Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Behind the Scenes of the Russian Nuclear Policy

Discussing the role of nuclear weapons in global politics and maintaining Russia’s security at the International Summer School on Global Security in the beginning of July in Abramtsevo, Russia, Eugene Miasnikov, Director of the Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies, presented the analysis of the trends in the development of strategic forces of Russia, which can help understand why Russian senior officials reacted so coldly to the US President Obama’s suggestion of further reductions in the nuclear arsenals.   

Miasnikov notes that the Russian view of the role of nuclear weapons is essentially conservative. Though some believe that nuclear weapons have lost their significance and that nuclear deterrence is not more than just a myth, in practice these ideas do not really affect the state nuclear policy. Miasnikov points out, that unlike the USA, the discussion of the role of nuclear weapons among the Russian expert community oftentimes takes place behind the scene, and it is difficult to say in what way it affects the official policy of the Russian Federation.   

In general there is a consensus among Russian experts, Miasnikov says, that the nuclear weapon is (i) the key element of strategic deterrence system; (ii) a guarantor of the Russian national security from an extensive aggression of another state or a group of states; (iii) a guarantor of sovereignty; (iv) an agency that ensures Russia’s high status among other states; in the nuclear area, equal to the one of the USA.

The views of Russian experts differ mainly in regard to the way Russia should respond to the US suggestions for further bilateral cutting of nuclear arsenals.  The views differ, Miasnikov explains, because specialists differentially assess threats and dangers for the Russian Federation as well as prospects of the Russian economy.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Libyan Disarmament: A Model for Current Nuclear Weapon States?

Libya, a country struggling to maintain stability and order in its post-revolutionary phase, is renowned in the international community for its disarmament efforts in 2003 and its ratification of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

In March of 2003, former President Muammar Qaddafi renounced Libya’s weapons of mass destruction programs and allowed IAEA inspectors into the country to verify that Libya was in fact making significant steps towards nuclear disarmament.

Libya, along with South Africa, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine are among the few states that formerly had nuclear weapons stockpiles but disarmed and became non-nuclear weapon parties to the NPT.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The CTBT and the US

This week, the CTBTO is holding a weeklong conference on the CTBTO and the progress being made to ratify the CTBT.  Simultaneously, there is an education program being held both in Geneva and online.  I am one of the participants, and already I have learned so much about the CTBTO and the delegation processes. Part of the course is a simulation of the Executive Council Deliberations over an On-site Inspection Request.  I was selected to be a part of the representative team for Columbia. 

The CTBT is the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 10, 1996, but it has not entered into force because eight Annex-2 states have not ratified the treaty.  They are the United States, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, North Korea, China, and Iran.

Once the CTBT is ratified and becomes part of international law, the UN will be able to monitor the world.  If a state violates the CTBT the executive council has been set up for a democratic process to order on site inspections. 

It is the interest of the United States to ratify the CTBT because the United States has already ceased nuclear testing.  The US now uses computers to run calculations and virtual tests that are just as effective as actual tests.  If the US took a leading role in getting the rest of the other states to ratify the treaty, the risk of other states gaining nuclear weapons would be eliminated almost entirely.  The United States also has even more reason to ratify the CTBT since Russia has already done so.  Russia has the second most nuclear weapons in the world.  Russia tested the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated called the Tsar Bomba in 1961. 

This is the most supported nuclear treaty in the world.  The US and others continue to obstruct it.  The US needs to begin working with the international community instead of opposing it.  For the rest of the week, I will be learning more about how the CTBT is practically carried out.  I will also be taking part in the Executive Council simulation.  I hope to learn a lot this week.  Around a hundred other participants from around the world will be joining me.  Perhaps through education and awareness, support can spread for this important treaty.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Nuclear Weapons in the Cyber Era

For the last 50 years, an outside force has never threatened the United States’ nuclear weapons safety.  The United States has always employed large security forces, secure/remote facilities, and strict protocols.  However, in recent years, and especially recent months, the U.S. and its allies have come under increased cyber attack.  For example, in the summer of 2012, alleged Iranian hackers destroyed 30,000 computers of the Saudi Aramco Company.  Chinese hackers have stolen information on important defense projects from defense contractors.  The designs include the PAC-3, THAAD, and the Navy’s Aegis ballistic-missile defense system.  Also schematics on the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship were stolen.  If these systems were compromised, how long until the U.S. nuclear weapons complex is compromised?  Perhaps it already has been. 

