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July 17, 2009 |  25 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Thomas  Speckmann

A Nightmare: Obama Wants Nuclear Disarmament

Thomas Speckmann: The nuclear disarmament talks between Obama and Medvedev have been much celebrated, but the reality is not so rosy. Instead of a reduction in overall weapons, the talks signal a shift from nuclear to conventional weapons that could be much more dangerous in the long run as conventional rearmament could increase the number of bloody conflicts.

The world is rapt: Russia and the US are calling for nuclear disarmament. Mankind appears to be moving one step closer to world peace. But does this appearance reflect reality? What is the real motivation behind the disarmament negotiations between Moscow and Washington? In fact, neither the American nor the Russian President has any other option; they must work together if they want to make the grand plans surrounding their conventional armies into reality.

Barack Obama's plan to create additional intervention units of the US army that can be deployed anywhere around the world will cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Actually deploying these forces will cost billions more. For that reason, the US government is looking to save money on nuclear defense. Similarly, Russia is also worried about being overwhelmed by the costs of its atomic weapons program. Moscow feels like its hand is being forced on defense spending, even though it would like to free up more money for its military reforms. The war against Georgia uncovered the glaring weaknesses of Russia's military, and their eventual win was only possible because of massive advantages in numbers and weapons. The Kremlin now badly needs a professional army capable of meeting the challenges of high tech modern warfare.

Thus what Russia and the USA are discussing now is not disarmament, but only shifting armaments. By financing new conventional weapons, Obama's presidency has raised America's already astronomical defense spending even further. In Russia, the defense budget has grown almost 10 times larger in the last 10 years. In 2009 it is slated to grow by a further 27%.

Disarmament seems like a necessity in the face of the global finance and economic crises. But is Obama's vision of a world without nuclear weapons really in the West's best interest? Until now, the enormous costs of maintaining and updating its nuclear arsenal have stopped Russia from building more powerful conventional forces. The same is true for China. If America and Europe offer this opportunity for these rising countries to focus their resources on conventional armies, the number of bloody conflicts in the world could grow much larger. Even today, Russia and China are already putting pressure on the West through proxy wars in the Middle East and Africa. If mutual disarmament eases the perceived need felt by Moscow and Beijing to spend their money on nuclear weapons, it could seriously endanger the security of the West.

Dr. Thomas Speckmann is consultant to the Office of the Governor of the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and Assistant Lecturer at the University of Bonn. This article reflects the author's personal opinion and was first published by Die Welt on July 10, 2009. Translation from the German was prepared by Julia Follick of the Atlantic Community Editorial Team.

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Donald  Stadler

July 18, 2009

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"If mutual disarmament eases the perceived need felt by Moscow and Beijing to spend their money on nuclear weapons, it could seriously endanger the security of the West."

As am American I have a several reactions to this. Firstly - you asked for it, you got it, so what's the problem. Germans have been among ther leaders in marching for peace, calling for nuclear disarmament, and denouncing the US in the most uncompromising terms - for not unilaterally disarming. So what's the problem?

Secondly, this is not a problem for 'the West'; it is potentially a problem for Germany and Central Europe. NATO was established upon a 'one for all, all for one' basis. But events of the past 20 years ago have shown that to be a sham, with members effectively opting out of the alliance by declining to lift a thumbnail on behalf of the US when it was attacked.

If Germany can act in it's own narrow interest to the detrmient of the US, the US can do similarly - to the detriment of Germany.

Thirdly, is this a real crisis? Europe is immensly richer than Russia, and has far more manpower and more advanced technology. It's obvious that with a little effort Europe could easily neutralize any Russian threat without the neccessity of the US having to lift a thumbnail in Germany's defense. The fact is that ny supposed European weakness derives solely from the fact that Europe has refused to pay it's own defense these past 20 years. So start doing so....
 
Florian  Kuhne

July 18, 2009

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Mr Speckmann,

I would like to thank you for this opinion article because it opens a new sight on catchwords like "nuclear disarmament". I am certainly on the side of those who demand for a general disarmament of all weapons by all countries.

Mr Stadler,

what is your problem? Everywhere you leave behind your remarks on Germany doing this wrong, Germany doing that wrong. Is it so bad or irrational to think of peace and talking a better way than of highly sophisticad weapon-systems with the purpose of threatening and, in the case of the US, using them again (for some part imagined) foes? You seem to be trapped in that Cold-War-thinking of the US as the big benefactor of Europe and specially Germany, in your eyes we should lit a candle every day for the sake of the Big Brother right over the ocean. I tell you what: US military can go home! Europe does not need US-atomic weapons stationed in Germany and elsewhere and no missile-defense-system. This is all made-up, rhetorical stuff to threat people with those monstrous foes in the East and let them cling to the mentioned Big Brother. I do not think of a possible war, launched by Russia to attack Western or Eastern Europe if it is not provoked by agents like those US guys sitting in Georgia.

