Missile Defense Test Today Like Trying to Hit a “Bullet with Another Bullet”
On the radar: Ground-based missile test off California coast; $85 billion to “modernize” an outdated anachronism; Taking first use off the table; Nuclear posturing could give life to new New START; Yet another missile test from North Korea; Missile defense shouldn’t be Trump’s go-to against North Korea; Senate votes to slap sanctions on Iran
Ground-based missile defense test today - “The Pentagon on Tuesday will for the first time test its ability to shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile using its own upgraded long-range interceptor missile in what is being widely seen as a test of US ability to counter a North Korean missile launch,” write Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne for CNN. “The test, which will take place in the skies over the Pacific Ocean, comes just two days after Pyongyang fired a short-range ballistic missile that traveled an estimated 248 miles, splashing down within Japan's exclusive economic zone.”
--“That test involves firing a new version of the military's single long-range ground-based interceptor missile, which is currently based in Alaska and California… US officials often call it a high-speed effort to hit a bullet with another bullet. In the most recent Pentagon report examining weapons testing across the Department of Defense, this long-range system was criticized, saying it ‘demonstrates a limited capability to defend the US homeland from small numbers of simple intermediate-range or intercontinental ballistic missile threats launched from North Korea or Iran.’” For the full article, click here.
See also - “What You Should Know about the Upcoming GMD Missile Defense Test: Part 1” by Laura Grego for Union of Concerned Scientists’ All Things Nuclear blog here.
ICBMs are too outdated, expensive - “Pentagon officials want to replace almost the entire nuclear arsenal, at a cost of up to $1 trillion. But no component has raised more questions than the replacement of the ICBM fleet, which critics have said is no longer crucial to preventing a nuclear war. The argument for eliminating ICBMs is stronger than at any time in the past. Advocates of that strategy say submarine-based missiles and strategic bombers have improved their capability and are now more than potent enough to deter an enemy attack,” write W.J. Hennigan and Ralph Vartabedian for the Los Angeles Times.
--“‘Unless the Defense and Energy departments find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or get a loan from the same man or woman who sold Jack his magic beanstalk beans, I do not believe the current spending plans are feasible,’ said Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Assn. in Washington. ‘I think the ICBM leg of the triad is by far the least valuable leg of the triad, and the effort to sustain it should reflect that.’” Full article here.
See also - “Trump seeks to spend more on nuclear weapons but buys little added capability” by Patrick Malone for The Center for Public Integrity here.
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First strike policy is un-American - “U.S. dalliance with the idea of preventive war in the 21st century is a radical departure from American tradition,” writes Greg Thielmann for Lobelog. “Most experts, in government and out, acknowledge that military measures to take down North Korea’s nuclear and missile systems would likely provoke a bloody response, leading to grievous consequences for South Korea and its allies, including the United States. What is lacking in nearly all commentaries is a willingness to explicitly rule out-of-bounds a ‘preventive’ U.S. first strike against North Korea.”
--“Keeping open the option of attacking North Korea first will do more than anything else to firm up Pyongyang’s resolve to keep and expand its nascent nuclear forces to discourage that very scenario. It is time to return to the traditional American abhorrence of those who attack other countries first. Remember the admonition of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson at the Nuremberg Tribunal: ‘We are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.’” For the full article, click here.
See also - “Congressman Ted Lieu on Nuclear First-Strike” for The Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation podcast here.
New START could have new life - “Leaders in both [United States and Russia] clearly see a challenge to the existing strategic order posed by missile defense and nuclear modernization,” write Ian Johnson, Joel Beckner, Heng Qin and Nadezhda Smakhtina for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “But this challenge may present an opportunity as well: a heightened awareness of the need for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the keystone of current US-Russia arms control agreements, which is set to expire at the very beginning of 2021.”
--“To avoid a costly new arms race, it is critical to increase bilateral transparency now, in the hopes of reaching a comprehensive agreement later. Strategic stability depends on mutual clarity of capabilities, technologies, and intentions. President Trump has a unique opportunity to ‘bring sense’ to nuclear security by initiating a conversation with Russia on anti-ballistic missiles. [Trump’s] presidency represents a chance to reinvigorate bilateral cooperation on arms control issues.” For the full article, click here.
New Ploughshares Fund Report - As President Donald Trump met for the first time with NATO leaders in Brussels, Ploughshares Fund released a new report recommending that the United States rethink its strategy to buy new missile interceptors for Europe. Rather than field a new anti-missile system in Poland to counter Iranian intermediate-range missiles that do not exist, the report finds that the United States should put these plans on hold. “The expansion of U.S. anti-missile systems is Europe should be paused,” said report author Dr. Tytti Erästö, the Roger L. Hale Fellow at Ploughshares Fund. “This would pose no risk to NATO security, as there is no nuclear missile threat from Iran to justify the new defenses,” she said.
North Korea launches new missile - “North Korea launched a new short-range ballistic missile, similar to a Scud, on Monday morning, and it flew about 280 miles to land inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. This launch is North Korea’s third in three weeks and its 12th this year, underscoring Kim Jong Un’s determination to advance his regime’s technical capabilities and his continued defiance of the international community,” writes Anna Fifield for The Washington Post.
--“Kim has been pushing ahead with his weapons program at a rate that has alarmed analysts and policymakers, ordering the launches of a variety of rockets that appear to be part of his ambition to obtain an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. He has overseen the launch of 78 missiles since he took power 5½ years ago, compared with the 16 missiles fired during the 17 years that his father, Kim Jong Il, was at the helm.” For the full article, click here.
See also - “War with North Korea would be ‘catastrophic,’ Defense Secretary Mattis Says,” Face the Nation on CBS News here.
Missile defense ineffective against North Korea - “There is no more urgent threat to the global nuclear nonproliferation order than North Korea’s accelerating and unconstrained nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” writes Kingston Reif for War on the Rocks. “As the Trump administration undertakes a major review of missile defense policy this year, it would do well to recognize that rushing to augment the U.S. missile defense footprint is misguided and could actually increase instability and the risk of war on the Korean peninsula.”
--“Misplaced overconfidence in missile defense could prompt Trump think he can escalate in response to another North Korea nuclear or missile test or other provocation without having to worry about a potential North Korean nuclear response. The United States must use the full range of diplomatic, economic, and security tools at its disposal to reduce the threat posed by North Korea pursuant to the goal of phased denuclearization, beginning with a negotiated freeze on nuclear and missile testing. Missile defense can’t provide an escape from the reality that North Korea is improving its nuclear arsenal.” Article here.
Iran sanctions bill gets go-ahead - “A Senate panel overwhelmingly backed bipartisan legislation that would authorize President Donald Trump to put new sanctions on Iran while keeping the landmark nuclear deal with Tehran in place,” writes Richard Lardner for Associated Press. “The Foreign Relations Committee voted 18-3 on Thursday despite concerns from former Secretary of State John Kerry and several Democrats that the measure could nonetheless lead to the unraveling of the nuclear accord negotiated by the Obama administration.”
--“The committee’s bill imposes mandatory sanctions on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure also would apply terrorism sanctions to the country’s Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo. Neither Iran nor the other nations that negotiated the agreement have any interest in re-opening the deal, and U.S. companies could lose money if the deal is scuttled.” Full article here.
--“Bill would honor veterans of nuclear weapons testing era” for Associated Press here.
--“The Location of America’s Nuclear Submarines Isn’t Really a Secret” by Jeffrey Lewis for Foreign Policy here.
--“Russian Lawmaker: We Would Use Nukes if US or NATO Enters Crimea” by Patrick Tucker for Defense One here.
--“If Trump Wants China’s Help, He Needs to Build Trust. Here’s How.” by Theresa Lou for Defense One here.
--“This Is Why the World Should Fear India's Nuclear Weapons” by Kyle Mizokami for The National Interest here.
--“Arms Control Association Annual Meeting." Hosted by the Arms Control Association and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. Friday, June 2, 2017, 9:00a.m.-3:00p.m. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. Details and registration here.
--“A New Nuclear Review for a New Age.” Feat. former Senator Jon Kyl; Keith B. Payne at the National Institute for Public Policy; Franklin C. Miller at the Scowcroft Group; Rebeccah L. Heinrichs at the Hudson Institute. Tuesday, June 6, 2017 2:00p.m.-3:30p.m. CSIS Headquarters, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. Details here.
--“Creating Incentives for Nuclear Nonproliferation, Safety, and Security” Co-hosted by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Featuring James Casterton, Robert Otto, Tristan Volpe, Thomas Wood and Joshua Pollack. Thursday, June 8, 2017, 10:30a.m.-12:30p.m. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. Details and registration here.
--”Nuclear Weapons and Coercive Diplomacy.” Hosted by the Stimson Center. Feat. Barry Blechman, Toby Dalton, Matthew Fuhrmann, Mira Rapp-Hooper and Todd Sechser; moderated by Michael Krepon. Thursday, June 8, 2017, 12:30p.m.-2:00p.m. Stimson Center, 1211 Connecticut Avenue, 8th Floor, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. Details here.
--“Off-Ramps to War: Paths to Building Peace with North Korea.” Featuring William Perry and Bruce Cumings. Tuesday, June 13, 2017, 9:00a.m.-4:00p.m. Lindner Commons at George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs, 1957 E St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20052. Details and RSVP here.
--“The Women’s March to Ban the Bomb.” Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Saturday, June 17, 2017, 12:00p.m.-4:00p.m. Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, Greenmarket, 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Details here.
-- “Debate: North Korea’s Nuclear Program.” Co-hosted by Ploughshares Fund and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The third in a debate series on a range of nuclear challenges and policy decisions the Trump administration will face in 2017. Tuesday, June 20, 2017 8:30p.m.-11:00p.m. EST (5:30p.m.-8:00p.m. local PST). David Brower Center, Goldman Theater, 2150 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA. Details here.
--“PONI 2017 Summer Conference.” Hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Wednesday, June 21, 2017, 11:30a.m.-Thursday, June 22, 2017 8:30p.m. EST (8:30a.m. June 21 - 5:30p.m. June 22 local PST). Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Center for Global Security Research. Details here.
--“Debate: U.S. Nuclear Weapons Modernization.” Co-hosted by Ploughshares Fund and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The fourth in a debate series on a range of nuclear challenges and policy decisions the Trump administration will face in 2017. Thursday, June 29, 2017, 4:30p.m.-7:00p.m. CSIS Headquarters, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. Details here.