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Op-Eds & Blogs
Apr 21, 2020 "Nuclear Test Ban: Don't Test, Don't Ratify, Don't Unsign," The National Interest
Late last week, the State Department caused a stir raising suspicions that the Chinese have been violating the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). There were two immediate responses: Some wanted to unsign the treaty, which would clear the way to resume nuclear testing, others pushed back and doubled down on their earlier calls to ratify the treaty. As I make clear in the following analysis I wrote yesterday for The National Interest, neither camp's advice should be heeded. "The United States can't fully verify small nuclear test violations and should not ratify the treaty until it can, but for the same reason," I wrote, "it shouldn't unsign the treaty until it has clear proofs that it can publicly share." As for resuming nuclear testing, it would only further slow our nuclear modernization program and increase its already sky-high costs. On this last point, I share the insights of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's top nuclear weapons designers. "There is something here to irk everyone," I conclude. "Resuming nuclear testing is for chumps; unsigning or ratifying the treaty is for the flamboyant. For now, steering clear of all three is America's best course."
Apr 11, 2020 "Iran Says It Does Not Want a Bomb: We Should Listen," The National Interest
While the world focuses its attention on battling the Coronavirus, Iran has made several provocative moves, including a threat to pull out of the NPT and build-up of low-enriched uranium. Many analysts have interpreted these actions as the opening moves in a sprint toward the bomb. Others interpret Iran as a state desperate for sanctions relief.  Which view is correct? This desperate. As John Spacapan argues in the attached The National Interest piece, "Why America Should Believe Iran When It Says It Doesn't Want Nuclear Weapons", Iran learned a lesson from the Arab Spring, and particularly the case of Libya, that contradicts the conventional wisdom on why enemies of the United States pursue, or don't pursue nuclear arms proliferation. In particular, the last decade has taught Tehran that dictators in the Middle East are far more likely to be killed or overthrown by their own people than by the United States. This suggests that when Iranian officials say they do not want to get a bomb, maybe we should listen. 
Mar 27, 2020 "Nuclear Proliferation Treaty Troubles Remain Unaddressed Amid a Global Pandemic," The National Interest
Gustavo Zlauvinen of Argentina announced that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, scheduled to begin April 27, would be postponed, perhaps until next year. The question now is what should be done with the extra time.   In "Nuclear Proliferation Troubles Remain Unaddressed Amid a Global Pandemic," published by The National Interest, Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski make five recomendations. These include backing off the promotion of nuclear power, which 50 years ago seemed an economic imperitive, but is no longer. They also reccoment doing more to deter withdrawals from the treaty and making default enforcement of NPT and International Atomic Energy Agency violations more likely. Finally, they reccomend considering states outside of the treaty -- Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea -- to be members in noncompliance that could come into more compliance by incrementally reducing their own nuclear weapons-related holdings.    All of this may seem ambitious. But now we have more time to review the bidding. Surely, if we want to skirt the next slow moving (nuclear) Pearl Harbor, we should use it. 
Mar 13, 2020 "China's Nuclear Arms Are a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery," Foreign Policy
While our attention on China today is focused on the short-term challenge of tracking the Coronavirus, there is a long-term quandary that also deserves attention. It's China's military strategic intentions. Just what are they?  China experts have tracked Beijing's nuclear doctrine statements, their nuclear and long-range missile programs, and their space access and anti-satellite efforts. Some imterpret these developments as being malign; others chatacterize them as being defensive. Which view is more correct? We don't know. As Michael Mazza of the American Enterprise Institute and Henry Sokolski argue in the attached Foreign Policy piece, "China's Nuclear Arms Are a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery," we need to find out. In specific, Washington should engage Beijing in new strategic capabilities dialogue (not unlike the sort the United States currently conducts with Russia). For reasons we spell out in the piece, this should come before any negotiations on specific arms limits either with China or with China and any other nation. 
Jan 17, 2020 "The Little-Known Loophole in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty," The National Interest
Iran threatened to pull out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) if Germany, France, and the UK refer Tehran to the United Nations (UN) Security Council for violating the Iran nuclear deal.  This announcement came on the heels of Turkish President Recep Erdogan's complaint September 24th to the UN General Assembly that the NPT's recognition of five nuclear weapons states was illegitimate. There should be no nucelar armed states, he argues, or all states, including Turkey, should be free to acquire them. Meanwhile, Mohammed Bin Salman has promised to get nuclear weapons if Iran did. All of this spells trouble.  As Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski explain in The National Interest, several days before Iran's foreign minister made his latest Iranian threat, the NPT allows states to withdraw from the treaty all to easily. Certainly, NPT member states did little or nothing when North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003. Only three years later, after Pyongyang exploded a nuclear weapon did the UN impose serious sanctions. This is a worry. Will the NPT, which turns 50 this year, suffer another withdrawal? If so, will it make it to 60? Late in 2018, Christopher Ford, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, said more needed to be done to deter further NPT withdrawals. We agreed and argue that this should be priority number one in the upcoming April five-year review of the NPT. 
Dec 14, 2019 "America Must Dissuade China's Interest In Nuclear Arms," The National Interest
In all competitions there are winners and losers but in some competitions who benefits most and least can get hazy as the risks that the competition forces on both parties rise. A case in point is the slow nuclear race that China has begun to run against the United States and our closest Asian allies. Right now, Beijing has only several hundred nuclear warheads. But, the US Defense Intelligence Agency projects this arsenal will double by 2030. This is worrisome. In the attached The National Interest piece “America Must Dissuade China's Interest In Nuclear Arms,” Michael Mazza of The American Enterprise Institute and Henry Sokolski spell out what risks China's nuclear rise will run and how best to avoid them. As China’s nuclear weapons proficiency increases its arsenal will become more similar to our own. This, in turn, could encourage Beijing to toy with more aggressive nuclear use doctrines. Japan and South Korea are sure to be rattled. In the worst case, they could feel compelled to acquire nuclear weapons of their own. This would create dangerous uncertainties for both us and China. What should we do? Mike and I suggest three things. Piling up unnecessary nuclear kindling — uneconomical plutonium stockpiles and production plants as well enrichment capacity in excess of civilian demand — makes no sense. It should stop in China and Japan and not begin in South Korea or the United States. Meanwhile, the United States should focus its military modernization efforts on systems that would diminish the value of nuclear arms. These would include advanced space systems, long-rang precision strike weaponry, and submersible technologies. Developing these systems would encourage China to invest in nonnuclear naval and air defensive systems— weaponry incapable of doing direct harm to the US or our Asian allies.  
Nov 14, 2019 "Taking Erdogan's critique of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty seriously," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist
One topic President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not discuss in November but should have was the future of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). As Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski write in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientist piece, “Taking Erdogan’s critique of the Non-Proliferation Treaty seriously,” (see below) Erdogan objected to the NPT regime at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, September 24th. Referencing the treaties recognition of only five nuclear weapon states, Erdogan stretched out to the fingers of his right hand, and to wide applause, “the world is bigger than five.” Earlier in September, Erdogan complained, "Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads… this, I cannot accept.” His UN pronouncement makes clear that his objection to the NPT, however, is much broader than any restriction it might place just on Turkey. What Erdogan wants is a world either with no nuclear arms state or no restrictions on nuclear weapons whatsoever. Erdogan’s challenge is brassy but he has a point: either the NPT gets stronger or it goes away. Victor and Henry make the case for strengthening the NPT and suggest, at a minimum, what it might require. The alternative is to let the treaty continue to decline as leaders like Erdogan and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman publicly threaten to withdraw.  
Oct 22, 2019 "The Ultimate Middle East Missile Target: Nuclear Reactors," The Washington Examiner
Four weeks ago, a fleet of highly precise, low-flying missiles struck Saudi Arabian oil facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais, taking out five percent of the world's oil supply. What was most significant about the attack, however, wasn't the damage it did, but the damage it presaged.  As Mark Dubowitz and I explain in "The Ultimate Middle East Missile Target: Nulear Reactors" in The Washington Examiner, missile attacks in the future could include large, nuclear reactors that once hit could produce Chernobyl-scale disasters. If Iran, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt stick to their plans to build nuclear power plants, there will be plenty of targets to choose from.  Also, given the pinpoint accuracy of the radar-evading drones and missiles now available (think of precision measured in meters, not kilometers), these plants will be radioactive sitting ducks. The missiles need not penetrate the thick containment structure protecting the reactor's core to do real harm. Instead, they would be aimed at the reactor's control room, diesel generating building, spent reactor fuel pond, or the incoming grid electrical wires. Hit two or more of these aim points and you dramatically increase the risks of a reactor meltdown or radiological release that would force an evacuation of massive proportions.  What's the bottom line? As Mark and I write, "The lesson should be clear: Don't build more large reactors in the region. They're radioactive sitting ducks." 
Oct 12, 2019 "Should Dominance Be Our Immediate Space Security Priority?," Space News
In this Space News op-ed, Brian Chow and I ask should dominance be America's immediate space security priority. Our short answer is no. Instead, the United States should tackle the weightier task of preventing Russia and China from disabling our key satellites. As we explain, Moscow and China are testing spacecraft that can damage or push our key satellites out of position. The United States, though, has not prioritized dealing with this threat, which may be realized in a few short years. The Pentagon is paying far more attention to how best to organize and equip ourselves to achieve space dominance. Brian and I argue that the United States should instead prioritize working with our closest space allies to creat what the French describe as "space exclusion zones" around our most critical satellites. The French as planning to enforce these zones by using space situational awareness assets and non-space debris producing bodyguard satellites. Brian and I are that the United States should too.
Sep 22, 2019 "How the 1979 Nuclear Flash Might Test Us Yet," Foreign Policy
September 22nd marked the 40th anniversary of a series of nuclear tests conducted off the coast of South Africa. Israel has long been suspected of being responsible for these tests. When these tests occured, the Carter administration was eager to deflect intelligence that confirmed they were nuclear and that suggested Israel was behind them. Since then, more information has been released making it all but impossible to deny Israel's culpability. Foreign Policy has published six pieces laying out the latest evidence. Included in those six is my own essay, "How the 1979 Flash Might Test Us Yet". In it, I explain the legal, nuclear proliferation, and diplomatic implications of the United State's unwillingness to confirm Israel's violation of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which Israel signed and ratified. In fact, it is now illegal for U.S. officials to discuss this matter: They are all subject to a federal gag order. For a variety of reasons that I lay out in my piece, it's in everyone's interest that this order be rescinded.
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