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Oct 21, 2020 What Missile-driven Competition with China Will Look Like
Earlier this week, administration officials said they were close to reaching an agreement with Moscow to extend the New START arms control agreement for an additional year. They made it clear that they wanted to use the year to get China to join the talks with Washington and Moscow. Assuming this takes place, though, what would the US, Russia, and China talk about? In the short-run, it's unclear. In the long-run, the matter of China's missiles (they have more than anyone else) must come up. In the below analysis published by American Purpose, I look out the next 5, 10, 15 and 20 years.  The United States and its allies have their work cut out for them. China is likely to bubild up its nuclear and conventional missile forces even further in an attempt to gain advantage over the United States and its friends not just in the Western Pacific, but globally. The United States and its friends, however, can and will compete militarily and diplomatically, all of which is discussed below. 
Oct 15, 2020 Say No to Enrichment and Reprocessing In the Middle East
One foreign policy promise both Biden and Trump have made is to prevent further nuclear proliferation in the Middle East by cutting a nuclear deal with Iran. Biden wants to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement Trump pulled out of. Trump says he wants to cut a “better” deal... But as Victor Gilinsky and I explain in our Foreign Policy piece, “To Prevent Proliferation, Stop Enrichment and Reprocessing in the Middle East,” blocking the bomb’s further spread in the Middle East requires more than just “fixing” Iran. The Saudis have threatened to acquire nuclear weapons and have secretly been working with the Chinese on processing uranium. Washington also must soon review and renew the terms of its civilian nuclear cooperation agreements with Turkey (whose president, Recep Erdogan, recently said Ankara has a right to acquire nuclear arms), as well as with Egypt (which once harbored weapons ambitions) and Morocco.   Unfortunately, the United States now has not one, but three different nonproliferation standards in the Middle East.  Each takes a different approach to limiting uranium enrichment and the reprocessing of spent reactor fuel (enrichment can produce weapons-grade uranium; reprocessing nuclear weapons explosive plutonium).  In the case of the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, Iran is allowed to enrich and may eventually reprocess as well. Meanwhile, the deal Washington cut with the UAE requires Abu Dhabi to uphold what is referred to as the nonproliferation gold standard by forswearing both activities. In the case of Turkey, Egypt and Morocco, Washington only prohibits enriching and reprocessing of U.S.-origin nuclear materials.  As Victor and I argue, this conflicting patchwork is unsustainable. In its place, the United States should promote the Gold Standard from Morocco through Iran, including Israel. This means Iran should give up enriching and reprocessing as the UAE already has and the Saudis, Turks, Egyptians, Moroccans, and Israelis should. This would not impact Israel’s current nuclear weapons arsenal. But it would cap it and point the way for [Israel’s] security to depend less on nuclear weapons.  Our proposal for a no-enrichment and no-reprocessing zone in the region also would help address Middle Eastern states’ demands to move towards a nuclear weapons free zone. In fact, it would be more feasible, and if achieved, have more lasting significance since it would preclude the possibility of non-nuclear states in the region making nuclear weapons.    
Sep 29, 2020 Time for a New Middle East Nonproliferation Strategy
With Saudi Arabia secretly pursuing nuclear technology and Turkey and Egypt pushing nuclear programs as well, Washington should ponder why states tied to Washington or NATO for their security may go nuclear anyway. The short answer is, they increasingly believe America will abandon the region or already has. This suggests what’s needed — an American-led effort to create more credible security and improved economic conditions in the region. As NPEC’s Wohlstetter Fellow John Spacapan argues in the attached piece for RealClearDefense, “What if Middle Eastern States worked together?”, America now has an opportunity to organize a coalition of friendly Middle Eastern states that would provide more security and prosperity than a nuclear bomb or reactor ever could. Rather than profer more bilateral deals state-by-state, Washington needs to approach the region by cultivating a coalition of like-minded states.  On the security side, Washington could start by leading efforts to strengthen the ground forces of a group of friendly states, such as the UAE, Israel Jordan, Tunisia, Oman, Kuwait, and Morocco with improved joint training and exercises. The U.S. and other Western states would promise this aid along with air power and intelligence assistance, but not ground forces, for members that come under attack. On the economic side, the United States and other Western states would redouble their long-term development financing for non-nuclear energy alternatives, new infrastructure projects, and programs to promote entrepreneurship and improve schools. Diplomatically, the U.S. and its Western allies would facilitate solutions to regional energy disputes. This diplomatic, economic, and security initiative would insist on coalition members forswearing dangerous nuclear weapons-related activities, such as enriching uranium and reprocessing spent reactor fuel. Members would accept the International Atomic Energy Agency’s highest standard of inspections under the Additional Protocol. Washington and others assisting the coalition would encourage nonnuclear energy options, not nuclear ones. The ultimate aim of this effort would be to strengthen and expand it to include Turkey and Saudi Arabia. None of this will be easy but, if anything of lasting value is to come from the recent diplomatic opening to Israel, it should be this.
