Two weeks ago, we wrote of the Secretary of Defense and his last substantive decision — to ‘modernize’ the U.S. nuclear force… Now we examine the Pentagon’s next SecDef as he begins his journey to oversee the most powerful military force in history…
The recent decisions of the SecDef on nuclear arms and weapons complex (referenced below) were accompanied by the SecDef exiting his role as the Pentagon’s top man. The new man, introduced yesterday in the Roosevelt Room at the White House by the President, is Ashton ‘Ash’ Carter.
The question that comes to our mind, as we review an increasingly dangerous horizon of war and threats of escalation, is how does the new man at the Pentagon fit in with the President’s security policies, the national security strategic team and which directions will the Pentagon take?
A first-read of former Undersecretary Carter’s more public positions includes the controversial counsel to use preemptive strikes against North Korea. Clearly an Obama strategy does not exhibit unilateral, preemptive war tendencies but to what extent is the future Defense head an advocate of unilateral first-strikes and a strategic doctrine of preemptive war?
To go to the next potential escalation among many — express threats by Israel and/or the US to attack Iran in the event of a failed nuclear negotiation — to what extent is the “Bush Doctrine” of preemptive strikes and unilateral war powers supported by the new SecDef? Iran is no Iraq, and few Americans are even aware of Iran’s history, strategic role, that it is not an Arab country, and that it comes with a classic set of entangled alliances (Iran-Russia-China) and multiple Mid East/Near East/North African/African geopolitical links that will undoubtedly extend the risks and costs of any preemptive attack.
In the Ukraine, another volatile region, the civil war threatens to draw in NATO, the EU, US, Baltic States and is currently widening rapidly in the form of financial decisions and sanctions. Previous treaties are being abrogated (including regarding tactical nuclear weapons) while a number of newly elected members of the US Congress are advocating war on this front. This past week’s State of Russia speech by Vladimir Putin raises the stakes, as have any number of recent multi-year, trillion dollar energy deals between Iran-Russia-China. The stakes of the South Caucuses routes for oil/gas delivery, natural gas and Turkey’s “South Stream” role in the region, are additional critical economic/strategic factors that are coming to the forefront of East-West conflict.
The upcoming Congressional confirmation hearings could be as revealing of armed service committee predilections as it is of nominee Carter’s pre-confirmed willingness to go on record regarding the many hot spots, threatened escalations, and political sub rosa that operates mightily behind the scenes of the headlines.
Our focus is on nuclear issues and the threats (by the US and/or allies) to develop a next generation of “useable nukes”… a “reviving” of nuclear war scenarios as now being envisioned, debated and supported by elements within the defense and political establishment.
Two recent LA Times articles focusing on an “aging” nuclear weapons system complex has brought public attention to a debate that has rarely been joined since the days of the Cold War. Now comes another page in an existential threat story of humanity under a wavering Sword of Damocles as treaties are set aside and previously agreed drawdowns of nuclear warheads are abandoned. A new hardened attitude is once again being exhibited and ostensibly ‘useable’ nuclear weapons that are described ‘precise’ and ‘bunker-busting’ are spoken of as if they are ready-for-use tomorrow… and in fact forward deployment of these systems is a reality today.
Our vision goes toward a ban on nuclear weapons, not toward next-generation ‘useable’ nukes. The need again is for an overarching strategic thinking (what did President Reagan propose at Reykjavik?), a connected strategic vision where security is mutually shared. Certainly nuclear weapons bring home this point that the use of, or threat to use these weapons does not deliver security. Building on several decades of nuclear weapons reduction is now called for more than ever. The incoming Secretary of Defense hopefully brings a realization that the use of nuclear weapons is no security strategy, but an insecurity reality.
November 22 – redux
It does not need emphasis — the brewing Cold War is turning hotter…
[I]t is critical to take a hard look at nuclear escalation
We hear President Putin speaking of Russia’s nuclear weapons as he discusses relations and we see President Obama changing policies regarding the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. We read a Putin statement: “I want to remind you that Russia is one of the most powerful nuclear nations”, and in turn the U.S moves to increase funding of ‘upgrades’ to its nuclear arsenal.
Fact: The U.S is now proposing a trillion dollar extension of its nuclear weapons complex.
This multi-year, multi-billion dollar ‘upgrade’ to the nuclear weapons system should be seen as a continuation of nuclear weapons capacity as it maintains and reshapes the assured destruction policies of a half century of Cold War…
New iterations of ‘useable’ nuclear weapons are additionally being designed and introduced, new deployments are foreseen, the edge of a ‘new Cold War’ is impacting international strategic policy in the form of nuclear weapons spending and projections.
From NPR — Sec of Defense Hagel To Announce Massive Shakeup Of U.S. Nuclear Forces — Nov 14, 2014 / Associated Press
Hagel’s reviews concluded that the structure of U.S. nuclear forces is so incoherent that it cannot be properly managed in its current form
- a combination of problems amount to fundamental flaws
- billions of dollars more will be needed over the next five years to upgrade equipment
Months of warnings that the U.S. nuclear weapons system is in a state of disarray
proceeds the following release, focusing on ICBM’s, from one of the respected nuclear weapons complex monitoring groups, Los Alamos Study Group
What of International Law on these weapons?
Here is how the UN addresses THE LEGALITY OF THE THREAT OR USE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Far from this rarely considered, eminently unenforceable, International Law is an on-the-ground reality of a gathering era of nuclear weapons development and deployment.
The ‘grand game’ of today’s post Cold War, new Cold War era, aligning interests (and entangling alliances) of developed and developing nations, and challenging the hegemony of post WWII American dominance, presents conditions of alarm, not only as major powers (China/Russia/Iran) re-calculate but also as nuclear players publicly threaten war.
It is not an understatement to state that the ‘modernization’, increased spending, and speed-up of nuclear weapons arsenal development, accompanied by breakdown in non-proliferation progress, together do not auger a coming age of peaceful progress.
Continuing on the risks of a new Cold War with weapon modernization and deployments, lapses in the disarmament process, breakdown of nuclear non-proliferation progress (see Center for Nonproliferation Studies), potential failure of nuclear talks with Iran seen against a background of ongoing P5+1 and Israeli threats, escalating regional war, new international alliances bringing together nuclear stakeholders, a spreading global war against terror that has deeply engaged nuclear power Pakistan and its neighbors, and a ramping up of nuclear forces after years of ramping down… the nuclear threat environment has become closer to a flash point.
Recent events give a glimpse into the reshaping of nuclear contours that is in process.
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
There is still no timetable for when the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) will appear before the US Senate for ratification …
Moscow stands for early ratification of CTBT treaty by all states
ITAR-TASS – Nov 20, 2014
Re: Universal status of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CNBT)
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: Background and Current Developments
Russia lauds US participation in NPT International Conference
ITAR-TASS – Nov 19, 2014
The dialogue “is holding on strategic stability, the work of five nuclear powers, preparations for the upcoming NPT Review Conference
Arab countries call Israel to join NPT
Kuwait News Agency – Nov 21, 2014
VIENNA, Nov 21 (KUNA) — The Arab Group in Vienna called on Israel Friday to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
Well, as the Swords of Damocles (yes, plural) continue to hang by threads, we say adieu for this week.
StratDem will return with WarTimes next week…