Many analysts are worried about the American banking system or the power grids.  However, I can’t think of a worse situation than if our nuclear weapons were hacked.  A nuclear power plant’s controls could be compromised and next thing we know the US has its own Chernobyl.  The US infected the Iranian nuclear industry with a virus called Stuxnet that severely hindered their progress in 2010.  Is the US immune to this type of attack?  In this age of Internet attacks, any country or group can theoretically attack the United States from a laptop.  These recent escalations in Internet attacks should signal world governments that the need for nuclear disarmament is even more imperative.  If a terrorist organization can’t build their own device, then they can just use one that already exists by hacking the controls or falsifying reports of an attack.  Studies done have shown that the US nuclear arsenal is indeed vulnerable to a cyber attack.

Technology advances at an incredible rate in this age.  Defense systems cannot keep up with the evolving capabilities of offensive tools.  Simply making the US arsenal no longer fire ready would prevent hackers from firing one of our nuclear warheads.  The Cold War is over.  Shifting the US’s nuclear arsenal to be able to address the threats of this age is imperative.  We do not need to be ready for an impending attack from the USSR.  Those days are gone.  We must now be wary that our security systems are all vulnerable.  We must protect ourselves from our own systems as much as from foreign attackers.  Now it seems nuclear weapons and power plants are liabilities.  Deterrence will not work in the Internet age.

Brooks Troiani is an intern at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Science and Religion Reconciliation Center is opening on the basis of Russian Federal Nuclear Center – Seriously?

‘Wait a minute. That can’t be serious, can it?’ immediately popped up in my head when I was reading the following news: 

As the Moscow Patriarchate website reports, on 29 June 2013 the orthodox clergy, representatives of the Department of Economic Development, Department of Agriculture, the administration of the city Sarov, as well as RFNC representatives discussed the opening of a Science and Religion Reconciliation Center (Russian: научно-духовный центр) which will be based on Russian Federal Nuclear Center and the Monastery of the Holy Dormition of Sarov hermitage. The Center, which has received the blessing of Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus' Kirill, will host conferences and other events aimed to build up the dialogue between representatives of science and the Church.

The question arises how are they going to find common grounds to achieve understanding and build friendly relations? Can the views of Nuclear Center,* which developed the first Soviet atomic and H-bombs, and the Church be compatible with one another? What can the Institute that has developed weapons of mass destruction and is working towards their higher performance possibly have anything to do with the Church that is supposed to advocate common values and teach people to appreciate and protect life and the world bestowed on us by God?

For me the idea of a Science and Religion Reconciliation Center is as oxymoronic as the world peace keeping function of nuclear weapons. Let us think about it. If the Church was intending to appeal to the conscious of nuclear scientists, it would probably support organizations fighting for the abolition of nuclear weapons rather than initiate discussions how to reconcile religion and science. As for the funding, why is federal money being spent on the opening of the Center instead of helping out anti-nuclear campaigns?

Maybe I am too skeptical and the Church will indeed help to promote the idea that science should work for the good of humanity and not jeopardize it with such deadly inventions as nuclear weapons. Maybe it will. But the Moscow Patriarchate is ambiguous about the direction in which the further talks will be going. Will the Church try to persuade the Nuclear Center specialists that their work is unethical, immoral, and antihuman? Or will the nuclear experts be able to prove their view to the Church that nuclear weapons serve the only ‘honorable’ purpose of maintaining peace and security for the Russian people and the whole world thus getting the approval of the Church? It is difficult to say based on what information about the new Center’s work is available. We will find out in November when the first conference is scheduled to take place at the Center.

*Russian Federal Nuclear Center - The All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC - VNIIEF) - is a Federal State Unitary Enterprise (FSUE) of the State Atomic Energy Corporation “Rosatom”. The Institute was founded in 1946 to implement the Soviet Atomic Project. Now the Institute is intensively working towards higher nuclear weapons performance, improving their efficiency, safety and reliability.
More information about the Institute and its work can be found at

Ekaterina Kuzmina is a graduate student at California State University, Fullerton  and an intern at NAPF. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Why Current Deterrence Theory is Wrong

