Kissinger, Nunn, Perry, Shultz: Nuclear Threat Outpacing Work to Eliminate It

On the radar: Statesmen offer next steps on nuclear security; Sanctioning North Korea; Questioning the cascade; Nuclear convention; UK’s Trident on the chopping block; and Nuke parts on Ebay.

March 6, 2013 | Edited by Benjamin Loehrke and Alyssa Demus

The Quartet - “The continuing risk posed by nuclear weapons remains an overarching strategic problem, but the pace of work doesn't now match the urgency of the threat,” stress former Secretaries Henry Kissinger, Bill Perry, George Shultz and Sen. Sam Nunn in a new op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. “A global effort is needed to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, prevent their spread, and ultimately end them as a threat to the world.”

--Suggested next steps: 1) Prevent nuclear terrorism by developing a “comprehensive global materials security system;” 2) Increase nuclear decision time by getting agreement with Russia to take a percentage of nuclear warheads off prompt-launch status; 3) Examine going below New START levels, possibly through coordinated mutual actions with Russia; and 4) Launch a “verification initiative” to develop innovative ways to control weapons and materials.

--Parting thoughts: ”Our age has stolen fire from the gods. Can we confine this awesome power to peaceful purposes before it consumes us?” write the four statesmen.

N. Korea sanctions - “For the first time ever, this resolution targets the illicit activities of North Korean diplomatic personnel, North Korean banking relationships, (and) illicit transfers of bulk cash,” said US Amb. Susan Rice of a draft resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea. Chinese Amb. Li Baodong said the UN Security Council is expected to vote on the resolution on Thursday. From Reuters.

Beyond sanctions - China has joined the U.S. in supporting a new UN resolution to increase sanctions on North Korea, “but there is no reason to believe that the sanctions resolution will persuade Pyongyang [...] to curb its nuclear weapons program,” says a New York Times editorial. “Creative thinking is needed to end the cycles of sanctions and threats.”

--Recommendations: “another high-level attempt by the [U.S.] to make clear to North Korea the dangers of its current course and the benefits if it curbs its nuclear program;” joint Chinese-U.S. covert operations to disrupt DPRK’s nuclear program; and an increased American investment in Radio Free Asia “to broaden its reach so more information could easily reach the North’s people,” the editorial suggests. Full story here.

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Proliferation cascade? - In testimony yesterday, US CENTCOM Commander Gen. James Mattis said that if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, it could lead other states in the Middle East to seek the bomb.

--Some experts see this “proliferation cascade” scenario as over-hyped. Colin Kahl of the Center for New American Security noted that states like Saudi Arabia would also have “significant disincentives” for seeking the bomb and lacks the infrastructure necessary to do so. Outlining Saudi Arabia’s choice, Joe Cirincione asked ABC News, "Would Saudi Arabia really break its alliance with the United States and pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty?" Full article here.

Tweet - @Cirincione: Here's the @HuffPostLive #Iran interview I just did with @tparsi, Gary Sick & Michael Eisenstadt.

Outlawing nukes - The Red Cross is calling for a convention to outlaw the use of nuclear weapons, reports Australia Network News. “It's just incredible...that we have a convention around land mines, around cluster munitions...but we don't around the issue of nuclear weapons,” said Robert Tickner, CEO of Australia’s Red Cross in remarks to a conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Full story here.

Scrapping subs - Britain’s nuclear-armed submarines may be on the chopping block as a way to cut budgets in the country’s next spending review. “Between now and 2016, Britain must decide whether to spend £25 billion replacing the four submarines that carry nuclear-tipped Trident missiles,” the costs of which will likely equate to “at least one third of the defence budget after 2020.”

--Some Labour politicians may break with the party’s tradition of supporting the nuclear deterrent, and oppose the subs replacement reports Mary Riddell at The Telegraph. Full story here.

Tweet - @wellerstein: Pew pew pew! Artist's rendering of a Strategic Defense Initiative fantasy from the 80s. Looks like they missed a few.

Semipalatinsk - The remote Semipalatinsk site in Kazakhstan witnessed 456 nuclear test explosions during the Soviet years. The resulting health and environmental consequences of the tests plague the region to this day. io9 offers a brief history in photos of the site and its neighboring populations.


--”National Security and the DOD: 2025.” Rep. Adam Smith (WA) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (TX). March 6 3:00-4:00 p.m. @ Rayburn House Office Bldg. Sponsored by the American Security Project. RSVP here.

--”Russian Security and Defense Policy: Why Russia Is Not Stuck in the Cold War, and Why that Is a Problem.” Celeste Wallander, former Dep. Asst. Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia. March 6 3:00-4:00 p.m. SAIS, Rome Bldg. Room 812.

--”The U.S. Nuclear Deterrent: What Are the Requirements for A Strong Deterrent In an Era of Defense Sequester?” Hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces. Witnesses: Gen. James Cartwright, Dr. Andrew Krepinevich, and Dr. Keith Payne. Wed. March 6 @ 3:30 PM in Rayburn 2118.

--Sec. George Shultz discusses national security challenges and climate change. March 8 from 12:00-1:00pm in Rayburn 2200. Details, RSVP, and webcast here.


B57 part, gently used - The cover from a dismantled B-57 tactical nuclear warhead was just auctioned off on Ebay. The warhead part had “some scuff and scratches.” If employed, the thermonuclear bomb would’ve produced a yield of 5-20 kilotons. Dismantled, the warhead cover produced about $300 for the previous owner.