Nuclear Policy Under the New Administration

Rick Perry’s learning curve - “When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state,” write Coral Davenport and David Sanger for The New York Times. “If confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.”

--Perry “has very close ties to the oil industry. He is about ‘the Texas way’ — low taxes, low regulation. But none of that gives him the depth of knowledge needed for running the Energy Department,” Calvin Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University in Texas, told the Times. “The Energy Department was on the list of agencies he said he wanted to eliminate when he ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 — though he famously forgot its name during a debate. Despite what he called his ‘oops’ moment, he stood by his call to dismantle the department... If confirmed, Mr. Perry would be at the table for one of the first big debates of the Trump presidency: what to do with the Iran nuclear deal that Mr. Moniz played such a critical role in shaping.” Full story here.

Tweet - @plough_shares: 725,206 people have signed an int'l #EndHairTrigger petition! @Avaaz says it was inspired by ours! Wow! Thanks, all!

Mattis and the NPR - “Over the next year, many observers will be closely watching how the incoming administration addresses America’s nuclear arsenal. The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) report, a legislatively mandated review of the U.S. nuclear posture, provides Congress with the administration’s plans to develop nuclear policy, strategy, and capabilities. It is unclear as to whether or when we will see an NPR from the Trump administration,” writes Al Mauroni for War on the Rocks. However, SecDef nominee Gen. James Mattis’ “testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, could shed some light on how the Trump administration will approach U.S. nuclear policy.”

--Mattis implied “the nuclear deterrent... [is] a critical priority ‘because we don’t ever want those weapons used. And so either the deterrent is safe and secure, it is compelling or we actually open the door to something worse (a nuclear accident or incident).’ That should comfort some in the arms control community that Mattis will bring a calm and rational demeanor into the Pentagon as he reviews the U.S. nuclear posture... But is Trump on board?” Full article here.

Trump gets the codes - “By the time he is sworn in tomorrow, Donald Trump will have undergone a haunting rite of passage: the classified briefing given to every incoming president that explains how he can order a nuclear attack,” writes Michael Crowley for POLITICO. “From the moment Donald Trump is inaugurated, he will be trailed everywhere he goes by a military aide carrying a 45-pound black satchel colloquially known as the nuclear ‘football.’ Inside will be the codes, war plans and communication tools needed to start a nuclear war.”

--“It is... likely sobering for millions of the Americans who heard a series of Trump rivals warn last year that the New York mogul must never gain access to America’s massive nuclear arsenal. [Yet,] some believe that first-hand experience with the theoretical means of destroying much of the world could have a profound effect on Trump. ‘You cannot take over such an authority without getting a sense of such an unbelievable authority,’ said Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. ‘Not just to the nation, but to the planet.’” Full story here.

See also - “Donald Trump, 13th Nuclear Dictator of the United States,” by Jennifer Knox for The Huffington Post.

North Korea’s missiles - “If [North Korea] can put a nuclear tip on those short-range missiles, they can certainly deter us from taking military action against them,” Ploughshares President Joe Cirincione told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview on North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities.

--“What they're trying to do is hit the continental United States, much tougher, much more difficult. But we believe he's going to test something that's called a KN-08, a missile we have seen in parades but has not yet been tested. Will it work the first time? Probably not, but you keep testing, you'll be able to do this. If he works at it, in two or three years, almost -- it's very likely he'll have the capability to hit Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York.” Video here.

SecDef Carter’s advice - “Trump is likely to find exceedingly few areas where Washington and Moscow's interests still align, the outgoing Pentagon chief [Ash Carter] told POLITICO on Tuesday. And it may be most fruitful to focus on the handful of areas — such as reining in North Korea's nuclear program and keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists — where the two sides can work together,” writes Bryan Bender for POLITICO.

--“‘North Korea is an example, I think, where we can work with Russia,’ Carter said. ‘We worked with them on Iran’ in reaching an agreement to freeze its nuclear weapons program.’ In addition, he said, ‘we certainly both agree we don't want others — especially terrorists — to have nuclear weapons…It does seem to me that is the place where there is low-hanging fruit for U.S.-Russian cooperation,’ he added.” Full story here.

Preventing Trump from hitting the button - “When it comes to nuclear weapons, there are no ‘right hands.’ But whether some people can be trusted with this power has, in a sense, become a moot question, because the United States is about to turn its arsenal over to someone who is clearly unqualified to command these weapons,” writes Ira Helfand for CNN. “So what can we do in this incredibly dangerous situation?”

--“This March, negotiations will begin at the United Nations for a new treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons. This ban treaty will establish a new international standard that the simple possession of nuclear weapons presents an intolerable danger to human survival… The United States should change course and embrace this treaty as the next step toward the abolition of nuclear weapons.” Full story here.

Tweet - @Livableworld: The #nuclear football will soon be passed to Trump, who will then have the sole authority to order a nuclear strike

Iran agreement is a success story - “Contrary to the doubts of critics, the [Iran nuclear] agreement has been a certifiable success in its first year, achieving its objects of blocking Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon and increasing visibility into Iran’s nuclear activities,” writes John Tierney for The Hill. “The agreement has placed significant restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity, effectively blocking paths to both a uranium-based and plutonium-based nuclear weapon… Overall, it has been a successful year for the agreement. When disputes have arisen, either through an honest mistake or in an attempt to test the waters, the situations have been resolved quickly and without incident.”

--“As the JCPOA enters its second year of implementation, and its first year under the new Trump administration, it is critical that the United States continues to actively monitor and enforce the agreement. The United States must ensure the IAEA has the resources it needs to thoroughly monitor Iran. The U.S. also must live up to its obligations to refrain from reimposing sanctions on Iran, if they are not warranted for other activities.” Full story here.

