Dems Seek to Cap New Nuclear Cruise Missile

Democrats seek to halt new cruise missiles - “A group of nine Democratic Senators has introduced legislation to slow the development of the system, known as the Long Range Standoff Weapon, or LRSO. The bill, headlined by Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and announced Wednesday, would cap funding for the LRSO and its associated warhead at 2017 levels until the Trump administration submits its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) to Congress,” writes Aaron Mehta for Defense News. In his statement, Senator Markey emphasized, “If the United States wants other countries to reduce their nuclear arsenals and restrain their nuclear war plans, we must take the lead.”

--“Capping the LRSO spending at 2017 levels would restrict the Pentagon to spending $95.6 million for the weapon itself, and hold the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration to $220.2 million for the life-extension program on the W-80-4 warhead… The non-proliferation community [argues] it is an inherently destabilizing weapon.” In Senator Markey’s press release, the Director of Policy at Ploughshares Fund, Tom Collina, expressed his concerns, “the new nuclear cruise missile is expensive, redundant, and, above all, dangerous… In the hands of President Trump, who wants a new arms race, this weapon will increase the risk of nuclear catastrophe.” Full story here and press release here

EW on hiatus - Next week, due to Ploughshares Fund’s board meeting, Early Warning will be on hiatus. We will resume our regular schedule the following week. For updates on all the nuclear news in the interim, check out our Twitter feed.

U.S. General confirms Russia’s INF violations - “A senior U.S. general on Wednesday accused Russia of deploying a land-based cruise missile in violation of ‘the spirit and intent’ of a nuclear arms treaty and charged that Moscow's intention is to threaten U.S. facilities in Europe and the NATO alliance,” writes Robert Burns for The Associated Press. During the House Armed Services Committee hearing, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Paul Selva said, "we believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility."

--“Selva said he sees no indication that Moscow intends to return to compliance with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty… Asked how the U.S. might respond now that the cruise missiles are deployed for potential use, Selva said the military is preparing a set of options to be considered this year by the Trump administration as part of a broader nuclear policy review…. [In addition,] he said the plan is to ‘look for leverage points to attempt to get the Russians to come back into compliance,’ adding: ‘I don't know what those leverage points are’... Selva [also] said U.S. officials have been talking to Moscow about the alleged treaty violation…[Responding,] ‘I don't have enough information on their intent to conclude other than they do not intend to return to compliance’ with the treaty.” Full story here.

Trump’s silence on Russia’s missiles - “Russia presents security challenges to the United States and its allies for which the Trump administration has yet to indicate any kind of a policy direction or goals. In the nuclear arena, none of these challenges are more acute than Russia’s ongoing violation of the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. That Treaty, signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, banned the Soviet Union and the United States from having or testing ground-launched missiles with ranges between 312 and 3,428 miles,” writes Jon Wolfsthal for Foreign Policy.

--“It is hard to see how even the master of the art of the deal could negotiate a new nuclear deal with Russia when it is violating one of the most important ones ever signed. Even this GOP Senate might have a hard time accepting that gift from Trump... If Russia’s violations go unchallenged, then U.S. allies — already on edge — will increasingly question U.S. commitment to their security. In addition, if Russia cannot be convinced to return to compliance, it is hard to see how the New START strategic arms control treaty that effectively manages America’s strategic nuclear competition can be extended or renegotiated when it expires in 2021.” Full story here.

U.S. triples its nuclear kill power, complicates Russia relations - “The US nuclear forces modernization program has been portrayed to the public as an effort to ensure the reliability and safety of warheads in the US nuclear arsenal, rather than to enhance their military capabilities,” write Hans Kristensen, Ted Postal and Matthew McKinzie for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “In reality, however, that program has implemented revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the US ballistic missile arsenal... the revolutionary increase in the lethality... comes from a ‘super-fuze’ device... [estimated to be part of] all warheads deployed on US ballistic missile submarines.”

--“This increase in capability is astonishing—boosting the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three—and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike... Russian planners will almost surely see the advance in fuzing capability [as such that] would require Russia to undertake countermeasures that would further increase the already dangerously high readiness of Russian nuclear forces... [increasing] the tension and the risk that US or Russian nuclear forces will be used in response to early warning of an attack—even when an attack has not occurred.” Full story here.

