American Nuclear Strategy: The Case for a Minimal-Deterrence Policy

Robert Gard, Greg Terryn

Military Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, United States

“The United States’ overstocked nuclear arsenal addresses a threat that no longer exists, and instead results in elevated risks with no added value.”

Critics of minimal deterrence, such as Keith Payne in a recent article in the Washington Times, accuse advocates of reducing the U.S. nuclear stockpile of viewing the world through rose-colored glasses, irresponsibly following ideological perceptions at the expense of American security. These charges represent true irony; few policies are more tainted with ideology than the advocacy of an outdated nuclear strategy with an excessive, ill-maintained arsenal of weapons.

The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review states: “[t]he fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons, which will continue as long as nuclear weapons exist, is to deter nuclear attack on the United States, [its] allies, and partners.” Because of the vast and indiscriminate destructive power of nuclear weapons, there is a general consensus that their sole legitimate purpose is to deter the use of weapons of mass destruction by potential enemies; and that their use in war should be initiated only as a last resort to prevent the military defeat of the nation or an ally. These weapons clearly are irrelevant to current international security challenges such as nonstate terrorist expansion in Iraq and Syria, the Ebola virus in Africa or even Russian aggression in Ukraine.

But how many nuclear weapons are necessary for an effective, reliable deterrent?

The United States currently has an arsenal of about 4,800 nuclear warheads, enough for an estimated 1,400-megaton cumulative yield of destructive power. That is 87,500 times the blast power of the bomb that devastated Hiroshima and equal to the blast yield of 1,400,000,000 tons of TNT. Put another way, it would only take one tenth of the 1,400 megatons we possess to decimate the fifty most-populated cities in the United States.[1] How much deliverable nuclear explosive power and destruction does it take to deter potential enemies? Obviously, under any conceivable scenario, the United States does not need a nuclear arsenal nearly this large.

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Beware of the New Cold War Consensus

James W. Carden

Foreign Policy, History, United States, Russia

“That the United States is now engaged in a fresh Cold War should not really be in doubt.” 

Earlier this month, while in Berlin to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Henry Kissinger sat down for an interview with Der Spiegel. Among other things, Kissinger decried a possible new Cold War: “I think a resumption of the Cold War would be a historic tragedy. If a conflict is avoidable, on a basis reflecting morality and security, one should try to avoid it.” Also in Berlin to mark the occasion was Mikhail Gorbachev, who warned that “the world is on the brink of a new Cold War…some say it has already begun.”

That the United States is now engaged in a fresh Cold War should not really be in doubt. That decision was announced not in a major presidential address, as it should have been, but rather stealthily—via a report by Peter Baker in the New York Times in April. It was then that the administration first revealed its intention to isolate Russia.

There are of course some obvious differences between the first Cold War and today’s—the most obvious being that Putin’s Russia does not command suzerainty over Eastern Europe. Instead, much of it belongs to NATO.

That, in a sense, is the good news. Putin’s Russia is not the Soviet Union and pretending that a reconstituted Red Army will be rolling through the Fulda Gap at any moment isn’t going to make it any more likely to happen. But what’s missing, I think, is a vigorous debate about how to approach Putin’s Kremlin. This is anomalous, or at least very different from the previous Cold War.

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Sisi regime shows confidence as ‘deep state’ returns to Egypt’s political landscape

Expert: ‘The court’s decision pours oil on the fire of this struggle.’


China’s CX-1 Missile Now Exportable

China’s new CX-1 supersonic anti-ship cruise missile is ready for export to America’s friends and foes alike, with potential markets including Iran, Pakistan and African and South American countries.

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Argentina's Jet Fighter Replacement Options Narrow

The UK’s moves to block the sale of Gripen fighters to Argentina has triggered a round of angry accusations in Buenos Aires, while laying bare Argentina’s dilemmas in replenishing its fighter fleet after years of neglect.

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Leader Asserts China’s Growing Role on Global Stage

President Xi Jinping told Communist Party officials that China would be nice to its neighbors in Asia but that he would be relentless in promoting his idea of China’s rejuvenation onto the world stage.

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Deval Patrick: Sense of Hillary Clinton Entitlement is ‘Off-Putting’ To Voters

Speaking on Meet The Press, Governor Deval Patrick (D, Ma.) addressed the common belief that Hillary Clinton is “inevitable” to win the nomination for Democrats in 2016.

