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Budget Blunder: “No Cuts” in Nuclear Forces

The new defense budget has
“no cuts” in nuclear forces.

By Hans M. Kristensen

“There are no cuts made in the nuclear force in this budget.” That clear statement was made yesterday by deputy defense secretary Ashton Carter during the Pentagon’s briefing on the defense budget request for Fiscal Year 2013.

We’ll have to see what’s hidden in the budget documents once they are released next month, but the statement is disappointing for anyone who had hopes that the administration’s promises about “concrete steps” to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons and to “put an end to Cold War thinking” would actually be reflected in the new defense budget.

Not so for the FY13 budget. Other than a decision to delay work for two years on the next generation ballistic missile submarine, the Defense Budget Priorities and Choices report released yesterday does not list any nuclear reductions; neither previously announced nor new ones. Continue Reading →

US Releases Full New START Data

The Obama administration gets a medal for disclosing its New START treaty numbers.

By Hans M. Kristensen [updated 12 Dec 2011 with new bomber information]

Anyone familiar with my writings knows that I don’t hand out medals to the nuclear weapon states very often. But the Obama administration deserves one after the U.S. State Department’s recent release of the full U.S. aggregate data under the New START treaty.

The release breaks with the initial practice under the treaty of only publishing overall nuclear force category numbers, and re-establishes the U.S. practice from the previous START treaty of providing maximum disclosure of the strategic forces counted by the treaty. This is a good development that has gone totally unnoticed in the news media.

The pressure is now squarely on Russia to follow suit and publish its New START aggregate data as well. Continue Reading →

New Article On Obama Administration Nuclear Targeting Review

New article published in
Arms Control Today

By Hans M. Kristensen

The latest issue of Arms Control Today includes a new article by Robert Norris and myself about the nuclear targeting review that is currently underway in the Obama administration.

In ordering the review, formally known as the Post-NPR Review, President Obama has asked the military to review and revise U.S. nuclear strategy and guidance on the roles and missions of nuclear weapons, including potential changes in targeting requirements and alert postures, in preparation for the next round of nuclear reductions beyond the New START treaty with Russia.

Our article describes the bureaucratic labyrinth the review will go through before new presidential guidance emerges to change the U.S. nuclear war plan. To that end, we offer a wide range of suggestions for how the review could reduce the requirements for U.S. nuclear forces to “put an end to Cold War thinking,” as President Obama said in his Prague speech in 2009.

Note: accessing the article requires subscription to Arms Control Today.

Further information: Obama and the Nuclear War Plan (FAS, 2010).

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

New START Data: Modest Reductions and Decreased Transparency

New START aggregate numbers have been published by the United States and Russia.

By Hans M. Kristensen

The latest New START treaty aggregate numbers of strategic arms, which was quietly released by the State Department earlier last week, shows modest reductions and important changes in U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces.

Most surprisingly, the data shows that Russia has increased its number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads and is now again above the New START limit.

Because of the limited format of the released aggregate numbers, however, the changes are not explained or apparent. As a result, though not yet one year old, the New START treaty is already beginning to increase uncertainty about the status of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. Continue Reading →

Pentagon’s 2011 China Report: Reducing Nuclear Transparency

The Pentagon’s new report on China’s military forces significantly reduces transparency of China’s missile force by eliminating specific missile numbers previously included in the annual overview.

By Hans M. Kristensen

The Pentagon has published its annual assessment of China’s military power (the official title is Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China). I will leave it to others to review the conclusions on China’s general military forces and focus here on the nuclear aspects. Continue Reading →

Panel Discussion at Brookings on NATO Nukes

brookingslogoBy Hans M. Kristensen

Steve Pifer was kind enough to invite me to participate in a panel discussion at the Brookings Institution about NATO’s nuclear future and the issue of non-strategic nuclear weapons in the Alliance’s current Defense and Deterrence Posture Review (DDPR).

Steve presented his excellent paper NATO, Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control, Frank Miller, who has been involved in these issue before I could tie my shoe laces, took the “keep US nukes in Europe,” while I argued for the withdrawal of the weapons. Angela Stent moderated the panel.

I’m not yet clear if they’re planning to post a transcript or video, so in the meantime here are my prepared remarks: NATO’s Posture Review and Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons.

