Login/Logout

*
*  

I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
Kingston Reif

Watchdog Slams US Missile Defense Review as 'Threat' to Global Nuke Deterrence

News Source: 
Sputnik News
News Date: 
January 18, 2019 -05:00

Trump’s Dangerous Missile Defense Buildup

Sections:

Body: 

Volume 11, Issue 2, January 17, 2019

The Trump administration’s long-awaited Missile Defense Review, which was released today, proposes a significant and costly expansion of the role and scope of U.S. missile defenses that is likely to exacerbate Russian and Chinese concerns about the threat to their strategic nuclear deterrents, undermine strategic stability, and further complicate the prospects for additional nuclear arms reductions.

Of particular concern was President Donald Trump’s statement during his remarks at the Pentagon that the goal of U.S. missile defenses is to “ensure we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime, anyplace.” This would be a costly, unachievable, and destabilizing departure from longstanding policy and contradicts the text of the review, which limits U.S. homeland missiles defense to their traditional role of defending against limited attacks from North Korea or Iran. In addition, the review proposes “to further thicken defensive capabilities for the U.S. homeland” with the new Aegis SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, hundreds of which could eventually be deployed on land and at sea across the globe.

As Congress scrutinizes the Missile Defense Review, members would do well to recognize that rushing to fund an open-ended and unconstrained missile defense buildup is misguided and would diminish U.S. security.

Congress in 2016 mandated the Pentagon to conduct a broad review of missile defense policy and strategy. Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis initiated the review in the spring of 2017 and it was originally slated to be published alongside the Nuclear Posture Review in February 2018. The reasons for the delay in the completion of the review are unclear.

The review expands the purpose of missile defense to defend against cruise and hypersonic missiles, proposes more aggressive defense against Russian and Chinese regional missile threats, alludes to the future development of airborne interceptors for "boost-phase" missile defense (i.e. when missiles are traveling at their slowest right after launch), and proposes to augment the defense of the U.S. homeland with additional ground- and sea-based Aegis SM-3 Block IIA missile interceptors.

Even before the release of the review, Congress during the first two years of the Trump administration approved record appropriations for the Missile Defense Agency to expand existing regional and missile defense systems and advance the development of new technologies.

The review reaffirms preexisting Trump administration plans to:

  • try to destroy enemy missiles before launch (known as “left of launch”),
  • arm unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with lasers to zap long-range missiles during their boost phase,
  • test the SM-3 Block IIA missile interceptor against an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)-class target by 2020,
  • expand the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system in Alaska and California from 44 to 64 interceptors by 2023, and
  • develop multiple kill vehicles for the GMD system.

Costly and Technically Risky

United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars since the 1950s in an effort to field effective ballistic missile defenses and has but a limited capability against a small number of relatively unsophisticated missile threats to show for it. More realism is needed about the costs and limitations of defense capabilities and the long-standing obstacles that have prevented them from working as intended. For example, the $67 billion GMD system designed to defend the U.S. homeland against a North Korean or Iranian threat has an intercept test record of just over 50% and none of the tests have included realistic decoys and countermeasures that the system would likely face in a real attack.

Several of the new technologies proposed in the review face significant technical hurdles. A 2012 report by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that “boost-phase missile defense—whether kinetic or directed energy, and whether based on land, sea, air, or in space—is not practical or feasible.” Additionally, broad area defense against emerging hypersonic missiles will pose an even greater challenge than defending against ballistic missile threats, which generally fly on a more predictable trajectory.

The review discusses how the administration will proceed with several controversial proposals, including space-based interceptors and building a third GMD site in the eastern part of the United States.

On space-based interceptors, the review proposes a near-term feasibility study “of the concepts and technology for space-based defenses.” It adds that the study “may include on-orbit experiments and demonstrations.” During the George W. Bush administration, Congress rejected proposals to fund a space test bed that would put prototype interceptors in space. Further study of putting interceptors in space should end with the same conclusion previous studies have: space-based interceptors are unaffordable, unworkable, and massively destabilizing.

The review states that no decision has yet been made on whether to deploy a third GMD site and that the location for a potential site “will be informed by multiple pertinent factors at the time.” The Missile Defense Agency has repeatedly stated that the estimated $3-$4 billion cost to build such a site would be better spent on improving the capabilities of the existing GMD system.

That this Pentagon is punting, at least for now, on a decision on fielding space-based interceptors and an additional GMD site goes to show how expensive and rightly controversial they are.