Im sorry for those harsh words but that needed to be said!
 
Unregistered User

July 19, 2009

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It is with pleasure to observe historic advances from accepted oppression to
patriotic expressions, the United States of America and BundesrepubliK
Deutschland respectively.
Trans Atlantic " Doerferpolitik" needs to be put aside, when one discusses
the Obama/ Medvedev considerations.
Just to clear the " deck", as to intellectual equality, the Stealth bomber design,
as displayed in Minnesota, is shown as a German ( Luftwaffe ) design.
Its display demonstrates the steps "from basic research to applied research".
Wernherr von Braun was brought to America and America landed on the moon, unfortunately after his death certain people called him NAZI.
It should also be understood, that Germany, once allowed to grow to its full potential, in every respect, will not require any help to defend itself.
Just ask General Frank, Supreme Allied Commander Iraq, of how much help information on Iraq by German Intelligence was to him as he attacked.
Enough-----

A (US) and B (RUSSIA) have access to formidable nuclear weapons
arsenals, which have a 8(?) to 12(?) times of total required capability to bomb us back into the stone age. Proliferation agreements were initiated, so that A and B would be alone in their stand-off.
Unfortunately, as time moves on and these weapons are not used, there will be a point were they can destroy us unintensionally.
During this stand off in the meantime, A and B sequentially went " bankrupt".
But they certainly served the purpose of dividing humankind into two
hatefull entitiies , which are now in need to be fused again at a very rapid
speed.-----
I want to quote Albert Einstein, who once said , how mankind tries to masters the universe will be indicative to its survival.
Militarization of outer space should certainly not be an option.------
Economically during that time both entities kept on persuing war time economies and used second tier nations to play with and to entertain their " bogeyman" philosophiy, until one really bit us.
During these years questionable policy decisions also surfaced, such as
despite of India not signing the non-proliferation agreement, A was adement
to include and welcome India into the nuclear weapons family.
I think it to be timely now to identify countries who have nuclear weapons under their control and then place them on the world map and you will easily find who the beneficiaries will be:
United States of America Russian Federation
United Kingdom People's Republic of China
South Korea
India
Pakistan
Iran (?)

France/ Israel/ South Africa

It all disregards the land masses of Australasia, Indonesia, Sur-America,
Africa, Arabian Peninsula.

Let us just hope that Presidents Obama and Medvedev succeed and set
an example and moreso explain that nuclear weapons are basically
" useless".

HRF
.







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John  Hadjisky

July 19, 2009

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"which have a 8(?) to 12(?) times of total required capability to bomb us back into the stone age"

That might have been true, back in the 1980's when the NATO and the Warsaw Pact each had roughtly 10,000 nuclear weapons. That isn't true today, even before Obama's promised disarmament. That is thanks to Reagan, and Thatcher, and Gorby (who really had little choice as his economy was collapsing).

Also, keep in mind that Obama will probably do for nuclear weapons what he did for Gitmo and the Global War on Terror (GWOT) -- continuing the status quo under new rhetoric (and in the case of Gitmo, a new location but essentially the same policies).

"It should also be understood, that Germany, once allowed to grow to its full potential, in every respect, will not require any help to defend itself."

That is a fascinating statement that could be read a number of different ways. Who, or what, exactly, is preventing Germany from growing?

To my mind, the question is not Germany's ability to defend itself, but its willingness to pay the financial price. Germany is willing to spend on high-tech weapons systems (especially for the export market) but so far is unwilling to spend the required funds on personnel, training, and operations.

Also there would have to be reforms on the political level, and perhaps even at the constitutional level. No-one takes the German military "high command" (if you'll forgive the expression) seriously at the moment. Everyone knows that, even in self-defense of German territory, the first alleged scandal or atrocity (real or manufactured) would cause command paralysis, thus greatly weakening any effective military response.
 
Colette Grace Mazzucelli

July 20, 2009

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Mr. Speckmann,

Thank you for your comments. Respectfully, nuclear weapons are not required in the numbers that presently exist in the arsenals of the US or Russia. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation (NPT) regime is dead in spirit. We now face real dangers of proliferation, as you know, in Asia and the Middle East. I believe that the US and Russia must lead by the power of example in this area.

How the US and Russia allocate resources to their own internal problems as well as to global challenges in the next 25-50 years, particularly global warming, poverty, and water shortages, are particularly critical. I frankly believe that Asian rising powers China and India are focused on economic modernization and will view the example set by the two former Cold War rivals as a sign of new thinking in terms of security.