Sep 25, 2020 Let's Try an Honest Nonproliferation Policy in the Middle East
  Yesterday, something quite odd occurred. At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Under Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs David Hale was asked what our government’s nonproliferation goals were in striking a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia. Was the Trump Administration aiming to get Riyadh to agree to the “Gold Standard”? This would require Riyadh to forswear enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel—two activities that could bring it to the brink of making bombs. This was hardly a trick question: In May of 2018, Secretary Pompeo publicly testified that the United States was pushing this objective. Yet, yesterday, Under Secretary Hale refused to confirm this, pleading the matter was classified. It’s not entirely clear why Mr. Hale refused to go on the record. But he did have cause to be cautious. Increasingly, Washington is getting crosswise with itself as it pushes U.S. power reactor technology exports to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Jordan, saddling them and Iran with a patchwork of conflicting nuclear nonproliferation conditions. As Victor Gilinsky and I note, in the attached Bulletin of Atomic Scientists piece “Toward an honest Middle East nonproliferation policy,” America’s agreement with the UAE requires it legally forswear enriching uranium and reprocessing entirely and adopt intrusive international nuclear inspections. In contrast, Washington agreed to allow Iran to enrich in a limited fashion. Meanwhile, current U.S. agreements with Turkey and Egypt permit them to enrich in an unlimited manner so long as they do not use U.S. – origin materials. The proposed agreement with Saudi Arabia, if there is one, may be some kludge of these three approaches. The United States needs to simplify. In specific, Washington should push the Gold Standard for all existing civilian nuclear programs in the Middle East and encourage states there not to build any additional large reactors. This may be difficult, but it should be our goal. Given the abundance of cheap natural gas, solar energy, and new opportunities to connect Middle Eastern pipelines and grids, nuclear power in the region no longer makes economic sense. It does, however, pose a worrisome security risk both for nuclear bomb making and presenting tempting missile targets. Pretending otherwise or, worse, being silent when we should speak honestly about these liabilities is a luxury we can no longer afford.  
Sep 05, 2020 To Stop A Possible Iranian Nuclear Bomb, Don't Cave, Don't Bomb
Next June, Iran will select a new president to replace Hassan Rouhani. Soon, the 81-year-old cancer survivor Ayatollah Khamenei will pass from the scene as well. What does this suggest about how the US should approach Iran’s nuclear program? Rather than rushing for a deal that merely pauses Iran’s nuclear program, leaving future Iranian leaders tempted to weaponize, Washington should lay the groundwork for an eventual deal that rolls it back.  NPEC’s Wohlstetter Fellow, John Spacapan, makes this case in the attached piece for The National Interest, “To Stop A Possible Iranian Nuclear Bomb, Don't Cave, Don't Bomb.” Of course, Tehran won’t roll back its nuclear program today, but three conditions might get it there: First, with continued economic pressure, the Mullahs may need to bargain. Second, the United States could make clear, through how it trains and equips Iran’s neighbors and operates in the region, that it has no plans to attack Iran. This would deprive Iran of the “deterrence” pretext to acquire nuclear weapons. Third, the US and other nuclear suppliers should insist Iran and all other non-nuclear weapons states in the Middle East forswear enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel. Blocking states from making nuclear fuel is the only way to guarantee civilian programs aren’t secretly fueling bomb efforts.    This is a hybrid of the Biden and Trump approaches and it's the right one regardless of who wins in November. 
Aug 24, 2020 Will North Korea Benefit from Joe Biden's Plan for Iran?
 "Will North Korea Benefit from Joe Biden's Plan for Iran?" is an op-ed Henry Sokolski wrote. It appeared in The National Interest on August 24, 2020. 
Aug 06, 2020 Hiroshima at 75: A Peek into Our Nuclear Future
  Seventy five years after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, one wonders what the next 75 might bring. As I note in The American Interest piece, "A Peek into Our Nuclear Future,” the good news is military science has made massively indiscriminate city busting less attractive. Instead, modern warfare is focused on precision guided munitions and non-kinetic weaponry — directed energy, electronic jamming, and cyber warfare systems. This raises the optimistic prospect that 75 years hence, nuclear weapons might well achieve the same lowly status as chemical weapons did 75 years after their first stunning strategic use in World War One.  The bad news is that, before such a less indiscriminate, nuclear discounted world might be reached, nuclear weapons could spread, be used, and gain in popularity. Catalyzing this future is the increasing availability of nuclear technology and advanced missiles. Relatively weak states as well as medium-sized powers are now acquiring the means to strike their neighbors precisely with advanced missiles. They are also acquiring dual-capable nuclear technologies that afford them nuclear weapons options. Which of these two trends will win out? It’s unclear. If we continue to spread the most dangerous forms of nuclear technology and advanced delivery systems and fail to restrain weapons technologies designed to inflict strategic surprise and indiscriminate harm, our future will be unkind.  