Adverse Impact on Russian and Chinese Threat Perceptions

Although the Pentagon’s wish list stops short of green-lighting some of the most controversial missile defense concepts, the new plan could significantly exacerbate Russian and Chinese concerns about the threat U.S. missile defenses pose to their nuclear retaliatory capabilities.

The review comports with longstanding U.S. policy in stating that homeland missile defense capabilities will be sized to defend against “rogue states’ offensive missile threats” and not “more sophisticated Russian and Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities.” But in his remarks on the review, Trump went beyond the text of the review and stated that “We will terminate any missile launches from hostile powers...regardless of missile type or geographic origin.” Moscow and Beijing may understandably wonder whether Trump’s statements or the text of the review reflect U.S. policy.

Furthermore, the administration’s plan to test the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor against an ICBM target by 2020, and to build hundreds of the interceptors by the 2030s, threatens to cross the line between expanding missile defense capabilities to counter regional and “rogue” state threats to the homeland, and the development of capabilities that can counter Russian and Chinese long-range missiles.

Such concerns could potentially be mitigated if Washington agreed to limit the number, location, and capabilities of this systems, but the Missile Defense Review asserts that the United States will forswear any limits on U.S. defenses.

Russia fears that advancing U.S. defenses and offensive conventional strike capabilities could soon allow Washington to threaten Moscow's secure second-strike capability. Moscow has also conditioned further reductions to its nuclear arsenal below the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) on limits on U.S. missile defenses.

In a speech last year touting several new Russian nuclear delivery systems such as an intercontinental undersea torpedo and hypersonic glide vehicles, President Vladimir Putin described the rationale for the new weapons largely in terms of concern about U.S. missile defense systems.

China may already be augmenting its smaller nuclear strike capabilities in response to current U.S. missile defenses and an expansion of these defenses could prompt Beijing to make additional qualitative and quantitative improvements to its arsenal. Such improvements would make it even more difficult to achieve further reductions to the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

The Missile Defense Review comes at a time when the bilateral U.S.-Russian arms control architecture is under siege. The 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is on the verge of collapse and the future of New START is uncertain.

Both sides are citing the other’s missile defense deployments and plans as rationales to outfit their strategic nuclear arsenals with more capable weapons. Neither Moscow nor Washington is taking into account the concerns the other has about their offensive and defensive developments sufficiently seriously to avoid increased risks of instability.

Bottom Line

Rather than rush to spend billions on a potentially dangerous expansion of U.S. missile defenses, a more disciplined approach would focus on improving the shortcomings that continue to plague current systems, such as GMD, and improve capabilities to detect and track missiles. Moreover, the United States should pursue wide-ranging dialogues with Russia and China on strategic stability, including the impact of missile defense, and not pursue particularly destabilizing steps, such as pursuing space-based interceptors and testing the SM-3 Block IIA against ICBMs.—KINGSTON A. REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy

Description: 

The Trump administration’s long-awaited Missile Defense Review, which was released today, proposes a significant and costly expansion of the role and scope of U.S. missile defenses that is likely to exacerbate Russian and Chinese concerns about the threat to their strategic nuclear deterrents, undermine strategic stability, and further complicate the prospects for additional nuclear arms reductions.

Subject Resources:

A wall in space? Trump envisions an impenetrable missile shield and vows to boost spending

News Source: 
Los Angeles Times
News Date: 
January 17, 2019 -05:00

President Trump’s Plans to Boost Missile Defense Could Spark an Arms Race

News Source: 
TIME
News Date: 
January 17, 2019 -05:00

Pentagon considers an ICBM-killing weapon for the F-35, but is it affordable?

News Source: 
Air Force Times
News Date: 
January 17, 2019 -05:00

Pentagon to Study Putting Anti-Missile Laser Weapons in Space

News Source: 
Defense One
News Date: 
January 16, 2019 -05:00

What to look for in the upcoming Missile Defense Review

News Source: 
Military Times
News Date: 
January 11, 2019 -05:00

After the INF Treaty, What Is Next?


January/February 2019
By Kingston Reif

If the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty collapses in 2019, the United States, key U.S. allies, and Russia will face critical questions of how to respond, including whether to develop and deploy new intermediate-range missile systems and whether to seek restraint measures to prevent a renewed missile race in Europe and beyond.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on the screen during an annual meeting with high-ranking military officers on December 18, 2018 in Moscow. Putin told them that if the United States “breaks the [INF] treaty,” Russia will be “forced to take additional measures to strengthen [its] security.” (Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)Washington and Moscow have not shown a willingness to go the extra mile to resolve their years-long INF Treaty compliance dispute, as the clock runs down on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Dec. 4 ultimatum, under which Russia has 60 days to return to “full and verifiable compliance” or the United States will suspend its obligations and issue a formal notice of its intent to withdraw from the treaty.

