US-Russian Cooperation in 2013

On the radar: Albright and Ivanov on US-Russia relations; Defense in the deal; Speeches and tunnels; De-alerting; Negotiations and politics with Iran; Arms race in S. Asia; and Troubled logic on B-61.

January 2, 2013 | Edited by Benjamin Loehrke

US-Russia cooperation - With elections behind them, President Obama and Vladimir Putin have the opportunity to reinvigorate US-Russia cooperation, write Madeleine Albright and Igor Ivanov in The New York Times. They offer arms control as a prime area where US and Russian interests converge, and note that cooperation on arms control can advance cooperation on issues including Afghanistan and trade.

--The authors suggest that the US and Russia continue negotiations on further nuclear reductions. They also suggest that the US join Russia in ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and that NATO and Russia get creative on how to cooperate on missile defense. Full article here.

Fiscal speedbump - Congress’ deal to put off the fiscal cliff punted the sequester to March 1st and required $12 billion in discretionary spending cuts. Russell Rumbaugh at The Will and the Wallet explains how these cuts are to be applied to defense spending.

Kim’s speech - In a rare televised speech, North Korea leader Kim Jong-un said “An important issue in putting an end to the division of the country and achieving its reunification is to remove confrontation between the north and the south.” North Korea and South Korea have been technically at war for over six decades.

--The jury is still out on what, if anything, the speech means for security on the peninsula. Full story and initial speculations here.

Test prep - “North Korea has repaired flood damage at its nuclear test facility and could conduct a quick atomic explosion if it chose, though water streaming out of a test tunnel may cause problems, analysis of recent satellite photos indicates,” reports AP.

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De-alerting - In a nuclear crisis, the president would have 13 minutes to respond in the event of a serious warning of a missile attack. Russia likely has a similar posture. Each country retains this dangerous postures primarily because the other side does. David Hoffman at Foreign Policy looks at the dangers of keeping nuclear missiles on launch-ready alert and suggests that President Obama make due on his 2008 campaign promise to reduce the alert level.

--Recommendations: Order a study on how to achieve reduced alert levels with Russia; De-alert a large portion of the ICBM force; and create a joint US-Russia commission to figure out how to verify reduced alert levels.

Rose Bowl - Nothing celebrates a college football quite like flying a $2 billion B-2 strategic bomber over the Rose Bowl. YouTube video here.

Dealing with Iran - “The U.S. should continue to lead the global sanctions effort. Yet it should simultaneously reopen the door to a deal under which Iran complies with International Atomic Energy Agency demands on monitoring, access and information, and halts nuclear fuel production -- with the exception of enriching uranium to the maximum 3.5 percent level that is required to fuel civilian power stations, a level of enrichment that’s a red line for Iran,” writes Bloomberg in its set of foreign policy recommendations for 2013.

--”A fully monitored Iranian low-enrichment program entails risks and may not satisfy the government in Israel. But it has as good a chance of blocking Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon as airstrikes, with fewer risks and unintended consequences.”

June elections - Iran is set to select a new president in June, and the outcome could make the difference whether Iran compromises on its nuclear program or continues in its defiance. Farnaz Fassahi at The Wall Street Journal outlines the domestic political context of Iran’s nuclear stance.

Sanctions - “Special Report: Inside the West's economic war with Iran” by Arshad Mohammed, Justyna Pawlak and Warren Strobel of Reuters.

Tweet - @FitzpatrickIISS: 197 days since the last mtg in Moscow, #Iran still declines to resume talks w the P5+1. The window for diplomacy may not stay open long.

Arms racing - Pakistan and India are building up their nuclear arsenals and developing new nuclear capabilities. Michael Krepon in Dawn explains the dynamics and dangers of this nuclear arms race and offers that the best way out of the nuclear security dilemma is through improved relations and risk-reduction agreements.

Data exchanges - “India and Pakistan have carried an annual exchange of lists of their nuclear facilities as part of an agreement that bans the rivals from attacking each other's nuclear installations...The exchanges have taken place on the first day of the year since 1992 as part of their agreement,” reports AP.

Troubled logic - The $10 billion B-61 nuclear warhead program has received a lot of criticism for its enormous cost and thin strategic justification. A recent Bloomberg editorial reminded that the warhead has its supporters who, through some death-defying logical leaps, now argue that the pricey new nuclear warhead could benefit budget savings and nonproliferation. Full argument here.