Trump's SecDef Pick: Do We Need ICBMs?

Gen. Mattis on ICBMs - “James Mattis, the retired general Donald Trump has chosen to be the next US defence secretary, has questioned the need for land-based nuclear missiles on the grounds they represent a higher risk than other weapons of being launched on a false alarm,” writes Julian Borger for The Guardian. “Mattis raised doubts about US nuclear orthodoxy in a statement to Congress in 2015, raising the issue over whether nuclear deterrence should continue to rest on a ‘triad’ of weapon types: land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched missiles and warheads carried by air force bombers.”

--“The US has about 400 ICBMs on a ‘hair-trigger alert’, ready to launch within minutes if early warning systems show an incoming attack. Several former defence secretaries and generals have argued that they should be taken off this state of readiness because of the danger of false alarms, especially in the age of cyber warfare... [Former SecDef Bill Perry] added that… [Mattis] showed a deep understanding of the dangers of nuclear weapons. ‘I would not expect him to be recommending anything rash with nuclear weapons,’ Perry said.” Full article here.

Upgrading ICBMs is a waste of cash - “The U.S. plan to rebuild and maintain its nuclear force is needlessly oversized and expensive, expected to cost about $1 trillion over the next three decades... The good news is that the United States can right-size its plans, save billions of dollars and maintain a robust nuclear arsenal... Case in point, the United States does not need to build a new land-based ballistic missile [ICBM] or a new nuclear-armed cruise missile,” writes SecDef Bill Perry for Ploughshares Fund’s new report “Ten Big Nuclear Ideas for the Next President.”

--“Our present nuclear arsenal was conceived and built during the Cold War, but we should not assume that it is the right arsenal for today’s needs... During the Cold War, we leaned heavily on ICBMs because they provided accuracy not then achievable by submarine launched missiles and bombers, and they provided another insurance policy in case the sub force somehow became disabled. Today, we have quite high accuracy in both our submarine and bomber force, and we have enough confidence in them that we do not need an additional insurance policy. We do not need a ‘belt and suspenders’ for our ‘belt and suspender.’” Full essay here.

Tweet - @bpshow: VIDEO: Donald Trump called Taiwan and pissed off China. How big of a deal is that? We asked Joe @Cirincione

Trump’s absolute power - “Sometime in the next few weeks, Donald Trump will be briefed on the procedures for how to activate the U.S. nuclear arsenal, if he hasn’t already learned about them,” writes Alex Wellerstein for The Washington Post. “All year, the prospect of giving the real estate and reality TV mogul the power to launch attacks that would kill millions of people was one of the main reasons his opponents argued against electing him... Now they’re his ... [and] he will have sole authority over more than 7,000 warheads. There is no failsafe.”

--“When the legal framework for nuclear weapons was developed, the fear wasn’t about irrational presidents but trigger-happy generals. The Atomic Energy Act of 1946, which was passed with President Harry Truman’s signature after nine months of acrimonious congressional hearings, firmly put the power of the atomic bomb in the hands of the president and the civilian components of the executive branch... Congress ceded a considerable amount of power to the presidency in 1946. Seventy years later, maybe it is time lawmakers took some of it back.” Full article here.

Arms control treaties’ value added - Steven Pifer of The Brookings Institution goes in-depth on the need for President-elect Trump to retain America’s historical arms control treaties, including New START and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) with Russia, and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the global community. Pifer writes, “Before undoing these deals, President-elect Trump should consider the consequences for U.S. national security. For one thing, the recommendations could prompt a new arms race—and give Russia a big head-start. That does not seem wise.” Full article here.

Nuclear policy under Trump - Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione went live on NowThisNews to discuss the nuclear risks and opportunities for President-elect Trump’s administration. Facebook live video here.

Tweet - @nukes_of_hazard: Questions remain about President-elect Trump’s position on the Iran Deal. But the facts are clear: it’s working.

Iran’s leaders reassure JCPOA - “Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticized U.S. lawmakers on Sunday for, in his view, undermining a landmark nuclear agreement [with extended sanctions] but said Tehran had no intention of abandoning the deal,” write Shashank Bengali and Ramin Mostaghim for The Los Angeles Times. “The benefits of the nuclear deal are clear for everybody... We can now, under the nuclear deal, export as much oil as possible. International transportation and shipping are much less inexpensive, and many trade and foreign investment contracts and agreements have been signed,” Rouhani said.

--“Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said over the weekend that U.S. efforts to punish Iran unilaterally were a ‘failed policy’ but would not undermine the agreement. ‘I do not believe the nuclear deal is in jeopardy,’ Zarif told an audience in New Delhi. ‘Of course, in Iran, we have options for every alternative.’” Full article here.