Moreover, Japan has a turnkey capacity in nuclear technology, which may become an issue if the ideas of the nationalist hardliners faction in the LDP triumph after a victory in the fall elections. This result could lead Japan to contemplate a nuclear deterrent to rival North Korea and China.

This would be a dangerous evolution in nationalism threatening that region and the world. This is another reason why nuclear reductions with a view to reviving the NPT regime are a prudent necessity, in my view.

The use of nuclear weapons to deter aggression is an outdated concept in a world in which the challenges of modernity, particularly in Asia, are so transformative that the focus of the West must also be on their implications in the next two or three decades.

Containment and its disenfranchisement are no match for dialogue with a view to co-existence or potential integration of former rivals whose populations include millions of hungry people.

All the best and greetings from New York, Colette Mazzucelli
 
Member deleted

July 20, 2009

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Hmm how often you are able to deatroy the planet by the use of 1500 warheads, actually? There is a lot detered by the remaining stockpile, isn't it?

I think it is a sign in order to unleash real proliferation towards smaller/younger states like Korea, India, Pakistan, Israel, Iran who are far less stable or even theocratic, and truly speaking, I think Mr. Putin and Mr. Obama are aware of what Europe experienced on levels of fear during the Cold War, and know that fear is the most fierce enemy of open global trade.

Yes, the dangerous evolution is to be stopped!


Szenario: Nuclear war Israel vs. Iran and a cloud reaching to Europe and Russia
 
Donald  Stadler

July 20, 2009

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Herr Kuhne,

"Is it so bad or irrational to think of peace and talking a better way than of highly sophisticad weapon-systems with the purpose of threatening and, in the case of the US, using them again (for some part imagined) foes?"

Not at all. Which is one reason I'm surprised to see a German decrying Obama and the US for discussing nuclear disarmament with Russia. Germans have been advocating this vociferously for years. So I repeat - what is your problem?

"You seem to be trapped in that Cold-War-thinking of the US as the big benefactor of Europe and specially Germany, in your eyes we should lit a candle every day for the sake of the Big Brother right over the ocean."

That is SOOOO 2001. It's true that I once thought this way, back in the days when I saw Germans (and Germany) as a brother - and not an adversary. But there is a kernel of truth in your assertion - even now. I think Germans like you fail to realize the value of the US security guarantee even in it's current attenuated form. You take it for granted and fail to see that real, physical action is needed now to keep it in place. Actually it is too late, in my opinion.

"I tell you what: US military can go home!"

This at least we can agree upon. Tje US can and should go home.

"Europe does not need US-atomic weapons stationed in Germany and elsewhere and no missile-defense-system. This is all made-up, rhetorical stuff to threat people with those monstrous foes in the East and let them cling to the mentioned Big Brother."

Bit of an observer's effect here. That is a scientifc principal which at times can be applied to political situations. Russia hasn't appeared to be a threat to Europe for 30 years now, but is apparent lack of threat a result of Russian pacifism - or might it be because of NATO's effortless superiority? Or some of both? In the latter case - US withdrawal very easily have consequences Germany would find difficult to live with.

"I do not think of a possible war, launched by Russia to attack Western or Eastern Europe if it is not provoked by agents like those US guys sitting in Georgia."

Right.... Russia does not engage in wars of territorial agression against weak borders. Hmmmm, one might want to ask for a few other opnions on that one. If you discount the Georgians, the Poles, the Ukrainians, or the Balts, you might ask the Chinese, the Finns, the Turks, the CHechens, or the Romanians?
 
Jens  Heinrich

July 20, 2009

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Dear Mr. Speckmann,

I have not read all comments below your op.ed. so I am sorry for some recurrences of arguments already mentioned.

I wonder whether you argue for "nuclear superiority" of the USA? If I got you right, you argue that a decline in defense spending esp. for nuclear weapons could free up financial ressources of U.S. "main compitetors" to modernize their conventional forces. and that this is not in the Wests interest. that may or may not be right. for example, Russia needs to modernize some of its nuclear forces. It can do this only at low numbers of nukes. so when the U.S. reduce their arsenals, it does not mean that this translates into better conventional weaponry for Moscow. It could also be used for upgrading the nuclear arsenal.
decisions pro and contra conventional arms build-up are more complex than your article shows.
What I miss is what a reduction in the nuclear arsenal of the USA means for other actors like Japan or South Korea? What does it take to have a credible extended deterrence?

mrs. Mazzucelli puts the point well. despite some "dangers" in nuclear disarmament, the reduction is likely to have an effect on other states decisions.
 
Unregistered User

July 21, 2009

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Is this not a geo-political question of causal resource management?

From my understanding, the industry of defense, today involves market forces of global capitalism and thus covers state security in terms of economics (trade and industry), as as well as border defense.

Setting regulatory measures on industry, concerns setting renewable energy standards as per global climate change, through mechanisms such as the ETS.

