Archive for the ‘Russian nukes’ category

Modernizing America’s Nuclear Capabilities Is a Must

July 27, 2017

Modernizing America’s Nuclear Capabilities Is a Must, Gatestone InstitutePeter Huessy, July 27, 2017

(Russia is not our only nuclear or nuclear-capable enemy. What about Iranian, Chinese and North Korean nukes and delivery systems, now and in the future? — DM)

In 1989, America had 1,000 nuclear missile silos, and a small number of additional bomber and submarine bases and submarines at sea, facing 13,500 Soviet warheads. Today, the U.S. has 450 such silos facing 1,750 Russian warheads. That is a switch from a ratio of 13 Russian warheads to every U.S. missile silo, to a ratio of 4 Russian warheads to every U.S. missile silo. Getting rid of Minuteman ICBMs would reverse that progress and make the ratio even worse, with 175 Russian warheads to every U.S. missile silo. How is that an improvement?

The U.S. “cannot afford to delay modernization initiatives” while the “American people and our allies are counting on congressional action to fund our nuclear enterprise modernization efforts.” — General Robin Rand, the commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command.

America’s ability to defend itself is at stake.

In April 2017, the Pentagon launched the U.S. Defense Department’s legislatively mandated quadrennial Nuclear Posture Review to determine American policy, strategy and capabilities. The process now underway involves testimony from experts arguing over how the estimated $27 billion spent annually (growing over the next decade by an additional $10 billion a year) on America’s nuclear arsenal should be allocated.

One claim, made by a number of experts, is that investing in the effort to upgrade America’s exiting nuclear arsenal — the land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) — would be destabilizing and wasteful. They are, it is claimed, highly vulnerable to enemy attack and therefore do not provide deterrence. Among the 40 House members who suggest killing the land-based missiles is the ranking Democratic member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The opposite position was expressed recently by General Robin Rand, the commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC). He persuasively argued that, far from being either destabilizing or unnecessary, “Our bomber and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) forces, and our nuclear command, control, and communications systems defend our national interests, assure our allies and partners, and deter potential adversaries.”

Addressing the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee on June 7, Rand said, “ICBMs are the sole weapon system capable of rapid global response and impose a time-proven and unpalatable cost to attack by peer, near-peer and aspiring nuclear nations.”

The discrepancy in viewpoints stems from the difference in perception about American nuclear power and deterrence. Those who disagree with Rand are stuck in Cold War thinking, which has become largely irrelevant in today’s world. To understand this better, a review of the history of the U.S.-Soviet arms race is necessary.

In January 1967, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson announced that the USSR had greatly expanded its powerful multiple-warhead land-based missiles, as well as having begun to build an anti-ballistic-missile defense system (ABM) around Moscow — which would enable it to launch a first strike against the U.S. without fear of an effective retaliation against Soviet leadership bunkers — and called for strategic arms limitations talks (SALT).

Johnson’s successor, Richard Nixon, continued with the process, formally launching the negotiations in November 1969 that led to the signing of the SALT I executive agreement in May 1972. When Gerald Ford became president, he agreed with Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev on a general framework for a second agreement — SALT II — marginally to limit the deployment capabilities of each side, but still allow major increases in warheads, especially powerful, multi-warhead land-based Soviet missiles.

Although SALT II was signed in June 1979 by Ford’s successor, President Jimmy Carter, it was never ratified by the Senate, members of which, on both sides of the aisle, argued that it would not “reverse trends in the military balance adverse to the United States.” A week after 19 senators expressed this warning in a letter to Carter, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and Carter withdrew the treaty from further consideration.

Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan — who had been vehemently opposed SALT II before his election — knew its upward limits would readily accommodate his proposed modernization efforts and thus agreed to abide by it in principle. But here, he switched gears while pursuing a markedly different military and diplomatic avenue, in the form of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Reagan proposed that the U.S. simultaneously modernize while seeking reductions, instead of merely allowing huge increases in warheads under the SALT process. This also challenged the Soviet idea of a nuclear freeze — especially in that the Soviets were well through their nuclear modernization and the United States had not even begun.

Early in the Reagan administration, the U.S. still continued seeking to make its land-based silo missiles better able to withstand a massive Soviet strike. Many plans were examined, but all were expensive and required the use of a great deal of land on which to move the missiles on trains, trucks or mobile launchers.

Ultimately, in 1983, Reagan reached a simple, but elegant, solution: a three-step program. First, deep reductions in nuclear weapons; second, putting the new, modern, large 10-warhead Peacekeeper land-based missiles in existing Minuteman silos, and third, simultaneously developing a much smaller mobile missile with only one warhead, to be built later. This was essentially accomplished during the three successive administrations after the end of the Cold War, but with one key change. Given that the number of Russian and American strategic warheads eventually were reduced by more than 90% under the START I, Moscow and New START Treaties, American silo-based missiles — all with only a single warhead — became fundamentally survivable, even deployed in silos where they remain today.

A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile in its silo in Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, circa 1980. (Image source: U.S. Department of Defense)

The situation is therefore now the opposite of what it was during the 1970s and 1980s. At the height of the Cold War, the U.S. — with 1,000 American missile silos — faced more than 13,000 Soviet (subsequently Russian) warheads, or a 13-to-1 ratio. Today, we face roughly 1,750 Russian warheads but have 450 silos, a 4-to-1 ratio. In other words, the strategic environment became more stable, not less, and eliminating the very nuclear triad responsible for this stability makes no sense.

Although the nuclear triad was conceptualized and developed during the Cold War, maintaining it is just as imperative today. ICBMs are as highly stabilizing now as they were highly destabilizing prior to the dramatic reduction in the number of warheads from 1981-2017.

Why is that?

