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MoD spends £2bn on nuclear weapons ahead of Trident renewal decision

The Guardian
By Rob Edwards
November 27, 2011

The Ministry of Defence is spending £2bn on new nuclear weapons plants before a formal decision has been taken over whether to replace Trident warheads, according to ministers.

The revelation has prompted fierce attacks on the MoD for making “a complete mockery” of the democratic process by pre-empting a decision and so attempting to force the hands of future governments.

The ministry says the investment helps to ensure the safety of the existing Trident warheads, but accepts that the money also maintains the capability to design a new warhead “should that be required”.

Details of the MoD’s investments have been unveiled for the first time. They include a £734m facility called Mensa for dismantling and assembling of warheads, a risky but essential maintenance process; a £634m highly enriched uranium plant called Pegasus; and a £231m high explosives factory called Circinus.

The plants are being built at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire. Other facilities with similarly stellar names but smaller bills – Orion, Gemini, and Leo – are also being built as part of the AWE development plan covering 2005 to 2015. The costs of two more – Octans and Orchard – are being kept secret for commercial reasons. …

Read on: www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/nov/27/mod-trident-nuclear-weapons-spending

Pakistan: US Must Vacate Suspected Drone Base

The Huffington Post
By Sebastian Abbot, (AP)

The Pakistani government has demanded the U.S. vacate an air base within 15 days that the CIA is suspected of using for unmanned drones.

The government issued the demand Saturday after NATO helicopters and jet fighters allegedly attacked two Pakistan army posts along the Afghan border, killing 24 Pakistani soldiers. …

Read on: www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/26/pakistan-drone-base_n_1114177.html

Russia to keep within borders in its response to US missile defense

Russia Today

Missile defense: no border breaking

The military measures outlined by President Dmitry Medvedev in response to America’s controversial missile defense system in Europe will be taken within Russia’s borders, according to senior Russian MP Konstantin Kosachev.

­“All the announced measures are being and will be taken by the Russian Federation within its national borders,” he said, adding that it is Russia’s sovereign right. “Unlike the USA and its NATO allies, we are not going beyond these bounds,” Kosachev, the chairman of the State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs, told a media conference.

The foreign policy architect added that the actions listed by Medvedev, including Russia’s possible withdrawal from the New START treaty, do not violate the country’s international obligations. He pointed out that the document provides for such a withdrawal and the president had “only reminded about this possibility” and noted that Russia may use it under certain circumstances.

According to Kosachev, the president’s statement amounts to a coercive measure. However, he emphasized that to the last, Moscow had tried to avoid a situation where such measures were necessary. Russia urged its American partners to find a compromise on missile defense “when we still had an opportunity to come to an agreement in the sphere of strategic stability.” The Russian side had put forward quite a few options, but Washington declined them all. …

Read on: http://rt.com/politics/kosachev-missile-defense-us-137/

Pakistan to take up U.S. drone strikes in UN

November 24, 2011

Pakistan has decided to take up the issue of strikes by the CIA-run unmanned aircraft in the country’s tribal regions, which the government, rights groups and tribesmen said killed innocent people, reported local TV channel Dawn on Thursday.

The U.S. drones routinely fire missiles into Pakistani tribal regions which the American officials have claimed to be bases for the militants who launch cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.

Pakistan repeatedly asks the Unites States to stop drone strikes but Americans have ruled out any change in the policy. The issue of drone attacks is one of the irritants in the bilateral relationship.

After the U.S. refusal to halt the strikes, Pakistan has decided to approach the UN to seek its help to stop these attacks, which Pakistan insists is counter-productive in the war on terror.

Dawn reported Pakistani government has started collecting data about the U.S. drone attacks and casualties.

The government has directed the administrative officials in the tribal regions to provide details about the strikes to vigorously pursue the case.

Pakistan is discussing its new strategy to be adopted in the UN, the report said.


Japan to have jurisdiction over some U.S. military-linked incidents

Mainichi Daily News
November 25, 2011

Japan and the United States have agreed to partly change a bilateral arrangement concerning U.S. military personnel, allowing Japan from now on to have jurisdiction over accidents and crimes involving civilian staff at U.S. bases under certain circumstances, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said Thursday.

Until now, the United States had primary authority to try both military and nonmilitary U.S. personnel if they are suspected of committing crimes while on duty.

The agreement to change the operation of the Status of Forces Agreement was struck on Wednesday by the Joint Committee, Gemba told reporters.

Gemba said this is “one step forward” in addressing the concerns of residents in Okinawa and other areas of Japan that host U.S. military bases, who have voiced anger for many years about the way drunken driving and other crimes involving civilian staff at U.S. bases have been handled.