If so, the issue of nuclear technology needs clarification on multilateral levels.

The geopoltical framework streamlines it for causal apllication, globally.

Issues involved are:
collective security arrangements
calibration of the state policy-making framework as per global co2 mitigation
streamlining current ad hoc multilateral bodies
streamlining science and R&D
dismantling nuclear stockpiles
 
Unregistered User

July 21, 2009

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I am so pleased to see such a vigorous debate about a military project, which was/is so capital intensive that it caused economic harm to many peoples and
yet its design objectives are just complete destruction.
I come from the Ronald Reagan years and lived in almost all the countries, which now play a decisive role on world stage.------
It became obvious that one cannot take the moral high grounds and be judgemental when there seems to be defective morality on the horizont.
One should not find comfort in arriving at prejudicial actions through pre-conceived opinions.
I just want to make people aware of the inner-connected landmass and its people with a nuclear potential, Russia, China, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Iran(?), while Israel with over 200 nuclear warheads is poking its finger at them.
With dynamics in world economics changing, one should not disregard
the possibility of Japan and Germany finding comfort under this umbrella,
unless for any reason this structure is imploting.
If there is to continue to be nonconformity of opinion, leave alone directions in a multi-state conglomerate of nations, such as the EU, the existing vacuum
militarily alone is inviting military competition and Europe will be another battlefield, same players, same results.
Miss Colette, it was a plaesure to have visited with you by e-mail.

HRF




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Unregistered User

July 21, 2009

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What makes the world attend peace and security is basically not related to how much weapons or nuclear facilities the world would have, for peace and security is relatively subjective. The debate on nuclear disarmament is not a new thing in today's international relations. We both have experience about this yet we have never fully understand the rationality behind having or not having nuclear weapons. The argument here is that the "Global zero" nuclear weapons means a more secured and peaceful world, yet if we considered the arguments of nuclear countries or countries that are undergoing nuclear projects, we can see that the spirit of the Cold War continue to be felt by not all countries but "insecured" yet able countries in regions such as Middle East and North Asia.

Iran Islamic establishment although in many times has been denying its nuclear projects as peaceful, can also argue that possessing nuclear weapon can free Iran from any threat or harm that eminate from external sources. Meaning that Iran need nuclear weapon so it can deter possible threats from Israel and the United States. It is a matter of regime survival.

However, we have to understand that the way we define enemy or threats is very important in our understanding of what compose a secured world. It is however unfortunat that language game has been used by many political leaders to create potential enemy so as to have an excuse in international interference.

The Obama and Medvedev talks on Nuclear disarmaments and the emphasis on the proliferation of a conventional weapons and building up of convention military forces does not also guarantee peace and secured world.

What these two leaders should understand is that for a grand plan to be successful need mutual and determined political will and that should be supported with a calculated or balance impacts on the national interests of a country.

Another thing is that pouring finacial resources on conventional military build up means that favored weapon industries can benefit in the process. It cannot also guarantee less violence especially in an unstable country. It also continue to encourage assymetrical organizations such as terrorism to obtain these weapons to advance their ideological interests. I just dont know how advance is the intelligence aparatus of Russia in knowing weapon shipments to africa which can be partly blame for genocide and mass killing of innocent people there.

Lastly, What Obama and Medvedev have is not a expression of a genuine political will to end or disarm their nuclear weapons but rather a diplomatic gestures to show to the world that these two countries have something in common to work for the interests of the international community.

If nuclear disarmaments is really an option to end the fear from unsecured world then US and Russia should definately start it sooner . That requires genuine coordinated actions by all nuclear possessed nations including Israel and Pakistan. It also should avoid bias treatments to countries allied to the US or Russia.







 
Wyatt Paul Lane

July 21, 2009

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Bringing to an end the further development of big weapons systems is a step in the right direction. Far too long have great powers like the U.S. and Russia been planning for war against other great powers while in reality fighting altogether different conflicts. For the U.S., Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan; for Russia, Chechneya and Georgia. Nuclear capability has been a major factor in ruling out great power war, to be sure, but the wars of the 21st century are going to require much more than high-tech weapons systems and . The buildup of conventional forces on the part of the U.S. reflects the lessons of the Iraq war. Intervention into the troubled parts of the world requires boots on the ground, yes, for waging war, but also for winning the peace. The biggest task of great powers this century will be coordinating the use of those conventional forces toward common goals. If that kind of cooperation needs to begin at the level of nuclear discussions, so be it, but it is merely the first step in creating the security partnerships that will manage conflict and ensure the continued development of the non-integrated parts of the world.
 
Christoph  Schwegmann

July 21, 2009

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Mr. Speckmann,

I do not quite get the point, why it should be wrong to cooperate with Russia on nuclear arms reduction - thereby fulfilling obligations of existing treaties. (The Article VI of the NPT states: "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective
measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear
disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective
international control.").