“The narrative that it’s inevitable is off-putting to voters,” Patrick said.

Patrick said inevitability is viewed as entitlement and the American people want to see their presidential candidates have to make a case for themselves.

“The American people want – and ought to want – their candidates to sweat for the job, to actually make a case for why they are the right person at the right time” Patrick said. “

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ABC: Hagel Saga ‘Emblematic of Everything That’s Wrong with Obama’s Management Style’

The recent resignation of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is another example of how the White House has failed to manage the Defense Department.

Many have pointed the finger at Hagel, but as David Rothkopf noted Sunday while on This Week, “the reality is the problem is in the White House.”

Rothkopf and fellow guest Bret Stephens agreed that Obama’s management style led to Hagel’s failure.

The administration’s handling of Hagel were “emblematic of everything that’s wrong with Obama’s management style” Stephens said.

Whoever Obama nominates next, the candidate will have to struggle along with the president.

“I think it’s going to get worse,” Rothkopf said. “It’s going to be very tough last couple of years for the president.”

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ESA Conducts Successful In-space Laser Communications Test

The Eutelsat-9B satellite with its EDRS-A payload. Also known as Europe’s SpaceDataHighway, EDRS uses cutting-edge laser technology to capture and relay information gathered by Earth-observing satellites. (Credit: Airbus Defence and Space SAS 2014)

The Eutelsat-9B satellite with its EDRS-A payload. Also known as Europe’s SpaceDataHighway, EDRS uses cutting-edge laser technology to capture and relay information gathered by Earth-observing satellites. (Credit: Airbus Defence and Space SAS 2014)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Marking a first in space, Sentinel-1A and Alphasat have linked up by laser stretching almost 36 000 km across space to deliver images of Earth just moments after they were captured.

This important step demonstrates the potential of Europe’s new space data highway to relay large volumes of data very quickly so that information from Earth-observing missions can be even more readily available.

Having timely access to imagery from the Sentinel-1 mission, for example, is essential for numerous applications such as maritime safety and helping to respond to natural disasters.

Orbiting from pole to pole about 700 km up, Sentinel-1A transmits data to Earth routinely, but only when it passes over its ground stations in Europe. However, geostationary satellites, hovering 36 000 km above Earth, have their ground stations in permanent view so they can stream data to Earth all the time.

This takes a great deal of coordination between the different teams working intensively. Later on, in routine operations, this will be fully automated.

Creating a link between the two kinds of satellites means that more information can be streamed to Earth, and almost continuously. Engineers have turned to laser to accomplish this.

Funded by ESA and the DLR German Aerospace Center, Tesat has developed a laser communications terminal and downlink system that is carried on the geostationary Alphasat, Europe’s largest telecommunications satellite. This novel unit’s counterpart is flying on Sentinel-1A.

Over the past few weeks the Sentinel-1A operations teams at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt, Germany, and ESA’s Earth Observation Centre, ESRIN, in Frascati, Italy, and German Space Operations Center, GSOC, in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, have been working intensively to prepare for the first laser link tests.

The image on the right, showing Berlin in Germany, is one of the first images delivered using this state-of-the-art technology.

“Demonstrating laser data link-ups in space has involved excellent teamwork by many at ESA, Inmarsat, Tesat and DLR,” says ESA’s Head of Mission Operations, Paolo Ferri.

“I am especially proud of the major contribution the operations teams at ESOC and ESRIN have provided to the success of this activity, which will significantly improve data availability from Earth observation missions and enhance benefits for all citizens in the future.”

Heads of various agencies gathered at ESOC today to follow the operators as they linked the two satellites by laser. Radar data over Asia were acquired and downlink to Earth in near-real time.

Magali Vaissiere, ESA’s Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications, said, “Today, space systems have become part of the global Big Data challenge.

“You can visualise the link of today as an optical fibre in the sky that can connect the Sentinels back home to Europe, from wherever they are on their orbit around Earth.

“The link is operated at 1.8 Gbit/s, with a design that could scale up to 7.2 Gbit/s in the future. Never has so much data travelled in space.”

Following processing by ESA’s Copernicus Ground Segment, images will be online and available to the public through the Sentinel data website.

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China’s Limits In Central Asia

Chinese economic influence in Central Asia should not be confused with political or military dominance.

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