The main argument given against the idea of nuclear abolition is that the “genie is out of the bottle,” and the only thing that keeps more countries from getting nuclear weapons is threatening them with nuclear weapons.  However, Iran and North Korea stand as stark evidence that this is simply not true.  Nation-states will develop nuclear weapons in response to being threatened by nuclear weapons.  In an age where the nuclear armed states can invade any non-nuclear country without drastic consequences, threatened states see that in this mindset, it only makes sense to arm oneself.  The US was able to invade Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  I would argue the only reason why the US hasn’t invaded Iran is because Russia and China have threatened retaliation.  Russia invaded Afghanistan in the 80s.  China took over Tibet.  The message the nuclear powers have been sending the rest of the world over the last 50 years is that if you do something we don’t like, and you don’t have a nuclear arsenal, then we can invade you.  Therefore, the logical conclusion is that in reality deterrence leads to proliferation because it creates a mindset in which nuclear weapons are the source of power and therefore necessary.  This is disastrous in an age where terrorists are no longer bound by national barriers.  It is dangerous in a world that is currently fraught with instability and popular unrest.  

Currently, President Obama and President Putin have agreed to lower their arsenals by a third more.  While this looks like a step in the right direction, it is not really progress.  Let me tell you why.  Both Russia and the US are modernizing their nuclear arsenals.  They are spending billions of dollars on making the nuclear weapons more deadly (as if blowing up an entire city-sized area isn’t deadly enough), more difficult to shoot down with missiles, and faster (missiles that can hit a target in 4 minutes rather than ten).  So really while they lower the number of overall warheads, all they are really doing is retiring the old warheads and actually creating a new stockpile of deadlier ones.  I must ask why the US needs to spend billions of dollars on making the deadliest weapons in human history deadlier.  It is almost laughable.  I mean how accurate does a nuclear missile need to be?  If you get within a mile of your target you will still vaporize it.

For example, the old WWII nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are 80 times weaker than our smallest nuclear warhead now.  Our smallest nuclear warhead completely annihilates a 1.7 mile radius around the detonation spot.  Most buildings and all living things in this area are wiped out instantly.  They get off lucky.  Then within a 2.7 mile radius from the blast (or 1 mile outside of the instant death area) all buildings except for steel structure are gone, fifty percent of living things are instantly killed, the other  fifty percent is mortally burned or wounded and will die within the coming minutes, hours, or days after the blast.  At a 4.7 mile radius from the blast center (or 2 miles outside of the last damage radius), all houses are destroyed by the blast wave, an estimated five percent of the population is instantly killed, forty-five percent are injured, all have been exposed to toxic levels of radiation.  They will most likely die slowly and painfully of radiation poisoning.  At a 7.4 mile radius (or roughly 3 miles from the last damage radius) there is still blast damage but only twenty-five percent of the population is injured.  After this point there is less damage from the blast itself, however every living thing within thirty miles from the blast center has been exposed to lethal doses of radiation.  They will die within days, and that area will be uninhabitable for ten years.  Within ninety miles, all living persons will die of radiation poisoning, also within days.  Within 160 miles, people will show symptoms of radiation poisoning: hair loss, white blood loss, nerve damage.  The elderly, the young, and the sick will die.  Finally within 250 miles from the blast center, radiation poisoning will occur, though most will live.  Also, the land will be safe to inhabit within three years.  This is the effect of both the US and Russia’s smallest nuclear warhead.  In another report, this time on a terrorist nuclear attack on New York City estimates that there would be 800,000 people killed, and 900,000 people injured.  Those are the effects of the smallest warheads.  If anything bigger is used the results are dramatically worse.  The fact remains if ever a nuclear attack were to occur on any city the results would be horrifying.  While deterrence may have prevented a nuclear attack from another country, no amount of nuclear weapons can prevent a terrorist from acquiring a nuclear weapon. 

How do you prevent a terrorist from getting a nuclear warhead?  Well one way is to keep nuclear weapons in secure facilities.  However, countries like Pakistan and India have questionable security, and the US can’t regulate their security.  Also, in Pakistan’s case, if government rule was to break down, nothing would stop terrorist groups from gaining access to those weapons.  However, if the nuclear powers come to an agreement to set a date for virtual disarmament, boost the power of the IAEA to regularly inspect and regulate nuclear programs in all countries, and agree to support the enforcement of the agreement through UN military force and sanctions then the disarmament could be permanent. This is quite a lot to ask from most of the nuclear powers.  However, I believe that security from nuclear attack should trump sovereignty in this instance.  If there is no enforcement, then there is no punishment for failing to make good on disarmament.  Once countries disarm, it would be very easy to make sure no country starts arming again because creating weapon’s grade plutonium is a lengthy, expensive, and fairly obvious endeavor.  Think about it; no terrorist organization has been able to make one because doing so requires building huge facilities and employing experts who are under surveillance.  Even North Korea, the most secretive country in the world, didn’t keep their nuclear weapons development a secret.  As long as the IAEA and various intelligence agencies do their jobs, no country could get away with making a nuclear weapon. 

So why is it likely that this idea won’t come to fruition?  First of all, the belief in nuclear deterrence is accepted as fact by both parties in Washington and Moscow.  Second, there is still little trust for the Russians in Washington DC.  The good news is that Russia is not our enemy anymore, and this mentality could be changed through effort.  For some reason, many politicians in America and Europe still see Russia as a country to fear instead of work with.  The truth is the moment America takes off its Cold War goggles and views Russia in a new way is the moment in which nuclear disarmament talks will actually bear fruit.  If the two countries with the largest nuclear arsenals and worst nuclear track records start transparently and honestly disarming, is when the rest of the world will see that a commitment to a nuclear-free world is actually possible.  Current deterrence ideology has failed.  However, I believe that if the world is transparently disarmed and then honestly regulated, nuclear weapons development can be deterred.

Nuclear affects estimations come from:

New York City scenario:

Brooks Troiani is an intern at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

We Must Rely on Common Human Values not Nuclear Arsenals as Our Strength, or the Need for a Bold Initiative at the State Level

In the light of the recent events regarding the currently most discussed whistleblower Edward Snowden, it is impossible not think about the importance of having a moral compass that guides you and motivates you for bold actions.  Having realized that he was "part of something that was doing far more harm than good," Edward Snowden decided to disclose NSA unethical activities. Driven by the desire to serve his people and humanity Snowden urges, 'You can't wait around for someone else to act.' Snowden’s courage and his willingness to sacrifice his comfortable life and take a bold risk to change the system that works against humanity rather than for it deserves admiration. And it is this what global leaders lack in regards to nuclear weapon discourse.

If world leaders really care about the global community, the common good, the future generations, why have they failed to avoid emergence of new nuclear states and to prevent states from obtaining, possessing, and developing nuclear weapons (not to mention to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons altogether)? The answer is unfortunately that we are stuck at the stage when we do not  trust each other. We do not believe that we are able to reach an agreement on important issues through negotiations, and we still need something frightening (like military arsenal) to back up our position and our intentions.

On June 19 in Berlin, American President Barack Obama reminded us of the words of John F. Kennedy asking to “look to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.” These words “call upon us to care more about things than just our own self-comfort, about our own city, about our own country.  They demand that we embrace the common endeavor of all humanity.”

Obama urged to pursue the security of a world without nuclear weapons because “we may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe.”  He also mentioned that American and Russian deployed nuclear warheads had been cut to their lowest levels since the 1950s but pretermitted that new, more precise, and more sophisticated nuclear weapons are being developed. We have heard enough loud words about good intentions of our leaders to abolish nuclear weapons. What we need to solve this problem is that somebody decides to make the first step and set an example. Success is gained by resolving on acting not speaking. During the Cold War the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia demonstrated the whole world that the power rests on nuclear arsenal, and as long they procrastinate and put off total nuclear disarmament they continue sending this message and more states will want to become nuclear. The USA and Russia opened the Nuclear Age and it is their responsibility to put it to an end.

Unfortunately, neither the US nor Russia is willing to take a risk and just do it. “We cannot afford to disrupt the balance of the system of strategic deterrence,” Russian President Vladimir Putin replied to Obama’s suggestion to cut US and Russian nuclear arsenals by one third. We still think in terms of deterrence. We are still afraid that if one of us has military predominance, it would use it to its advantage and try to take control over the other. And probably Russian authorities have good grounds for such apprehensions taking into account decisions made by the US unilaterally in the past that affected the global community.  We do not trust each other. And we are to blame because we never gave each other a reason to do so.