I also do not see that nuclear arms reduction would automatically lead to a new conventional arms race. As a matter of fact, military budget generally compete with other policy fields, e.g. social welfare, infrastructure, health care etc.. Reading the latest Russian Federation Security Strategy you will get the impression that they are rather afraid of having to invest in conventional forces and see their political weakness especially in the field of social and human security.

Perhaps you could also elaborate a bit on what you call proxy wars of Russia and China in the Middle East and Africa.
 
Wyatt Paul Lane

July 21, 2009

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"Perhaps you could also elaborate a bit on what you call proxy wars of Russia and China in the Middle East and Africa"

Yes this deserves clarification. Iran is the state engaging in proxy wars, not China and Russia. Hamas and Hezbollah are the proxies in this case, and the U.S. triggered that action by assuming a threatening posture toward Iran.

China is using a policy of preemption in Africa, but on the economic level. They see Africa as not all that different from home and thus a place where profit can be made.

When will the U.S. stop planning for war against China and realize that U.S.-Chinese relationship is the most important partnership for the 21st century?!
 
ROBERTO  GIANNELLA

July 22, 2009

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President Obama visited Russia last month on his first official visit since his election. He went to Moscow to offer his Russian counterpart to reset the relationship between the two countries because the Cold war is now over and Washington wants Russia to be strong and peaceful. It cannot be ignored that his visit indeed represented a success, for it was decided to cut US and Russian nuclear arsenals by a significant percentage within 2016. Mr. Obama made this decision because he is deeply convinced that a non–nuclear world is possible. Mr. Medvedev probably agreed with him for geopolitical reasons rather than for moral ones. I believe it is important to underline that Washington and Moscow decided to cooperate on military issues and to work on non–proliferation – that never happened under Mr. Bush’s presidency. It is certainly a matter of great importance that US military aircrafts are now allowed to reach Afghanistan – flying through Russian airspace. Despite the agreement on nuclear disarmament, a serious political analysis must take into consideration that Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev are not in tune on some issues regarding Moscow’s neighbours: Washington insists that Tbilisi and Kiev are entitled to their own sovereignty. Mr. Obama put emphasis on the fact that “governments which serve their own people survive and thrive. Governments which serve only their own power do not.” In my opinion, these words were clearly a message to his Russian counterpart.
 
Unregistered User

July 22, 2009

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Thanks a lot for all the comments.

To the proxy wars of Russia and China in the Middle East and Africa please read my latest article in the Neue Zuercher Zeitung:

http://www.nzz.ch/nachrichten/international/die_neuen_stellvertrete...

I'm sorry for not having an English translation.
 
Colette Grace Mazzucelli

July 22, 2009

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Thank you for this reference, Mr. Speckmann.

The dangers of proliferation in Asia, namely, North Korea and the possible sharing of nuclear technology with Myanmar, focus US attention on relations within ASEAN during Secretary of State Clinton's visit to India and Thailand.

It is critical also to understand Indian perceptions of Iran as the situation inside the latter country evolves given the Revolutionary Guards' crackdown on the opposition.

With apologies in advance for the lack of a German translation, my own analysis from a comparative perspective appears on Conversations on Diplomacy and Power Politics this week:

"Why the 'Japan Model' for Iran Unsettles the West: Interpreting Domestic Nuclear Aspirations of Iran," http://www.diplomacyandpower.com/?page_id=242

During a period of economic and financial downturn, with unemployment hitting double-digit figures in a growing number of US states, the critical Senate vote on the F-22 is an indication of changes in thinking in the Congress about major weapons systems.

This change is a direct response to Secretary Robert Gates push for an overhaul at the Pentagon. The Senate demonstrated its support for the administration’s push to shift more of the Pentagon’s resources away from conventional warfare projects to provide more money to fight what are defined as insurgencies.

Senator John McCain's reference to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower's original term, the "military-industrial-congressional complex," is noteworthy in this context.

The F-22 is symbolic of cold war thinking, particularly by those proponents who believe the fighter plane is an insurance policy against possible warfare with China.

All the best and greetings from New York, Colette Mazzucelli
 
Unregistered User

July 22, 2009

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The five leading nuclear powers are indeed less interested in nuclear weapons than they were during the Cold War. They are spending a growing part of their military budgets on weapons they consider more useful. International agreements to reduce nuclear arsenals are a recognition of this trend and help to prevent its reversal. Besides, signatories of the NPT have committed themselves to pursuing the abolition of nuclear arms.

Now Mr Speckmann fears that new agreements to cut nuclear arsenals will lead to increased spending on more dangerous weapons and policies. However, if governments really want to these new weapons and policies, they will pursue them any way, however badly they can afford them.

