Thursday, February 07, 2019

Arms Race Update

Nukes are all the rage these days. The US and Russia just trashed the IRBM or intermediate range ballistic missile treaty inked by Reagan and Gorbachev back in the good old days.

But wait, there's more. A Russian diplomat warns that the New Start treaty signed by Obama and then Russian president Medvedev is also in peril.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov charged that the U.S. refusal to negotiate an extension to the New Start treaty signals Washington's intention to let it expire in 2021. He warned that time is running out to save the pact, which was signed in 2010 by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. 
Ryabkov said that the U.S. has shown "no readiness or desire" to engage in substantive talks on extending the pact, which limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers.
...Ryabkov expressed particular worry about U.S. plans to produce new, low-yield nuclear weapons, warning that it could dramatically lower the threshold for their use. 
"It's very alarming," he said, adding that the plans could revive old Cold War era concepts. 
"It throws us many decades back to the ideology of nuclear battlefield weapons," he said. "There are just a couple of steps left ... before the revival of nuclear artillery, nuclear mortars, nuclear mines, nuclear grenades and other things like that. It appears to reflect the eagerness of those who have grown up in the age of computer games to easily push the button."
In what might be a first, Russia, the United States and France yesterday launched nuclear capable missiles within hours of each other.

But wait, there's more.  Not to be left out, China is making nuke news of its own.  The South China Morning Post reports that, after 55 years, China is mulling over its "no first use" policy on nuclear weapons.
China might come under pressure to reconsider its long-standing “no first use” nuclear policy as it engages in a maritime arms race with the United States, analysts have warned.

According to Zhao Tong, a fellow in Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Programme, based at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy, the US and its allies are stepping up their anti-submarine warfare in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.

In a report late last year, Zhao said this was increasing mistrust between the two countries and raising the possibility that Beijing might rethink the “no first use” nuclear weapons policy, which has been in place since the first Chinese nuclear test in 1964. 
In a separate report, the Washington-based US-China Economic and Security Review Commission said Beijing was looking at expanding its nuclear delivery systems, setting off debate in China over whether its nuclear arms should be used only as a deterrent and not as a “first strike”. 
The United States and China are both capable of delivering nuclear weapons through three systems: land-launched nuclear missiles, nuclear missile-armed submarines and strategic aircraft with nuclear bombs and missiles.
But wait, there's more. Satellite images have come out in the press lately of a ballistic missile factory in the desert near Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis, it seems, want a missile capability similar to Iran's. That's the almost good news. The bad news is who is apparently giving the Saudis a hand - Pakistan and China.
US defence experts told CNBC that the development indicates a growing desire by Riyadh, Washington’s longtime ally, to take offensive measures without the approval of its main weapons sponsor. 
“There’s an arms race underway,” said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and Arab affairs expert at the American Enterprise Institute. “Whiplash policy changes in Washington have had their impact on Riyadh: Saudi authorities are no longer going to be constrained by White House whispers. The Saudis are demonstrating that they can take matters into their own hands.” 

Missile expert Jeffrey Lewis also stressed that heavy investment in missiles often correlates with an interest in nuclear weapons, adding, “I would be a little worried that we’re underestimating the Saudis’ ambitions here.” 
Moreover, Bruce Riedel, a CIA veteran and expert on Persian Gulf affairs, said that the timing of the Saudi missile factory construction “underscores a willingness to ignore Washington’s interests and policies” from the beginning of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power.
Pakistan conducted its first nuclear bomb test in 1998.  India now believes Pakistan has amassed upwards of 140 nuclear warheads.  At one point, early in its nuclear history, Pakistan's Ali Bhutto referred to his country's device as the "Islamic Bomb." That was interpreted as imbuing the weapon with a pan-Muslim (Sunni, that is) connotation. And, in fairness, the father of Pakistan's bomb, Abdul Khan, who stole most of the secret technology while working in Europe, was involved in helping Qaddafi's Libya with its own nuke programme.

Well, I could go on but I think that's enough nuke news for one day.


Anonymous said...

Such a fine looking angle. Anyong.

the salamander said...

.. I'm out of date re subarine fleet ops choreography.. Are those a Chinese submarine in the photo? No my grammar is correct & in the distance are surface warships.. or is it a single warship on the distant horizon. Astonishingly, the eight submarine display such cohesion.. the flag flies forward (tailwind?) and all wake splashes are identical.. even in the same place alongside.. a boffo bit of digital magic

My early morning humour aside.. the state of our world vis a vis nuclear weaponry.. is deplorable. I do get the sense the American Joint Chiefs are finding their balance and screwing up their courage, perhaps talking back channel - regarding how to successfully ignore the pre-juvenile nuclear and strategic nattering of Donald Trump, Stephen Miller, Jerrod Kushner et al. Hopefully the strange fashion based thoughts of Ivanka don't carry any weight either. I don't think any of them or all of them could be trusted to come up with an effective strategy to feed a launch crew.. breakfast lunch and dinner.. or successfully design the uniforms... Space Force.. great

Today is Friday.. when possible I spend the entire day in a public library.. will I slip into a military mood ? Or look at historical photos ? Collected imagery of nature ? There is something special about spreading open a book that is almost 4 feet wide when opened with captioned glossy images. West Coast indigenous art is one of my faves.. might be just the ticket !

The Mound of Sound said...

This week has made my skin crawl a bit, Sal. I wrote an earlier piece on why IRBMs, intermediate/short range ballistic missiles are so problematic. Then the talk about scrapping New Start, China re-evaluating "no first strike," Saudi Arabia's ballistic missile plant and testing range, and Trump's plan to develop a whole new range of tactical nuclear weapons. That's a full plate. In my day, which was the tac nuke era, we used to take the piss out of Anita Bryant and call them "those little bags of instant sunshine."