Rather, each side has been laying the groundwork to blame the other for the treaty’s demise and, in that case, to advance new weapons systems.

At the direction of Congress, the Defense Department began early research and development activities on concepts and options for conventional, intermediate-range missile systems in late 2017. If the administration moves to withdraw from the treaty, it could ramp up funding to accelerate development.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated on Dec. 18 that if the United States “breaks the treaty,” Russia will be “forced to take additional measures to strengthen [its] security.” He further warned that Russia could easily conduct research to put air- and sea-launched cruise missile systems “on the ground, if need be.”

Since 2014, Washington has accused Moscow of violating its commitment not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) having a range prohibited under the INF Treaty. The Trump administration later identified the missile as the 9M729. In 2017 the Pentagon alleged that Russia began fielding the missile.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in November that Russia has “fielded multiple battalions of 9M729 missiles, which pose a direct conventional and nuclear threat against most of Europe and parts of Asia.”

Moscow has denied these charges and accused the United States of violating the treaty, most notably by deploying missile defense interceptor platforms in eastern Europe that Russia claims could be used for offensive purposes.

“If Russia admits its violations and fully and verifiably comes back into compliance, we will, of course, welcome that course of action,” Pompeo said at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Dec. 4. “But Russia, and Russia only, can take this step.”

The impasse is complicated by the fact that neither President Donald Trump, Pompeo, nor any other administration official has publicly acknowledged as legitimate Russia’s concerns about U.S. compliance or suggested that Washington would be willing to engage in talks that address the concerns of both sides.

Pompeo also cited China, which is not a party to the treaty, as a reason why the agreement no longer makes sense for the United States. This suggests the administration sees benefits to withdrawal from the treaty beyond its concerns about Russia’s noncompliance.

“There is no reason the United States should continue to cede this crucial military advantage to revisionist powers like China,” Pompeo declared, “in particular when these weapons are being used to threaten and coerce the United States and its allies in Asia.”

For its part, Russia continues to deny that the 9M729 violates the treaty while suggesting that it remains open to dialogue. But Russia does not appear to have tabled any specific proposals to address the U.S. and Russian concerns and rather has ramped up public statements blaming the United States.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said in a Dec. 19 interview with Kommersant that U.S. officials made it clear to Russia that Trump’s announcement in October that he intended to “terminate” the treaty was “final and is not ‘an invitation for dialogue.’”

Although Russia has open production lines for the 9M729, the United States is still in the early stages of development of a treaty-busting missile. The fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act required “a program of record to develop a conventional road-mobile [GLCM] system with a range of between 500 to 5,500 kilometers,” including research and development activities. (See ACT, December 2017.)

The law also required “a report on the cost and schedule for, and feasibility of, modifying United States missile systems in existence or planned as of such date of enactment for ground launch with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers as compared with the cost and schedule for, and feasibility of, developing a new ground-launched missile using new technology with the same range.” Such existing and planned systems include the Tomahawk cruise missile, the Standard Missile-3 anti-missile interceptor, the long-range standoff weapon, and the Army tactical missile system.

As of the end of 2018, the Pentagon had yet to submit this report.

The Defense Department requested and Congress approved $48 million in fiscal year 2019 for R&D on and concepts and options for conventional, ground-launched, intermediate-range missile systems in response to Russia’s alleged violation of the INF Treaty. (See ACT, November 2018.)

Prior to the conclusion of the INF Treaty in 1987, the United States deployed several hundred nuclear-armed, intermediate-range Pershing II ballistic missiles and GLCMs in Europe, the latter of which were an adaption of the Tomahawk. The Pentagon spent $2.6 billion, in fiscal year 1987 dollars, to develop and procure 247 Pershing II missiles and associated launchers and $3.5 billion to develop and procure 442 GLCMs through fiscal year 1987, according to a 1988 U.S. Government Accountability Office report.

Yet, the cost today to develop a new ballistic missile system would be higher given that several decades have passed since the development of the Pershing II. In addition, the range of the new missile would likely need to be much greater than the 1,800-kilometer range of the Pershing II to have any utility against China in the Pacific region.

Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress in March 2017 that “there are no military requirements we cannot currently satisfy due to our compliance with the INF Treaty.” But a U.S. withdrawal could lead to the establishment of a new military requirement and accelerated efforts to develop ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles.

Even if the United States were to develop the weapons, they would need to be deployed on the territory of allies neighboring Russia and China. So far, no country has said that it would be willing to host such missiles.

At an event in Washington on Dec. 14, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said that the Pentagon should rapidly develop new intermediate-range missiles despite uncertainty about where they could be fielded. “Basing questions can obviously be controversial, but that will be a decision to be made for the future,” he said.

The collapse of the INF Treaty also raises questions about how to prevent the buildup of intermediate-range missiles in Europe and Asia.

Russia approached the United States in 2007 and the two sides then jointly proposed in a UN General Assembly resolution to multilateralize the INF Treaty. The idea of multilateralizing the treaty has been around for more than a decade, but neither Moscow nor Washington have devoted serious effort into the concept, and China is highly unlikely to join an agreement that would require eliminating the bulk of its missile arsenal.

Other options that might be pursued include a pledge from the United States and Russia not to be the first to deploy intermediate-range missile systems anywhere in or within range of NATO members in Europe, limiting the number of intermediate-range missiles instead of banning them completely, and prohibiting nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

 

U.S. Counts Down to Quitting INF Treaty

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began a 60-day countdown to notification of U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia during a Dec. 4 press conference, drawing warnings from Russian officials and criticism from congressional Democrats.

Administration officials rolled out the U.S. case supporting President Donald Trump’s decision to “terminate” the 1987 treaty after five years of unresolved U.S. complaints that Russia’s 9M729 missile violates the INF Treaty’s range restrictions. Russian officials now acknowledge the missile exists, but deny that it has been tested at or is able to fly at treaty-prohibited ranges.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, at a Nov. 30 news briefing, said that Russia’s noncompliance stems from having first conducted legally allowable tests of the 9M729 from a fixed launcher at a range well beyond 500 kilometers followed by tests from a mobile launcher at a range of less than 500 kilometers. Taken together, however, the tests show Russia has developed and fielded an INF Treaty-noncompliant missile that could be launched from a ground-mobile platform.

Coats’ briefing provided the public foundation for Pompeo’s announcement on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels that the United States has found Russia in “material breach” of the treaty and will suspend treaty obligations after 60 days unless Russia returns to “full and verifiable compliance.”

Pompeo indicated that the administration would issue a formal notice of withdrawal at the end of the 60 days, which would begin a six-month withdrawal period under the treaty. The 60-day waiting period was largely attributed to the request of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Pompeo sought to respond to criticism that Trump’s decision was hasty, noting that the United States had raised the issue of Russian noncompliance “on at least 30 occasions” since 2013. Abiding by the INF Treaty constraints, which Russia is violating and which do not bind U.S. adversaries such as China, means the United States will “get cheated by other nations, expose Americans to greater risk, and squander our credibility,” he said.

Although the U.S. move worries European allies, Pompeo succeeded in having the NATO foreign ministers for the first time publicly back the U.S. conclusion that Russia is violating the INF Treaty. “It is now up to Russia to preserve the treaty,” they said in a Dec. 4 statement that did not include an endorsement of Pompeo’s ultimatum.

In response to U.S. and NATO statements, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that Moscow would respond “accordingly” to a U.S. withdrawal. Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the Russian military chief of staff, reportedly warned European officials that U.S. missile defense sites on allied territory could become “targets of subsequent military exchanges.”

Since then, Russian Foreign Ministry officials have raised the prospect of mutual inspections to address Russian allegations of U.S. noncompliance with respect to the Mk-41 U.S. missile defense launch system in Europe, which can also be used to fire cruise missiles.

Russian media reported there was no U.S. response after Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergey Shoigu, in several messages sent to the U.S. embassy in Moscow, suggested holding discussions with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Any prospective movement on such a high-level military-to-military dialogue is uncertain given Mattis’ protest resignation following Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and to reduce their numbers in Afghanistan.

At the United Nations, Russia sought General Assembly approval of a resolution calling on states-parties to renew their efforts to preserve and strengthen the INF Treaty through “full and strict compliance,” continue consultations on compliance with treaty obligations, and resume a “constructive dialogue on strategic issues premised on openness, mutual confidence and real opportunities.” The resolution failed on Dec. 21 by a vote of 43–46, with 78 abstaining.