If nuclear weapons were really as useless as Mr Speckmann implies, then the sooner they were abolished, the better it would be. However, atomic arms still perform functions that some states are not willing to abandon.

Even today, nuclear weapons can provide defence through deterrence, if certain conditions are met. This does not only apply to the leading nuclear powers. However much one may dislike the idea of Israeli nuclear weapons, it is hard to deny that they help to defend the country. And to the rulers of unstable and authoritarian states like Iran, Pakistan and North Korea, they are also useful as a way to rally political support at home, terrify neighbours and distract attention from the country's problems.

So nuclear weapons are useful to some governments, for various reasons. Of course, South Africa, Kazakhstan and Ukraine have shown that there is another way, a better way in my opinion.

 
Christoph  Schwegmann

July 22, 2009

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Mr Speckmann,
I thank you for referring to your NZZ article regarding what you called “Proxy Wars” of China and Russia against the US. As I read it, it does – beside the title - not tell about such wars but of conflicting interests and of arms deals with Hezbollah, Venezuela and countries like Iran (where China and Russia cooperate with the West in the UNSC). I would not doubt that China and Russia strive for a more equal footing with the US, but I still see a lack of evidence that these countries are pursuing a “proxy war” strategy. Arms sells alone are not necesseraly a strategic threat and even the intentions of the demand site must not be same of the supplier. We sell arms as well and I am sure the Russians would sell us their arms too, if we only wanted.
Sorry for being so picky on that issue, but it was a strong statement on China's and Russia's policy towards the US that would - if true - have some strategic impacts.
 
Anna   de Brux

July 23, 2009

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Dr Speckmann's article covers two topics: nuclear disarmament and conventional forces disarmament. For me, nuclear disarmament is not at all the same as conventional disarmament and neither is going to happen. He tends to run one into the other and implies a link beyond a purely budgetary issue of what each nation can afford.

Before discussing the detail I would like to make a general point about why defence, why armaments and why not abolition of weapons from the planet.

No development by mankind has ever been put aside untill it is replaced by something better and this is particularly true of arms. While disarmament can be seen as a goal for mankind, it is a Utopian goal until we manage to change the nature of mankind and remove ambition and aggression. Until then, it will be essential to have a defence capability to ensure the ambitions and aggressive instincts of others do not endanger our society. Armaments will stay and, regrettably, I have to refute utterly and completely the statement "disarmament is a necessity" - sadly it is quite the reverse.

Firstly, Nuclear Disarmament:

The nuclear weapon disarmament talks are one topic while the US - Russia talks that cover reductions in numbers of nuclear warheads (not even delivery systems) are another.

There are already several acknowledged nuclear armed states. North Korea is developing the capability. Iran is probably developing the capability. These weapoons pose a threat, however much we might like to say they will never be used.

I would agree that with weapons of this power we do not need huge arsenals and so the US and Russian discussions about reducing their stocks are sensible. Other nations could also join in this discussion and it will be interesting to see whether the UK uses this mechanism to address their serious defence budget deficiencies.

However I have never seen any article that says that the aim is to reduce these weapons levels to zero and I do not believe this will happen. The policy of nuclear deterrence has proved successful in the past and will be a major strategic defence policy for the foreseeable future. In essence, I do not see a significant reduction in defence spending on nuclear weapons and I certainly do not see sufficient savings that would allow the US, Russia or anyone else to make massive increases in conventional forces.

Secondly, Armament:

As I say above I do not believe that the US or Russia is considering cutting nulear warheads to spend more on conventional forces. I do not think the sums would add-up.

I can see the them continuing to spend on conventional forces and I can see the US, Russia and others considering making their forces more agile and able to deploy swiftly anywhere on the globe. This implies more and smaller units, but not necessarily more forces per-se. In fact, this is a trend that started at the end of the Cold War and will continue as the threat to global security becomes more random and more on non-state actors based.

I think we need to realise that it is not the USA, Russia, China, Europe or India who initiate the conflicts today. The conflicts take place in the deprived areas of the world where a basic struggle for supremacy still take the form of armed conflict. This can spill over and affect our Western Way of life in two ways:

Firstly by threatening the supply of essential primary resources. The most obvious of these is oil and gas and it is to protect the supply of these that we engage so heavily in the Middle East. This engagement does not take the form of conquering and occupying the countries, but it does try to influence the countries to be friendly towards the West and to create an environment where they can have a stable government and an improving standard of living for their citizens. It is not only energy however as we are also dependent on minerals and the engagement of China in Africa is clearly an attempt to secure these resources for the future.

Secondly the struggle can spill over into our countries by acts of terrorism. Remember that Al Quaeda is inspired by Saudi Arabians hostile to the current pro-Western government. The Mumbai attack is an attempt to draw the wolrd's attention to issues in Pakistan and India.

