Russia Tests U.S. Resolve

Analyzing U.S.-Russia arms control - “The Russian military has reportedly deployed a new, nuclear-armed cruise missile, in direct violation of a 1987 treaty with the United States that bans hard-to-defeat medium-range, land-based nukes,” writes David Axe for The Daily Beast. “The deployment of the truck-launched SSC-8 missile apparently somewhere in Eastern Europe, first reported by The New York Times, could escalate nuclear competition between the United States and Russia.”

--“President Trump and his allies in the U.S. Congress have… threatened to dismantle hard-won, Cold War-era arms-control measures—the same kinds of measures Russia is now defying. Increasingly unconstrained by treaties, the United States and Russia are set to grow and improve their atomic arsenals, which could greatly raise the risk of nuclear war… ‘I think we are in a new arms race,’ [said] Tom Collina, policy director at San Francisco-based Ploughshares [Fund]... ‘It is time for both sides to step back from the brink and rethink what they are doing,’ Collina said. ‘They are in a race in which they can only lose.’” Full story here.

See also - “Russia Has Deployed a Missile in Violation of a Nuclear Treaty, a U.S. Official Says,” by Robert Burns for Time.

Exploring the INF treaty - Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione went on The Bill Press Show to discuss the implications of Russia’s violation of the INF treaty, along with Gen. Flynn leaving the NSC, the Trump-Netanyahu presser, and other foreign policy events that happened this week. Video here.

Event of the week - Today at CSIS, bipartisan debate returns to Washington. Frank Rose and Thomas Karako will debate Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione and Philip Coyle on the issue of European missile defense in NATO. Event details and livestream here.

$400bn over 9 years - “The daunting fiscal challenge posed by current plans to upgrade America’s nuclear arsenal is now President Donald Trump’s problem,” writes Kingston Reif for Arms Control Association. “If the forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review by the administration does not reshape these plans—or worse, accelerates or expands upon them—spending on nuclear weapons will pose a major threat to higher priority national security programs, to say nothing about Trump’s pledge to expand the non-nuclear military.”

--On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report that “estimates that the United States will spend $400 billion... on nuclear weapons between fiscal years 2017 and 2026... The new 10-year estimate captures the beginning of the major planned ramp-up in spending to recapitalize all three legs of the existing nuclear ‘triad’... but even larger bills are still to come. In fact, the CBO’s latest projections suggest that the cost of nuclear forces could greatly exceed $1 trillion over the next 30 years.” Full analysis here.

See also - For an extended look at the costs of the U.S. nuclear forces, see the Congressional Budget Office’s full report, link here.

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, have 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.

SecDef Mattis meets with NATO officials - “Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday delivered an ultimatum to NATO during his first meeting there as Pentagon chief: Pay more or the U.S. will ‘moderate its commitment,’” writes Rebecca Kheel for The Hill. According to The Washington Post, Mattis said, “I owe it to you all to give you clarity on the political reality in the United States, and to state the fair demand from my country’s people in concrete terms… Americans cannot care more for your children’s security than you do. Disregard for military readiness demonstrates a lack of respect for ourselves, for the alliance and for the freedoms we inherited, which are now clearly threatened.” Full story here.

Tweet - @Cirincione: Read this from @kathleenparker. Don't panic that Trump has nuclear codes. But definitely be sort of worried.

De-alerting is the smart choice - “Geopolitical tensions [have] exacerbated the prospects of a nuclear conflict. In fact, the threat posed by nuclear weapons on high alert has persisted for decades,” writes the Editorial Board of Scientific American. “The existential risks of our current policy framework prompted both Barack Obama and George W. Bush to pledge... that they would take measures to move ballistic missiles off high alert. Neither followed through, leaving an opening for the new administration.”

--“Trump should give the U.S. electorate some assurance that he intends to govern with a steady hand by making a commitment to take our nuclear arsenal off hair-trigger alert and buy more time to decide whether to push the button... [by] taking this step unilaterally, the U.S. could reduce the risk of a mistaken or accidental launch that could lead to nuclear retaliation on the U.S. public... [It would] cost a pittance but could buy enough time to avert the cataclysmic event that once again looms as the most pressing threat to our survival.” Full story here.

Your local nuclear threat level - Ploughshares Fund President Joe Cirincione went on CBC Radio’s The Current to explain how a nuclear event would affect Toronto, and how you can find out what it would mean for where you live.

Trump gives China hope - “For 16 years, the United States has publicly refused to engage in direct talks with North Korea, arguing that doing so would reward it for bad behavior. In the meantime, the North raced ahead with its nuclear weapons program,” write Jane Perlez, Choe Sang-hun, and Motoko Rich for The New York Times. “Yet with a new president in the White House and South Korea’s leader under the threat of impeachment, a break from the longstanding stalemate suddenly seems possible.”

--“China has urged the United States to enter talks with North Korea to end its weapons program, apparently sensing... President Trump’s desire to make deals could break the yearslong deadlock on negotiations.” Former SecDef Bill Perry added, “What might make a difference... [is if we] had already gone through a really serious attempt at negotiation, offered a real alternative to North Korea... And if they turn that offer down, then I think we’re in a much better position to go to China and say: ‘We want to really tighten the screws on sanctions.’” Full story here.

