Strategic Deterrence While Furthering U.S.-Russian Relations
Assisting the Destruction of WMD in the Former Soviet Union
Extending the NPT
Pursuing Policies to Reduce Demand for WMD
Preparing For Regional Instability Resulting From WMD Proliferation
It is proving difficult to establish a consensus on a new strategic framework which can be used to determine how strategic nuclear forces fit into the overall U.S. security strategy now that the global competition with the Soviet Union is over. The September 1994 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) establishes a rationale for U.S. nuclear forces. As discussed in the chapter on the U.S. force posture, the NPR outlines the U.S. post-START II force structure for 2003, maintaining the triad of submarine-launched ballistic missiles, heavy bombers, and silo-based ICBMs. The recommendations of the NPR resulted from a combination of factors, including START limits, budgetary constraints, and a desire to preserve manufacturing expertise in key areas.
However, the NPR raises but does not answer some key questions relating to the future U.S. nuclear posture. For example, it mentions the possibility of negotiating new agreements for deeper reductions than START II, and intimates that Washington will explore whether unilateral reductions to levels below those prescribed by START II could still yield a sufficient nuclear force.
Yet another set of issues, also addressed in the NPR, relates to the ability of the U.S. to maintain a credible nuclear weapons capability without nuclear testing or fissile material production. For example, how might the U.S. maintain the capability to design, fabricate, and certify new warheads under a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty? The future of the U.S. nuclear infrastructure and national weapons laboratories are central issues in this context.
Another change in the strategic environment is the growth in the holdings of France, the United Kingdom, and China. France and the United Kingdom are in the process of modernizing their SSBN forces. France plans to have the first of its Triumphant class SSBNs operational in 1996. Four are planned, each carrying 16 missiles with 6 warheads each. The United Kingdom plans to build 4 Trident submarines. The decision has not been made on how many warheads their missiles will carry. A loadout of between 3 and 6 is likely, which in either case would give the U.K. a larger amd more capable SLBM force. China continues to modernize and expand its force. Chinese nuclear forces are more a problem for neighboring nations such as India and Russia. They have only a handful of ICBMs with a range adequate to reach the U.S.
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Perhaps the most important nonproliferation initiative currently underway is the assistance being provided to Russia and Ukraine under the Nunn-Lugar program, which assists in the de-nuclearization of the latter and helps the former meet its obligations to destroy its CW stockpile. However, questions continue to be raised about Moscow's capability and, in some cases, commitment to comply with its CWC and BWC obligations. Unconfirmed but persistent public reports of continuing offensive and CW and BW programs in Russia undermine support for Nunn-Lugar funding and could, if not convincingly countered, do serious harm to U.S.-Russian relations.
The future success of the U.S. cooperative reduction initiatives is far from certain. Progress has been made with Ukraine, most notably in the January 1994 Trilateral Agreement on de-nuclearization. However, a variety of problems have arisen with Russia and Ukraine in implementation of the Trilateral Agreement, as discussed in the chapter on transnational threats.
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The U.S. wants to secure an indefinite extension of the NPT at the April 1995 review conference. The period of extension is perhaps the key issue. The U.S. wants the treaty made permanent, while some non-nuclear states want extension for a fixed period as short as five years, as part of their effort to speed implementation of the arms control measures set as targets when the NPT was first negotiated, such as a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Other issues will also affect the outcome of this conference, including regional issues such as the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, the willingness of nuclear powers to give legally binding security assurances, and the perceived effectiveness of the IAEA in enforcing the NPT.
A number of countries are closely tying their position on the extension of the NPT to progress toward achieving a CTBT. While Washington resists such a linkage, arguing that each agreement should be considered on its own merits, the fact remains that many countries see these two agreements as closely intertwined. Many non-nuclear-weapons states see the CTBT as a long-overdue, concrete step toward disarmament on the part of the acknowledged nuclear powers, and the prospects for a CTBT at the time of the NPT extension conference will have a strong impact on the fate of the NPT. Progress on discussions to establish nuclear-weapons-free zones will have an impact upon the conference as well, in so far as these too are believed to be a harbinger of further commitment to nuclear disarmament.
Several nations have also raised the issue of security assurances, both positive (commitments by the nuclear powers to the security of non-nuclear states) and negative (pledges by the nuclear powers not to use their weapons against non-nuclear nations). Egypt, for example, has long called for updating the 1968 positive and 1978 negative security assurances associated with the NPT, and capturing these in a legally binding vehicle. Washington, however, does not perceive this to be a particularly troubling issue, believing it to be easily resolvable through a protocol associated with the NPT or a U.N. Security Council Resolution, either of which would be legally binding.
Finally, the health and effectiveness of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is key to the NPT regime. The IAEA has suffered some setbacks in the last few years, with the post-Gulf War discovery of Iraq's extensive nuclear weapons program (despite the fact that Baghdad was an NPT signatory with an active IAEA safeguards agreement), and North Korea's refusal to allow the IAEA's first attempt to exercise its undeclared site inspection procedures. However, the IAEA did gain greater access to North Korean sites as a result of the 1994 Geneva agreement, though access to the two suspect waste sites continues to be a contentious issue. A strengthened IAEA with the authority to conduct robust inspections of both declared and suspect locations will be critical to the credibility of the NPT.
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The U.S. has attempted to develop incentives for potential proliferators not to pursue WMD and disincentives for those who do. One element has been diplomatic dissuasion, which has been a consistent element of U.S. policy. It has in some cases made a major contribution to U.S. nonproliferation efforts; for example, Argentina's decision to end its CONDOR ballistic missile program may have been influenced by Washington's entreaties.
Another approach involves encouraging regional stability through greater dialogue and transparency among regional states, including confidence-building and security measures in such areas as the Middle East and South Asia. Such diplomatic approaches represent a low-cost, non-threatening approach to containing the spread of WMD. In the case of nations that have chosen to remain outside the regimes for controlling the diffusion of WMD, diplomatic dialogue is sometimes the only option for Washington.
A more direct approach to preventing proliferation is through security assurances, either in the form of positive security guarantees to individual states (for example, South Korea) or negative security assurances, such as those associated with NPT membership. However, positive security guarantees have potentially serious implications, and it is not in the U.S. interest to take on such commitments lightly.
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Experience and prudence dictate that, ultimately, some proliferators will succeed in their quest. In addition to strengthening efforts to prevent WMD and missile proliferation, the United States is undertaking a number of measures to protect against such proliferation when it occurs. The 1993 Counterproliferation Initiative is designed to ensure that the necessary defense acquisition, doctrine, and training are in place to provide the U.S. and its forces wherever deployed with the ability to deter and defend against the WMD and missile threat.
To achieve these objectives, the Department of Defense is pursuing enhanced and, in some cases, new capabilities in a number of areas, including:
An additional issue is the U.S. ballistic missile defense program. When President Reagan launched the Strategic Defense Initiative in 1982, the focus of the program was defense of the U.S. and its allies against a massive attack by Soviet strategic nuclear forces, with potentially thousands of warheads. By 1990, relations with Moscow were easing and clear progress was being made in the START negotiations. The threat of a much smaller attack, for example from an accidental launch, or by a regional power with limited holdings, was seen as more likely. Accordingly, the program shifted to an emphasis on global protection against limited strikes (GPALS), designed to handle up to a few hundred warheads. Since the arrival of the Clinton administration, the program has focused on land-based interceptors designed to provide coverage to U.S. forces deployed in regions where they may face weapons of mass destruction mounted on ballistic missiles.
Whether these programs will be successful and sufficient will be determined by several factors. For instance, the rate of technological progress in BW detection and in development of non-nuclear weapons to kill deep underground targets are controlling factors for success in these areas. Another factor is resource limitations, in particular whether, if the DOD budget continues to decline, the U.S. will be able to afford the massive conventional superiority necessary to deter the use of WMD.
Finally, where active missile defenses are concerned, arms control policy may hamper U.S. plans. For example, some believe the ABM Treaty would undercut the military's ability to develop and deploy missile defenses able to counter longer range theater missiles, such as those being developed by North Korea.
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Some analysts argue that proliferation of WMD capabilities--particularly nuclear weapons--may actually serve U.S. interests by moderating the behavior of potentially antagonistic states. Two examples often cited are India and Pakistan and, more recently, Russia and Ukraine. Such ideas are largely derived from the Cold War strategic experience, in which the balance of terror imposed by nuclear weapons provided stability by deterring the superpowers from conflict.
However, stable deterrence requires more than the deployment of nuclear weapons. On the hardware side, it requires sophisticated command-and-control arrangements and technologically challenging measures to ensure weapons survivability. Absent such capabilities, adversarial relationships can be rendered more, not less, unstable as a result of nuclear weapons. This is a major concern regarding nuclear weapons on the Asian subcontinent, where "use it or lose it" considerations provide both sides with an incentive for first use.
Stable deterrence also requires rational leaders on both sides who, while hostile to each other, hold essentially limited and pragmatic objectives, and are unwilling to commit national suicide for religious, ideological, or personal purposes. This condition also may not hold for a number of aspiring proliferators. For example, a stable deterrence relationship between Iran and Iraq may not be possible, given the highly erratic and unpredictable leadership of both nations. Similarly, Washington should not expect the leadership of a nuclear-armed and desperate North Korea to necessarily see deterrence in the same rational light as the Soviet leaders of yesteryear.