So where do we go from here?

The way forward is to manage the arsenals and forces, to maintain a balance so that no major power thinks they have such an advantage that the use of force becomes an acceptable option. In addition, we need to continue the work of stabilisation of the developing parts of the world, encourage good governance and promote trade to develop a good standard of living for all.

The problem is that the cost of this will be vast. So vast that the cost of the military and associated armaments will become relatively trivial. It is this last point that the world has not yet grasped.
 
Urs  Schrade

July 23, 2009

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It is a pleasure to see the vital debate on this controversial topic is still going on. In order to bring the debate a little further, I want to ask two questions related to the comments of Mr. Schwegmann and Mrs. de Brux.

First, Mr. Schwegmann, I want to thank you very much for the great contribution you made with your first comment. I totally agree with you, as I also think the basic weakness in Mr. Speckmann's argument is his tendency to see causality where no causality is to be seen. According to Mr. Speckmannn, nuclear disarmament is not in the interest of the west, as this will lead to a conventional arms built up in russia and china, which means this countries would become more engaged in conflicts all over the world. As far as I know there there is no natural law that nuclear arms reduction automatically leads to conventional arms built up?

I think the point mentioned by Mr. Speckmann is not to be dismissed, but in my opinion one needs to discuss it in more detail as Mr. Speckmann does. Thus it would be very interesting to hear more of your opinion on this issue, which is why I hope for your comments.

Second, I want to thank you, Mrs. de Brux, for your detailed and informative comment and pick up a point which in my eyes is worth to be discussed:

"The policy of nuclear deterrence has proved successful in the past and will be a major strategic defence policy for the foreseeable future."

I agree on the first half of the sentence as nuclear deterrence has proved particularly successful in cold-war times where inter-state conflicts/threats dominated the international system. But, does nuclear deterrence work nowadays, in the age of asymmetrical conflicts where states mainly fight terrorists, insurgents and other non-state actors? Seen in this context, couldn't one assume the possession of nukes rather as threat than as safeguard? What if terrorists get access to nuclear warheads (e.g. in Pakistan) and smuggle them to the U.S. or Europe?
 
Alexander Josef Pilic

July 23, 2009

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If I understand Mr. Speckmann correctly he claims that spendings on conventional weapon-systems have already been made thus Obama and Medvedev are now having talks about reductions of the nuclear arsenal in order to save costs and lower their respective budgets. If this is so and I assume that Mr. Speckmann's sources are reliable, the causality he mentioned in his article seems quite logical to me.

As far as total nuclear disarmament is concerned, I think it would be naive to believe that a "zero-solution" would be a leading example for all the regimes who are craving for nuclear arms. It is true that the nuclear deterrent strategy worked well, this why rogue-states like Iran and North Korea are seeking to develop these arms because they think and it will make a forceful regime change like the one in Iraq less probable in their cases.

I agree with Ms. de Brux comment that deterrence will be a part of the strategic defense policy of the future just because we can not be confident that all powers who posess nuclear weapons will be as cooperative as they are today.
Tags: | nuclear disarmament |
 
Christoph  Schwegmann

July 23, 2009

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@Urs Schrade
My point is just that there is not necessarily a causal nexus between nuclear disarmement and investment in conventional forces. This is because nuclear weapons are strategic and serve a different purpose. (An exception would be the invention of strategic conventional forces). In general defence budgets are not agreed upon in sum, but each part will be discussed in all details in the respective committees. This is true for almost all countries including the US, China and Russia. Finance ministers and budget committees will very often not allow that the amount saved on nuclear weapons, will be spent in conventional forces.
 
Anna   de Brux

July 25, 2009

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I would like to thank Messrs Schrade and Pilic for their encouraging comments to my post above.

Mr Schrade asked a series of questions and raised issues that are not only interesting but also challenging, to wit:

"The policy of nuclear deterrence has proved successful in the past and will be a major strategic defence policy for the foreseeable future."

I agree on the first half of the sentence as nuclear deterrence has proved particularly successful in cold-war times where inter-state conflicts/threats dominated the international system. But, does nuclear deterrence work nowadays, in the age of asymmetrical conflicts where states mainly fight terrorists, insurgents and other non-state actors? Seen in this context, couldn't one assume the possession of nukes rather as threat than as safeguard? What if terrorists get access to nuclear warheads (e.g. in Pakistan) and smuggle them to the U.S. or Europe?"