Tweet - @LillyanneD: The women of @globalzero are striking today -- read @CatsNotNukes new piece to find out why. #DayWithoutAWoman

Pyongyang’s missile tests - “On Monday morning, North Korea launched four missiles from the northwest corner of the country that traveled 620 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan.While none of the launches were the long-awaited test of an intercontinental-range ballistic missile — the sort of weapon that could reach the United States — the salvo was a big deal in its own way,” writes Jeffrey Lewis for Foreign Policy. “North Korea is developing an offensive doctrine for the large-scale use of nuclear weapons in the early stages of a conflict… this fact [also] raises troubling questions about whether a crisis on the Korean peninsula might erupt into nuclear war before President Donald Trump has time to tweet about it.”

--“So why is North Korea practicing nuking U.S. forces in Japan? The United States and South Korea are conducting their largest annual joint military exercise, known as Foal Eagle, [which] is a rehearsal for the U.S.-Republic of Korea war plan… [that] has been described as a pre-emptive strike against North Korea… If we are practicing an invasion, [North Korea is] practicing nuking us to repel that invasion… It is important to understand whether the military forces and plans both sides are pursuing make war less likely or more. The launch on Monday might not have been an ICBM, but — in light of Foal Eagle — it was a warning all the same. Not of how a war on the Korean peninsula might end, but of how one might begin.” Full story here.

U.S. needs new approach in DPRK - “Acknowledging that U.S. efforts to curtail North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have failed, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will use a trip to Asia next week to look at new ways of approaching a problem that has vexed American presidents since Bill Clinton,” writes Nick Wadhams for Bloomberg. State Department spokesman Mark Toner commented, “all of the efforts we have taken thus far to attempt to persuade North Korea to engage in meaningful negotiations have fallen short, to be honest... So we need to look at new ways to convince them, to persuade them, that it’s in their interests.”

--“Toner’s remarks are a rare and frank public admission from the U.S. government that the approach taken toward North Korea in recent years -- which became known as ‘strategic patience’ -- hasn’t worked and isn’t likely to now. For almost two decades the U.S. has refused to engage in direct talks with North Korea... President Donald Trump’s administration is reviewing all possible options in North Korea, even those that aren’t likely to be adopted.” Toner added, “if North Korea were to signal that it was capable of and ready for these kinds of [direct] negotiations, then that’s something we would consider. But we’re not there.” Full comments here.

See also - “Rising Tensions With North Korea,” written by The New York Times Editorial Board.

Confused about North Korea? - Ploughshares Fund Executive Director Philip Yun went on WHYY Public Radio to explain what exactly is going on in the DPRK and how the U.S. should respond. Audio here.

China Proposed... - “China's foreign minister said Wednesday that North Korea could suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for a halt in joint U.S.-South Korea military drills,” write Christopher Bodeen and Gillian Wong for The Associated Press. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi “said China has proposed that as a first step to defusing the looming crisis, the North might halt its nuclear program development and missile testing if the U.S. and South Korea suspended their military drills. ‘This suspension-for-suspension can help us break out of the security dilemma and bring the parties back to the negotiating table.’” Article here.

... and the U.S. Responded - “The United States on Wednesday rejected China's proposal for a halt to joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises if North Korea suspends its nuclear and missile activities. It called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un irrational and demanded ‘positive action’ before the U.S. can take his regime seriously,” writes Edith Lederer for The Associated Press. "A Pentagon spokesman, Cmdr. Gary Ross, said U.S. activities to defend South Korea ‘cannot be equated to North Korea's repeated violations of its obligations and agreements.’” Full story here.

Tweet - @globalzero: Basically, sanctions don't work on NKorea's nuclear program. So why is the rest of the world still relying on them?

China not a THAAD fan - “Earlier this week, hours after North Korea’s launch of a four-missile salvo into the Sea of Japan, the United States delivered and began deployment of part of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system,” writes Ankit Panda for The Diplomat. “In response to the deployment, Geng Shuang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, noted that China was ‘resolutely against the deployment of THAAD by the US and the ROK in the ROK, and will take firm and necessary steps to safeguard our security interests.’”