Rouhani on renegotiation - “Responding to a question about Iran’s response to US President-elect Donald Trump’s threats to either scrap the nuclear deal or renegotiate it, [Iranian President] Rouhani said, ‘(Holding) new negotiations is meaningless,’ adding, ‘There will be no [new] negotiations on the JCPOA,’” reports Rohollah Faghihi for Al Monitor.

--Rouhani continued, “The JCPOA is not something that someone in another country, following his election as president, decides whether he likes or dislikes it. The JCPOA has created a new global environment and it should be taken care of with prudence. It is a win-win deal.” Full commentary and analysis here.

Iran memo for Trump - “This week marks one year since the Iran nuclear deal took effect—and will see the inauguration of a US president who, during his election campaign, threatened to rip it apart,” writes Ariane Tabatai for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “Fortunately, a wholesale rejection of the agreement by the new administration now seems unlikely, with former critics advocating for implementation to continue... But simply refraining from unilateral withdrawal is not enough.”

--“To not only preserve but also reinforce the deal, the president-elect needs to take a number of steps... First, the incoming administration should shelter the nuclear deal from efforts to undermine it, just as the Obama administration has done... Second, Trump must make a clear statement that the United States will remain vigilant and ready to stand with its allies to counter any undesirable Iranian activities that violate the agreement... [Third, Trump should draw] on existing relationships and knowledge of Iran within the US government, and preserve the existing channels of communication between Washington and Tehran... Fourth, Trump would benefit from bringing into his circle Iran experts who understand the country’s complexities... [and] last, the United States should continue to work with its European partners to engage Iran beyond just the nuclear issue.” Full memo here.

Tweet - @nukes_of_hazard: Former Defense Secretary @SecDef19 warns abt growing risk of #nuclear terrorism and the real danger of false-alarms

India, Pakistan and Trump - “U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will inherit rising nuclear dangers in five regions of the globe... If that doesn’t sound bad enough, look no further than the subcontinent, where Pakistan and India are engaged in an intense nuclear competition with little likelihood of slowing down,” writes Michael Krepon for Arms Control Wonk. “As Pakistan’s sense of isolation grows and as the conventional military balance shifts even further in India’s favor, Islamabad is relying increasingly on Chinese military help and on nuclear weapons for deterrence.”

--Pakistan’s “nuclear arsenal is growing faster than India’s, with the probable capacity to produce 15 or more warheads a year, adding more nuclear weapons every year than North Korea may have accumulated to date... Friction is growing alongside nuclear stockpiles and missiles. As they mount, no one can confidently predict what the new normal for violent interaction between India and Pakistan will be. If push comes to shove, it falls to the U.S. President, Secretary of State, and national security adviser to serve as crisis managers.” Full article here.

Obama on Russian sanctions - “President Barack Obama urged President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday to keep separate the issue of economic sanctions on Russia from the pursuit of talks to reduce nuclear stockpiles,” write Roberta Rampton and Jeff Mason for Reuters. “Trump... said in an interview with the Times of London published on Monday that he would propose offering to end sanctions on Moscow in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal.” Obama commented, "I think it would probably best serve, not only American interests, but also the interests of preserving international norms if we made sure that we don't confuse why these sanctions have been imposed with a whole set of other issues.” Full story here.

Quick Hits:

--“North Korea: Satellite images show 'stepped-up activities' at nuclear site,” by James Griffiths and Andreena Narayan for CNN.

--“The Way Forward on Nuclear Waste,” by Ernest Moniz for Bloomberg.

--“Key players in Iran nuke deal aim message at Trump: It works,” by Edith Lederer for AP.

--“Russia expects dialogue with Trump on nuclear weapons: Lavrov,” by Andrew Osborn and Vladimir Soldatkin for Reuters.

--“Full text of ex-Hiroshima Mayor Akiba's letter to Trump,” as published in The Mainchi.

--“Robert Gomer, chemical physicist who opposed nuclear weapons, dies at 92,” by Graydon Megan for Chicago Tribune.

--“The Intersection of Cyber and Nuclear War,” by Paul Bracken for Real Clear Defense.

--“House bill targets Iran’s airline and tests its nuclear deal,” by Michael Wilner for Jerusalem Post.

--“Pakistan vows nuclear retaliation if India attacks,” by Kiran Stacey and Farhan Bokhari for Financial Times.


--Senate Armed Services Committee votes on the nomination of Gen. James Mattis to be Defense Secretary (tentative) on January 20. Room TBA, Senate Office Building, Washington. Find webcast on committee’s website here.

--“Prospects for the Defense Budget in the New Administration," with Mackenzie Eaglen, American Enterprise Institute and Richard Kogan, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Center for Strategic and International Studies on January 23, 2017 at 10:30 am to 12:00pm. Event held at 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington. RSVP online and webcast online.

--“Iranian Attitudes About US-Iranian Relations in the Trump Era,” a panel discussion featuring Ms. Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, Dr. Ebrahim Mohseni, Dr. Paul Pillar, moderated by Barbara Slavin, and hosted by The Atlantic Council. January 25, 2017 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, DC. RSVP and details here.

--“Atomic Football: The Nuclear Playbook in a Strange New Era,” a panel discussion featuring former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, former covert operations officer for CIA Valerie Plame, and other experts. The event is hosted by Ploughshares Fund on January 25, 2017 at 6:30-9:00pm at the Norman Lear Center, 4222 Vineland Avenue, North Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA. More details here.

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