Trump’s Nuclear Fallacy


Dangerous Nuclear Decisions
By Louis René Beres | Opinion Contributor
July 4, 2017, at 7:00 a.m.
Our national independence suggests more than an annual pretext for bluster, bravado and fireworks. It also expresses a complex legal and philosophical concept warranting continuous reassessment. In this connection, despite President Donald Trump’s vast efforts at public deflection via ad hominem attacks, it is high time for Americans to confront the most overriding danger of presidential debility.
This singular peril is the conspicuously growing threat of a president who is emotionally and intellectually incapable of rendering well-reasoned nuclear command decisions.
As I know personally from almost 50 years of scholarship on such matters, there are various structural protections built into any presidential order to use nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, virtually all of these mostly redundant safeguards would become operational only at lower command levels; plainly, they do not apply at the highest level of national decisional authority.
In essence, there exist no permissible or codified legal grounds to disobey a presidential order to use nuclear weapons. To be sure, in principle at least, individuals in the military chain of command could sometimes invoke pertinent Nuremberg obligations to resist crimes of state, but any such last-minute invocation would almost certainly yield to substantially more obvious manifestations of U.S. domestic law, both statutory and constitutional.
If an American president were ever to issue an irrational or seemingly irrational nuclear command, the only way for the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the national security advisor and several possible others to meaningfully obstruct this order would be illegal on its face. Conceivably, such informal safeguards might somehow manage to work, but we really still ought to inquire about implementing more suitably predictable and promising institutional impediments.
This inquiry should be immediate.
History may deserve pride of place. In candor, we Americans are navigating here in generally uncharted waters. While President John F. Kennedy did engage in personal nuclear brinkmanship with the Soviet Union back in October 1962, he had then calculated his own odds of a resultant nuclear war as “between one out of three and even.”
This troubling calculation, corroborated both by top JFK aide Theodore Sorensen and by my own private conversations with former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Arleigh Burke, suggests that Kennedy was either genuinely irrational in imposing his Cuban “quarantine,” or instead that he was acting out completely untested (in a nuclear crisis context) principles of “pretended irrationality.”
There is more. For JFK, following his U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, the term “quarantine” was chosen because “blockade” was presumptively more belligerent, more of an incontestable casus belli, more patently legitimizing as a cause of possible war.
Today, Trump, without any hint of nuance or a scintilla of serious thought, has several-times heaped seat-of-the-pants praise upon pretending irrationality. This unreflective argument was advanced not because the president is in any way personally acquainted with U.S. nuclear strategy, but rather as a “common sense” metaphor drawn viscerally from commercial real estate negotiations. To successfully “play” such a dialectical strategy – to even pry into it interpretively – would call for a far greater depth of historical understanding and analytic subtlety than he could ever be expected to display.
In more expressly scientific terms, this means that Trump, in addition to any evident personal debilities he might bring to the delicate game, would have no credible way to determine the probable outcome of his planned or considered actions. None at all.
The reason for this uncertainty is straightforward and utterly non-political. It exists because all scientific judgments of probability must be based upon the determinable frequency of pertinent past events. By definition, unless we count JFK’s willingness to escalate in 1962, there simply are no pertinent past events.
Going forward, the most serious threat of a misconceived or irrational U.S. presidential order to use nuclear weapons flows not from any “bolt-from-the-blue” nuclear attack – whether Russian, North Korean or American – but from an incoherent escalatory process that has run amok. Fortunately, in 1962, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev “blinked” early on in the game, and thereby avoided mutual and possibly irrecoverable nuclear harms. Looking ahead, however, especially to any expanding crises with North Korea, escalatory initiatives undertaken by Trump would plausibly express fully ad hoc decision-making.
Such initiatives might not meet with any reassuringly Khrushchev-type concession. Such initiatives could end with bitterly unforeseen and unacceptable costs.
In principle, at least, it is vital that Trump understand the very great risks of being locked into an escalatory dynamic from which there could be no release other than capitulation or nuclear war. Although the American president might be entirely well advised to seek “escalation dominance” in any upcoming crisis negotiations with the Russians or North Koreans, also required would be a corollary caution to avoid catastrophic miscalculations. Ominously, in this connection, the more numerous the participating national players, the more complicated and perilous any such negotiations would become.
Like it or not, at one time or another, nuclear strategy is a bewildering game that Trump will almost certainly have to play. To best ensure that this disinterested president’s calculated moves will be rational, purposeful and tactically cost-effective, it will first be necessary to enhance the formal decisional authority of his most senior military and defense subordinates. At a minimum, the secretary of defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the national security advisor, and one or two others in pertinent nuclear command positions should prepare for undertaking more fully collaborative judgments in extremis atomicum.

Is Trump a Nuclear Madman?


‘Madman With Nuclear Weapons’

Mandel Ngan—AFP
Donald Trump lashes out at North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un during phone call with Philippine president
U.S. President Donald Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un a “madman with nuclear weapons” during a telephone call with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, according to a transcript of the conversation released by U.S. media on Tuesday.
A White House readout of the April 29 call characterized it as a “very friendly conversation.” Days after the conversation, Trump said publicly that he would be “honored” to meet with Kim. But in the call, Trump hinted at a possible dramatic escalation on the Korean Peninsula.
“We can’t let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that. We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20—but we don’t want to use it,” the U.S. leader said, citing “two nuclear submarines” the Pentagon sent to the area last month.
Transcribed by the Philippine government, the conversation was released by The Washington Post and The Intercept.
Trump also queried Duterte about whether he believed Kim was “stable or not stable.” The Philippine leader responded that their North Korean counterpart’s “mind is not working and he might just go crazy one moment.” Kim has a “dangerous toy in his hands that could create so much agony and suffering for all mankind,” he added.
But Trump appeared reassured that North Korea’s recent missile tests had failed, saying that “all his rockets are crashing. That’s the good news.”
Turning to China and its ability to counter the nuclear threat, Trump pressed Duterte to call Chinese President Xi Jinping to exert pressure. “I hope China solves the problem. They really have the means because a great degree of their stuff come through China,” Trump said, adding: “But if China doesn’t do it, we will do it.” Duterte agreed, saying “at the end of the day, the last card, the ace, has to be with China.”
However, he also cautioned, starkly, that “the other option is a nuclear blast, which is not good for everybody.”
Trump closed the call by inviting Duterte to visit the White House “anytime you want to come,” and called him a “good man.”
“Seriously, if you want to come over, just let us know. Just take care of yourself, and we will take care of North Korea,” he added. At the start of the call, Trump congratulated Duterte on doing a “great job” in his controversial drug war that has killed thousands of people.

