the importance of cooperative approaches to security addressed (Kühn; Gheorghe).
  • Topic: National Security, Nuclear Power, Denuclearization, Transition
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Europe, Asia, North America