See also - “Iran President: Trump Won't Be Able to Harm the Nuclear Deal,” by Nasser Karimi for AP.

China says keep Iran deal - “Iran's nuclear deal with six major powers should continue regardless of changes in the internal situation of participant nations, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Iran's visiting foreign minister during a meeting in Beijing on Monday,” writes Christian Shepherd and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin for Reuters. “The future of the deal to curb Iran's nuclear program has been thrown into jeopardy with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump set to take office next month.”

--“‘Maintaining the deal's continued, comprehensive and effective implementation is the responsibility and common interest of all parties, and should not be impacted by changes in the internal situation of each country... The JCPOA is a multilateral agreement and all parties should respect it. Iran and China have the same stance on this... We will not let any country infringe the agreement unilaterally,’ Wang added. ‘But if they do, Iran has its own options.’" Full article here.

Netanyahu to meet with Trump on Iran - “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he would discuss with Donald Trump the West's ‘bad’ nuclear deal with Iran after the U.S. president-elect enters the White House,” write Jeffrey Heller and Arshad Mohammed for Reuters. “Netanyahu has been a harsh critic of the nuclear deal... Before the nuclear agreement, Netanyahu, a conservative, strained relations with the White House by addressing the U.S. Congress in 2015 and cautioning against agreeing to the pact.” Full piece here.

Tweet - @globalzero: Frmr opponents of the #IranDeal like @SenatorCardin are now calling on @realDonaldTrump to honor the agreement.

DPRK & Seattle? - “The only nation to have used nuclear weapons this century will be able to strike Seattle in four years, former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden said on Wednesday,” writes Amanda Macias for Business Insider. "’I really do think that it is very likely by the end of Mr. Trump's first term the North Koreans will be able to reach Seattle with a nuclear weapon onboard an indigenously produced intercontinental ballistic missile,’ Hayden said on MSNBC's Morning Joe.”

--“‘Now, will it be a high-probability shot? They have technical issues, so probably not,’ Hayden said. ‘But then again, what kind of odds are you comfortable with when it comes to Pyongyang?’” Full article here.

Nukes under Trump - Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione further discusses nuclear policy in the Trump Administration, hosted by the Rotary Club of Seattle. Video here.

Tweet - @StimsonCenter: Stimson's Lovely Umayam, @bombshelltoe, speaks on her innovative work to shift the #nuclear dialogue @poptech

Quick Hits:

--“Who killed the US-Russia plutonium agreement, and does it really matter?” by Darya Dolzikova for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

--“The UK, Scotland, and the call for nuclear disarmament,” by Stephen Gethins for the European Leadership Network.

--“In 1985, a Freak Accident Caused a Russian Nuclear Submarine to Explode (And the Radiation Still Lingers),” by Kyle Mizokami for The National Interest.

--“Nuclear War Remains a Global Health Threat,” by Ira Helfand for MedPage Today.

--“Watchdog warns 'nuclear terrorism' can strike anywhere,” by Gennady Shishkin for AFP.


--“Advising the Next U.S. President on Korea,” with Victor Cha and Robert Galluci, hosted by the Korea Society. December 12, 2016 at 10:00am with reception beginning at 9:30am. The Korea Society, Eighth Floor, E. 57 St., & Third Ave., New York. RSVP here.

--“Nuclear Security: Opportunities for the Next Administration,” an on-the-record discussion on nuclear challenges and opportunities the Trump administration faces to reduce nuclear dangers hosted by The Stimson Center, featuring: Anne Harrington, Daniel Lipman, Edward McGinnins, Samantha Pitts-Kiefer, and moderated by Debra Decker. December 15 4:00-5:30PM at The Stimson Center, 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW, 8th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036. RSVP and details here.

--“Command and Control: An American Experience Documentary,” broadcasted by PBS affiliated networks nationwide. January 10, 2017 on PBS. Check your local listings for times.


Finding the nearest nuke - RealLifeLore released a new video detailing how close we all are to nuclear weapons. Science Alert explains, “there's a good chance you're located not too far from one of them right now. First off, anyone living south of the equator, congratulations - much like polar bears, nuclear bombs seem to live only in the Northern Hemisphere. The top parts of South America and Africa, as well as Canada, are all off the hook too, phew. But if you live in any of the regions in red on the map above - namely: the US, western Europe, Russia, Israel, Pakistan, India, or east Asia - well, we hate to be the ones to tell you this, but there are nuclear weapons in your vicinity.” Check out the video here.

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