Meanwhile, congressional reaction to Trump’s withdrawal plan was divided along partisan lines.

On the Republican side, Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) led a Nov. 29 letter to Trump signed by more than 40 House Republicans commending the decision to withdraw, and Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) led 24 other Republican senators in a Nov. 28 letter to Trump against extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) because of Russia’s INF Treaty noncompliance.

Among Democrats, 26 senators, led by Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) called on the president in a Dec. 13 letter to redouble diplomatic efforts to salvage the treaty. In a Dec. 3 letter, Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez (N.J.), Jack Reed (R.I.), and Mark Warner (Va.), the ranking members of the foreign relations, armed services, and intelligence committees, respectively, urged Trump to engage with Congress on the implications of withdrawal before taking steps to withdraw or suspend participation in the treaty.—SHERVIN TAHERAN

U.S. and Russia trade blame as they look to develop new weapons systems.

Smith, Inhofe Clash on Nukes


January/February 2019
By Kingston Reif

The incoming chairmen of the House and Senate armed services committees ended 2018 by trading blows on nuclear weapons policy, presaging what is poised to be a contentious fight between Democrats and Republicans on the issue during the 116th Congress.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) speaks to reporters about the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act on Capitol Hill July 11, 2018, as Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) looks on. In the new Congress, Inhofe is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Smith is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has long maintained that the United States has more nuclear weapons than it needs for its security and can reasonably afford. This has raised the ire of Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who has expressed strong support for the Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) report and its emphasis on augmenting the role of nuclear weapons and developing new nuclear capabilities. (See ACT, March 2018.)

At a November event in Washington hosted by Ploughshares Fund, Smith called for putting U.S. nuclear policy on a different path by reducing the size and cost of the arsenal, renegotiating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), adopting a no-first-use policy, and forswearing new, low-yield nuclear weapons.

President Donald Trump has declared his intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty in February if Russia does not return to compliance with the agreement and has yet to decide whether to extend New START by up to five years as allowed by the treaty.

In response to Smith’s comments, Inhofe told reporters that rebuilding the nuclear arsenal “is the most important area of” upgrading the military.

“I don’t know why Smith or anyone else would single out nuclear modernization as an area to cut,” Inhofe said. “That allows someone who’s not otherwise a formidable opponent to destroy the United States of America.”

Smith quickly fired back, lamenting “that Senator Inhofe seems to want to…publicly question my intelligence and publicly question my ability to adequately lead the committee.”

As a result of the midterm elections on Nov. 6, Democrats gained 40 seats and retook control of the House of Representatives. As chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Smith will have a platform to conduct aggressive oversight of the Trump administration’s nuclear policy and spending proposals, especially through the annual national defense authorization process.

The annual bill, which has been passed and enacted each year for 58 years in a row, establishes spending ceilings and legal guidelines for Defense Department programs and the activities conducted by the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

Smith has indicated that he plans to oppose continued funding to develop and field the two new, low-yield nuclear capabilities proposed by the NPR report. Those are a low-yield warhead option for submarine-launched ballistic missiles and a new sea-launched cruise missile.

In addition, Smith appears likely to question the rationale for developing new fleets of nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) and intercontinental ballistic missiles and expanding the NNSA’s capability to develop new nuclear warheads.

Such actions by Smith would set up a clash with the Republican-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee, which will strongly support the Trump plans under Inhofe.

Although Smith and Inhofe will have considerable say over the direction of U.S. nuclear policy, congressional appropriators wield the most power over funding decisions.

During the first two years of the Trump administration, not only has the Republican-controlled Congress backed the administration’s hefty budget requests for nuclear modernization, but in some cases it has increased funding above the requested levels. (See ACT, November 2018.)

Congress largely supported the Obama administration’s spending plans as well, but not without controversy. For example, the Democratic-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee sought to scale back NNSA plans for the B61 mod 12 life extension program (LEP) in 2013 and block funding for the W80-4 ALCM warhead LEP in 2014. Both efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. (See ACT, January/February 2015.)

While Smith and Inhofe were drawing their own personal battle lines, other lawmakers closed out 2018 by issuing additional partisan salvos in response to the Trump administration’s NPR and intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty.

In a Nov. 29 letter led by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), 25 Republican senators urged Trump to think twice before supporting an extension of New START due to Russia’s violation of several international agreements, the imbalance posed by Russia’s development and modernization of nuclear capabilities unlimited by arms control agreements, and the growth of China’s nuclear arsenal. The letter added “that continued funding of the U.S. strategic modernization program, including for low-yield warhead options, as proposed in your [NPR], is critical in the face of dangerous international security developments since the New START was ratified.”