The Final World War With Iran (Daniel 8)


Donald Trump could drop a nuclear bomb on Iran within two years
Donald Trump has just signalled that new and old enemies of the Persian people are aligning like no time in history. Iran should be very worried indeed.
Many of Donald Trump’s critics claim he is unpredictable. In researching my article last year predicting Trump’s election win, I found the opposite to be true: Trump is relatively easy to predict if only one looks at what he says and understands that he believes what he says, contradictions and all.
Trump’s self-belief means we can assume that he will try to implement his policies as stated. And of his many past comments that disturb me, it is his views on nuclear weapons that I find most frightening. “What is the point of having nuclear weapons if you don’t use them?” he is quoted as saying.
Trump himself has stated that he not only believes that nuclear weapons could be used, but that they should be used. Small hands can still press a big red button.
I am not trying to suggest that I think Trump believes in nuclear armageddon. Even he would see the futility of a full scale nuclear clash. But what of the relatively small scale tactical nuclear weapons, if used against a commonly-perceived hostile state that is itself wishing to expand its nuclear technology? Could Trump, and those around him, rationalise the use of a small tactical weapon to wipe out an adversary’s nuclear facility, particularly if it were underground?
The US’s largest conventional weapon, the so-called “Mother of All Bombs”, recently failed to destroy cave complexes in Afghanistan. Could Trump be telling himself that a nuclear bomb is the only option left to his administration?
If you accept that Trump may be predisposed to using nuclear weapons, certainly more freely than any recent US leader, the obvious next question is against whom these weapons shall be used. Enter the two most likely suspects: North Korea and Iran.
Trump: ‘You always have to be concerned about nuclear war’
Bombing North Korea has the risk of really upsetting the hermit kingdom’s neighbours. Both China and South Korea, for differing reasons, would react very negatively should there be an attack on Kim number three’s playground. Besides, Trump has clearly signalled that North Korea is China’s problem.
Iran, on the other hand, is bereft of neighbouring friends.
People in the West sometimes forget that Iran, while Islamic, is not Arab. Iran is Persian, and Arab-Persian antipathy pre-dates the arrival of Islam. It doesn’t take Egyptian Arabs long to remember the brutality of the ancient Persian kings, let alone look to the Islamic Shia and Sunni split.
Yet for a short period following the discovery of oil, Egypt and Iran did align against the Wahhabist Saudi family when the Saudis’ new force grew along with their petro-dollars. In the great tradition of monarchies marrying for alliances, the Shah of Iran married the sister of the last King of Egypt, King Farouk. Waiting for a post-mortem return to Persia, the Shah rests even today next to his old friend Farouk in side by side Cairo mosques.
Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the age-old Persian-Arab enmity returned. Iran sought to destabilise the secular Egyptian governments of Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak by financing the Muslim Brotherhood. Iran finally gained a puppet in Cairo with the election of Islamist Mohamed Morsi.
Iran’s then president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was one of the first foreign leaders to visit Morsi in Cairo, sending a chill down the spines of both Israel and Saudi Arabia. Neither the Wahhabist nor the Jewish State would see an Egypt-Iran rapprochement as in their interests. It had to be thwarted.
No surprise then, when the Saudis and Israelis both lobbied the Americans for an end to Morsi resulting in a “popular revolution” in Egypt, the ousting of Morsi and the election of a new secular general, Abd El-Fattah El-Sisi, who quickly attempted a gift of disputed islands to Saudi Arabia.
So the Israeli and Saudi governments agreed on who should rule Egypt. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are growing closer. The Americans sell the Saudi regime weapons as the Saudi Arabians are fighting Iran in a proxy war in Yemen.
Iran and Saudi fight an economic war over oil supply and price. Iran needs an oil price north of $70 (£55) a barrel to balance their budget. Saudi will only agree to constricting supply and rise prices if the Iranians agree to their sanctions level output, limiting their revenue. Neither agree, so Opec is in stalemate. Oh my, the coincidences.
And if Trump were minded to drop a small tactical nuke to wipe out Iran’s nuclear facility, when would he do it? That depends. Does he need “Jim-Bob” in southern Arkansas to vote for the Republicans in the 2018 mid-terms, or vote for Trump in the 2020 Primaries? I think Iran has a little over two years.
I’ve travelled to both Iran and North Korea. I liked Iran. I found it a safe and friendly country; the biggest risk I experienced was either being swamped by hospitality or drowned in sweet tea. But today Iran is boxed in economically, militarily and politically. It has no friends left. Trump could drop a small nuke there and very few neighbours would bat an eyelid. Many would quietly applaud.
The nation has no allies. To prevent an attack it will likely need to either transparently drop its own nuclear programme or persuade Putin to step in on its behalf. Iran has reasons to be very worried indeed.
Andrew MacLeod is a visiting Professor at Kings College London

