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Pakistan to have 200 nuclear weapons by 2020: US think tank

By on Monday, November 24th, 2014

Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear weapons program in the world and by 2020 it could have enough fissile material to produce more than 200 nuclear devices, a top American think tank has said.

“Though many states are downsizing their stockpiles, Asia is witnessing a buildup. Pakistan has the fastest-growing nuclear program in the world. By 2020, it could have a stockpile of fissile material that, if weaponized, could produce as many as 200 nuclear devices,” council on foreign relations has said.

The report Strategic Stability in the Second Nuclear Age, authored by George Mason University’s Gregory Koblentz, has identified South Asia as the region “most at risk of a breakdown in strategic stability due to an explosive mixture of unresolved territorial disputes, crossborder terrorism, and growing nuclear arsenals.”

Pakistan, the report said, has deployed or is developing 11 delivery systems for its nuclear warheads, including aircraft, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

“Pakistan has not formally declared the conditions under which it would use nuclear weapons but has indicated that it seeks primarily to deter India from threatening its territorial integrity or the ability of its military to defend its territory,” the report said.

CFR said while Pakistan is focused predominantly on the threat posed by India, it is reportedly also concerned by the potential for the US to launch a military operation to seize or disarm Pakistani nuclear weapons.

“This concern is based in part on reported contingency planning by the US military to prevent Pakistani nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists,” CFR said.

CFR said India is estimated to possess enough fissile material for between 90 and 110 nuclear weapons and is expanding its fissile material production capacity.

China, it said, is estimated to have 250 nuclear weapons for delivery by a mix of medium, intermediate, and intercontinental-range ballistic missiles and bombers.

“Though nuclear arsenals are shrinking in the rest of the world, Asia is witnessing a nuclear buildup. Unlike the remaining P5 countries, China is increasing and diversifying its nuclear arsenal,” the report said.

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Strategic Stability in the Second Nuclear Age

By on Monday, November 24th, 2014

Since the end of the Cold War, a new nuclear order has emerged, shaped by rising nuclear states and military technologies that threaten stability, writes George Mason University’s Gregory Koblentz in a new Council Special Report.

During the Cold War, the potential for nuclear weapons to be used was determined largely by the United States and the Soviet Union. Now, with 16,300 weapons possessed by the seven established nuclear-armed states—China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—deterrence is increasingly complex. Since most of these countries face threats from a number of potential adversaries, “changes in one state’s nuclear policy can have a cascading effect on the other states.”

Though many states are downsizing their stockpiles, Asia is witnessing a buildup; Pakistan has the fastest-growing nuclear program in the world. By 2020, it could have a stockpile of fissile material that, if weaponized, could produce as many as two hundred nuclear devices. The author identifies South Asia as the region “most at risk of a breakdown in strategic stability due to an explosive mixture of unresolved territorial disputes, cross-border terrorism, and growing nuclear arsenals.”

Emerging technologies such as missile defenses, cyber and antisatellite weapons, and conventional precision strike weapons pose additional risks, Koblentz warns, and could potentially spur arms races and trigger crises.

“The United States has more to lose from a breakdown in strategic stability than any other country due to its position as a global leader, the interdependence of its economy, and the network of security commitments it has around the world,” he asserts. The United States and Russia still possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. Despite the increasing chill in U.S.-Russia relations, Washington’s highest priority should be to maintain strategic efforts with Russia and China, the two states with the capability and potential intent to launch a nuclear attack on the American homeland.

The United States should work with other nuclear states to address sources of instability in the near term and establish processes for multilateral arms control efforts over the longer term, writes Koblentz. He urges the Obama administration to

  • enhance initiatives that foster transparency, confidence-building, and restraint to mitigate the risk that emerging technologies will trigger arms races, threaten the survivability of nuclear forces, or undermine early warning and nuclear command and control systems;
  • deepen bilateral and multilateral dialogues with the other nuclear-armed states; and
  • create a forum for the seven established nuclear-armed states to discuss further steps to reduce the risk of deliberate, accidental, or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons.

Download Full Report in PDF:
Strategic Stability in the Second Nuclear Age (78 downloads)

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Last chance saloon for Iran nuclear talks

Time runs out Monday for the biggest chance in years to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff, as Tehran and world powers make a final push for a deal but with a risky extension looking likely.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (the P5+1) have been locked in talks with Iran for months, seeking to turn an interim deal that expires at midnight (2300 GMT) on Monday into a lasting accord.

Such an agreement, after a 12-year standoff, is aimed at easing fears that Tehran will develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities, an ambition it hotly denies.

But a last-ditch diplomatic blitz in recent days involving US Secretary of State John Kerry and other foreign ministers to secure a deal appears to have failed to bridge the remaining major differences.

As a result, late Sunday a senior US State Department official said for the first time that the powers and Iran were now discussing putting more time on the clock.

The official said it was “only natural that just over 24 hours from the deadline we are discussing a range of options … An extension is one of those options.”

This came after US Secretary of State John Kerry met his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif for the sixth time since Thursday in an attempt to break the deadlock.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said however that the parties would still make a “big push tomorrow (Monday) morning to try and get this across the line”.

“Of course if we’re not able to do it, we’ll then look at where we go from there,” he said.

“We’re still quite a long way apart and there are some very tough and complex issues to deal with”.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was expected in the Austrian capital early Monday, completing the line-up of all the six powers’ foreign ministers.

This included Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a key player in the talks. Earlier in the week he said all the elements were in place for a deal with just “political will” missing.

– Gaps –

Diplomats on both sides say that despite some progress, the two sides remain far apart on the two crucial points of contention: uranium enrichment and sanctions relief.

Enriching uranium renders it suitable for peaceful purposes like nuclear power but also, at high purities, for the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.

Tehran wants to massively ramp up the number of enrichment centrifuges — in order, it says, to make fuel for future reactors — while the West wants them dramatically reduced.

Iran wants painful UN and Western sanctions that have strangled its vital oil exports lifted, but the powers want to stagger any relief over a long period of time to ensure Iranian compliance with any deal.

“What a deal would do is take a big piece of business off the table and perhaps begin a long process in which the relationship not just between Iran and us but the relationship between Iran and the world, and the region, begins to change,” US President Barack Obama in an ABC News interview aired Sunday.

In view of the difficulties — and of the dangers posed by the alternative of a complete collapse — many experts have long believed that the negotiators would put more time on the clock.

An Iranian source told AFP earlier Sunday, while stressing at that point that adding time was not yet on the table, that the extension “could be for a period of six months or a year.”

Another extension — as happened with an earlier deadline of July 20 — however carries risks of its own,including possible fresh US sanctions that could lead Iran to walk away.

Pushing back the cut-off point will also fuel accusations from Israel, the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, that its arch foe Iran is merely buying time to get closer to the bomb.

Arms Control Association analyst Kelsey Davenport told AFP that an extension of six months to a year “would not fly” with the other parties.

Any extension “will have to be very short because there are too many hardliners, particularly in Washington and Tehran, that want to sabotage this deal,” she told AFP.

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France at the UN warns North Korea over nuclear threat

By on Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

France warned North Korea on Monday that it would likely face more UN sanctions if it follows through on threats to carry out a nuclear test.

North Korea has reacted angrily to a UN resolution condemning its human rights record and calling on the Security Council to refer Pyongyang to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Pyongyang has said it felt no need to refrain from carrying out a nuclear test and North Korea’s top military body warned Sunday of “catastrophic consequences” for supporters of the resolution.

At a UN Security Council debate on non-proliferation, French political counselor Philippe Bertoux recalled that North Korea’s recent threats were a cause of concern.

“I would like to underscore that Pyongyang would, in the event of new provocations, expose itself to additional sanctions from the Security Council,” said Bertoux.

The Security Council imposed sweeping sanctions on North Korea in 2013 after Pyongyang conducted a third nuclear test since 2006.

Those sanctions imposed restrictions on financial transactions and shipping, and targeted the North Korean elite with a tough ban on exports of luxury goods to the reclusive country.

Last week, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said on its 38 North website that new satellite imagery suggested Pyongyang may be firing up a facility for processing weapons-grade plutonium.

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Russia’s Third Borey-Class Nuclear Sub Completes State Trials

By on Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Russia’s third Borey-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, the Vladimir Monomakh, has finished a comprehensive state trials program in preparation for commissioning with the Navy, the Sevmash shipyard said Tuesday.

“The Vladimir Monomakh strategic nuclear submarine has returned from the sea trials completing the program of extensive acoustic tests,” Sevmash said in a statement.

According to the statement, the submarine has finished the state trials program and is now being prepared for delivery to the Russian Navy.

The Borey class, Russia’s first post-Soviet ballistic missile submarine design, will form the backbone of the fleet’s strategic nuclear deterrent force after older boats are retired by 2018. Russia expects eight of the boats to enter service by 2020.

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Poland needs nuclear arms to ward off Russia: Walesa

Polish anti-communist icon Lech Walesa said Poland should procure nuclear weapons as a safeguard against Russia, which it blames for stoking the crisis in neighboring Ukraine.

“Poland needs to stand up to Russia,” the Nobel Peace laureate, who spearheaded Poland’s democracy movement and became its first post-communist president, said in an interview published Wednesday.

