Articles (Apr – Jun 2011)

Russian Foreign Ministry reports on Moscow, Washington’s nuclear arsenals

from RT
June 28, 2011

Moscow is concerned over the potential threat to its nuclear capabilities from any US-European missile defense system that is developed without Russia’s participation.

Moscow has 521 intercontinental ballistic missiles and missiles deployed on submarines and heavy bombers, while the US has 882, according to the newly published data.

­The Russian Foreign Ministry has published data on the strategic nuclear arsenals of the two countries under the new START treaty. Moscow and Washington have 1,537 and 1,800 nuclear warheads respectively. As for deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, Russia has at present 865 compared to the US’ 1,124.

Moscow and Washington exchanged the data concerning their nuclear capabilities on February 5, and the information was specified to March 22. The US State Department first published data on the US strategic potential on June 1. The data shows that the US has more intercontinental ballistic missiles, warheads and launchers than Russia.

The two sides signed the new strategic arms reduction treaty (START) on April 8 in Prague. The agreement limits the number of warheads on deployed ballistic missiles and long-range bombers for both sides to 1,550. Deployed and non-deployed strategic launchers are limited to 800.

Earlier this month, Russia’s envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said that Moscow “will not tolerate any doubts” concerning its strategic nuclear capabilities. Russia will find different ways to reduce any missile threat to nothing, he said. …

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Rescind President Obama’s ‘Transparency Award’ now
Open Letter Series
June 14, 2011

The Obama administration’s record on secrecy and surveillance is a disgrace and should not be sanitised by unearned prizes

On 28 March 2011, President Obama was given a “transparency award” from five “open government” organisations: OMB Watch, the National Security Archive, the Project on Government Oversight, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Ironically – and quite likely in response to growing public criticism regarding the Obama administration’s lack of transparency – heads of the five organisations gave their award to Obama in a closed, undisclosed meeting at the White House. If the ceremony had been open to the press, it is likely that reporters would have questioned the organisations’ proffered justification for the award, in contrast to the current reality:

  • President Obama has not decreased, but has dramatically increased governmental secrecy. …
  • There were 544,360 requests for information last year under the Freedom of Information Act to the 35 biggest federal agencies – 41,000 requests more than the year before. Yet the bureaucracy responded to 12,400 fewer requests than the prior year …
  • Obama has invoked baseless and unconstitutional executive secrecy to quash legal inquiries into secret illegalities more often than any predecessor. …
  • [etc., etc.] …

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Troubled Space-Based Infrared Satellite Program Finally Gets Off the Ground

National Defense (NDIA’s Business & Technology Magazine)
By Stew Magnuson
July 2011 issue

SBIRS-High and SBIRS-Low.

At one time the two missile defense satellite systems were notorious examples of over budget, technologically challenged military space programs.

SBIRS — space-based infrared systems — was conceived in the early 1990s as the next-generation of spacecraft that could not only warn when intercontinental or theater ballistic rockets were being launched, but track them accurately enough to possibly shoot them down with a missile defense system.

On May 7, the Air Force successfully sent to geosynchronous orbit GEO-1, the first SBIRS satellite. It was a long, tortuous road, lasting some 15 years with a price tag that will come to $10.4 billion — a huge increase from its original estimate of $4.1 billion. …

Now that the spacecraft is aloft after a nine-year delay, Air Force officials are eager to talk about the future — rather than the past — of the program formerly known as SBIRS-High. …

The space tracking and surveillance system — the program formerly known as SBIRS-Low — is moving at a slower pace. Current plans call for the Missile Defense Agency to have its first satellites in orbit by 2018, said Doug Young, vice president of missile defense at Northrop Grumman.

There are now two Northrop Grumman-built experimental spacecraft in orbit that are demonstrating some of the technologies that will be aboard the STSS satellites. Northrop also contributed the payload for the Lockheed Martin-built SBIRS satellite.

Once the satellites are in orbit, the military will be able to track a rocket from the moment its engines fire up at a launching point until it reaches its target, or is intercepted if the MDA’s long-standing goal of shooting down a missile with a missile ever comes to fruition.

“Birth-to-death tracking has never been done from space before,” Young said. “It has taken decades of technology development to get to this point.” …

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This is all a long way off from being ‘operational’ – as in the Minister’s answer to our PQ.