Modernizing Babylon The Great

The Senate Armed Services Committee hosted a hearing last week on defense nuclear acquisition programs and doctrine.
Gen. Robin Rand, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, offered a robust defense of the United States’ follow-on intercontinental ballistic missile. He argued that extending the life of the currently deployed Minuteman III ICBMs would not be cheaper than building a follow-on ICBM.
Reliability and survivability are increasingly challenged in the current system, which was developed during the 1960s and 1970s. Rand mentioned how U.S. ICBMs complicate adversaries’ targeting because of their quantity and geographic dispersion, also mentioning how they provide the president with a timely response option.
In combination with other elements of the nuclear triad, strategic submarines, and bombers, the system forces adversaries to spread their resources to take into account each of the legs of the triad as opposed to focusing on defeating one or two strategic systems.
Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. But this can’t be done alone.
Later, Robert Soofer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, argued that Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty are not sustainable and that the United States must take action and increase pressure on Russia on this issue.
He is correct. Russia has been using its violation to sow political discord within NATO in an effort to drive a wedge between the United States and its allies. Allies continue to be critical to U.S. national security interests.
Additionally, in the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review, the administration will have a unique opportunity to reassess a number of the Obama administration’s misguided nuclear weapon policies insofar as they were based on an assumption of a fundamentally different, and friendlier, relationship between the two countries.
North Korea’s ballistic missile program has been a focus of concern for the committee as well. With its latest ballistic missile test, North Korea demonstrated progress on the re-entry vehicle that could be used to deliver a nuclear weapon.
The United States finds itself consistently underestimating North Korea’s ballistic missile capabilities and the speed with which they are developed.
The United States currently fields the ground-based midcourse defense interceptors, the only system to protect the U.S. homeland from the North Korean long-range ballistic missile threat. The program achieved a successful intercept last week, for the first time ever demonstrating a capability to shoot down an ICBM target.
Vice Admiral Terry Benedict, director of the U.S. Navy Strategic Systems Programs, offered a strong defense of the sea-based strategic deterrent. The United States is planning on replacing the Ohio-class strategic submarine with the Columbia-class strategic submarine in the future.
Submarines are the most survivable leg of the strategic triad. To help manage cost concerns, the Navy and the Air Force are exploiting missile commonality. Additionally, the United States and the United Kingdom continue their cooperation on the Trident D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Finally, James MacStravic, performing the duties of undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, offered a strong defense on the need to continue nuclear weapons modernization and recapitalization of the nuclear triad.
If modernization efforts do not continue, the United States runs “the risk of creating critical capability gaps as legacy systems reach the end of sustainability—negatively affecting the credibility of the nation’s strategic deterrent.”
Stability of the supply chain and modernization of the command, control, and communications networks were other topics of a great interest to members of Congress. Rightfully so. The United States must ensure secure and reliable communications, including in crisis situations.
Similarly, it is essential that microchips and electronics in the upcoming modern systems are not compromised.
In sum, there is no shortage of challenges for the Department of Defense, the administration, and Congress as modernization of the nuclear enterprise continues.
The hearing outlined important challenges that the nuclear weapons modernization program will face in the future. The administration and Congress must work together to ensure the U.S. nuclear arsenal remains safe, secure, reliable, and militarily effective.

Modernizing Our Nuclear Weapons

Nevertheless, despite clear evidence in favor of deploying nuclear weapons, modernizing the US arsenal has long been a cost concern and strategic liability for US strategic planners. In fact, Weinstein said there is concern that both Russian and Chinese nuclear arsenals are now more modern and advanced than existing U.S. Minuteman IIIs. 
Citing a Congressional Research Service report, a story in National Defense Magazine says the GBSD the program is expected to cost $62 billion from 2015 through fiscal year 2044.  That breaks down to about $14 billion for upgrades to command-and-control systems and launch centers, and $48.5 billion for new missiles, the report says. 
Air Force officials say the service will award some contracts as part of its ongoing evaluation of formal proposals from three vendors competing to build hundreds of new, next-generation Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles designed to protect the US homeland well into the 2070s and beyond, service officials said.
Submissions from Northrop, Boeing and Lockheed are now being reviewed by Air Force weapons developers looking to modernize the US land-based nuclear missile arsenal and replace the 1970s-era Boeing-built Minuteman IIIs. Service officials told Scout Warrior a contract award is expected later this year.
The new effort to build ICBMs, what the Air Force calls “Ground Based Strategic Deterrence,” aims to construct durable, high-tech nuclear-armed missiles able to serve until 2075.
The new weapons will be engineered with improved guidance technology, boosters, flight systems and command and control systems, compared to the existing Minuteman III missiles. The weapon will also have upgraded circuitry and be built with a mind to long-term maintenance and sustainability.
“Solid rocket fuel ages out after a period of time. You need to have an upgraded guidance package for sustainability and warfighting requirements. Looking at the current technology, it has moved faster than when these were first developed. Civilian industry has leapfrogged so we want the ability to use components that have already been developed,” , Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, said in an interview with Scout Warrior several months ago.
Do Nuclear Weapons Save Lives? Philosophical Context
If one were to passively reflect upon the seemingly limitless explosive power to instantly destroy, vaporize or incinerate cities, countries and massive swaths of territory or people — images of quiet, flowing green meadows, peaceful celebratory gatherings or melodious sounds of chirping birds might not immediately come to mind.
After all, lethal destructive weaponry does not, by any means, appear to be synonymous with peace, tranquility and collective happiness. However, it is precisely the prospect of massive violence which engenders the possibility of peace.  Nuclear weapons therefore, in some unambiguous sense, can be interpreted as being the antithesis of themselves; simply put – potential for mass violence creates peace – thus the conceptual thrust of nuclear deterrence.
It is within this conceptual framework, designed to save millions of lives, prevent major great-power war and ensure the safety of entire populations, that the U.S. Air Force is now vigorously pursuing a new arsenal of land-fired, Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles, or ICBMs
Weinstein cited famous nuclear strategist Bernard Brodie as a way to articulate the seismic shift in thinking and tactics made manifest by the emergence of nuclear weapons.
Considered to be among the key architects of strategic nuclear deterrence, and referred to by many as an “American Clausewitz,” Brodie expressed how the advent of the nuclear era changes the paradigm regarding the broadly configured role or purpose of weaponry in war.
Weinstein referred to Brodie’s famous quote from his 1940s work “The Absolute Weapon: Atomic Power and World Order.” — “Thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on, its chief purpose must be to avert them. It can have almost no other useful purpose.”
The success of this strategy hinges upon the near certainty of total annihilation, should nuclear weapons be used. ICBMs are engineered to fly through space on a total flight of about 30 mins before detonating with enormous destructive power upon targets.
“If another nation believes they can have an advantage by using a nuclear weapon, that is really dangerous. What you want to do is have such a strong deterrent force that any desire to attack with nuclear weapons will easily be outweighed by the response they get from the other side. That’s the value of what the deterrent force provides,” Weinstein said in an exclusive interview with Scout Warrior.
Althought Weinstein did not take a position on the pior administration’s considerations about having the U.S. adopt a No First Use, or NFU, nuclear weapons policy, Air Force Secretary Deborah James has expressed concern about the possiblity, in a news report published by Defense News. Limiting the U.S. scope of deterrence, many argue, might wrongly encourage potential adversaries to think they could succeed with a limited first nuclear strike of some kind.
Ground-Based Strategic Deterrence 
It is within the context of these ideas, informing military decision-makers for decades now, that the Air Force is in the early stages of building, acquiring and deploying a higher-tech replacement for the existing arsenal of Minuteman III ICBMs.
Weinstein pointed out that, since the dawn of the nuclear age decades ago, there has not been a catastrophic major power war on the scale of WWI or WWII.