For my writings on this blog about NATO nuclear policy issues, go here.

See also recent letter to NATO Secretary General Ander Fogh Rasmussen coordinated by ACA and and BASIC and signed by two dozen nuclear experts and former senior government officials.

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

New START Aggregate Numbers Released: First Round Slim Picking

You won’t be able to count SS-18s in the New START aggregate date.

By Hans M. Kristensen

Russia and the United States have released the first Fact Sheet with aggregate numbers for the strategic offensive nuclear forces counted under the New START treaty.

It shows that Russia has already dropped below the New START ceiling of 1,550 accountable deployed warheads and the United States is close behind, seven years before the treaty is scheduled to enter into effect (it makes you wonder what all the ratification delay was about).

But compared with the extensive aggregate numbers that were released during the previous START treaty, the new Fact Sheet is slim picking: just six numbers.

Unless the two countries agree to release more information in the months ahead, this could mark a significant step back in nuclear transparency. Continue Reading →

Letter Urges Release of New START Data

Ambassador Brooks, Secretary Perry and Ambassador Matlock join FAS in call for continuing nuclear transparency under New START treaty

.By Hans M. Kristensen,

Three former U.S. officials have joined FAS in urging the United States and Russia to continue to declassify the same degree of information about their strategic nuclear forces under the New START treaty as they did during the now-expired START treaty.

The three former officials are: Linton Brooks, former chief U.S. START negotiator and administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Jack Matlock, former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union and Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan for national security affairs, and William Perry, former U.S. Secretary of Defense.

At issue is whether the United States and Russia will continue under the New START treaty to release to the public detailed lists – known as aggregate data – of their strategic nuclear forces with the same degree of transparency as they used to do under the now-expired START treaty. There has been concern that the two countries might reduce the information to only include numbers of delivery systems but withhold information about warhead numbers and locations.

In a joint letter, the three former officials joined FAS President Charles Ferguson and myself in urging the United States and Russia to “continue under the New START treaty the practice from the expired START treaty of releasing to the public aggregate numbers of delivery vehicles and warheads and locations.” This practice contributed greatly to international nuclear transparency, predictability, reassurance, and helped counter rumors and distrust, the letter concludes.

Both governments have stated their intention to seek to broaden the nuclear arms control process in the future to include other nuclear weapon states and the letter warns that achieving this will be a lot harder if the two largest nuclear weapon states were to decide to decrease transparency of their nuclear forces under New START.

“Any decrease in public release of information compared with START would be a step back.”

The letter was sent to Rose Gottemoeller, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, and Sergey Kislyak, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United States.

Download letter

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

New START Data Exchange: Will it Increase or Decrease International Nuclear Transparency?

U.S. officials say that aggregate numbers of the New START treaty will be made publicly available but that these may be very general numbers and a decision still has to be made. For a copy of the final START aggregate numbers, click here.

By Hans M. Kristensen

The first data exchange of the New START treaty between the United States and Russia has taken place, according to a report by RIA Novosti.

This is the first of more than 20 such data exchanges planned under the treaty for the next 10 years where Russia and the United States twice a year will send each other a list showing how many long-range ballistic missiles and heavy bombers they have and how many nuclear weapons they carry.

But while the exchanges will increase U.S-Russia nuclear transparency, the rest of the world may be facing a future with less information about U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces than in the past.

“All exchanges are classified and will not be subject to release,” a U.S. official told me. “There may be some information on very general numbers under the Treaty that could be made public, but that is still to be determined, and will not occur for a least six months if it occurs at all.” Continue Reading →

Talk at Georgetown U Event on Tac Nuke Treaty

By Hans M. Kristensen

The Center on National Security and the Law and the Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic co-hosted an event at Georgetown University Law Center on Tuesday, March 1st: Next Steps after New START: A Treaty on Tactical Nuclear Weapons.

The event included a keynote speech by Edward Warner, the Senior Advisor to the under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

I gave a briefing on the status of US and Russian nonstrategic nuclear weapons. Other panelists included Michael May, former director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and now at Stanford University, Paul Dean from the Department of State, Madelyn Creedon with the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Tim Morrison from the office of Senator Jon Kyl. Dakota Rudesill from the Law Center moderated.

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.