Will the US really withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan?

The Guardian

By Simon Tisdall
June 8, 2011

Behind closed doors in the White House and the Pentagon, a battle is raging over the wisdom of a complete exit

Retreating armies make easy targets … Barack Obama … now faces two not dissimilar challenges: how to get US forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq with the minimum of bloodshed and the maximum of dispatch. Avoiding descent into post-withdrawal chaos would be an added bonus.

Easy answers are not available. In Afghanistan, several factors suggest Obama may speed up the size and pace of troop reductions due to begin next month. The mind-boggling cost of the war, estimated at $2bn a week or $110bn a year, is increasingly insupportable as his 2012 re-election bid looms. Americans, like Britons, are also sickened by the continuing human cost.

The elimination of Osama bin Laden, who launched the 9/11 attacks from Afghanistan, has created a palpable sense of “job done” that Obama is finding hard to resist. “By killing Bin Laden, by blunting the momentum of the Taliban, we have now accomplished a lot of what we set out to accomplish 10 years ago,” he declared this week. Washington’s developing narrative is that last year’s surge of 30,000 extra troops into the south has worked, even though this is not wholly true.

The US currently has about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. Influential people such as Senator Carl Levin are demanding a minimum drawdown of 15,000 by year’s end. Some Democrats want them all home well before the target date of 2014. Obama says he will give his decision in a speech later this month.

But behind closed doors in the White House and the Pentagon, a rearguard battle royal is raging. …

In Iraq, as in Afghanistan … the prospect of a continuing presence of quasi-permanent US military bases in both countries, lasting far beyond the nominal exit dates, is a very real one. …

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Encircling Russia with US Bases

By Stephen Lendman

In 1991, after the Soviet Union dissolved, everything changed but stayed the same. As a result, today’s stakes are far greater, presenting much larger threats to world peace.

In America, neocons are still dominant. Obama is more belligerent than Bush, waging four wars and various proxy ones. The Israeli Lobby, Christian Right, and other extremist elements drive them. Conflict is preferred over diplomacy.

Congressional majorities support Washington’s imperial agenda, including global militarization against potential challengers and America’s main rivals – China and Russia, encircling them belligerently with bases and strategic weapons. It’s a policy fraught with danger.

NATO has 28 member states, including 10 former Soviet Republics and Warsaw Pact countries. Prospective new candidates include Georgia, Ukraine, and potentially others later to more tightly encircle Russia and China.

At the same time, the Middle East and parts of Eurasia have been increasingly militarized with a network of US bases from Qatar to Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond – a clear breach of GHW Bush’s promise to Mikhail Gorbachev that paved the way for unifying Germany in 1990 and dissolving the Soviet Union. …

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Russia May Counter US-Romanian missile shield deal

RIA Novosti
May 4, 2011

Topic: U.S. missile shield in Europe

Moscow: Romania and the United States should expect counter measures from Russia in response to a missile shield agreement, a senior Russian lawmaker said on Wednesday.

Bucharest announced on Tuesday that it had reached an agreement with the United States to deploy a U.S. missile interceptor system at a disused Soviet airbase on its territory.

“Military specialists in the United States, NATO and Romania should be absolutely aware that any measure entails counter-measures,” said Konstantin Kosachev, who heads the foreign policy committee of State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament.

He said the counter measures would be used with the sole purpose of protecting Russia and would not be aimed at any particular state.

Moscow issued an urgent request on Tuesday for legal guarantees from the United States that its missile shield will not target Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.

“My personal point of view is that the ideal scenario would be for the United States to issue legal guarantees, but the Americans are unlikely to do that,” Kosachev said.

The head of the State Duma’s defense committee, Viktor Zavarzin, said the U.S.-Romanian deal would have “a negative impact on inter-European relations and undermine the existing balance of forces and interests.”

“And this, in turn, will provoke an unnecessary escalation of tensions,” he added.

[Moscow is concerned that U.S. interceptors would have the capacity to target Russia’s long-range missiles once the missile shield is fully deployed by 2020 under Mr. Obama’s “phased adaptive approach” plan – Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space]

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Obama’s CIA pick has Afghan war bias
By Ray McGovern
May 4, 2011

President Barack Obama’s nomination of Gen. David Petraeus to be CIA director raises troubling questions for anyone familiar with the need for tell-it-like-it-is intelligence analysis.