Tweet - @Livableworld: China mulls joining U.N. talks on treaty to ban #nuclear weapons

Ratify the CTBT - “The greatest unsung achievement of the Cold War – diplomacy to control the nuclear arms race, reduce nuclear dangers and arsenals, and prevent mushroom clouds – has been forgotten,” writes Michael Krepon for Defense One. But, “the single most symbolic and practical step that states possessing nuclear weapons could take would be to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear testing for all time. Only three nuclear-weapon states have done so—Russia, Great Britain and France.”

--“The United States, China, and Israel have signed but not ratified the Treaty; India, Pakistan and North Korea haven’t even signed. All are needed for the Treaty to enter into force, lending new credence to global non-proliferation efforts. A chain of ratifications can begin with the United States, followed by China, India, Pakistan and Israel. President Obama couldn’t hope to gain the necessary Senate votes. President Trump could redefine himself and reduce nuclear dangers by doing so.” Full piece here.

Trump administration’s behavior towards Iran - “Even with Michael Flynn gone, all signs indicate the Trump administration is likely to continue on its course toward confrontation with Iran ― and threatening both U.S. and regional security in the process,” writes Ryan Costello for The Huffington Post. “There have been three separate reports that the Trump administration is considering action that would risk war with Iran and jeopardize the agreement that has rolled back Iran’s nuclear program and subjected it to intrusive international monitoring.”

--“Last week, reports indicated that the administration was considering designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – an Iranian military force – a foreign terrorist organization (FTO)... [A second indicated] Defense Secretary James Mattis was considering interdicting an Iranian ship in international waters to inspect it for arms that could potentially be headed to Houthi forces in Yemen… [The third cited plans] to push the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)... to demand inspections of Iranian military sites… All of the proposals that have been floated thus far push toward confrontation, and there remains little sign that the administration is considering de-escalatory steps to halt a backslide to war.” Full story here.

See also - “Trump promises Israel that Iran will never get bomb,” by AFP.

Europeans increasing trade ties with Iran - “Before the platters of roast lamb and fragrant rice were served, visiting executives squeezed into the front room of the Swedish ambassador’s home in Tehran to applaud ambitious plans to restore Iran as a top trade partner,” writes Golnar Motevalli for Bloomberg. “‘Before sanctions, Iran was the biggest export market for Sweden in the Middle East,’ Trade Minister Ann Linde said at the Feb. 11 event attended by Iranian businessmen and ministers. ‘We hope it will be again.’”

--In addition, “France’s Treasury is planning to issue direct loans to businesses that want to work in Iran, according to a French government official… Germany’s KfW development bank agreed a 1.2 billion euro loan to Iran for a rail road in November, while Italy’s export credit agency SACE SpA and the CDP Group last year extended about 9 billion euros in loans and guarantees. European leaders were quick to point out that they considered last month’s launch of a ballistic missile by Iran… didn’t contravene its commitments under the nuclear accord.” Full story here.

Tweet - @CFR_org: Russia has violated a cold war-era arms control treaty. Explore this timeline of U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control:

Nuclear dilemma should be addressed politically - “Nuclear weapons are back in vogue, including the idea that gearing up to fight a nuclear war might be a wonderfully stabilizing prospect,” writes Gordon Adams for The Washington Spectator. “In a national security era dominated by fear of terrorism, a substantial part of the American population has either forgotten, or for a third (born after 1989) never knew that national security arguments in the United States from the 1950s to 1989 were dominated by the fear that there might be a nuclear war.”

--“Once again, we are thinking the unthinkable. The Russians are said to be ‘aggressively’ expanding their strategic and theater nuclear arsenal, while the Americans start a trillion-dollar nuclear modernization program of their own… The answer to the nuclear dilemma is political, not military. It involves reassurance on both sides about intentions and capabilities; renewed negotiations to limit the expansion of nuclear programs; and a recognition that stability is in the interests of both Russia and the United States. I hold out no fond hopes that such logic will prevail… [but] given the unpredictable character of the new resident of the White House and the Russian leader’s political savvy, lightning could strike.” Full story here.

Quick Hits:

--“An open letter to Trump and Putin: The world needs Nuclear Zero,” by David Krieger for The Hill.

--“Japan to bolster missile defenses in face of North Korea threat,” by The Japan Times.

--“Nuclear Weapons Don’t Belong in Anyone’s Hands,” by Tim Wright for The Nation.

--“Russia Must Immediately Resolve INF Treaty Noncompliance Issue,” press release by Arms Control Association.

--“Trump vs Tehran: Sanctions threat boosts Tehran's anti-American hardliners,” by Stasa Salacanin for The New Arab.

--“Trump’s Muted Tone on North Korea Gives Hope for Nuclear Talks,” by Jane Perlez, Chloe Sang-Hun, and Motoko Rich for The New York Times.

--“Bishop Cantu urges administration to pursue deeper nuclear arms cuts,” Dennis Sadowski for Catholic Philly.

--“Standing With the Nonwhite World to Ban Nuclear Weapons,” by Vincent Intondi for Huffington Post.


--“Debate: European Missile Defenses for NATO,” hosted by CSIS. February 16 from 4:30-7:30pm at Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington. Details here.

--"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.

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