Nuclear Issues Pester Trump’s Transition Team

Perry to run Department of Nukes - President-elect Donald Trump has recently chosen Texas Governor Rick Perry to run the Department of Energy. In a new op-ed for The Daily Beast, nuclear weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis explains what the D.O.E. actually means: “As a nuclear weapons nerd, I do love a presidential transition. Every four or eight years, I get to watch befuddled politicians discover that the United States Department of Energy doesn’t actually have anything to do with energy policy. It would be more accurately named the Department of Nuclear Weapons.”

--“While Energy does spend some money on ‘energy’ research – about 22 percent of its budget– the largest expenditures are for making nuclear weapons and cleaning up their legacy. Those two categories account for nearly 60 percent of the Energy Department’s budget for fiscal year 2017... [and] that percentage will probably grow.” Full article here.

Mattis and DoD nuclear conflicts - “Retired Marine General James Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for defense secretary, may have to recuse himself for at least a year from decisions involving General Dynamics Corp. -- the fifth-biggest U.S. defense supplier with $10 billion in contracts last year -- after serving on its board,” write Anthony Capaccio and Anders Melin for Bloomberg. “That would take Mattis out of the loop on billion-dollar decisions across the military services... [including] expanding the Navy to 350 vessels ... [with additional] Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and Virginia-class nuclear submarines.”

--General Dynamics “is the lead contractor to build 12 of the new nuclear missile submarines to replace the aging Ohio class -- the Navy’s top-priority program.” To comply with ethics standards, Mattis must reach an agreement with the government’s ethics office and gain approval from the Senate’s Armed Services Committee (SASC), which is “not uncommon for nominees at the most senior levels of the Department of Defense,” according to Dustin Walker, a spokesman for Senator John McCain, a leader on the SASC. Full article here.

What Tillerson means for nukes - Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione went on The Bill Press Show Wednesday to talk about the future of nuclear weapons in a world with Trump’s political appointees and what we can learn from Obama’s time in office. Video here.

Stark U.S.-Russia relationship - “It's not quite Cold War II, but the collapse of U.S. military relations with Russia could prove to be one of the most consequential aspects of President Barack Obama's national security legacy while presenting an early test of Donald Trump's hope for friendly ties to Moscow,” writes Robert Burns for Associated Press. “Beyond the prospect of the two militaries accidentally brushing against each other in Europe or the Middle East, there is concern that a near-complete absence of military-to-military communication could enable a miscalculation or escalation leading to a nuclear confrontation.”

--“Former Sen. Sam Nunn, who heads a non-partisan group that advocates for measures to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict, warns that Washington and Moscow are in a ‘race between cooperation and catastrophe.’ Cooperation, he says, is losing. ‘The dangers are growing,’ he said in a telephone interview. ‘Distrust between the U.S. and Russia, between NATO and Russia, is in a downward spiral." A report that was recently released by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, demonstrates how chance of miscalculation and threat of accidental nuclear attack is “now higher than any period since the end of the Cold War” in 1991. Full story here.

Tweet - @StanfordCISAC: David Holloway: We’ve learned a lot about #nuclear weapons through the #ColdWar, but perhaps we’ve unlearned some of those lessons since.

Senators push for nonproliferation - “Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), members of the Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter [Wednesday] to President-elect Donald Trump calling on him to strengthen our system of alliances... and long-standing nuclear nonproliferation policies. In the letter, the Senators stress the need to assure allies of America’s commitment to their defense and affirm opposition to the spread of nuclear weapons. By strengthening assurances of military protections to allies such as Japan and South Korea, the United States reduces incentives for allied nations to launch nuclear weapons programs of their own.” Press release and letter here.

Tweet - @NuclearWatchNM: Russia and America Need Nuclear Cooperation, No Matter What -Siegfried Hecker- The National Interest

Europe’s efforts to secure Iran deal - “Senior European diplomats, fresh from conversations with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, are hopeful that the next U.S. administration won’t tear up the Iranian nuclear deal. But they are worried that Mr. Trump could pressure Iran in other ways that will unravel the agreement,” writes Laurence Norman for The Wall Street Journal. “EU governments have repeatedly said the deal has worked so far. After Mr. Trump’s election, they moved quickly to emphasize they intend to rapidly implement their side of the agreement.”

--“European diplomats have been clear that, if the U.S. tears up the deal or takes actions that spark a crisis over it, the bloc won't feel obliged to put European sanctions back in place on Iran. ‘We always knew we were going to have to navigate this thin line between…strict respect for the deal and…other things that you can do to Iran which don’t infringe the deal,’ said a second senior European diplomat briefed on recent talks. ‘And I agree if we get that wrong, Iran could say you are acting in bad faith.’” Full story here.

Iran confident in Trump - “Senior Iranian government officials are convinced US President-elect Donald Trump will not walk away from the US end of the nuclear deal with Iran, instead opting for pragmatism and business deals,” claimed Nicola Pedde, an analyst with Italy’s Institute for Global Studies, in an interview with Tom Kingston for Defense News. Pedde was in attendance at the Tehran Security Conference in Iran on December 11, featuring Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. He said of Zarif and Larijani, “They think Trump will be pragmatic, they have no fear about a U-turn on the nuclear deal and believe he will be keen on business with Iran.” Full interview here.

Tweet - @plough_shares: @ValeriePlame: Nuclear weapons are the dinosaurs of military hardware

Recalling U.S. nuclear accident in Greenland - “Throughout the 1950s and ’60s American bombers carrying nuclear weapons crisscrossed the globe, ready at a moment’s notice to fly into the heart of Russia and bomb it back to the stone age. Strategic Air Command — a now defunct branch of the U.S. Air Force — commanded this airborne alert force,” writes Matthew Gault for War is Boring. “For more than a decade, SAC bombers were no more than 15 minutes from nuking Russia. But the shifts on the bombers were long — sometimes more than 24 hours — and keeping such an alert force ready was taxing on pilots and crew. There were many accidents.”

--“In 1968, a B-52 crashed near Thule Monitoring Station in Greenland and spilled its payload all over the ice. It was one disaster too many, and it signaled the end of America’s airborne alert program… SAC was never the same after Thule. The once prestigious society of nuclear-armed pilots dwindled as ICBMs and SLBMs grew more important… Then in 2007, the Air Force lost two nuclear warheads when it loaded them onto the wrong plane. The military needed a special command to handle its nukes, so it resurrected SAC and renamed it Global Strike Command.” Full story here.

Quick Hits:

--“Coverup at French Nuclear Supplier Sparks Global Review,” by Matthew Dalton, Inti Landauro, and Rebecca Smith for The Wall Street Journal.

--“The ban treaty: An interim step, but politically profound,” by Joelien Pretorius for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

--“Iran, angered by US sanctions bill, considers atomic boats,” by Amir Vahdat and Jon Gambrell for The Washington Post.

--“The ‘How Does a Nuclear Nonproliferation Expert Work?’ Edition,” by Jacob Brogan for Slate.


--“Alliance Policy for Today’s North Korea,” a half-day conference hosted by the Carnegie Endowment, featuring George Perkovich, Hiroyasu Akutsu, Michael Elleman, Atsuhito Isozaki, Yonho Kim, James L. Schoff, Katsuhisa Furukawa, Sue Mi Terry, Evan Medeiros, and Victora Cha. December 15, 2:00-5:30PM, at the Carnegie Endowment, 1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036-2103. Details here.

--“Nuclear Security: Opportunities for the Next Administration,” 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.

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