My reply:

The nuclear threat has two components:

First there is the state threat. We have extensive experience of this from the Cold War. The question you pose seems to imply that you think this may have disappeared. I'm not quite sure that the state threat has disappeared but I do believe agree that it is in abeyance; the second component (see later) is more obvious. However, I think that the state threat still exists potentially from any state with nuclear weapons and that we cannot allow only one state to have these weapons, otherwise we risk putting ourselves at their mercy. I do not wish to point the finger and accuse any state of threatening any other, but it is imperative that we stay at parity with others to ensure they cannot threaten us, or that their potential threat is matched by our potential response. To illustrate the way in which I believe the threat at this level still exists I would like to quote from a recent article from the CER (not sure if I have the right to quote here, but it points clearly to why I believe my remark is correct and is a reputable and independent source) :

"The (Chinese) defence budget consistently grows at a much higher rate than the economy, and China is the only country expanding its strategic nuclear forces significantly."

Please be fully aware that I do not want to say that China is a threat or intends to become a threat. I do want to say that the future is uncertain and that human nature is fundamentally ambitious and aggressive. It is not impossible for another megolamaniac to rise to power in any state (USA, Europe, China, India, etc.) and then we need to have the ability to deter the ultimate threat. In fact, I suspect the Chinese are investing in this area as a deterrent, and not with any intention of using the weapons to mount an attack. In this sense I strongly believe the nuclear detterrent is here to stay.

Re your question, "But, does nuclear deterrence work nowadays, in the age of asymmetrical conflicts where states mainly fight terrorists, insurgents and other non-state actors?"

As you rightly point out, there is the issue of the bomb falling into the hands of failed states, terrorist group or any other asymetric or non-aligned group who might like to create mayhem for whatever reason. This is a very real threat and will get bigger as we become more technologically capable and miniaturisation improves. Equally, I think you are right that the nuclear deterrent is not going to make this threat go away.

That said, it is imperative to point out that destroying our own nuclear weapons will not destroy the technology, will not destroy the ingredients for these weapons, and will not mean that no-one else has them or cannot make them. May I highlight the fact that our strategic deterrent today is not meant to counter this second nuclear threat -- it is there for the threat it is designed to contain.

How we decide to react to an attack by a non-aligned group/organisation using nuclear weapon is not clear or specific. I would have to agree that using nuclear weapons in return would probably not have the effect we wanted. It is my belief that there is a need for us to be very imaginative and consider all sorts of ways and means to combat this threat, all sorts of ways and means to react and all sorts of ways and means to recover from an attack. Indeed we already do this and it is safe to say that it occupies the minds of many good thinkers around the globe. Against this threat, we are actually on the same wavelength as Russia and China and India.

End result is I believe the "classic" nuclear deterrent is here to stay but we need a whole new capability to combat the new asymetric nuclear threat.
 
Joshua  Posaner

July 28, 2009

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Mr Speckmann,

I agree with Mr Schwegmann’s sentiments but assuming that there is a casual link between traditional military and expenditure on nuclear arms I am unsure that greater investment by Russia in its military will lead to more regional proxy wars and bloody conflicts. I would suggest that it is better to have a confident, strong Russia assured of its place in the global hierarchy then an insecure, weak state eager to impose itself internationally?

In this context I’m unsure how much extra risk a modern, professional Russian standing army will pose to the West. As Obama recognized it would be beneficial for Washington to deal with a confident Moscow and not a self conscious Kremlin eager to stamp its authority as we have seen in the past. With both Russia (and China) stressing primacy of the UN and international law it is not the logical step to assume that conflict is to be the result of military investment, however contradictory that may sound.

A Moscow confident enough of its military supremacy over what it considers to be its sphere of influence will surely be less likely to act rashly and may slowly come to face up to its responsibilities within the global system. Of course both Moscow and Beijing disagree with the Western logic of liberal interventionalism. However, this is not to be misconstrued as a signal that the two states will use proxy wars to oppose the West. Just look at the recent action taken by China in eliminating pirate ships off the coast of East Africa. It could be said that Beijing is finding its niche within the established Western system. Subsequently, far from being a threat there is a strong suggestion that an enhanced military for both states will be constructive for the global system and not detrimental to it.

Concerning the nuclear question. The danger I see is that reduction of nuclear arsenal by the major actors is all well and good but this is far outweighed by the danger of further ‘lateralization’ of nuclear technology globally. That is the vast stockpiles of major powers transforming into reduced stocks being held by a greater number of regional players. As is pointed out above if North Korea fails to halt the development of its nuclear program then Tokyo may pursue its own deterrent as other regional players are in the Middle East. This greater proliferation is a bigger concern to me then the increase in traditional military expenditure by both China and Russia.

The signal given by the Moscow summit may serve to gradually halt the enthusiasm for nuclear technology globally. Although I agree with your concerns in sentiment Mr Speckmann I am less inclined to view the investment in traditional military by China and Russia as directly corresponding to a possible increase in bloody warfare. In addition to many above I would be extremely interested in hearing your further thoughts on the points you raised and the feedback.
 

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