Sadly, the selection of Petraeus suggests that the president places little value on getting the objective analysis that was originally the CIA’s raison d’etre — the kind that could (and often did) challenge more narrowly focused views of the Pentagon. What could Obama have been thinking in giving the top CIA job to the general with the most incentive to gild the lily regarding “progress” made under his command?

Will Petraeus look kindly on discordant views regarding the wisdom and likely outcome of those wars? What is likely to happen to the careers of those CIA analysts who long since concluded that the troop “surges” pushed so publicly by Petraeus will merely squander the lives of American troops (not to mention billions of taxpayer dollars) and, ironically, make our country more vulnerable to attack from terrorists?

Petraeus already has a record of looking skeptically at CIA analysts. That is why he relegated them to straphanger status during the decision-making process in late 2009 on what to do about Afghanistan. …

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DOD maps out new command structure for Arctic region

DOD Areas of Responsibility

enlarged image (pdf)

New unified plan redefines the boundaries and missions of the major commands

By Henry Kenyon – Defense Systems – April 11, 2011

The Defense Department has released an updated strategic document outlining the missions, roles and geographic areas of responsibility of its combatant commands.

The most significant change in the Unified Command Plan 2011 shifts areas of responsibility in the Arctic, with the U.S. European Command and U.S. Northern Command now sharing responsibility for the region. Previously, the two commands and the U.S. Pacific Command covered the region. The plan also empowers the Northern Command to advocate for Arctic capabilities. …

Russia worried by NATO expansion near its border

April 27, 2011

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin expressed worries again Wednesday about the expansion of NATO, which has already taken in former Soviet states as members.

“The expansion of NATO infrastructure towards our borders is causing us concern,” Putin told a news conference after meeting Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

“NATO is not simply a political bloc, it is a military bloc. No one cancelled the agreements on how the bloc reacts to external threats. It is a defence structure,” added Putin.

NATO has already taken in the three former Soviet Baltic states as members, as well as old Warsaw Pact nations including Poland and the Czech Republic.

Moscow has long been worried by the military alliance’s growth and the possibility of its further expansion to take in former Soviet republics such as Georgia or Ukraine. And it is wary of U.S. and NATO plans for a European missile defence shield, which it fears could be a threat to its security unless Russia too is integrated into such a system. …

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Are drones a technological tipping point in warfare?

Washington Post
By Walter Pincus
April 24, 2011

Debates are growing at home and abroad over the increasing use of remotely piloted, armed drones, with a new study by the British Defense Ministry questioning whether advances in their capabilities will lead future decision-makers to “resort to war as a policy option far sooner than previously.”

Active and retired U.S. Air Force officers involved in developing drones stress that the aircraft brings in more decision-makers, better targeting data and more accurate delivery systems than fighter jets.

Active and retired U.S. Air Force officers involved in developing drones stress that the aircraft brings in more decision-makers, better targeting data and more accurate delivery systems than fighter jets.

But use of the unmanned aerial vehicles has drawn growing public scrutiny based on their lethal attacks in Pakistan against al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan against the Taliban, in Yemen against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and most recently in Libya …

The British study noted that drones are becoming increasingly automated. With minor technical advances, it said, a drone could soon be able to “fire a weapon based solely on its own sensors, or shared information, and without recourse to higher, human authority.” …

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Global Network Statement on Japanese Nuclear Disaster

The Global Network mourns for the people of Japan following the recent disastrous chain of events that began with the earthquake, tsunami and then the nuclear power plant. Sadly Japan is now the victim of three gargantuan nuclear disasters: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Fukushima.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan tragically demonstrates, again, the dangers of nuclear power, an energy source that must be abandoned–as a clear and present threat to life. Instead there must be full implementation of safe, clean energy technologies — which are here today.

The Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space has long challenged the use of atomic energy in space. The network has emphasized that there are safe alternatives to energize space devices. In recent times, NASA, at long last, has begun substituting solar energy for nuclear power in space. Indeed, in coming months NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft will be launched on a five-year mission to Jupiter. It was not long ago that NASA emphatically insisted that solar power could not substitute for nuclear beyond the orbit of Mars. Suddenly, it now can be done.