EU and NATO member Poland has been rattled by Russia’s actions in Ukraine, including its March annexation of the Crimean peninsula and suspected backing of rebels in the east.

Russian President Vladimir “Putin has been trying to intimidate us with his nuclear weapons, so why shouldn’t we have our own arsenal?” Walesa told the Rzeczpospolita daily.

“We should borrow, lease nuclear weapons and show Putin that if a Russian soldier poses one foot on our land uninvited, we will attack. Just to be clear,” the 70-year-old said.

Several countries including Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey currently host shared nuclear weapons on their territory under NATO.

But there is no tradition at the moment of borrowing or leasing the weapons.

Poland should speak up and say: “Mister Putin, we won’t let you make one step forward. Try it and you’ll perish, and so will we,” added Walesa, who as leader of the Solidarity trade union negotiated a peaceful end to Communism at home in 1989.

It is under his presidency in 1993 that the last Soviet troops left Poland. Six years later the country joined the NATO defence alliance.

On Wednesday, Poland began major military exercises involving 12,500 troops, including 750 from other NATO countries, which will continue through October 3.

Poland stages the Anakonda manoeuvres every two years but this time they “take on a special significance given the events in Ukraine,” Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said at the opening ceremony.

“It is important for NATO to show that we stick together,” added Torben Moller, a brigadier general from the alliance’s command centre at Brunssum in the Netherlands.

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Scottish independence may force UK nuclear deterrent rethink

Britain’s future as a nuclear-armed nation could be thrown into doubt if Scotland votes for independence on September 18, experts say, raising serious questions about its future status in the international community.

The UK’s Trident nuclear submarines are currently based at Faslane naval base on a sea loch west of Glasgow surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery.

But the Scottish National Party (SNP), leaders of the pro-independence campaign which is gaining ground in opinion polls, wants them out of Scotland by 2020 if there is a “Yes” vote.

Some say the cost and complexity of a move could force Britain to re-open the debate about whether it needs a nuclear deterrent at all.

“The Americans like us being a nuclear power — it would cause problems with them. In the NATO alliance it would cause alarm. Can you really remain a permanent member of the Security Council? I don’t know,” said Lord Alan West, head of Britain’s Royal Navy between 2002 and 2006 and an ex-security minister.

His view is shared by figures including Scottish former NATO secretary general George Robertson.

“The forces of darkness will simply love it,” Robertson said in April during a speech in Washington. “It might mean the unilateral nuclear disarming of the remainder of the UK.”

The SNP, Scotland’s ruling party led by First Minister Alex Salmond, describes Trident as “an affront to basic decency with its indiscriminate and inhumane destructive power.”

Despite the possible upheaval, Britain’s government says it has not done any contingency planning for relocating the facilities at Faslane and nearby Coulport, where warheads are loaded into missiles.

Any such move would be extremely expensive, potentially costing 8 billion Pounds (ten billion euros, $13 billion).

This comes against a backdrop of austerity in Britain, where this year’s military budget is 33.5 billion Pounds as ministers implement eight percent defence cuts in the four years to 2014-15.

“The defence budget couldn’t face that,” said West, adding that extra money would need to be found.

“There’s a distinct possibility that people could say you should just stop being a nuclear power.”

Other problems would include finding a suitable alternative site and the timing of the move, likely to take longer than the SNP’s deadline.

Professor Malcolm Chalmers of defence think-tank the Royal United Services Institute said: “Our estimate is that sometime around 2028 would be an appropriate time to complete the move.”

Aging submarines
Britain’s nuclear-armed status has underpinned its standing as a diplomatic power for decades.

Under a deal sealed at the height of the Cold War, the US supplies Britain with nuclear missiles.

While formally only the British prime minister can authorize their use, they are part of NATO’s collective deterrent.

President Barack Obama hinted at the importance of Trident to the US in July, saying he wanted Britain to remain “a strong, robust, united and effective partner”.

There are four submarines in the Trident fleet, at least one of which is on patrol somewhere in the world 24 hours a day.

But the Scottish independence vote comes at what is already a crucial moment in its history.

The submarines are aging and ministers will take the main decisions on replacing them in 2016.

Even within the British government, this is controversial. Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, want to end 24 hour patrols and procure one less submarine to replace Trident.

Despite the uncertainty, some play down the prospect of Britain giving up its deterrent anytime soon.

Chalmers said London would not want to give up such a symbol of international prestige after such a “major shock”.

“There would be a sense of humiliation in the UK, fears about how the UK is seen internationally, so it would be a big step to be seen to be giving up its nuclear force,” he said.

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