In 1989, America had 1,000 nuclear missile silos, and a small number of additional bomber and submarine bases and submarines at sea, facing 13,500 Soviet warheads. Today, the U.S. has 450 such silos facing 1,750 Russian warheads. That is a switch from a ratio of 13 Russian warheads to every U.S. missile silo, to a ratio of 4 Russian warheads to every U.S. missile silo. Getting rid of Minuteman ICBMs would reverse that progress and make the ratio even worse, with 175 Russian warheads to every U.S. missile silo. How is that an improvement?

It is crucial, therefore, to continue to invest in modernizing the ICBMs. As for the suggestion — among some of the less extreme anti-ICBM analysts — that the current ICBM force be extended for a few more years and modernization be reassessed later — is not a viable option, according to General Rand. He says that the U.S. “cannot afford to delay modernization initiatives” while the “American people and our allies are counting on congressional action to fund our nuclear enterprise modernization efforts.”

Let us hope that those who do not grasp how necessary it is for the United States to go forward with the ground-based strategic deterrent have little influence over the Nuclear Posture Review that is currently underway. America’s ability to defend itself is at stake.

Dr. Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981, as well as Director of Strategic Deterrent Studies at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. He was also for 20 years, the senior defense consultant at the National Defense University Foundation.

Russian Media Outlets Slam Turkey: Discuss Option Of Nuclear Attack On It, Accuse President Erdogan Of Supporting ISIS

January 19, 2016

Russian Media Outlets Slam Turkey: Discuss Option Of Nuclear Attack On It, Accuse President Erdogan Of Supporting ISIS, MEMRI, January 19, 2016

The Russian-Turkish conflict is reflected not only in the military, political and economic tension between the two countries but also in the Russian media, which expresses extreme hostility towards Turkey and its president.

This is evident, for example, in articles in English published recently on the Russian websites NEO[1] and Pravda.[2] One of these articles cites “a leading military expert” as saying that, in the event of a war between the two countries, “Russia will have to use nuclear weapons immediately, because the existence of the nation will be at stake.” The others focus on Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, presenting him as an enabler and supporter of the Islamic State (ISIS) and calling him a “madman” and a “murderer.” One even suggests that Turkey was “a prime mover in the [November 13] Paris attack.”

The following are excerpts from the articles.

26473The Russian bear stamps out terror, but Erdogan prepares to stab it in the back (Sputniknews.com, November 24, 2015)

‘It Would Be A Mistake For Russia Not To Use Nuclear Weapons’ In A War With Turkey

A Pravda.ru article titled “‘Scenarios For Real War Between Russia And Turkey” states:

“The possibility of a full-fledged war between Russia and Turkey has been a talk of the day for conspiracy theorists, analysts, couch warriors and experts on international politics for several weeks already… Let’s assume that a real war sparks between Russia and Turkey (NATO) – what kind of war would it be? What results would it bring?

“Politonline.ru[3] discussed the topic with leading military experts that follow various approaches to international armed conflicts.

“A leading expert of the Center for Military and Political Studies,[4] Mikhail Alexandrov, is convinced that in case of a real war, Russia will have to use nuclear weapons immediately, because the existence of the nation will be at stake.

“‘It would be a mistake for Russia not to use nuclear weapons in this case,’ [he said]. ‘The West and Turkey will try to drag us into a war such as the Crimean war, where escalation will be slow, combat actions in the Caucasus will erupt, and the Russian group in Syria will be destroyed. The West will be helping Turkey – there will be military units and state-of-the-art aviation deployed there. It will be a war of the wearing-out strategy’, he said.

“‘From my point of view, should the war with Turkey start, it must be a determined, ambitious and quick war. Russia will have to strike a nuclear blow on main infrastructure and military targets in Turkey immediately’…

“‘During the first few hours of this war, Russia must destroy the entire military infrastructure of Turkey’, Mikhail Alexandrov said. ‘One does not even have to use ballistic missiles in this strike – Iskander-M with nuclear warheads would be enough. As soon as the military infrastructure is destroyed, the Russian troops will go and take the area of the straits’, he added.

“‘The West will not even have time to do anything. European countries will be so horrified that they will not even dare to intervene. The Americans will face a choice – either they begin a strategic nuclear war against Russia or not. As a result, Russia will take the area of the straits, and the rest will be left to Turkey’, said the expert.

“In turn, non-nuclear scenario of a hypothetical possibility, but deputy head of the Tauric information-analytical center at Russian Institute for Strategic Studies,[5] Sergey Ermakov, suggested a non-nuclear scenario.

“‘Hopefully, the real conflict will not happen. Using nuclear weapons is an extreme option. As for a  regional war, there are non-military tools in the region. There are many anti-Turkish players in the region. In the case of a military conflict, the Kurds will rip the region to pieces, so for Turkey, a war is a game not even with the zero, but with a negative sum’, he said.

“‘If Turkey provokes the conflict, NATO may not resort to the fifth article. Aggression is one thing, but a country asking for a conflict and pulling NATO into it is another thing. In such cases, NATO tries not to get involved’, Sergei Ermakov said.

“‘No one wants to get involved in a direct military conflict with Russia. This conflict is fraught with a nuclear war and a global tragedy’, he added.”[6]

‘The Leader Of The Turkish Nation Is Not Just An Islamist, He’s A Supporter Of International Terrorism”

An article on NEO titled “What Fate Awaits Turkey?” states:

“It is now clear that Tayyip Erdogan’s political career is heading to a closure, slowly but surely. He had a chance of saving it if he had the courage to immediately offer his apologies to Moscow after the downing of the Russian Su-24 bomber over Syria, that was in fact heading away from Turkey, not toward it.

“Instead, he got tangled in a web of ridiculous lies and explanations, all while being rude to Russia. On top of it all, he framed Washington, by trying to excuse the actions of the Turkish Air Force with alleged orders he personally received from Barack Obama at the G20 summit held in Antalya.