Babylon the Great Upgrades Her Nukes


Upgrading U.S. nuclear missiles, as Russia and China modernize, would cost $85 billion. Is it time to quit the ICBM race?

W.J. Hennigan and Ralph VartabedianContact Reporters
The sky over the turbulent Pacific was pitch-black earlier this month when a Minuteman III missile blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a column of fire that illuminated the California coastline for miles.
The unarmed missile thundered past the outer reaches of the atmosphere, tracing a fiery arc around the globe before plunging into a lagoon at Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific, 4,200 miles away.
The Minuteman III tested May 3 near Lompoc is a critical element of U.S. defense strategy: a fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of obliterating any spot on Earth with a nuclear blast in 30 minutes or less.
Although the flight test proved Minuteman is still capable of performing its mission, major components of the missile and the control centers used to launch them are Cold War-era relics that have become increasingly expensive to maintain. Spare parts are in such short supply that the military has been known to pull them from museums.
At the same time, Russia and China are upgrading their nuclear capabilities. Pakistan, India and Israel continue to build new nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Air Force officials worry increasingly about the Minuteman’s ability to penetrate adversaries’ future missile defense systems.
The result is one of the most strategically complex and financially difficult challenges the Trump administration faces in making good on the president’s pledge for a “great rebuilding of the armed forces,” including the nation’s aging nuclear arsenal.
The Pentagon has begun work to replace the Minuteman fleet with a new generation of missiles and launch control centers, but the plan would cost an astronomical $85 billion, one of the most expensive projects in Air Force history.
Two defense firms will be awarded three-year contracts for $359 million each this year, with a test flight program scheduled for launch in the mid-2020s.
The tremendous expense of deploying a missile fleet capable in the long term of countering nuclear threats has spawned a debate in the American military establishment: How essential, in the 21st century, are the 400 strategic missiles embedded in silos deep under the plains of Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota?
The discussion has opened for review the very essence of the nation’s nuclear defense strategy: the “triad” deployment of nuclear weapons, in submarines, strategic bombers and land-based silos, to guarantee the ability to retaliate against any nuclear strike.
The Minuteman III was developed in the 1960s and first deployed in 1970. The nearly 50-year-old hardware is still working fine, but not without extensive maintenance.
“I look at the Minuteman III like a classic car,” said Col. Craig Ramsey, commander of the fleet’s flight test squadron at Vandenberg. “I love my 1966 Mustang, but it requires a lot of tender loving care and maintenance whether you drive it or leave it in the garage.”
At its peak in about 1990, the Air Force fielded 450 Minuteman IIs, 500 Minuteman IIIs and 50 Peacekeeper missiles, a total of 1,000 ICBMs that had more than 2,000 warheads on them. Today’s 400 Minuteman missiles each field a single warhead.
Pentagon officials want to replace almost the entire nuclear arsenal, at a cost of up to $1 trillion. But no component has raised more questions than the replacement of the ICBM fleet, which critics have said is no longer crucial to preventing a nuclear war.
The argument for eliminating ICBMs is stronger than at any time in the past. Advocates of that strategy say submarine-based missiles and strategic bombers have improved their capability and are now more than potent enough to deter an enemy attack.
Former Defense Secretary William J. Perry fired the opening salvo last year, calling for phasing out the entire land-based ICBM force. He argued that its continued deployment is too costly. And with the missiles on continuous alert in order to be able to launch instantly if an enemy launch is detected by satellites and radar, a mistake or faulty warning could trigger an accidental nuclear war.
“The ICBM system is outdated, risky and unnecessary,” Perry, who served in the Clinton administration 20 years ago, said in a recent interview. “Basically, it can bring about the end of civilization with a false alarm. It’s a liability because we can easily achieve deterrence without it.”
Perry has not been alone in expressing doubts about the ICBM program, but senior Pentagon leaders have always been persuaded to keep it. Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called for elimination of ICBMs before entering office and then changed his mind. Trump’s Defense secretary, James N. Mattis, questioned the need for the missiles in 2015 when he was a four-star general. But as soon as he was nominated, he began supporting a full-blown modernization of the triad.
The reevaluation of the role of ICBMs in America’s defense comes in an era when nuclear weapons are proliferating, not fading away. GlobalSecurity.org director John Pike, who has analyzed U.S. military systems and strategies for more than three decades, says critics “are gaining no traction” in calling for the elimination of the ballistic missile fleet.
The Air Force makes the case that replacing the Minuteman will be less costly than trying to keep its Elvis-era fleet in perfect working order for decades into the future. The nation’s strategic forces represent a small slice of defense spending, while providing a large measure of security against an unprovoked attack on U.S. soil.
Air Force leaders also worry that Russia, China and North Korea are investing in new nuclear missile systems that would erode the military edge that the Minuteman has provided with its reliability and accuracy. At some point, they say, the Minuteman’s ability to penetrate future missile defense systems could be compromised.
“Nuclear weapons are foundational to our national security,” said Maj. Gen. Fred Stoss III, director of operations at the Air Force Global Strike Command. “The ICBMs are the most responsive. They have the quickest launch times. The ICBMs are the most stabilizing leg of the triad.”
Eliminating the more than 400 ICBMs and their launch capsules as targets, Stoss said, would allow an enemy to wipe out the rest of the nation’s nuclear deterrent — three strategic bomber bases and two strategic submarine bases — with just five nuclear weapons. That leaves the U.S. vulnerable to attack even from “nations with limited arsenals,” such as North Korea, Stoss said.
Failing to maintain strategic parity puts the U.S. at a disadvantage with potential adversaries, Stoss added. “Russia has a triad. China is on the cusp of a triad.”
Beyond the military arguments, there is the question of cost.
Numerous Pentagon officials and outside experts have warned that the current approach cannot be sustained without significant and sustained increases to defense spending or cuts to other military priorities. The costs for modernization would peak during the mid-2020s and overlap with large increases in projected spending on other weapons that address more immediate threats, such as counter-terrorism, cyberattacks, and space-based technology.
Two years ago, the Pentagon said the new ICBM system, known as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, would cost $62.3 billion. But outside estimates put it far higher. The Pentagon’s independent office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation said last year the plan could cost at least $85 billion.
The costs are likely to climb because of the technological complexity of the program. By comparison, the last time the U.S. fielded a new ICBM, the massive, 10-warhead MX in the mid-1980s, the cost was an inflation-adjusted $900 million per missile. The new, smaller ICBM and its launch centers will optimistically average out to about $132 million per missile. Though the MX cost was elevated by its large size and small production numbers, just 50 deployed missiles, it saved money by using the existing launch complex.
“Unless the Defense and Energy departments find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or get a loan from the same man or woman who sold Jack his magic beanstalk beans, I do not believe the current spending plans are feasible,” said Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Assn. in Washington. “I think the ICBM leg of the triad is by far the least valuable leg of the triad, and the effort to sustain it should reflect that.”
Col. Heath Collins, Air Force program manager for the ICBM replacement program, said a new missile program will need an all-new command-and-control system, meaning full replacement of the old analog computers that now operate the Minuteman system — and that’s only the start.
One of the biggest costs will be the guidance system, notes Aloysius G. Casey, a retired general who was the program manager for the MX missile.
The MX guidance system, which cost $10 million to $12 million per missile, had 19,401 parts packaged inside a device the size of a basketball. The device was so accurate that engineers at the time said it could detect variations in the rotation of Earth while it was on the silo, relying on mechanical gyroscopes suspended in a fluid.
Today, it would be vastly cheaper to use a GPS guidance system, Casey said. The satellite-based navigation system is used on a large range of conventional weapons systems and is a standard feature of smartphones.
But critics fear that GPS satellites could be attacked or their signals jammed or spoofed. The upshot is that any guidance system is almost sure to require a massive expenditure.
Advocates say the shocking price tags are the cost of doing business in a dangerous world currently engaged in a new technology race. There are few precedents on which to judge it, Collins said. “It is the most complex program that I’ve ever been a part of.”

