US and Russia Prepare to Revive Nuclear Arms Race
November 20, 2014
RT News & Lawrence Wittner / AntiWar.com
An agreement has been reached to ensure that Iran honors its commitment under the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to forgo developing nuclear weapons. But what about the NPT's Article VI, which commits nuclear-armed nations to "cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date" and "general and complete disarmament"? Some, 44 years after the NPT went into force, the US and other nuclear powers continue to pursue their nuclear weapons buildups, with no end in sight.
US to Increase Nuclear Weapons Spending -- Pentagon
WASHINGTON (November 14, 2014) -- United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has announced an overhaul of how the US nuclear weapon arsenal is maintained, calling for billions of dollars in investment to address recent security violations and low morale among nuclear-force management.
Hagel revealed on Friday the results of two reviews -- one done by the Pentagon and another external probe -- of US nuclear force maintenance protocol that, in recent years, has been beset by scandal. The reviews were ordered after reporting by AP showed security, safety, morale, and leadership lapses among the nuclear force.
"The root cause has been lack of sustained focus, attention and resources, resulting in a pervasive sense that a career in a nuclear enterprise offers too few opportunities for growth and advancement," Hagel said Friday.
The reviews found that the leadership structure of US nuclear forces requires reform given officials have, in the recent past, been unaware of problematic behavior and focus from underlings. The reviews also pointed to "a nuclear workforce that was dedicated, capable, and performing well in spite of challenges resulting from being understaffed, under-resourced, and reliant on an aging and fragile supporting infrastructure in an over-inspected and overly risk-averse environment," according to the Defense Department.
The Pentagon's own analysis reported problems, from "inadequate" and "aging" equipment and facilities to "a culture of excessive inspections" to an ill-defined boundary between accountability and perfection in the Air Force.
One example of inadequate US nuclear-maintenance capabilities found in the reviews: There was, until recently, just one tool set available to tighten bolts on the warhead end of a Minuteman 3 missile -- and land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) -- at all three US ICBM bases in North Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. That one set would be shared via Federal Express delivery, defense officials told AP.
Hagel also announced that billions of dollars are needed in the next five years to boost infrastructure among the nuclear forces. For instance, he has proposed to replace the aging UH-1 Huey helicopter fleet, integral in security at ICBM bases.
The overall increased investment for nuclear forces Hagel proposed will cost about $10 billion, according to defense officials.
Hagel said he will put a four-star general in charge of nuclear forces to assuage the fundamental flaws exemplified in the reviews, which included more than 100 recommendations to boost nuclear forces.
The reviews' authors found failings with the nuclear force's Personnel Reliability Program, which is used to monitor mental fitness of service members maintaining the world's most robust nuclear arsenal. The program, they reported, has become a burdensome administrative process that has only hindered the mission. Hagel has ordered it to be reformed.
In recent years, both nuclear forces for the Navy, which maintains nuclear-armed submarines, and the Air Force have faced exam-cheating scandals among nuclear reactor training instructors and missile crew members, respectively.
In the past two years, Air Force units charged with keeping up nuclear arsenals have also failed safety and security inspections and twice left open blast doors that protect underground launch control centers at two different bases -- once while crew members slept.
In late 2013, AP reported that an independent review for the Air Force found signs of "burnout" and high levels of misconduct among missile launch crews and missile security forces.
Experts have already voiced skepticism about Hagel's reforms and whether they would make a difference.
"Throwing money after problems may fix some technical issues but it is unlikely to resolve the dissolution that must come from sitting in a silo hole in the Midwest with missiles on high alert to respond to a nuclear attack that is unlikely to ever come," Hans Kristensen, a nuclear expert with the Federation of American Scientists, told AP.
Russia's Deployed Nuclear Capacity
Overtakes US for First Time Since 2000
(October 6, 2014) -- Russia has 1,643 nuclear missiles ready to launch -- one more than the US -- according to an official State Department report. Both countries have been upgrading their active nuclear arsenals since the outbreak of the Ukrainian conflict.
The US report is based on official figures exchanged between the two countries as part of the New START disarmament treaty, and includes missiles deployed before September 1. The numbers show a significant increase from March, when data showed that Washington had a capacity of 1,585 payloads, and Moscow 1,512.
The current figures are in violation of the New START treaty, signed in 2010 by Barack Obama and then-President Dmitry Medvedev, during the short-lived reset in relations between the two states, which prescribe a limit of 1,550 deployed warheads.
Overall, the authoritative Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation believes Moscow has more than 8,000 warheads, and Washington over 7,000, although not all of them can be allocated to efficient delivery systems.
Russia recently announced a planned overhaul of its entire nuclear arsenal by 2020, as part of a wider rearmament program that has been budgeted at $700 billion.
Although Moscow has not provided a detailed breakdown of how it achieved the upgrade of nuclear capacity over the past months, experts on both sides of the Atlantic have speculated that the rise has been due to the armament of one -- or possibly two -- Borei-class nuclear submarines.
