It Takes a GOP President To... Cut Nukes?

Trump’s chance to reduce nuclear threats - “If new conflicts can be avoided, if existing nuclear agreements are honored... It is possible that Trump, like previous Republican presidents, could agree to make deep cuts in Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals,” writes Joe Cirincione, President of Ploughshares Fund for The Register-Guard.

--“Republican presidents enjoy the support and confidence of their party in making nuclear reduction agreements, and the Democrats will back them. If a Democratic president makes similar deals, Republicans move to block him, primarily for political reasons… As former Republican secretaries of state James Baker, George Shultz, Larry Eagleburger, Henry Kissinger and Colin Powell wrote in 2010 at the height of the New START debate, ‘Republican presidents have long led the crucial fight to protect the United States against nuclear dangers.’ The new president could cast himself in their mold.” Full story here.

Tweet - @Cirincione: Here's one, quick, real action you can take to stop @realDonaldTrump from launching a #nuclear war. Sign this:

Smaller nukes not a small problem - “This past week, CQ Roll Call reported that a blue-ribbon Pentagon panel urged the Trump administration to make the U.S. arsenal more capable of fighting a ‘limited’ atomic war,” write Geoff Wilson and Will Saetren for War is Boring. “The strategy behind limited nuclear use sounds deceptively simple. You need to escalate a conflict just enough to end it... As the theory goes, using low-yield nuclear weapons against an adversary’s conventional forces will demonstrate that you... might be crazy enough to launch an all out nuclear attack.”

--“But if you think ‘limited atomic war’ sounds like a colorful milspeak euphemism, you would be right. Dropping a nuke on someone is still dropping a nuke on someone, even if it is just a little one. And fighting a ‘limited atomic war’ with the Chinese or Russians would almost certainly involve absorbing retaliatory nuclear counterstrikes... In the words of senator Dianne Feinstein, ‘There’s one role — and only one role — for nuclear weapons, and that’s deterrence. We cannot, must not, will not ever countenance their actual use. There’s no such thing as limited nuclear war, and for the Pentagon’s advisory board to even suggest such a thing is deeply troubling.’” Article here.

Iran deal must survive - “Standing next to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at a news conference [last] Wednesday, President Trump inveighed against the nuclear agreement with Iran, declaring it ‘one of the worst deals ever made,’” writes Anthony J. Blinken for The New York Times. “So it was striking… when senior administration officials told the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, that President Trump was committed to fully carrying out the accord.”

--“Maybe President Trump’s bluster masks a growing recognition within the administration that the deal is a good one for America’s security and that of our allies. It reaffirms and strengthens Iran’s commitment, under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to never acquire a nuclear weapon. It imposes powerful constraints on Iran’s ability to quickly amass a stockpile of fissile material for a bomb. It includes an inspections regime perhaps more rigorous than any other. And it pays for all of that with Iran’s own money.” Any actions that would lead to the deal’s demise “could escalate into a full conflict, especially in the absence of [an] effective crisis management channel… In that event, losing the nuclear deal might be the least of our concerns.” Full story here.

See also - “Don’t abandon the Iran Nuclear Deal, embrace it to build regional peace,” by Sam Sasan Shoamanesh for The Huffington Post.

European missile defense - “Missile defense is the longest running scam in the history of defense. That's why history matters,” argued Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione in a lively debate held at CSIS. He teamed up with Philip Coyle (Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation) to debate Thomas Karako (CSIS) and Frank Rose (Former Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control) on the matter of Resolved: the U.S. should continue to expand European missile defenses for NATO. Video here.

Tweet - @nytimes: How the Nuclear Threat From North Korea Has Grown

China bans North Korean coal imports - “China has announced it is suspending all coal imports from North Korea until the end of the year in a move which will deal a major financial blow to the Pyongyang regime,” writes Caroline Mortimer for The Independent. “The surprise announcement by the Chinese Commerce Ministry is a sign of Beijing’s increasing reluctance to prop up the North Korean regime if it carries out further nuclear tests.”

--“Coal is North Korea’s largest export item and it is believed to have been dependent on China for trade and aid since its economy collapsed in the late 1990s. The Commerce Ministry said the move was China fulfilling its obligation to implement last November’s UN Security Council resolution to impose further economic sanctions on Pyongyang after it detonated its fifth nuclear test of 2016.” Full story here.

