Arms Control and Proliferation Challenges
A century and a half ago, in a whiter, more rural, pre-Internet-television-radio-automobile America; one of America’s greatest thinkers, David Henry Thoreau, said “Simplify, simplify.” He said it in fact in Massachusetts; a modest piece of geography that had as much or more to do with the technological marvels that would be created in the next 150 years as any similar sized piece of geography anywhere on the planet. Because I can not but help be impressed and grateful for a 70 year lifespan, dentistry that isn’t painless; but clearly doesn’t hurt as much, and the innovations in transportation, medicine, communication that we all could list; I am pleased that, 150 years ago, his advice wasn’t taken.
But for the topic that this blog is obsessed with, nuclear weapons; Thoreau’s advice is spot on. Nuclear weapons are about two items: Big time engineering talent and ethnicity. It is crucial to see that. It is crucial to see that given their 1000 year dance with the Germanic peoples, the Russians, who have long seen themselves as “The Elder Brother of the Slavs” will never see nuclear weapons as a scourge. Given their identity as Slavs; the only question worth asking is “How much engineering talent can the Russians put into that channel of reality? Two items: just two, ethnicity and big time talent.
“Arms Control and Proliferation Challenges to the Reset Policy” by Stephen J. Blank has too wide a lens; a lens that takes in too many items; and as it loses focus on the two that matter, it becomes another dangerous book in that long line of dangerous books for America and nuclear weaponry.
The book however is informative, well presented and most valuable for the information that it presents on Russia’s nuclear weapons program and the serious commitment that the Russian leadership has for that program. The Russian engineering is getting better: more lethal, more potent, more dangerous. That is not a surprise to those of you who visit this blog.
Nuclear weapons are an IQ test; the best engineers in the Russian nuclear weapons program are intelligent people (like the American nuclear engineers, the Chinese nuclear engineers, the French nuclear engineers, the Pakistani nuclear engineers, etc., etc., and intelligent nuclear engineers given time and capital are bound to make the product more lethal, more potent, more dangerous.
So the book is a sobering, and from my perspective, a welcome entry into the real world. There is so much blather, mostly from Conservatives, about how safe the world is now that President Reagan demolished the Soviet Union and tore the Wall down; that a small dose of reality now is helpful. It may help avoid the inevitable feeling of enhanced terror a generation from now.
Consider what the book tells us about the actual status of the Russian nuclear weapons program:
-“Kokoshin [Deputy Defense Minister] has said that nuclear deterrence will remain the keystone of Russian defense for the future, . .” p.31
– “[T]here are also other reasons for suspecting that, despite the effort to complete a huge conventional upgrading of the Russian military, Russia in 2015-20 will continue relying much more on nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence.” p. 30.
– “[T]he General Staff commissioned research institutes to determine how many nuclear warheads are needed for a guaranteed retaliatory strike against a potential enemy, presumably to confirm the General Staff’s earlier insistence on 1,500 warheads as an irreducible minimum . . . These studies and building programs obviously have a great deal of bureaucratic muscle and financing behind them, so in practical terms it will be very difficult to win Russian assent to large reductions in strategic forces . . .” p. 29.
– “Russia’s nuclear program, although work has started on the liquid-propellant system, is in the throes of a debate, so its final outcome and prognosis remains somewhat unclear at this time. . . .[T]he current expectation is that the ultimate design will copy that of the Satan (SS-18) ICBM and be insensitive to the effect of an electromagnetic (EMP) impulse, launchable from a silo even after a missile has hit it, and capable of carrying a large complex of defense penetration aids so that it can evade missile defenses and deliver a 10-ton combat payload to any point in the world.” pp. 27-28.
– “The State Armament Program submitted to Medvedev and the Duma for 2011-20 now totals 20.7 trillion rubles ($646 billion), of which 19.4 trillion rubles goes to the needs of the Ministry of Defense. Of that total, 79 percent will go to the acquisition and purchase of high-tech armaments (including nuclear weapons, which remain a priority).” pp-27.
– “[Deputy Foreign Minister] Ryabkov talked first about turning to the control of conventional arms in Europe. . . He said shaping the military relationships on the ground, where Russia has vastly fewer troops and less equipment, would relate to the future of nuclear disarmament. ” p. 34.