We still live in the world (created by ourselves) where nuclear weapons equal power. Nuclear weapons guarantee that your voice will be heard and your opinion will be counted. It reveals the injustice, inequality, and weaknesses of the global community. It reveals that some states do not have the same say in global decision making and their opinion is valued less than those of “mighty” states. It reveals that we distrust each other, fearing that those who have military might can dictate their will and impose their rules. It reveals our ignorance, our inability to negotiate and understand each other, our incapability to build amicable, open, trustful relations with each other. We are obsessed with power. That is human nature. But we are not greedy, arrogant, ignorant, and bloodthirsty creatures. We are human beings and we must remind ourselves what it means to be human. It means showing such qualities as kindness, sensitivity, and compassion, among others. I repeatedly use ‘we’ implying people, appealing to everybody, to all people on earth because we are all the same.

For centuries we have been dehumanizing and even demonizing each other, focusing on what differentiates us from one another such as color of the skin, language, culture, religion, way of life, and beliefs rather than what unites us. We have been creating monsters of each other, justifying inequality, injustice, and wars, rather than trying to find common grounds for peaceful coexistence on the planet that has resources sufficient for everyone to have a decent and comfortable life.  Those of us who have power have been trying to impose their way of life, their ideals on others, to reduce difference to make it comfortable for them, to make it more understandable, to make it safer. We are afraid of differences. We are scared of those who differ from us and we try to make them more like us instead of trying to understand them. If we put aside all external attributes that frighten us off, we will be able to see that we are not that different after all. All people want and pursue the same things: peace and security, a dignified life, and the right to be different.  Let us start here. Let us be different and not be afraid of it, but appreciate and celebrate the diversity and beauty of life.

Barack Obama’s suggestion to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons was met with skepticism not only by Russian politicians concerned about the shift in strategic balance it may cause, but also by American officials like Senator Sessions who said that it is a dangerous policy and it is “driven by an ideological vision of the president, of the world without nuclear weapons,” stressing that the security of America and its allies depends on strong deterrence that includes maintaining a nuclear arsenal.  In other words, the Senator believes that it is impossible to have a secure world without nuclear weapons. Maybe he is right. Maybe it is an ideological vision and even an idealistic one especially for those who were born in the Nuclear Age and who do not know what it is like to live without fear of nuclear holocaust. But everything begins with an idea and faith. Even the invention of an A-bomb started with an idea that occurred to a curious mind.  The world free of this “miraculous inventiveness” is a dream of billions, a dream that we hope will come true. We actively use our minds to solve problems, create new inventions, and build an environment in which we feel safe and comfortable. We hope that we will also apply our hearts to what we do. We hope that we will stop relying on technologies and begin to trust each other. We hope that we will stop working on technological progress and start working diligently on human relations.  We must stop drifting along in the direction heading nowhere but extinction of all life. We need to be bold like Edward Snowden to resist the system that works against our humanity and we need bold leaders to change the course of history.

It would be reasonable to expect a bold initiative from the US government. For the United States exercises its power globally on an unprecedented level. For decades the United States assumes the role of “leader of the free world” to spread and protect democratic values, ideals, and freedoms. However, the past has revealed the hypocrisy of the US benevolent leadership: the undemocratic character of methods used to establish the rule of law and liberal order in the world. America’s intervention in other nations’ affairs is often seen as an attempt to enforce its order and build societies that are compatible with its vision of the world rather than “assist people to work out their own way” as Truman declared in his famous 1947 doctrine.  America has shown that it can be aggressive and even violent. It has also demonstrated its inclination to control and set its rules. Such policies and strategies make other states to want to possess nuclear weapons to deter the United States from undue intrusion in their affairs, to protect their way of life, to defend their right to be different. At the same time the continuous reliance of the United States on its nuclear arsenal sends the message that its power and leadership are based on its military might, not common human values and democratic principles it claims to be a faithful advocate of.      

We urge the US leader to have the courage to finally take “a bold initiative consistent with America’s moral heritage,” requested by Kissinger, Nunn, Shultz and Perry in 2007. We encourage him to abolish the US nuclear arsenal and thus set an example worthy to admire and follow. We ask him to be strong enough not to be afraid of becoming weak. We ask him to trust his allies who would back up America if required. We encourage him and the rest of the world to see the power in the values shared by all people and not in the weapons. We urge the US President and other global leaders to stop promising and act.    

Ekaterina Kuzmina is a graduate student at California State University, Fullerton  and an intern at NAPF. 
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