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

Michael Flynn Has IDEAS!

Michael Flynn is known for thinking outside the box, and we need ideas outside the box to solve some of the world’s problems. It’s also great when an action can address more than one problem. But it also helps to know what you’re doing.

Here’s an IDEA: The United States and Russia work together to supply Middle Eastern countries with civilian nuclear power. Several of those countries have been seeking nuclear power. The United States and Russia have companies that can build the plants. That’s the deal Flynn was seeking in October 2015. Read More

Trump and Putin: Some 1980s Background

What do interviews in the 1980s and 1990s with Donald Trump tell us about his attitudes toward Russia and nuclear weapons?

The interviews are oblivious to world events taking place at that time. They are basically gossip columns by Lois Romano and William E. Geist, 1984; Ron Rosenbaum, 1987; Mark Singer, 1997. Descriptions of Trump’s lavish quarters and sycophantic workers, his expensive clothes, and his ease in getting a table at a restaurant figure prominently in the introductory paragraphs. Read More

What Do We Know About Carter Page?

The story of Donald Trump’s Russia connections has so many players and connections that it’s hard to to follow it in any cogent way, let alone connect all the dots. A great many dots still seem to be missing.

What I find illuminating is to look carefully at details. In my scientific career, I found that the most enlightening path might start with a small piece of information seemingly out of place. I’ve been collecting information about the various players. Putting that information in chronological order seems most helpful to me. Read More

Links – May 23, 2017

Russia has been violating the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, but the United States won’t say exactly what the violation is. The INF Treaty prohibits intermediate-range missiles with nuclear warheads. Back in the 1980s, both the US and Russia had such missiles aimed at each other in Europe. The problem with missiles like this is that there is no warning time whatsoever, and thus a heavy motive to strike the other party first. James Action suggests a strategy for getting the treaty back on track. Top photo from here: Soviet inspectors and their American escorts standing among dismantled Pershing II missiles in Colorado as other missile components are destroyed nearby under the INF Treaty, January 1989. Read More

A Small Russian Overture

Donald Trump denounced the New START Treaty in his first phonecall with Vladimir Putin. Putin brought up the treaty, which is coming up for renewal in 2021, so talks should be starting soon. The treaty limits the numbers of nuclear weapons for Russia and the United States, preventing an arms race. But the treaty was negotiated under Barack Obama, so in Trump’s mind, it is a bad treaty. Read More

Mike Pence Isn’t Kim Jong Un’s Daddy

US leaders have put on their best stern-father faces toward North Korea and China. On his trip to the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, Vice President Mike Pence headed outside, against warnings, to stare into the North. “It was important that they […] see our resolve in my face,” he told the US press.

At the White House Easter Egg Roll, President Donald Trump declared North Korea has “got to behave.” He has also tweeted warnings: “I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!” “North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them!” “I have great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea. If they are unable to do so, the U.S., with its allies, will!” Read More

Rex Tillerson Meets North Korea

Lots of news about Rex Tillerson’s visit to Asia. That’s partly because people are trying to understand what kind of Secretary of State he will be and partly because North Korea has been ramping up its missile tests and may have a nuclear weapon that will fit on some of those missiles. Read More