--“For China, opposition to THAAD is simple: it’s all about the X-band AN/TPY-2 radar unit that accompanies the interceptor battery and aids in targeting. The radar unit has yet to be delivered... [But] China has invested considerable diplomatic capital in opposing the deployment and it remains to be seen how it will choose to handle the situation once the battery and radar are fully operational. Meanwhile, North Korea shows no sign of abating its ballistic missile testing, which serves to simply underline the point the United States and South Korea have long made in favor of the deployment: it’s necessary to defend South Korea. Whatever comes next, the THAAD saga on the Korean peninsula is certainly far from over.” Article here.

See also - For a quick primer on THAAD, see “Why China is so mad about THAAD, a missile defense system aimed at deterring North Korea” by Adam Taylor for The Washington Post. Link here.

Tweet - @Livableworld: Top South Korean, and American diplomats to discuss North Korean #nuclear threat

Iran deal, sanction reliefs and U.S.commitment - “Now that Flynn is gone, and the more cautious Gen. H. R. McMaster has replaced him, there are indications that the White House has put their saber-rattling over the inflated Iranian threat on hold. In his first address to a joint session of Congress last week, President Trump barely mentioned Iran. But that doesn’t mean the [nuclear] deal is safe. Its survival depends on Washington adhering to its commitments on Iranian sanctions relief and, to some extent, on Congress refraining from enacting new sanctions,” writes John Glaser for The National Interest.

--“Reimposing additional sanctions or other ‘counter-measures’ would likely ‘lower direct investment and capital inflows, and disconnect Iran from the global financial system.’ That’s a recipe for bolstering the voices of Iran’s hawks and exacerbating already existing feelings among the people that our end of the deal is not being held up… If the reciprocal economic relief we promised isn’t forthcoming, the survival of the deal is endangered... The key to avoiding conflict with Iran… lies in the survival of the Iran nuclear deal [which] depends on making sure Iran reaps the economic benefits it was promised, through real sanctions relief and reassurance from Washington that it is committed.” Full story here.

See also - For insight into the Iranian politics surrounding U.S.-Iran relations, see “What’s stopping Rouhani from reaching out to Trump?” by Reza Marashi for Al Monitor.

Take action - Ready to restore checks and balances to the nuclear codes? Inspired by the legislation proposed by Rep. Ted Liu and Sen. Ed Markey, Ploughshares Fund, along with fifteen other public interest groups, has created a new petition urging Congress to keep America safe by preventing any U.S. President from unilaterally launching a nuclear weapon. Sign and share the petition today.

EU considering new nuke strategy - “An idea, once unthinkable, is gaining attention in European policy circles: a European Union nuclear weapons program,” writes Max Fisher for The New York Times. “Under such a plan, France’s arsenal would be repurposed to protect the rest of Europe and would be put under a common European command, funding plan, defense doctrine, or some combination of the three. It would be enacted only if the Continent could no longer count on American protection.”

--“Though no new countries would join the nuclear club under this scheme, it would amount to an unprecedented escalation in Europe’s collective military power and a drastic break with American leadership. Analysts say that the talk, even if it never translates into action, demonstrates the growing sense in Europe that drastic steps may be necessary to protect the postwar order in the era of a Trump presidency, a resurgent Russia and the possibility of an alignment between the two.” Full story here.

Tweet - @US_Stratcom: @US_Stratcom commander Gen Hyten to #HASC: Primary role of deterrence is to reduce the chance that adversaries will use nuclear weapons

Thoughts on the ban treaty - “Two years ago, several states launched a new process that would delegitimize nuclear weapons by declaring a ban on their possession and use,” write Adam Mount and Richard Nephew for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “Though the movement is the product of laudable motives, the ban treaty is likely to have little influence on the nuclear powers’ strategic force-structure decisions... On the other hand, a variety of nonproliferation problems would be unaffected by the ban or even worsened.”

--“The creation of an alternative treaty structure governing nuclear weapons could lead to ‘forum-shopping,’ in which a state might hope to dilute international condemnation over its noncompliance with the strict verification requirements of the existing Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by participating in the new nuclear weapons ban treaty. There is a relatively simple fix: Pro-ban states should insist that the new treaty contain an article reaffirming all participants’ obligations to the NPT.” In other words, “The NPT system... is irreplaceable. A nuclear weapons ban treaty will have its best chance to promote a world free of nuclear weapons if it strengthens the NPT.” Full story here.