Aug 05, 2020 Thinking Hard About Missile Defense
  Last month, the Japanese canceled on a major US-Japan missile defense project, Aegis Ashore. Japanese officials cited cost and effectiveness as issues driving their decision. The question now is what Japan and the US might do next. Much of the discussion has focused on different kinds of offensive missile or active missile defense measures.  This is too narrow a focus. As Bryan Clark of the Hudson Institute and I argue in the attached Real Clear Defense piece, “Thinking Hard about Missile Defense,” a key part of the missile defense solution for Japan lies in perfecting passive defenses — mobility, camouflage, decoys...and hardening. These first three types of passive defense are hardly new. Hardening, however, is undergoing a quiet technical revolution with the advent of ultra high performance concrete, which is five to ten times more resilient than conventional reinforced concrete.  When combined with other more traditional forms of passive defense, ultra hardening can geometrically increase the number of weapons needed for an attack because an adversary has to assume each potential target is hardened. It also should reduce missile defense requirements significantly, making terminal limited foot-print active defense systems, like Patriot and other shorter range missile defense systems, sufficient where previously they might have been dismissed as inadequate. As Washington works with its allies to protect key overseas bases, how much missile defense of what type is going to be a major issue that will be easier to work if passive defenses and hardening are dialed in.      
Jul 17, 2020 Federal Financing of U.S. Nuclear Exports - Under What Conditions?
    Late last week, the Trump Administration’s newly created foreign investment agency, the Development Finance Corporation, opened its doors to financing U.S. nuclear reactor export projects. Previously, their rules forbade this and with good cause:  Even small modular reactors are projected to cost one half to several billion dollars and large ones can cost more than 10 billion dollars per unit. Those numbers could empty the bank. The reactors also pose safety and nuclear weapons proliferation risks. That’s why no private bank will finance such exports.  You would think that would recommend due diligence and caution. Yet, as Victor Gilinsky and I note in “Trump’s new foreign investment agency: Itching to build on nuclear quicksand,” in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Development Finance Corporation has been quite content with its decision. Its press release on lifting the nuclear ban extolled the virtues of advanced reactors for the developing world. Nor was there any hint of what sorts of conditions might apply to the corporation funding nuclear reactors.   Would recipient countries have to have sound safety regulations? Would they have to meet security requirements? Would they have to allow international inspections? Would U.S. financing be limited to exports subject to the requirements of the Atomic Energy Act’s Section 123? Could corporation financing also cover equipment purchases from other suppliers? Could corporation financing be used to buy shares of foreign nuclear companies? Nobody yet knows. The agency has not yet offered any guidelines. It should. After all, the corporation’s original purpose was to focus on the developing world and to compete with China’s One Belt One Road initiative. Instead, the development corporation has opened itself up to nuclear industry pleading (which has already begun) to support large reactor projects in Western and Eastern Europe.   What should be done? Congress, which created the Development Finance Corporation, needs to exercise oversight. In specific, it should urge the corporation to produce guidelines for nuclear projects and make them subject to public comment for 60 days as if they mattered as much as any “high-risk” project the corporation might finance. Congress could also hold a hearing. Just one would do.  
Jul 10, 2020 Coping with the Ground-Based Laser ASAT Threat
  As we approach the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima’s atomic bombing, the front lines of nuclear deterrence are moving from missile launch sites and air bases on earth to key satellites based in space. Knock out key satellites essential to command, control, communication, and informing military forces, and you can lobotomize any military no matter how powerful. In this regard, what China and Russia are up to deserves attention: Both are deploying a variety of anti-satellite weaponry to disable US and allied satellites. The latest development is their deployment of ground-based lasers that can dazzle US and allied imagery satellites. As Brian Chow and I detail in the attached Space News op-ed, “US satellites are increasingly vulnerable to China’ s ground-based lasers.” Chinese dual-use and dedicated military ground-based anti-satellite (ASAT) lasers can already temporarily blind US and allied imagery satellites. By the mid-2020s, the Chinese may have lasers powerful enough to damage the structures of the satellites they target. This threat will require the United States and its allies to operate differently in space. Up until recently, we and our allies assumed space was a sanctuary. It is no longer. As Brian and I note, the United States needs to operate its imagery satellites as if they will be damaged once a war begins. This means taking as much imagery in peacetime as possible, relying more on lower resolution images that can be taken from increasingly plentiful commercial satellite constellations, and pushing to diversify America’s source of images away from military-dedicated satellites.  It also suggests new diplomatic positions the United States and its allies should consider, including extending New START’s formal prohibitions on interference with “national technical means of verification,” which includes sensor-carrying satellites.  The next trick is getting China to adhere to such prohibitions. In our piece, Brian and I describe additional diplomatic initiatives to deal with future ground-based laser ASATs.      
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The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), is a 501 (c)3 nonpartisan, nonprofit, educational organization
founded in 1994 to promote a better understanding of strategic weapons proliferation issues. NPEC educates policymakers, journalists,
and university professors about proliferation threats and possible new policies and measures to meet them.
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