“But even with his back against the wall, Turkey’s President proved to be stubbornly shortsighted, which forced Russia to go even further by uncovering the role Turkey and Erdogan’s family played in the smuggling of stolen Syrian oil, which is a direct violation of the UN Security Council Resolution that was adopted on February 12, 2015. This means that the Turkish state is directly responsible for the sponsorship of international terrorism, which, according to the UN, should be punished in a particularly harsh manner.

“But what’s even more grave – the president has publicly disgraced himself before the country. His had already been steadily losing his position, but once he dropped his mask, his ratings started falling abruptly. It turns out that the leader of the Turkish nation is not just an Islamist, he’s a supporter of international terrorism.

“Now we are presented with a situation in which the AKP leader and the sitting Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who are largely secured by the victory for the ruling party, has obtained as much influence as the president. And after the downing of Russia’s bomber he strengthened his positions even more, even though he decided not to distance himself publicly from the president. It’s safe to assume that he’s just quietly waiting for a perfect opportunity to strike a mortal blow. He’s nothing short of a dangerous contender that is prepared to replace Erdogan at any given moment.

“But the deposing of Erdogan is a relatively positive scenario. Those who remember Turkish history should know that Erdogan is hated by the military command of the Turkish Armed Forces, which has traditionally played a crucial role in the maintaining of country’s stability… The army is not getting any revenues from the illegal oil smuggling, so, should the ties between ISIL and Ankara be maintained, the military command, while enjoying the support of NATO allies, can launch a coup d’etat and return to the power they had three decades ago. But this scenario won’t satisfy local Kurds and other ethnic and religious minorities, who have experienced the cruelty of the army in the suppression of their rights first hand.

“Turkey is going to be plunged into political chaos, when the ruling AKP will find itself opposed by both the army and the legal opposition, along with 22 million Kurds led by the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). In this case, the civil conflict could result in the collapse of the Turkish state with the Kurdish areas (the entire South-East Anatolia) breaking away, seeking ways to create an independent Kurdistan that will absorb certain areas in Syria in Iraq, changing the whole balance of power in the Middle East.

“Whatever happens, one thing is clear: Tayyip Erdogan will be forced to answer for his stubbornness, inability to respect others, dictatorship, corruption, and connections with ISIL. And above all, he must answer to the people of Turkey. And also to Russia for the cowardly attacks that claimed the lives of two Russian soldiers who fought valiantly against terrorism.”[7]

‘Turkey May Well Have Been A ‘Prime Actor’ In The Paris Attack’

Another NOE article, titled “Mad King Erdogan’s Oil Lies,” stated: “Erdogan is claiming he stole no oil. He has threatened to resign if he receives proof. There is little doubt that Erdogan is insane, those who have been watching his dance of death with ISIS have known this all along.

“However, while Erdogan talks only of oil, there are other issues to note as well. First of all, let’s talk about arms shipments that cross Turkey and move into Syria and Iraq. By Erdogan’s claim of total innocence, we must assume that ISIS, al Qaeda and the other openly terrorist groups that make up 95% of those fighting against Iraq and Syria are operating without any outside supplies.

“Where Erdogan’s wild claims fail is simple as looking at a map. When Russia publishes surveillance photos of not just hundreds but thousands of oil trucks, how can there be denial? The roads that these trucks use only go to Turkey.

“They don’t go anyplace else, there is no place else. There is absolutely no vehicle traffic between the Turkish occupied areas of Iraq and Syria, and we might as well call them that, and the areas under control of the legitimate governments in Baghdad and Damascus.

“What is support of terrorism if it isn’t trading oil for arms or, moreover, trading oil and the other loot of Iraq and Syria, for the cooperation of Turkish politicians and, just perhaps, their European and American friends as well.

“Yet no one considers that Turkey may well have been a ‘prime actor’ in the Paris attack. Would Erdogan have downed a Russian plane if it weren’t for the Paris attack? What about the Russian airliner downed over Syria? When you add MH17 and examine what is now known, that Ukraine and Turkey have been working closely together all along, with ISIS troops joining Kiev forces against NovoRussians, do we see a pattern?”[8]

‘Turkey’s “Leader” Should Be Charged With Murder’

A Pravda.ru article titled “Turkey: Treacherous Turncoat,” stated:

“Turkey’s ‘leader’ should be charged with murder. The sanctimonious West is in denial. NATO, partly complicit if not the instigator, vows to defend the murderer. Washington, which knows every detail, feigns ignorance. Why is there no Western condemnation in absence of Turkey’s compunction?

“Turkey, though paying lip service to Obama’s ‘coalition of the coerced’ to at long last fight ISIS in Syria with military force, is loath to do so. More important Turkey has its political/economic motives to do just the opposite: not lift a finger (against ISIS). That is because, as President Putin already disclosed to Russia’s Western ‘partners’ at the G20 Summit, Turkey is in reality a turncoat. Russian military intelligence provided the evidence: Turkey, including its President, are really aiding and abetting the ISIS terrorists. Detailed satellite images show that Turkey provided the egress for the stolen oil that ISIS has been trucking in and through Turkey.

“From there the contraband, once brokered by the Turks, is sold elsewhere. The ‘buyers’ list includes Israel, the European Union and as some have suggested, even America. The scale and the scope of the covert theft equates to over 50 million barrels. Moreover, Turkey has profited from this nefarious heist for almost four years. Russia has more proof. The laundered money trail flows straight to the Turkish President’s palace. Using a labyrinth of the Erdogan’s financial network including his own son, the ill-gotten gains are then spirited outside the country.

“While the Kurds fight ISIS, Erdogan courts the terrorists by providing them military cover. Russia, now wiser as to Erdogan’s true colors, should endeavor to be ever more vigilant in its Syria campaign as to joining the West’s coalition of ‘partners’.