Those are equipped with Bulava missiles -- widely considered one of the most expensive projects in Russia's military history -- which, after problem-plagued gestation, have finally been deemed ready for deployment.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently boasted that the supersonic missiles, which can rapidly change their trajectory, cannot be shot down by any missile defense system in the world, however sophisticated. Russia has also invested in mobile Yars systems, and there are plans to revive the nuclear missile trains common in Soviet times.
Washington has expressed increasing alarm at the Kremlin's rearmament drive, with emotions running high after the Obama administration accused Moscow of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in July, with its Iskander class missiles, prompting sharp denials and counter-accusations from Moscow.
"The Russian deception of negotiating a nuclear arms reduction while building up nuclear arms poses a direct threat to the United States," Jim Inhofe, a member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, wrote in an editorial last month, accusing the US of reducing its nuclear forces as Russia races ahead.
"It is too late to negotiate the Russians back into compliance. They have tested this capability and we have no way to know for certain whether they will deploy these systems."
While the figures may look alarming, the total numbers for both countries remain far short of their 1980s peaks, when the Soviet Union alone possessed over 40,000 warheads.
"I don't think we are on the verge of a new arms race. At least, Russia definitely won't be part of it,. In our case, it's just that the time has come for us to modernize our nuclear and conventional arsenals," Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told RT last month.
"The US nuclear arsenal is somewhat younger than ours, but perhaps it is also time for them to upgrade it. I just hope that the US will abide by the provisions of the New START treaty, which are legally binding."
The Endless Arms Race:
Despite Promises, New Nuclear Weapons Are On the Way
Lawrence Wittner / AntiWar.com
(January 22, 2014) -- It’s heartening to see that an agreement has been reached to ensure that Iran honors its commitment, made when it signed the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to forgo developing nuclear weapons.
But what about the other key part of the NPT, Article VI, which commits nuclear-armed nations to "cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament," as well as to "a treaty on general and complete disarmament"? Here we find that, 44 years after the NPT went into force, the United States and other nuclear powers continue to pursue their nuclear weapons buildups, with no end in sight.
On January 8, 2014, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced what Reuters termed "ambitious plans to upgrade [US] nuclear weapons systems by modernizing weapons and building new submarines, missiles and bombers to deliver them." The Pentagon intends to build a dozen new ballistic missile submarines, a new fleet of long-range nuclear bombers, and new intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated in late December that implementing the plans would cost $355 billion over the next decade, while an analysis by the independent Center for Nonproliferation Studies reported that this upgrade of US nuclear forces would cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years. If the higher estimate proves correct, the submarines alone would cost over $29 billion each.
Of course, the United States already has a massive nuclear weapons capability -- approximately 7,700 nuclear weapons, with more than enough explosive power to destroy the world. Together with Russia, it possesses about 95 percent of the more than 17,000 nuclear weapons that comprise the global nuclear arsenal.
Nor is the United States the only nation with grand nuclear ambitions. Although China currently has only about 250 nuclear weapons, including 75 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), it recently flight-tested a hypersonic nuclear missile delivery vehicle capable of penetrating any existing defense system. The weapon, dubbed the Wu-14 by US officials, was detected flying at ten times the speed of sound during a test flight over China during early January 2014.
According to Chinese scientists, their government had put an "enormous investment" into the project, with more than a hundred teams from leading research institutes and universities working on it. Professor Wang Yuhui, a researcher on hypersonic flight control at Nanjing University, stated that "many more tests will be carried out" to solve the remaining technical problems.
"It’s just the beginning." Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based naval expert, commented approvingly that "missiles will play a dominant role in warfare, and China has a very clear idea of what is important."
Other nations are engaged in this arms race, as well. Russia, the other dominant nuclear power, seems determined to keep pace with the United States through modernization of its nuclear forces. The development of new, updated Russian ICBMs is proceeding rapidly, while new nuclear submarines are already being produced. Also, the Russian government has started work on a new strategic bomber, known as the PAK DA, which reportedly will become operational in 2025.
Both Russia and India are known to be working on their own versions of a hypersonic nuclear missile carrier. But, thus far, these two nuclear nations lag behind the United States and China in its development. Israel is also proceeding with modernization of its nuclear weapons, and apparently played the key role in scuttling the proposed UN conference on a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East in 2012.
This nuclear weapons buildup certainly contradicts the official rhetoric. On April 5, 2009, in his first major foreign policy address, President Barack Obama proclaimed "America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."
That fall, the UN Security Council -- including Russia, China, Britain, France, and the United States, all of them nuclear powers -- unanimously passed Resolution 1887, which reiterated the point that the NPT required the "disarmament of countries currently possessing nuclear weapons." But rhetoric, it seems, is one thing and action quite another.
Thus, although the Iranian government’s willingness to forgo the development of nuclear weapons is cause for encouragement, the failure of the nuclear nations to fulfill their own NPT obligations is appalling. Given these nations’ enhanced preparations for nuclear war -- a war that would be nothing short of catastrophic -- their evasion of responsibility should be condemned by everyone seeking a safer, saner world.
Lawrence S. Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university life, What’s Going On at UAardvark? (Solidarity Press).
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