Two weeks later, on Dec. 13, 26 Democratic senators called on the president to address Russia’s violations of the INF Treaty instead of unilaterally withdrawing from the agreement and for him to extend New START.

“A collapse of the INF Treaty and failure to renew New START would lead to the absence of verifiable limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces for the first time since the early 1970,” the letter said.

The Democratic senators added that the administration’s “proposed new types of nuclear weapons threaten the bipartisan consensus that investments in the U.S. nuclear weapons deterrent and supporting infrastructure must be accompanied by pursuit of continued arms control measures.”

 

 

 

Empowered House Democrats will challenge priorities favored by Senate Republicans.

U.S. Conducts Special Open Skies Flight


January/February 2019
By Kingston Reif

The United States and several allies on Dec. 6 conducted an “extraordinary flight” over eastern Ukraine under the Open Skies Treaty, the first and only treaty flight worldwide during 2018.

A U.S. Air Force OC-135B Open Skies aircraft parked on a ramp at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., September 14, 2018. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)The flight followed a Russian attack in late November on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea and as Ukraine said Russia has been increasing its forces near its border with Ukraine.

The U.S. Defense Department said U.S., Canadian, French, German, Romanian, UK, and Ukrainian observers were aboard the OC-135B aircraft during the observation flight, which was requested by Ukraine.

“The timing of this flight is intended to reaffirm U.S. commitment to Ukraine and other partner nations,” the Defense Department said in a Dec. 6 news release.

“Russia's unprovoked attack on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea near the Kerch Strait is a dangerous escalation in a pattern of increasingly provocative and threatening activity,” the statement added.

The treaty, which entered into force in 2002 and has 34 states-parties, aims to increase confidence in and transparency of military activities, particularly in Europe, by allowing unarmed aerial observation flights over the entire territory of its participants for information-gathering purposes. The parties have yearly quotas on overflights and must make the information they acquire available to all treaty parties.

For example, the treaty permits up to 42 overflights of Russia by states-parties, of which 16 can be flown by the United States.

A dispute between Georgia and Russia over the inclusion of Russian observers on treaty flights over Georgia prevented agreement on quotas for 2018, thereby freezing flights for all member states.

But the treaty includes a provision allowing for two states-parties “on a bilateral and voluntary basis to conduct observation flights over the territory of each other.” The last such extraordinary observation flight over Ukraine took place in 2014 as part of the U.S. response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Normal flights appear set to resume in 2019. States-parties at an Oct. 22 meeting of the Open Skies Consultative Commission, the treaty’s implementing body, agreed to active quotas for observation flights this year.

In recent years, disputes over implementation and concerns from some U.S. officials and lawmakers about the value of the treaty have threatened to derail the pact.

The agreement on quotas for 2019 followed a U.S. decision in September not to certify a new Russian aircraft outfitted with an upgraded digital electro-optical camera for flights under the treaty, a decision that was reversed several days later. (See ACT, October 2018.)

Washington for several years has raised numerous concerns about Russian compliance with the pact. The State Department’s annual compliance report released in April determined that Russia is violating the treaty by restricting observation flights over Kaliningrad, which is a sensitive Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania, to no more than 500 kilometers, and within a 10-kilometer corridor along Russia’s border with the Georgian border-conflict regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The United States said the 500-kilometer restriction is about half the distance needed to fully cover Kaliningrad and, in response, has placed restrictions on some of Russia’s treaty flights.

Andrea Thompson, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Sept. 18 that “recently Russia has resolved one violation of its obligations and has made overtures that suggest it could resolve another.” But she added that Russia had refused to address the violation related to Kaliningrad.

The Open Skies Treaty has also become a point of contention in Congress. (See ACT, July/August 2018.)

The fiscal year 2019 defense authorization act, signed into law by President Donald Trump on Aug. 13, waters down language in the original U.S. House of Representatives version of the bill that would have blocked the Air Force’s budget request to replace the aircraft that the United States uses to conduct Open Skies Treaty flights, including over Russia. Instead, the law conditions funding necessary to acquire an upgraded digital imaging system for treaty flights and implement certain decisions of the treaty’s implementing body.

Treaty dispute with Russia grounded routine transparency overflights last year.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Kingston Reif