Since 2006, U.S. workers at the bases involved in serious accidents have only been reprimanded by the U.S. military, not prosecuted in court, according Japanese officials. There are around 5,000 U.S. civilian employees at the bases in Japan.

Still, despite the change, the two countries confirmed that primary jurisdiction rests with the United States.

U.S. suspects will only be tried by Japanese courts when the United States decides not to exercise its jurisdiction and gives its consent to Japanese authorities, said the memorandum signed by the two countries. …

Read on: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20111125p2g00m0dm026000c.html

As Fewer Americans Serve, Growing Gap Is Found Between Civilians and Military

New York Times
By Sabrina Tavernise
November 24, 2011

A smaller share of Americans currently serve in the Armed Forces than at any other time since the era between World Wars I and II, a new low that has led to a growing gap between people in uniform and the civilian population, according to a new survey.

At any given time in the past decade, less than 1 percent of the American population has been on active military duty, compared with 9 percent of Americans who were in uniform in World War II. As a result, there is a growing generation gap, with younger Americans far less likely than older ones to have a family member who served. …

The result is a military far less connected to the rest of society, a condition that some academics have said might not bode well for the future of military-civilian relations (the military is run by civilians). Others have warned that less connection between the military and the rest of society could lead to less-informed decisions about whether to go to war, because conflicts and the people who fight them are not part of most people’s everyday lives. …

In full: www.nytimes.com/2011/11/25/us/civilian-military-gap-grows-as-fewer-americans-serve.html?_r=1

New Agreement Will Expand US Military Presence in Australia

Fox News
November 16, 2011

President Obama insisted Wednesday that the United States does not fear China, even as U.S. officials acknowledged that a rising China is part of the reason for a new U.S.-Australia security pact created in response to Beijing’s growing aggressiveness.

The plan is to have a Marine, air and ground task force using Australian facilities to act as a “force multiplier” in the region. No new U.S. bases will be built. Marines will rotate into and out of the region, building up slowly from 250. After the buildup is complete, they will total some 2,500.

The number and frequency of U.S. aircraft using Australian air bases will increase and more bases will be in use. …

Read on: www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/11/16/new-agreement-will-expand-us-military-presence-in-australia

UK ponders missile defense for London 2012 Olympics

By Tim Castle
November 14, 2011

Britain is ready to use missiles to protect next year’s London Olympics from an airborne attack, Defence Minister Philip Hammond said on Monday, amid reports the United States was unhappy with security plans for the games.

“All necessary measures to ensure the security and safety of the London Olympic Games will be taken including, if the advice of the military is that it is required, appropriate ground-to-air defences,” Hammond told parliament.

It would be the first time surface-to-air missiles have been deployed in Britain since the end of the Second World War, a defence ministry spokesman said, adding that no decisions had been made yet.

Hammond’s announcement came as the Guardian newspaper reported the United States was concerned about security at the games and planned to send up to 1,000 of its agents, including 500 from the FBI, to protect American contestants and diplomats. …

Read on: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/11/14/uk-britain-olympics-missiles-idUKTRE7AD1YR20111114

Russia opposes new Iran sanctions over IAEA report

By Steve Gutterman
November 9, 2011

Russia on Wednesday vehemently criticized a U.N. nuclear watchdog report saying Iran appeared to have worked on designing an atom bomb, saying it contained no new evidence and was being used to undercut efforts to reach a diplomatic solution.

Sharpening opposition to any new sanctions against Iran in the U.N. Security Council, where Russia has veto power, senior diplomats said further punitive measures would be “destructive” and urged a revival of talks between Tehran and global powers.

The Russian remarks came during a visit by a senior Iranian official for talks on the program which Tehran says is peaceful but the United States and its allies fear is aimed at developing the capability to build atomic weapons.

They underscored a divide between Russia and the West over a report by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency that deepened U.S. and European suspicions about Tehran’s intentions.

“According to our initial evaluations, there is no fundamentally new information in the report,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“We are talking about a compilation of known facts, given a politicized tone,” it said, adding that interpretations of the report brought to mind the use of faulty intelligence to seek support for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. …

Analysts say Moscow may have calculated that it has little to gain from supporting new sanctions against Iran. This would further hurt ties already damaged by Russia’s backing of the most recent measures in June 2010, when President Dmitry Medvedev also scrapped a deal to deliver air-defense missiles to Tehran.

Those sanctions were adopted at a time of improving relations between Russia and the United States, after President Barack Obama downsized a European missile defense plan that Russia opposed and signed a nuclear arms limitation treaty with Medvedev.

Read in full: www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/09/us-nuclear-iran-russia-idUSTRE7A857620111109