Babylon the Great’s Flawed Nukes

As the Pentagon begins the 2017 Nuclear Posture Review a great deal of focus will be placed on how to modernize each leg of the nuclear triad, which on all fronts is aging and must be replaced. Each country that has nuclear weapons in its arsenal has started a nuclear weapons program or modernized their programs and delivery systems with the exception of the United States. The United States is a part of an international community with a dependency on these weapons that is not going away. Therefore, the nation must maintain a safe and reliable nuclear triad to deter against the only existential threat to the nation.
The portion of the nuclear triad many forget when discussing nuclear triad modernization is the nuclear command, control and communications (NC3) systems. These systems are the “glue” that ties the triad together. They allow the U.S. president to communicate with his senior advisors, monitor potential attacks on the nation and—if necessary—order the release of a nuclear weapon. The NC3 system is essential in ensuring nuclear weapons can be safely and reliably released when ordered, regardless of the nature of the crisis or the damage incurred by the nuclear forces.
The majority of the nation’s NC3 systems are maintained and operated by the Air Force. It is made up of a collection of systems and platforms to achieve its goal of allowing for senior-level decision on nuclear-weapons employment. The systems link the fixed National Military Command Center located in the Pentagon and the fixed Global Operation Center at Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska with the mobile command centers located on an airborne E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC) or an airborne Boeing E-6B Mercury “Take Charge and Move Out” Air Command Post. These facilities and aircraft also allow senior leaders to monitor world events and act upon them outside of a nuclear crisis.
The NC3 system does have redundant components, but they are primarily designed to ensure the nation’s nuclear arsenal can be employed even if the fixed-command centers are destroyed. For example, the E-6B can control the launch of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile from the air while simultaneously ordering a submarine or bomber to launch a nuclear weapon. Also, an E-4B NAOC aircraft is continuously ready to launch within minutes from randomly selected bases to ensure key national-security leaders survive and can continue to make decisions about how to deploy the U.S. military. Finally, other NC3 systems use a combination of satellites, radars and processing systems to identify launches and missile attacks that could be directed toward North America or one of the U.S. allies around the world. Recently, the functionality of this system is displayed as it is used in monitoring missile launches from North Korea.
The reason the United States has a nuclear triad is to ensure no adversary can eliminate the nation’s entire nuclear arsenal during an attack. The adversary is deterred from attacking the United States because the enemy must realize the United States will always have a means to strike back with the devastating force of nuclear weapons. However, without the NC3 system working properly, the United States does not have a functioning nuclear triad, and that counterstrike ability is lost. The NC3 system functions are vital to ensure the United States maintains its capacity for deterrence.
Like all the legs of the nuclear triad, these systems are old and outdated for the current world they operate in, and must be modernized or replaced. Gen. John Hyten, head of Strategic Command, testified before the House Armed Services Committee on March 8, 2017, and said, “The nation’s NC3 systems are facing obsolescence and component age-out challenges. These systems are not only essential for providing early warning and time-critical information to the National Command Authority for decisionmaking, but also to effectively direct triad forces in response to a strategic crisis. A twenty-first century architecture is needed to address potential adversary’s increasingly complex and capable threats.” During that same hearing, Gen. Stephen Wilson, vice chief of staff of the Air Force, stated, “Many of our NC3 systems are well past their lifespans. Therefore, we are investing in several programs to support this connective architecture, ranging from communications systems improvements to upgraded digital processing and display improvement.”
The investment General Wilson spoke of involves modernization of the E-4B NAOC aircraft, which began its role in 1980, improving early-warning radar systems, and upgrading the communication systems that link the triad together. Theses modernization efforts will cost the Defense Department approximately $40.5 billion over the next decade. These modernizations to the NC3 systems is small compared to other planned nuclear-modernization efforts for each of the other legs of the nuclear triad.

The Nuclear Escalation Before The End

Opinion: what’s driving world back to MAD old days of nuclear weapons?
It can be hard not to lose heart these days after going through daily news headlines. Sometimes history seems to be moving backwards. The absurdity often makes one wonder if the world is going mad.
Among the crazy things that took place this week, here is one that is not getting much attention: the United Nations called for a meeting on Tuesday to continue negotiations for a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons, but nearly 40 countries – including the US, China, Russia, Britain and France – decided to skip it. None of the participants from the 100 countries attending the meeting belong to the group of states in possession of nuclear weapons.
US Ambassador to the United Nation Nikki Haley said the US would not join negotiations concerning a United Nations nuclear weapons ban treaty. Photo: AFP
US envoy Nikki Haley explained afterwards that national security concerns required Washington to keep its nuclear weapons because of “bad actors” who could not be trusted. “There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic,” she told reporters. “Is there anyone who believes that North Korea would agree to ban nuclear weapons?”
China, Russia, Britain and other nuclear powers did not even talk to the media.
If Kim Jong-un were watching the news, he would probably have a big smirk on his face. Yes, Kim is a cold-blooded power-hungry maniac. But judging from what happened on Tuesday, leaders of the world’s major capitals are probably just as callous.
While North Korea is aspiring to build a few nuclear bombs, the big five – US, China, Russia, France and Britain – are sitting on arsenals that between them could destroy this planet many times over. Still, none of them feel they have enough.
For those born in the 1980s or later, the threat of a nuclear war seems remote. But for older generations, such a threat was once very real. From the end of the second world war until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, fears of a nuclear Armageddon were widespread.
At the peak of the cold war, all major powers devoted precious national resources to building their nuclear capacities, with the US and the USSR leading the race. The atomic bombs the US dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the second world war were powerful, but they were mere popguns compared to the thermonuclear weapons of the cold war era.
The cold war stand-off established the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine. According to MAD, major nuclear powers would refrain from direct conflict because a nuclear exchange would result in the complete annihilation of both sides. Some historians credited this balance of nuclear deterrence as an important factor behind the longest period of peace in modern history, with no war breaking out between major powers for almost 70 years.
Dread of a nuclear holocaust forced world leaders to cool the hysteria. The end of the cold war brought brief hopes of optimism. But today, the situation is getting more dangerous.
After a brief slump, spending on nuclear weapons by major powers has increased again. Meanwhile, many emerging powers are trying to get their hands on such weapons. It seems that a nation has to own some weapons of mass destruction before it can be truly sit at the “big boys’ table”.
India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea have all joined the nuclear club, with Iran, Japan and even South Korea at various stages of acquiring membership.
Globally, annual expenditure on nuclear weapons is estimated at US$105 billion. In comparison, the Office for Disarmament Affairs, the principal UN body responsible for advancing a nuclear-weapon-free world, has an annual budget of US$10 million.
Two studies, one by the Brookings Institution and another by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, recently drew the same conclusion: governments around the world are going to spend a crazy amount of money on nuclear weapons in the next decade.
Together, nine major nuclear countries will spend a staggering US$1 trillion on new research, production and maintenance of nuclear arms over the next 10 years. At a time of economic crises and imposed austerity measures, world leaders led by US president Donald Trump have decided to cut investment on education, health care and climate change so that we can have more powerful weapons of mass destruction.
Opinion: what’s driving world back to MAD old days of nuclear weapons?
It can be hard not to lose heart these days after going through daily news headlines. Sometimes history seems to be moving backwards. The absurdity often makes one wonder if the world is going mad.
Among the crazy things that took place this week, here is one that is not getting much attention: the United Nations called for a meeting on Tuesday to continue negotiations for a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons, but nearly 40 countries – including the US, China, Russia, Britain and France – decided to skip it. None of the participants from the 100 countries attending the meeting belong to the group of states in possession of nuclear weapons.
US Ambassador to the United Nation Nikki Haley said the US would not join negotiations concerning a United Nations nuclear weapons ban treaty. Photo: AFP
US envoy Nikki Haley explained afterwards that national security concerns required Washington to keep its nuclear weapons because of “bad actors” who could not be trusted. “There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic,” she told reporters. “Is there anyone who believes that North Korea would agree to ban nuclear weapons?”
China, Russia, Britain and other nuclear powers did not even talk to the media.
If Kim Jong-un were watching the news, he would probably have a big smirk on his face. Yes, Kim is a cold-blooded power-hungry maniac. But judging from what happened on Tuesday, leaders of the world’s major capitals are probably just as callous.
While North Korea is aspiring to build a few nuclear bombs, the big five – US, China, Russia, France and Britain – are sitting on arsenals that between them could destroy this planet many times over. Still, none of them feel they have enough.
For those born in the 1980s or later, the threat of a nuclear war seems remote. But for older generations, such a threat was once very real. From the end of the second world war until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, fears of a nuclear Armageddon were widespread.
At the peak of the cold war, all major powers devoted precious national resources to building their nuclear capacities, with the US and the USSR leading the race. The atomic bombs the US dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the second world war were powerful, but they were mere popguns compared to the thermonuclear weapons of the cold war era.
The cold war stand-off established the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine. According to MAD, major nuclear powers would refrain from direct conflict because a nuclear exchange would result in the complete annihilation of both sides. Some historians credited this balance of nuclear deterrence as an important factor behind the longest period of peace in modern history, with no war breaking out between major powers for almost 70 years.
Dread of a nuclear holocaust forced world leaders to cool the hysteria. The end of the cold war brought brief hopes of optimism. But today, the situation is getting more dangerous.
What China can learn from Trump, the Soviets and Kublai Khan
After a brief slump, spending on nuclear weapons by major powers has increased again. Meanwhile, many emerging powers are trying to get their hands on such weapons. It seems that a nation has to own some weapons of mass destruction before it can be truly sit at the “big boys’ table”.
India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea have all joined the nuclear club, with Iran, Japan and even South Korea at various stages of acquiring membership.
Globally, annual expenditure on nuclear weapons is estimated at US$105 billion. In comparison, the Office for Disarmament Affairs, the principal UN body responsible for advancing a nuclear-weapon-free world, has an annual budget of US$10 million.
Two studies, one by the Brookings Institution and another by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, recently drew the same conclusion: governments around the world are going to spend a crazy amount of money on nuclear weapons in the next decade.
Together, nine major nuclear countries will spend a staggering US$1 trillion on new research, production and maintenance of nuclear arms over the next 10 years. At a time of economic crises and imposed austerity measures, world leaders led by US president Donald Trump have decided to cut investment on education, health care and climate change so that we can have more powerful weapons of mass destruction.
The plight of Chinese Indonesians: distrusted in Jakarta, forgotten in China
Last year, Washington gave the green light to a new generation of “smart” nuclear bombs – the B61-12s – which will be the most expensive ever produced. Moscow and Beijing both expressed concerns and hinted they would respond in kind. This year, Chinese scientists announced a theoretical breakthrough in developing the so-called “N2 bomb” – a new type of weapon of mass destruction that is as strong as a nuclear bomb but produces no radioactive fallout.
The chance of a hot nuclear war among major powers remains astronomically small. The only real reason for them to continue pouring precious resources into the arms race is because they cannot break out of their cold war mentalities.
Today, terrorism, climate change and contagious diseases are much bigger and more realistic threats to the world than invasion by Moscow or a nuclear war between Beijing and Washington.
The only real nightmare is for such weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists.
No matter how much major powers improve their nuclear arsenals, it will not deter terrorists – there is no such thing as nuclear retaliation against people who want to see the world blow up.
A World Bank study estimated that if governments cut their spending on nuclear weapons by half and used the money on poverty alleviation, it would have been possible to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.
It would be naïve to ask the major powers to give up their nuclear weapons, but if they could divert more resources to fighting poverty, terrorism and global warming, we would have a much safer, better world. ■
Chow Chung-yan is the executive editor of the South China Morning Post, overseeing daily print and digital operations

The Impending Nuclear War (Revelation 15)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.
AlterNet
As if you didn’t have other things to worry about, add “think about the threat of nuclear war” to your to-do list.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says we are, metaphorically speaking, only two and half minutes away from nuclear doomsday — the Bulletin’s closest Armageddon estimate since the early 1980s. Former Defense Secretary William Perry says he is “terrified.” Novelist Philip Roth says what is most frightening about President Donald Trump “is that he makes any and everything possible, including, of course, the nuclear catastrophe.”
And the hell of our predicament, experts say, is that Trump’s emotional instability is only part of the problem. The 45th president sits atop a command and control system that is already aging, prone to accidents and vulnerable to hacking, according to Eric Schlosser, author of “Command and Control,” a gripping history of the U.S. nuclear complex.
And the American political economy offers vast incentives to those who want to expand and modernize America’s nuclear arsenal, instead of reducing and restraining it, as policymakers across the political spectrum recommend.
Before the 2016 election, Schlosser said the notion of Trump “with the launch codes, capable of devastating cities and countries, is extraordinary. It’s like the plot out of a science-fiction film.”
Now that film is reality, and the opening scenes are already scary.
Cold War to Gold War
The early hopes that Trump’s admiration for Russian president Vladimir Putin might translate into a new nuclear arms agreement went a-glimmering on Feb. 24 when Trump told Reuters that he thought the existing U.S. Russia accord, known as New START, was “one-sided.”
In fact, the New START treaty limits both countries to the same number of deployed nuclear warheads — 1,550 — by Feb. 2018. And, in any case, Gen. James Cartwright, former vice chair of Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that the United States could reduce its nuclear arsenal by a third without harm to U.S. security.
“Discarding New START would irresponsibly free Russia of any limits on its strategic nuclear arsenal and would terminate the inspections that provide the United States with significant additional transparency about Russian strategic nuclear forces,” Kimball wrote.
The United States is going from “Cold War to Gold War,” said Tom Collina, director of policy at Ploughshares Fund, a global security group in Washington, D.C. He noted that when Trump recently announced plans to seek an additional $54 billion in defense spending, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said that a key priority would be “restoring our nuclear capabilities,” meaning more money for nuclear weapons.
What can be done?
Perry, a scientist who served as defense secretary under President Bill Clinton, is hoping for a meeting with Trump and/or his national security team, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has said some sensible things about reducing nuclear weapons.
Perry’s message for the Trump administration is stark.
We are starting a new Cold War,” he told Politico. “We seem to be sleepwalking into this new nuclear arms race. . . . We and the Russians and others don’t understand what we are doing.”
To get a grip on nuclear reality, you could do worse than take Perry’s online course on “Living at the Nuclear Brink.”
Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Representative Ted Lieu of California, both Democrats, have proposed legislation to prohibit any president from launching a first-strike nuclear weapon without a declaration of war from Congress.
You can sign a petition supporting the Markey-Lieu bill; more than 139,000 people already have.
You can join GlobalZero, the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Yet, the Pentagon is actually pressing for more nuclear weapons. In a recent report, the Defense Science Board recommended “a more flexible nuclear enterprise” that could include a “tailored nuclear option for limited use” and “lower yield, primary-only options.”
“With Trump’s call to ‘expand’ the U.S. nuclear arsenal, there is a growing possibility that these recommendations could turn into reality,” write Philip E. Coyle and James McKeon, analysts at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, in Politico.
“This is terrifying,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in the Washington Post, “and deserves a swift, full-throated rebuke.”
Antidote to dread
The only antidote to dread, said Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association, is action.
“Objectively speaking, the risk of nuclear weapons use is greater now than it has been at any time [since the end of the Cold War], though it is not as severe [as] during the worst crises of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War,” Kimball, a 27-year veteran of disarmament work, told AlterNet in an email.
“It is not just the uncertainty about Trump’s impulses about nuclear weapons and his temperament, but the growing regional tensions on the Korean Peninsula, in South Asia and with Russia that could lead to nuclear consequences,” he wrote.
“Now, as in the past, there are practical solutions that can steer us away from the precipice and we must all look for way to work together to effectively engage our elected leaders to take the actions that reduce the nuclear dangers. As the old saying goes, ‘don’t mourn, organize!’”

Russia Advances Its Nuclear Triad

“The Yasen-M class nuclear-powered submarine cruisers are some of the most advanced battleships that amassed all cutting-edge submarine shipbuilding technologies,” Admiral Vladimir Korolev, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, said as the most advanced Russian nuclear attack submarine, Kazan – the second submarine of the Yasen-M class – was launched in the northern Russian port of Severodvinsk.
Kazan was laid down in 2009 and is expected to be accepted by the Russian Navy in 2018 following sea trials. The admiral said four more submarines of the same class – Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Arkhangelsk and Perm – are now being built at the Sevmash shipyards in Severodvinsk and one will be launched as early as in 2019 while the seventh and last vessel of this project, Ulyanovsk, would be laid down in the summer of 2017.
Yasen-M class submarines are to replace the older Russian attack submarines of the Akula-class forming the backbone of the Russian Navy’s conventional submarine force. They are considered to be counterparts to the US nuclear-powered Seawolf and Virginia class submarines.
The lead vessel of the project, K-560 Severodvinsk, was laid down in 1993 but construction was completed only in 2010 due to budgetary constraints. It was accepted by the Russian Navy in 2014.
The Yasen-M class vessels are 120 meters long, have a submerged displacement of 13,800 tons and can travel up to 31 knots (57 kph) while submerged. They are also designed to dive to a maximum depth of 600 meters.
The submarines carry ten 533mm torpedoes and have eight vertical launching systems equipped with four Onyx and Kalibr supersonic cruise missiles each. Each ship is designed to operate independently for up to 100 days.
One of the most interesting features of the new design is a large spherical sonar system which occupies its entire bow, which required that torpedo tubes be slanted and placed behind the main control compartment.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who also attended the launch, said the new vessels would help Russia to “firmly and confidently defend its interests on the global stage.” He also emphasized the necessity of dialog in international relations adding that “this dialog should be maintained with a firm and confident voice,” referring to the importance of the nation’s defense capabilities.
Korolev also said that Russian submarines have reached Soviet Union-era levels in terms of the combat patrols as the vessels had spent some 3,000 days at sea in 2016, adding that “it is an excellent level.”
“Last year, we returned to the level we had before the post-Soviet era in terms of the days at sea. Russia’s submarine fleet has spent 3,000 days at sea,” the admiral said.
The vessel is the fourth submarine of the Borei class. With a submerged displacement of 24,000 tons, this 170-meter long vessel is designed to carry six 533mm and six 324mm torpedos, Onyx and Kalibr cruise missiles as well as 16 Bulava ballistic missiles with an operational range between 8,000 and 8,300 kilometers.
According to the former head of the Russian Navy, Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy, Knyaz Vladimir is even more advanced in terms of low noise, better weapon control systems, and higher maneuverability as compared to the first three vessels of the Borei class which are now used by the Russian Northern and Pacific Fleets.
Russia’s growing state-of-the-art submarine fleet is apparently generating anxiety among the US military. In June 2016, Vice Admiral James Foggo III, commander of the US 6th Fleet, wrote in the June issue of the US Naval Institute’s magazine that “an effective, skilled, and technologically advanced Russian submarine force is challenging” NATO’s maritime dominance.