Ira Helfand on the ban treaty - “One hundred Hiroshima-size bombs, less than 0.5 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenals, could kill tens of millions of people directly,” writes Ira Helfand for The Washington Post. “Even worse, the fires started by these bombs would loft millions of tons of soot into the upper atmosphere and trigger worldwide climate disruption and a disastrous decline in global food production... But the problem goes deeper. For decades, the U.S. government has argued that it would be a disaster if even a single atomic bomb fell into the ‘wrong hands’ of a terrorist or rogue state.”

--“Those who have supported the continued reliance on nuclear weapons must now consider that no nation has the ‘right hands’ when it comes to nuclear weapons. We have to accept once and for all that these weapons can never be used and must be eliminated from the world’s arsenals. The negotiations that begin this month at the United Nations for a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons are a key next step toward this goal.” Full essay here.

See also - “There’s no such thing as limited nuclear war,” by former SecDef Bill Perry. Link here.

Quick Hits:

--“North Korea Tried to Sell Nuclear-Weapon Material Last Year,” by Jay Solomon for The Wall Street Journal.

--“Over and Under Estimating the North Korean Threat,” by Jim Walsh for The Cipher Brief.

--“The Trump Administration's Ire Has Not Deterred North Korea's Nuclear Goals,” by Bruce Klinger for The National Interest.

--“Statement by Chairman of IAEA Board of Governors on Re-appointment of Director General,” via IAEA.

--“Trump administration pledges 'great strictness' on Iran nuclear deal,” by Francois Murphy for Reuters.

--“The Doomsday Clock, explained,” by Nicolas Garbaty for Vox.

--“Kim Jong Un, Donald Trump and the Looming Nuclear Crisis in North Korea,” by Bill Powell for Newsweek.

--“Why North Korea wants a nuclear weapon,” by Ben Rosen for Christian Science Monitor.

--“North Korea’s reliance on China to grow as ties with Southeast Asian nations unravel,” by Laura Zhou for South China Morning Post.

--“US ambassador to UN: Kim Jong Un 'is not rational',” by Richard Roth for CNN.


--“Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference,” hosted by the Carnegie Endowment. March 20-21, Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington. RSVP online.

--"Global Nuclear Weapons Environment," Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that will be held on March 8, 2017, 2:30 p.m. The hearing will include, Robert Kehler, USAF (Ret.), Keith Payne, Missouri State University, and Gary Samore, Harvard Kennedy School. Located at Senate Armed Services Committee, SR-222, Russell Senate Office Building, Washington. Webcast on the committee website.

--“BRIEFING: How U.S. and Russian Leaders Can Avoid Renewed Nuclear Tensions,” hosted by Arms Control Association. The event will be held on Wednesday March 22, 2017 from 2:00pm to 3:30pm at National Press Club, First Amendment Room, 529 14th St NW, Washington, D.C. Some of the speakers include, Sergey Rogov, Director of the Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Walter J. Schmid, former German Ambassador in Moscow, and Steven Pifer, Director of the Brookings Arms Control Initiative. More information and registration here.

--“Short Course on Nuclear Weapon and Related Security Issues,” hosted by The American Physical Society. The course will take place from April 21 to 22, 2017 at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs, 1957 E St. NW Washington. Register for the course here.


Nuclear cooperation isn’t hard to imagine - Though today’s strategic relationship between Russia and the U.S. seems rocky at best, moving forward and cooperating more closely on nuclear issues isn’t too farfetched. Simon Saradzhyan and William Tobey point toward the two countries cooperative nature in space as a model for their nuclear future.

--“This interdependence between the US and Russian space programs persists even though the two countries are now living through what some pundits describe as a new Cold War. There was a time not so long ago, however, when the two nations viewed space solely as an area of strategic competition. The steps that Washington and Moscow took to transform their space rivalry into cooperation can serve today as a model for working together to help prevent nuclear terrorism, no matter how strained relations may seem.” Read the full story from Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists here.

Edited by