-“China’s military program has continued apace. Consequently, new Chinese developments like the conventional Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) DF-16, the new ASBM, etc. threaten not just the United States and its allies but also a whole range of Russian military targets deep into Russia.” p. 26
There is good information that confirms Professor Blank’s description of the Russians as determined to improve their nuclear threat; to make it faster, of greater reach, more lethal:
“On Saturday, Medvedev also observed military exercises of the Northern Fleet in the Barents Sea, including a full-range test of the Sineva ballistic missile that traveled a record 7170 miles.
“For the first time in Navy history, the launch was not to the Kura test range in . . the Russian Far East, but to the area of an equatorial part of the Pacific.”
“Russia’s Medvedev observes test launch of Topol ICBM,”RIANOVOSTI
My comment: Perfect. This demonstrates the point that I have made repeatedly on this blog. Nuclear weapons reflect engineering talent in a population of young men selected out of very large populations. If you are relatively poorer or even considerably poorer than the U.S., but you have that handful of gifted engineers, nuclear weapons are your guarantee that the West does not invade you. The Russian leadership is making the point precisely. They view their nuclear arsenal as a response to America’s economic advantage: They will not let go of that arsenal.
Professor Blank has a different perspective; he sees the Russians determination to throw more and more assets into the nuclear terror game as somewhat odd; and more a reflection of the Russian (traditional?) failure to create a democratic political culture, and a resulting obsession with America, which is somewhat humorous.
“Thus the reasons for this fragility and the consequences for this fragility and the consequences for arms control and future cooperation on nonproliferation issues must be clarified…. Russian governmental figures like Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov now say that the test of Russian relations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and of NATO’s “sincerity” is progress towards creating a joint missile defense system on Russia’s terms. . . Some may believe that these positions are merely negotiating tactics. . . They also suggest Moscow’s continuing obsession with being able to intimidate Europe with the unimpeded threat of nuclear strikes against key European targets and its linked belief in the possibility of using nuclear weapons in a warfighting role . . .” pp. 2-3.
“What drives these state-to state, or NATO-Russia, and intrastate domestic struggles are deep-rooted fears of each other, as well as continuing regional rivalries.” p. 3.
“Russia remains unwilling to accept the bottom line of U.S. national security policy, i.e., American leadership and (the intermittent) promotion if a global democratic order (which Russia regards as efforts at a unilateralist hegemony). p. 4.
” [I]n Russia (if not the Unites States) issues connected to nuclear weapons make for major manifestations of political theater . . . In the Russian case, this appears not just in overt and covert domestic political struggles, but also in the widespread, ingrained, and wholly unsubstantiated conclusion that the United States is essentially Russia’s enemy and trying to suppress it, if not beak it up, and that U.S. politics, like Russian politics, is essentially a matter of dictating to smaller powers and endless conspiracies . . . After all, that is the elite’s own experience of Russian politics. And this habit of Russian projection of domestic phenomena and values onto the “other,” the main enemy, the Unites States, dates back to Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. This projection process institutionalizes what can only be called political or nuclear paranoia. . .” p. 6.
Putting the Russian on the psychoanalytical couch will not solve what is to be done with nuclear weapons. One has to see the Germanic world from their perspective, or the next step is that everyone will live with the platform for nuclear weapons in space; the oven moved from 43 minutes to less than 5 minutes away; and the red phone in the White House of no help.
The Russian ethnic identity is all important to the Russians. In the Russian head there is no question on the planet more serious that, “What makes Russians safe?” The answer that Russians have to give to that question is, “The ability to kill every blond between Latvia and Australia in 43 minutes.” Of Course.
Consider the German-Russian game from the Russian perspective. A thousand years ago Charlemagne decreed that knowledge of how the Germanic sword was engineered and produced was not to be disseminated to the Slavs. There is no question that the one constant one could make of the relationship between Germans and Slavs for the ensuing thousand years was that the whiter, taller, better looking Germans had a racial objection to the Slavs; they called them names, made jokes about them and did not mate with them. “Mein Kampf” was not just about the Jews; it announced to the Germans a series of conclusions about the Slavs that had been a commonsense staple to the Germans for a thousand years.
A big sophisticated nuclear arsenal in Russian hands fixes that. Nuclear Weapons must be controlled.