Likewise, as numerous studies have documented, safe, clean, renewable energy technologies now here can provide all the power we need on earth. Nuclear power and its deadly dangers are unnecessary. As the conservative scientific magazine, Scientific American, in its October 26, 2009 cover story, “A Plan for A Sustainable Future,” declared, “Wind, water, solar technologies, [and conservation] can provide 100 percent of the world’s energy needs.”

The issue of switching to safe, clean energy is not technological — it’s political.

The problem involves vested interests: the government agencies which push nuclear power, notably in the United States the national nuclear laboratories and the entity that owns them, the Department of Energy (headed currently by a former national nuclear laboratory director), and the nuclear industry as it seeks to profit from selling nuclear technology despite the cost in people’s lives.

These same entities are pushing nuclear power world-wide as evidenced by GE’s involvement in the construction of Japanese reactors and the recent U.S.-India Nuclear deal. China and other emerging nations are also expanding plans for nuclear power despite the horrific memories of Chernobyl and now Fukushima. …

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Russia-NATO row over missile system

By Hassan Beheshtipou

April 14, 2011

The establishment of a missile system on the European soil remains an issue in Russia’s talks with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, known as NATO, despite an agreement on the matter between the country and the United States. It seems like earlier optimism is fading into despair, following the two countries’ proposal for cooperation in the field.

Russia and the US have disagreed over the recent years on the aggressive plan, which was tabled during George W. Bush’s presidency under the pretext of confronting alleged threats posed by Iran and North Korea. Based on the project, advanced radar, capable of covering a 6,000-kilometer radius, was supposed to be based in the Czech Republic, complementing the US ones in Alaska and California while interceptor missiles were to be deployed to Poland.

Taking over from Bush, Barak Obama tried to moderate the Russo-American ties as part of his ‘policy of change’ by suspending the missile plan. Two years on, in November 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed Moscow’s cooperation with the project during NATO’s summit in Lisbon, Portugal.

His ambitious proposal was met with stiff resistance on the part of the senior military officials, but Kremlin’s foreign policy establishment went along, enjoying the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense’s support. However, according to Russian press, cooperation towards a joint project, which can contribute to the main plan, has faced fundamental problems. The question now is what the setbacks are and which course of action would Obama take. Russian press say the commander-in-chief has proposed the new four-phase plan, examination of whose details expose the depth to the impediments. …

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2011 Nuclear Policy Conference Summary: Two Triads: India-Pakistan-China and China-US-Russia

Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS)

By Kelley Sayler
April 12, 2011

The 2011 Nuclear Policy Conference, hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, featured numerous panels on a wide variety of topics within the nuclear field.  A full list of events, as well as audio/video recordings and transcripts can be found here

The panel on Two Triads: India-Pakistan-China and China-US-Russia was chaired by Toby Dalton (Carnegie). Discussants were Sergey Rogov (Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies), Hua Han (Peking University), Ashley Tellis (Carnegie), and Syed Rifaat Hussain (Regional Centre for Strategic Studies).

The Two Triads session opened with comments by moderator Toby Dalton, who noted the long-standing tendency to discuss nuclear dynamics in terms of dyads. In an effort to examine the wider implications for the stability of the international system and for the future of the nonproliferation regime, he requested that the panel frame its discussion in terms of two triads: India-Pakistan-China and China-US-Russia.

Sergey Rogov began his presentation on the latter triad by outlining the strategic differences between the US-Russian leg and the two legs involving China. While the legacy of the Cold War locked the United States and Russia into a posture of mutually assured destruction and perpetuated the two countries’ preoccupation with numerical parity, Chinese nuclear posture has reflected other calculations. For example, Chinese skepticism regarding the offensive utility of nuclear weapons has led it to eschew counterforce in favor of minimal deterrence. As a result, Rogov argued, China is unlikely to seek parity.

There are two factors that could alter this calculation, however. First, US missile defenses might be deployed in such a manner as to threaten the integrity of the Chinese deterrent, which could in turn lead China to inflate its forces to levels capable of overwhelming American interceptors and ensuring a reliable second-strike capability. Second, the development of Indian forces could prompt an expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal.

In addition, Rogov offered thoughts on the Russian perception of US missile defense. Russia is not currently threatened by US defenses, he argued, but the implementation of Phase 4 of the Phased Adaptive Approach and, in particular, the deployment of the new generation of SM-3 Block IIB interceptors may alter this perception. …

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