China wants Six-Party Talks with North Korea - “China has not given up hope for a new round of diplomacy with North Korea to prevent Pyongyang making further advances in its weapons program in violation of U.N. resolutions, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said [last] Friday,” write Robin Emmott and Dominic Evans for Reuters. “‘There are still opportunities for the resumption of six-part talks,’ Wang told the Munich Security Conference, referring to talks with the United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia. ‘We should work to bring the parties back to the table… We hope for all parties concerned will refrain from taking further actions that may lead to escalations of the tensions.” Full story here.

Tweet - @nukes_of_hazard: Denuclearization of #NorthKorea should be the goal, but a freeze on nuclear & missile testing may be more attainable

Concern for nuke security abounds - “When the most famous ex-CIA spy alive is concerned about the world blowing up, there’s probably something worrisome in that,” writes Kevin Fagan for The SF Chronicle. “Sure, this is the kind of fretting Valerie Plame Wilson has been doing since her cover was famously blown in 2003... But as she dashed through San Francisco last week to speak at a cyberterrorism conference, Plame said she sees the country heading into a dangerously unstable period that just might result in disaster involving her No. 1 concern of the past several years: Nuclear bombs.” Full story here.

On the Issues:

USAF sacrifices Midwest in nuclear warfare - The Air Force is currently reviewing three proposals for its $62 billion Ground Based Strategic Deterrence system (GBSD) comprised of new ICBMs. Kris Osborn for Scout writes, “The new ICBMs will be deployed roughly within the same geographical expanse in which the current weapons are stationed. In total, dispersed areas across three different sites span 33,600 miles, including missiles in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Minot, North Dakota and Great Falls, Montana... [Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein added,] ‘It was developed that way for a specific reason... You wanted it so if the adversary were to attack at one time, you'd still have ones that would survive.’” Osborn’s article here.

--Yet, as Ploughshares Fund’s Tom Collina pointed out in Defense One, “[These] ICBMs, are not meant to be launched, ever. Not even in a nuclear war. Their primary mission is to be destroyed in the ground, along with all the people that live anywhere near them. Their main purpose is to ‘absorb’ a nuclear attack from Russia, acting as a giant ‘nuclear sponge.’” In other words, “Of course we want to prevent nuclear war, but do we need to throw the upper Midwest under the bus to do it?” Collina’s take here.

Quick Hits:

--“Trump Chooses H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser,” by Peter Baker and Michael Gordon for The New York Times.

--“Congress: Act on Russian hostility,” by Gael Tarleton for The Seattle Times.

--“Which nuclear threats should we worry most about?,” by Greg Thielmann for The Des Moines Register.

--“The Trump Nuclear Threat,” by Louis René Beres for U.S. News.

--“The UAE's Nuclear Push,” by Yoel Guzansky for Foreign Affairs.

--“The Ultimate Bad Idea: A Nuclear Armed Japan,” by Robert Farley for The National Interest.

--“A World Preparing for Wars,” by Michael Krepon for Arms Control Wonk.

--“No, Hillary Clinton did not ‘give Russia 20 percent of the uranium’ in the US,” by Zeeshan Aleem for Vox.

--“Tillerson: I didn't suggest scrapping Iran nuclear deal,” by Andrea Shalal for Business Insider.

--“The world is going backwards on nuclear proliferation – this is not a mistake we can afford to make,” by Moshe Kantor for The Telegraph.

--“Would China Use Nuclear Weapons in a War With Taiwan?” by Ben Lowsen for The Diplomat.


--"Nuclear Early Warning: The President's 3 AM Phone Call," with Jaganath Sankaran. The event will be held on February 23, 2017, from 12:00p.m. to 1:15 p.m., at the Center for International Security Studies at Maryland, University of Maryland, 4113 Van Munching Hall, College Park, MD. More information here.

--“Defending Our Values, Fighting For Our Future,” J Street’s 2017 National Conference, from February 25 to 28, 2017. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place NW, Washington. More information here.

--“US-Russia Nuclear Policy in the Trump Era,” a discussion with Col. Guy B. Roberts, USMC (Ret), Consensus for American Security, Olga Oliker, Senior Adviser and Director, CSIS and Anya Loukianova Fink, Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow, RAND Corporation. The event is hosted by American Security Project on February 28, 2017 from 12:00pm to 1:30pm at 1100 New York Avenue NW, Suite 710 West, Washington DC. Find more information here.

--”Nuclear Deterrence Summit,” an event hosted by the Exchange Monitor from February 28 to March 2, 2017 at the Capitol Hilton in Washington, D.C. Details here.

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