“That same portent applies to the newest ‘partners’: Hollande and Cameron. The two turkeys are even bigger U.S. vassals. Neither one is trustworthy. Syria’s war is about oil; both Putin and Assad know that well.”[9]

 

Endnotes:

 

[1] NEO (New Eastern Outlook) is the journal of the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute of Oriental Studies, a leading research institution dealing with Asian and African countries and cultures. NEO presents itself as follows: “We cover political and religious issues, economic and ideological trends, regional security topics and social problems. We are committed to develop NEO into a notable international networking platform offering unbiased expert opinions and open dialogue among all thinking people worldwide regardless of their nationality, race or religion… We are focused on creating a new culture of partnership where opinions influence decisions.” (Journal-neo.org, “About” section, accessed January 12, 2016).

[2] Pravda.ru is a pro-government news and opinion website. According to its former Director General, Vadim Gorshenin, it is the successor of Pravda, the official mouthpiece of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party. It was founded by prominent members of Pravda’s editorial staff who left it in 1999, and today it is privately owned by Pravda.ru Holding, of which Gorshenin is the head.  Its current Director General, Inna Novikova, is Gorshenin’s wife.

The Pravda website publishes in four languages: Russian, English, Italian, Portuguese, and has more than 200,000 visitors daily. According Gorshenin, the English version is the second most popular English-language Russian website, after Russia Today (Pravda.ru, September 16, 2013).

[3] Politonline.ru is a political website, part of the Pravda media network.

[4] The Center for Military-Political Studies is a division of the Russian foreign ministry’s Moscow State Institute of International Relations. The center studies trends and affairs in the domains of defense policy, weaponry, military industry, military cooperation and state security (Eurasian-defence.ru).

[5] The Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS) is a research center established by the President of the Russian Federation. Its main task is to inform various Russian state institutions on the political, economic and socio-political situation in the Black Sea countries and  Mediterranean region (En.riss.ru).

[6] Pravdareport.com, December 8, 2015. The Russian version of the article was published on Politonline.ru on November 27, 2015.

[7] Journal-neo.org, December 7, 2015. The author, Peter Lvov, is described by NEO as a Ph.D in political science.

[8] Journal-neo.org, December 7, 2015. The author, Gordon Duff, is described by NEO as a U.S. Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War and a senior editor and board chairman of the Veterans Today website.

[9] Pravdareport.com, December 16, 2016. The author’s name is given as “Montresor.”

Op-Ed: Chaos and 2nd Cold War, Part II: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy

October 11, 2015

Op-Ed: Chaos and 2nd Cold War, Part II: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy, Israel National News, Prof. Louis René Beres, October 11, 2015

(Part I is available here. — DM)

Israel should now be calculating the exact extent or subtlety with which it should consider communicating key portions of its nuclear posture and positions. Naturally, Israel should never reveal any too-specific information about its nuclear strategy, its nuclear hardening, or even its nuclear yield-related capabilities. Still, sometimes, the duty of finely-honed intelligence services should not be to maximize strategic secrecy, but rather, to carefully “share” certain bits of pertinent information.

**********************************

How will Russia respond to any ramped up American uses of force in the Middle East, and, more plausibly, vice-versa?  One must assume that Jerusalem is already asking these key questions, and even wondering whether, in part, greater mutualities of interest could sometime exist with Moscow than with Washington.

To wit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in September 2015. Among other things, the Israeli leader must  be calculating: 1)Will the Obama Administration’s incoherent retreat from most of the Middle East point toward a more permanent United States detachment from the region; and 2) If it does, what other major powers are apt to fill the resultant vacuum? Just as importantly, and as an obvious corollary to (2), above, the prime minister should be inquiring: “How will the still-emerging Cold War II axis of conflict impact America’s pertinent foreign policy decisions?”

There are some additional ironies yet to be noted. Almost certainly, ISIS, unless it is first crushed by U.S. and/or Russian-assisted counter-measures, will plan to march westward across Jordan, ultimately winding up at the borders of West Bank (Judea/Samaria). There, ISIS Jihadists could likely make fast work of any still-posted Hamas and Fatah forces, in effect, taking over what might once have become “Palestine.” In this now fully imaginable scenario, the most serious impediment to Palestinian statehood is not Israel, but rather a murderous band of Sunni Arab terrorists.[16]

What about the larger picture of “Cold War II?” Israeli defense planners will need to factor into their suitably nuanced calculations the dramatically changing relationship between Washington and Moscow. During “Cold War I,” much of America’s support for the Jewish State had its most fundamental origins in a perceived need to compete successfully in the Middle East with the then Soviet Union. In the progressive development of “Cold War II,” Jerusalem will need to carefully re-calculate whether a similar “bipolar” dynamic is once again underway, and whether the Russian Federation might, this time around, identify certain strategic benefits to favoring Israel in regional geo-politics.

In all such strategic matters, once Israel had systematically sorted through the probable impact of emerging “superpower” involvements in the Middle East, Jerusalem would need to reassess its historic “bomb in the basement.” Conventional wisdom, of course, has routinely pointed in a fundamentally different policy direction. Still, this “wisdom” assumes that credible nuclear deterrence is simply an automatic result of  physically holding nuclear weapons. By the logic of this too-simplistic argument, removing Israel’s nuclear bomb from the “basement” would only elicit new waves of global condemnation, and would likely do so without returning any commensurate security benefits to Jerusalem.

Scholars know, for good reason, that the conventional wisdom is often unwise. Looking ahead, the strategic issues facing Israel are not at all uncomplicated or straightforward.  Moreover, in the immutably arcane world of Israeli nuclear deterrence, it can never really be adequate that enemy states merely acknowledge the Jewish State’s nuclear status. Rather, it is also important that these states should be able to believe that Israel holds usable nuclear weapons, and that Jerusalem/Tel-Aviv would be willing to employ these usable weapons in certain clear, and situationally recognizable, circumstances.

Current instabilities in the Middle East will underscore several good reasons to doubt that Israel could ever benefit from any stubborn continuance of deliberate nuclear ambiguity. It would seem, too, from certain apparent developments already taking place within Mr. Netanyahu’s “inner cabinet,” that portions of Israel’s delegated leadership must now more fully understand the bases of any such informed skepticism.

In essence, Israel is imperiled by compounding and inter-related existential threats that justify its fundamental nuclear posture, and that require a correspondingly purposeful strategic doctrine. This basic need exists well beyond any reasonable doubt. Without such weapons and doctrine, Israel could not expectedly survive over time, especially if certain neighboring regimes, amid expanding chaos,  should soon become more adversarial, more Jihadist, and/or less risk-averse.

Incontestably, a purposeful nuclear doctrine could prove increasingly vital to coping with various more-or-less predictable strategic scenarios for Israel, that is, those believable narratives requiring preemptive action, and/or an appropriate retaliation.

Typically, military doctrine carefully describes how national forces should fight in various combat operations. The literal definition of “doctrine” derives from Middle English, from the Latin doctrina, meaning teaching, learning, andinstruction. Though generally unrecognized, the full importance of doctrine lies not only in the several ways that it can animate and unify military forces, but also in the uniquely particular fashion that it can transmit certain desired “messages.”

In other words, doctrine can serve an increasingly imperiled  state as a critical form of communication, one directed to its friends, and also to its foes.

Israel can benefit from just such broadened understandings of doctrine. The principal security risks now facing Israel are really more specific than general or generic. This is because Israel’s extant adversaries in the region will likely be joined, at some point, by: (1) a new Arab state of “Palestine;” and/or by (2) a newly-nuclear Iran. It is also because of the evidently rekindled global spark of “bipolar” or “superpower” adversity, and the somewhat corollary insertion of additional American military forces to combat certain new configurations of Jihadi terror.

For Israel, merely having nuclear weapons, even when fully recognized in broad outline by enemy states, can never automatically ensure successful deterrence. In this connection, although starkly counter-intuitive, an appropriately selective and thoughtful end to deliberate ambiguity could improve the overall credibility of Israel’s nuclear deterrent.  With this point in mind, the potential of assorted enemy attack prospects in the future could be reduced by making available certain selected information concerning the safety of  Israel’s nuclear weapon response capabilities.

This crucial information, carefully limited, yet more helpfully explicit, would center on the distinctly major and inter-penetrating issues of Israeli nuclear capability and decisional willingness.

Skeptics, no doubt, will disagree. It is, after all, seemingly sensible to assert that nuclear ambiguity has “worked” thus farWhile Israel’s current nuclear policy has done little to deter multiple conventional terrorist attacks, it has succeeded in keeping the country’s enemies, singly or in collaboration, from mounting any authentically existential aggressions. This conclusion is not readily subject to any reasonable disagreement.

But, as the nineteenth-century Prussian strategic theorist, Karl von Clausewitz, observed, in his classic essay, On War, there may come a military tipping point when “mass counts.” Israel is already coming very close to this foreseeable point of no return. Israel is very small.  Its enemies have always had an  undeniable advantage in “mass.”

More than any other imperiled state on earth, Israel needs to steer clear of such a tipping point.

This, too, is not subject to any reasonable disagreement.

Excluding non-Arab Pakistan, which is itself increasingly coup-vulnerable, none of Israel’s extant Jihadi foes has “The Bomb.”  However, acting together, and in a determined collaboration, they could still carry out potentially lethal assaults upon the Jewish State. Until now, this capability had not been possible, largely because of insistent and  persistently overriding fragmentations within the Islamic world. Looking ahead, however, these same fragmentations could sometime become a source of special danger to Israel, rather than remain a continuing source of  national safety and reassurance.

An integral part of Israel’s multi-layered security system lies in the country’s ballistic missile defenses, primarily, the Arrow or “Hetz.” Yet, even the well-regarded and successfully-tested Arrow, now augmented by the newer and shorter-range iterations of “Iron Dome,” could never achieve a sufficiently high probability of intercept to meaningfully protect Israeli civilians.[17] No system of missile defense can ever be “leak proof,” and even a single incoming nuclear missile that somehow managed to penetrate Arrow or corollary defenses could conceivably kill tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of Israelis.[18]

In principle, at least, this fearsome reality could be rendered less prospectively catastrophic if Israel’s traditional reliance on deliberate ambiguity were suitably altered.

Why alter? The current Israeli policy of an undeclared nuclear capacity is unlikely to work indefinitely. Leaving aside a Jihadi takeover of already-nuclear Pakistan, the most obviously unacceptable “leakage” threat would come from a nuclear Iran. To be effectively deterred, a newly-nuclear Iran would require convincing assurance that Israel’s atomic weapons were both (1) invulnerable, and (2) penetration-capable.

Any Iranian judgments about Israel’s capability and willingness to retaliate with nuclear weapons would then depend largely upon some prior Iranian knowledge of these weapons, including their expected degree of protection from surprise attack, as well as Israel’s expected capacity to “punch-through” all pertinent Iranian active and passive defenses.

Jurisprudentially, at least, following JCPOA in Vienna, a  nuclear weapons-capable Iran is a fait accompli. For whatever reasons, neither the “international community” in general, nor Israel in particular, had ever managed to create sufficient credibility concerning a once-timely preemptive action. Such a critical defensive action would have required very complex operational capabilities, and could have generated Iranian/Hezbollah counter actions that might have a  very significant impact on the entire Middle East. Nevertheless, from a purely legal standpoint, such preemptive postures could still have been justified, under the authoritative criteria of anticipatory self-defense, as permitted under customary international law.

It is likely that Israel has undertaken some very impressive and original steps in cyber-defense and cyber-war, but even the most remarkable efforts in this direction will not be enough to stop Iran altogether. Earlier, the “sanctions” sequentially leveled at Tehran – although certainly better than nothing – could have had no tangible impact on effectively halting Iranian nuclearization.

Strategic assessments can sometimes borrow from a Buddhist mantra. What is, is. Ultimately, a nuclear Iran could decide to share some of its nuclear components and materials with Hezbollah, or with another kindred terrorist group. Ultimately, amid growing regional chaos, such injurious assets could find their way to such specifically U.S- targeted groups as ISIS.

Where relevant, Israeli nuclear ambiguity could be loosened by releasing certain very general information regarding the availability and survivability of appropriately destructive  nuclear weapons.

Israel should now be calculating the exact extent or subtlety with which it should consider communicating key portions of its nuclear posture and positions. Naturally, Israel should never reveal any too-specific information about its nuclear strategy, its nuclear hardening, or even its nuclear yield-related capabilities. Still, sometimes, the duty of finely-honed intelligence services should not be to maximize strategic secrecy, but rather, to carefully “share” certain bits of pertinent information.

What about irrational enemies? An Israeli move from ambiguity to disclosure would not likely help in the case of an irrational nuclear enemy. It is even possible, in this regard, that particular elements of Iranian leadership might meaningfully subscribe to certain end-times visions of a Shiite apocalypse. By definition, any such enemy would not necessarily value its own continued national survival more highly than any other national preference, or combination of preferences. By definition, any such enemy would present a genuinely unprecedented strategic challenge.

Were its leaders to become authentically irrational, or to turn in expressly non-rational directions, Iran could then effectively become a nuclear suicide-bomber in macrocosm.  Such a profoundly destabilizing strategic prospect is improbable, but it is also not inconceivable. A similarly serious prospect exists in already-nuclear Pakistan.

To protect itself against military strikes from irrational enemies, especially those attacks that could carry existential costs, Israel will need to reconsider virtually every aspect and function of its nuclear arsenal and doctrine. This is a strategic reconsideration that must be based upon a number of bewilderingly complex intellectual calculations, and not merely on ad hoc, and more-or-less presumptively expedient political judgments.

Removing the bomb from Israel’s basement could enhance Israel’s strategic deterrence to the extent that it would heighten enemy perceptions of the severe and likely risks involved. This would also bring to mind the so-called Samson Option, which, if suitably acknowledged, could allow various enemy decision-makers to note and underscore a core assumption. This is that Israel is prepared to do whatever is needed to survive. Interestingly, such preparation could be entirely permissible under governing international law, including the 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice.[19]

Irrespective of  its preferred level of ambiguity, Israel’s nuclear strategy must always remain oriented toward deterrence, not to actual war-fighting.[20] The Samson Option refers to a policy that would be based in part upon a more-or-less implicit threat of massive nuclear retaliation for certain anticipated enemy aggressions.  Israel’s small size means, inter alia, that any nuclear attack would threaten Israel’s very existence, and could not be tolerated. Israel’s small size also suggests a compelling need for sea-basing (submarines) at least a recognizably critical portion of its core nuclear assets,

From a credibility standpoint, a Samson Option could make sense only in “last-resort,” or “near last-resort,” circumstances. If the Samson Option is to be part of a convincing deterrent, as it should, an incremental end to Israel’s deliberate ambiguity is essential. The really tough part of this transformational process will lie in determining the proper timing for such action vis-a-vis Israel’s security requirements, and in calculating authoritative expectations (reasonable or unreasonable) of the “international community.”

The Samson Option should never be confused with Israel’s overriding security objective: To seek stable deterrence at the lowest possible levels of military conflict. As a last resort, it basically states the following warning to all potential nuclear attackers:  “We (Israel) may have to `die,` but (this time) we won’t die alone.”

There is a related observation. In our often counter-intuitive strategic world, it can sometimes be rational to pretend irrationality. The nuclear deterrence benefits of any such pretended irrationality would depend, at least in part, upon an enemy state’s awareness of Israel’s intention to apply counter-value targeting when responding to a nuclear attack. But, once again, Israeli decision-makers would need to be aptly wary of ever releasing too-great a level of specific operational information.

In the end, there are specific and valuable critical security benefits that would likely accrue to Israel as the result of a purposefully selective and incremental end to its historic policy of deliberate nuclear ambiguity.   The right time to begin such an “end”  has not yet arrived. But, at the precise moment that Iran verifiably crosses the nuclear threshold, or arguably just before this portentous moment, Israel should  promptly remove The Bomb from its “basement.”

When this critical moment arrives, Israel should already have configured (1) its presumptively optimal allocation of nuclear assets; and (2) the extent to which this preferred configuration should now be disclosed. Such strategic preparation could then enhance the credibility of Israel’s indispensable nuclear deterrence posture.

When it is time for Israel to selectively ease its nuclear ambiguity, a second-strike nuclear force should be revealed in broad outline. This robust strategic force – hardened, multiplied, and dispersed – would need to be fashioned so as to recognizably inflict a decisive retaliatory blow against major enemy cities. Iran, it follows, so long as it is led by rational decision-makers, should be made to understand that the actual costs of  any planned aggressions against Israel would always exceed any expected gains.

In the final analysis, whether or not a shift from deliberate ambiguity to some selected level of nuclear disclosure would actually succeed in enhancing Israeli nuclear deterrence would depend upon several complex and intersecting factors. These include, inter alia, the specific types of nuclear weapons involved; reciprocal assessments and calculations of pertinent enemy leaders; effects on rational decision-making processes by these enemy leaders; and effects on both Israeli and adversarial command/control/communications operations. If  bringing Israel’s bomb out of the “basement” were to result in certain new enemy pre-delegations of nuclear launch authority, and/or in new and simultaneously less stable launch-on-warning procedures, the likelihood of unauthorized and/or accidental nuclear war could then be substantially increased.

Not all adversaries may be entirely rational. To comprehensively protect itself against potentially irrational nuclear adversaries, Israel has no logical alternative to developing an always problematic conventional preemption option, and to fashion this together with a suitable plan for subsequent “escalation dominance.” Operationally, especially at this very late date, there could be no reasonable assurances of success against many multiple hardened and dispersed targets. Regarding deterrence, however, it is noteworthy that “irrational” is not the same as “crazy,” or “mad,” and that even an expectedly irrational Iranian leadership could still maintain susceptible preference orderings that are both consistent and transitive.

Even an irrational Iranian leadership could be subject to threats of deterrence that credibly threaten certain deeply held religious as well as civic values. The relevant difficulty here for Israel is to ascertain the precise nature of these core enemy values. Should it be determined that an Iranian leadership were genuinely “crazy” or “mad,” that is, without any decipherable or predictable ordering of preferences, all deterrence bets could then have to give way to preemption, and possibly even to certain plainly unwanted forms of war fighting.

Such determinations, of course, are broadly strategic, not narrowly jurisprudential. From the discrete standpoint of international law, especially in view of Iran’s expressly genocidal threats against Israel, a preemption option could still represent a permissible expression of anticipatory self-defense. Again, however, this purely legal judgment would be entirely separate from any parallel or coincident assessments of operational success. There would be no point for Israel to champion any strategy of preemption on solely legal grounds if that same strategy were not also expected to succeed in specifically military terms.

Growing chaotic instability in the Middle East plainly heightens the potential for expansive and unpredictable conflicts.[21] While lacking any obviously direct connection to Middle East chaos, Israel’s nuclear strategy must now be purposefully adapted to this perilous potential. Moreover, in making this adaptation, Jerusalem could also have to pay special attention not only to the aforementioned revival of  major “bipolar” animosities, but also, more specifically and particularly, to Russia’s own now-expanding nuclear forces.

This cautionary warning arises not because augmented and modernized Russian nuclear forces would necessarily pose any enlarged military threat to Israel directly, but rather because these strategic forces could determine much of the way in which “Cold-War II” actually evolves and takes shape. Vladimir Putin has already warned Washington of assorted “nuclear countermeasures,” and recently test launched an intercontinental nuclear missile.[22] One such exercise involved a new submarine-launched Bulava missile, a weapon that could deliver a nuclear strike with up to 100 times the force of the 1945 Hiroshima blast.

Current adversarial Russian nuclear posturing vis-à-vis the United States remains oriented toward the Ukraine, not the Middle East.[23] Nevertheless, whatever happens to U.S.-Russian relations in any one part of the world could carry over to certain other parts, either incrementally, or as distinctly sudden interventions or escalations. For Jerusalem, this means, among other things, an unceasing obligation to fashion its own developing nuclear strategy and posture with an informed view to fully worldwide power problems and configurations.

Whether looking toward Gaza, West Bank (Judea/Samaria), Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, or Syria, Israel will need to systematically prioritize existential threats, and, thereafter, stay carefully focused on critically intersecting and overriding factors of global and regional security. In all such meticulously careful considerations, both chaos and Cold War II should be entitled to occupy a conspicuous pride of place.

Sources:

[16] A further irony here concerns Palestinian “demilitarization,” a pre-independence condition of statehood called for by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Should Palestinian forces (PA plus Hamas) ever actually choose to abide by any such formal legal expectation, it could makes these forces less capable of withstanding any foreseeable ISIS attacks. Realistically, however, any such antecedent compliance would be highly improbable. See, for earlier legal assessments of Palestinian demilitarization, Louis René Beres and (Ambassador) Zalman Shoval, “Why a Demilitarized Palestinian State Would Not Remain Demilitarized: A View Under International Law,” Temple International and Comparative Law Journal, Winter 1998, pp. 347-363; and Louis René Beres and Zalman Shoval, “On Demilitarizing a Palestinian `Entity’ and the Golan Heights: An International Law Perspective,” Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 28, No. 5, November 1995, pp. 959-972.

[17] There is another notable and more generic (pre-nuclear age) risk of placing too-great a reliance on defense. This is the risk that a corollary of any such reliance will be a prospectively lethal tendency to avoid taking otherwise advantageous offensive actions. Recall, in this connection, Carol von Clausewitz On War:  “Defensive warfare…does not consist of waiting idly for things to happen. We must wait only if it brings us visible and decisive advantages. That calm before the storm, when the aggressor is gathering new forces for a great blow, is most dangerous for the defender.” See: Carl von Clausewitz, Principles of War, Hans W. Gatzke, tr., New York: Dover Publications, 2003, p. 54.

[18] For early authoritative accounts, by the author, of expected consequences of a nuclear attack, see: Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986).

[19] See: “Summary of the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons,” Advisory Opinion, 1996, I.C.J., 226 (Opinion of 8 July 1996). The key conclusion of this Opinion is as follows: “…in view of the current state of international law, and of the elements of fact at its disposal, the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.”

[20] This advice was a central recommendation of the Project Daniel Group’s final report,  Israel’s Strategic Future (ACPR, Israel, May 2004: “The overriding priority of Israel’s nuclear deterrent force must always be that it preserves the country’s security without ever having to be fired against any target. The primary point of Israel’s nuclear forces must always be deterrence ex ante, not revenge ex post.” (p. 11). Conceptually, the core argument of optimizing military force by not resorting to any actual use pre-dates the nuclear age. To wit, Sun-Tzu, in his ancient classic, The Art of War, counseled: “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

[21] Once again, Prussian military thinker, Carl von Clausewitz, had already highlighted the generic (pre-nuclear age) dangers of unpredictability, summarizing these core hazards as matters of “friction.”

[22] ICBM test launches are legal and permissible under the terms of New START, It does appear, however,  that Russia has already developed and tested a nuclear-capable cruise missile with a range of 500-5500 KM, which would be in express violation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). At the same time, current research into the U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike Program seeks to circle around INF Treaty limitations, by employing a delivery vehicle trajectory that is technically neither ballistic nor cruise.

[23] Russia, of course, is operating much more openly and substantially in Syria, but here, in the Middle East theatre, at least, Moscow’s public tone toward Washington is somewhat less confrontational or adversarial.

 

Op-Ed: Chaos and 2nd Cold War, Part I: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy

October 11, 2015

Op-Ed: Chaos and 2nd Cold War, Part I: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy, Israel National News,Prof. Louis René Beres, October 9, 2015

To fashion a functional nuclear strategy would be difficult for any state in world politics, but it could be especially challenging for one that keeps its bomb more-or-less securely “in the basement.” Now, as the Middle East descends into an ever more palpable chaos,[1] Israel will have to make certain far-reaching decisions on this very complex task.

Among other nuanced and widely intersecting concerns, Jerusalem’s decisions will need to account for a steadily hardening polarity between Russia and the United States.

Here, almost by definition, there will be no readily available guidebook to help lead the way. For the most part, Israel will need to be directed by an unprecedented fusion of historical and intellectual considerations. In the end, any resultant nuclear strategy will have to represent the prospective triumph of mind over mind, not merely of mind over matter.[2]

Conceivably, at least for the Jewish State that is smaller than America’s Lake Michigan, an emergent “Cold War II” could prove to be as determinative in shaping its national nuclear posture as coinciding regional disintegration. Still, a new Cold War need not necessarily prove disastrous or disadvantageous for Israel. It is also possible, perhaps even plausible, that Jerusalem could sometime discern an even greater commonality of strategic interest with Moscow, than with Washington.

To be sure, any such stark shift of allegiance in Israeli geo-political loyalties ought not to be intentionally sought, or in any way cultivated for its own sake. Moreover, on its face, it would currently be hard to imagine in Jerusalem that a superpower mentor of both Syria and Iran could somehow also find strategic common ground with Israel. Yet, in these relentlessly tumultuous times, any normally counter-intuitive judgments could, at least on rare occasions, prove surprisingly correct.

Credo quia absurdum. “I believe because it is absurd.” In these tumultuous times, certain once preposterous counter-intuitive judgments should no longer be dismissed out of hand. Moreover, in seeking to best understand the Israel-relevant dynamics of any renewed Washington-Moscow bipolar axis of conflict, Jerusalem will need to consider the prospects for a conceivably “looser” form of enmity.

In other words, looking ahead, it would seem realistic that a now “restored” superpower axis might nonetheless reveal greater opportunities for cooperation between the dominant “players.” Understood in the traditional language of international relations theory, this points toward a relationship that could become substantially less “zero-sum.”[3]

By definition, regarding zero-sum relationships in world politics, any one state’s gain is necessarily another state’s loss. But in Cold War II, it is reasonable to expect that the still-emerging axis of conflict will be “softer.” Here, for both major players, choosing a cooperative strategy could sometimes turn out to be judged optimal.[4]

Recognizing this core difference in superpower incentives from the original Cold War, and to accomplish such recognition in a timely fashion,  could prove vitally important for Israel. In essence, it could become a key factor in figuring out what should or should not be done by Jerusalem about any expected further increments of regional nuclear proliferation, and about Iran.

Iranian nuclearization remains the single most potentially daunting peril for Jerusalem. In this regard, virtually nothing has changed because of the recent Iran Nuclear Agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Vienna, 14 July, 2015).[5] To the contrary, in a situation fraught with considerable irony, Iran’s overall strategic latitude will actually have been expanded and improved by the terms of this concessionary pact.[6] Most plainly, these Iranian enhancements are the permissible result of a now no-holds-barred opportunity for transfer of multiple high-technology weapons systems, from Moscow to Tehran.

For the foreseeable future, the nuclear threat from Iran will continue to dwarf all other recognizable security threats.[7] At the same time, this enlarging peril could be impacted by certain multi-sided and hard to measure developments on the terrorism front.  In more precisely military terminology, these intersecting terror threats could function “synergistically,” or as so-called “force multipliers.”

The “whole” of the strategic danger now facing Israel is substantially greater than the simple arithmetic sum of its parts.[8] This true combination could include a persistently shifting regional “correlation of forces,”[9] one that would continue to oscillate menacingly, and also to the  observable benefit of Israel’s mortal enemies, both state and sub-state.

In Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, serious derivative questions should now be addressed. What does this changing set of adversarial developments mean for Israel in very specifically operational and policy terms? Above all, this configuration of enmity should warn that a steady refinement and improvement of Israel’s nuclear strategy must be brought front and center. For Israel, there can be no other reasonable conclusion, not only because of ominous developments in Iran, but also because of the growing prospect of additional nuclear weapon states in the region, including perhaps Egypt, and/or Saudi Arabia.

Despite U.S. President Barack Obama’s continuing support for a “world free of nuclear weapons,” all of the world’s existing nuclear weapon states are already expanding and modernizing their nuclear arsenals. As of the end of September 2015, the world’s total inventory of nuclear warheads was reliably estimated as 17,000.[10] What Israel must also bear in mind is that this American president’s notion that nuclear weapons are intrinsically destabilizing, or even evil, makes no defensible intellectual sense.

It is plausible, rather, that only the perceived presence of nuclear weapons in the arsenals of both original superpowers prevented World War III. Equally convincing, