Weekend Links – November 11, 2017

With Trump today saying that he’ll take Vladimir Putin’s word over that of the US intelligence agencies, here’s a reminder of how Republicans used to talk about Russia and the Soviet Union.

Ruthenium-106, an isotope used in cancer therapy, was detected over Europe in September. The distribution measured suggests it came from the Mayak plant in Russia, where nuclear fuel is reprocessed. The amounts over Europe were not dangerous and have mostly gone below detection limits. Read More

Halloween Links

On Donald Trump and Russia: One of the better timelines I’ve seen derived from the Manafort/Gates indictments and the Papadopoulos plea. Profiles of people you will be hearing more about:

More than 90 American nuclear scientists say that we need to keep the Iran nuclear deal in place. An Iranian analyst says that Donald Trump requested a meeting with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations meeting in September, but Rouhani turned him down. This has not been confirmed, but it’s something to watch for. Update (11/1/17): Confirmed by the State DepartmentRegime change probably wouldn’t end Iran’s nuclear program. Read More

Links – September 21, 2017

Kori Schake was an official in George W. Bush’s Department of Defense. Here’s her analysis of Donald Trump’s speech at the United Nations. Another good analysis by Mira Rapp-Hooper. And by Thomas Wright.  The transcript of Trump’s speech.

Rex Tillerson’s “Redesign Overview” slides for the State Department.  “He took the job and made it smaller”: how Rex Tillerson failed the State Department.

The history of US nuclear weapons in South Korea.

One of North Korea’s key diplomats, someone for the US to engage. Top photo: North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2016.

Excellent defense of the Iran nuclear deal from two people who helped negotiate it. There are many articles on the Iran nuclear deal and why we should stay in it. This one is among the best.

 

 

North Korea’s Latest Nuclear Test

For broad policy, there are only two things that matter about the latest North Korean nuclear test: The explosion is very big and the bomb possibly small enough to fit on a North Korean missile. If it isn’t that small yet, the next model will be.

The yield measured for the test was about 150 kilotons. That’s about ten times the force of the Hiroshima bomb. It doesn’t matter whether it was 130 kilotons or 200 kilotons. It can destroy a city. The missiles now being tested can reach the United States. Read More

A Job Well Done

Two South Carolina utilities are abandoning two unfinished nuclear reactors, half of the new reactors being built in the United States today. A decision on the other two will be made later this month. The South Carolina project is far behind schedule and far over projected costs, the recurring story of civilian nuclear reactor projects in the United States. China and Russia seem to be doing better with reactor-building, but their state-run companies can cook the books in ways that private companies can’t. Read More

Nuclear Treaties Are Good

The 1950s and the 1980s were decades of nuclear fear. The arms race of the 1950s culminated in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, after which institutions and procedures were put in place to cut back some of the causes of that fear. The Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty put nuclear tests underground, which made them more difficult and expensive and began to slow down the arms race. Better communications between American and Soviet leaders were developed. Treaties to limit the numbers of nuclear weapons followed. Read More

Cyber Strategy – Different From A Shooting War

Big hack of pretty much everything in Ukraine this morning: internet, power plants, government. I wrote this post before that happened, but it applies.

The Obama administration was in an extremely difficult position after learning about Russian hacking of last year’s election. Several factors came into play: the difficulty of dealing with international cyber attacks, intransigent Republican partisanship, and the decaying relationship with Russia. I’m going to break down those factors into at least two posts.

Cyber attacks present a national security problem different from any encountered before. Lumping them into a designation of “cyberwar” projects assumptions of conventional war onto them and distorts the difficulties and possibilities. I haven’t seen much analysis of these differences and how they affect strategy. Please point me to them, if they exist. Most punditry assumes that cyber attacks can be equated to war, and numerous opinion articles have referred to the Russian hacks as a form of war. In this post, I will consider only that part of last fall’s situation. A later post will consider the political ramifications. Read More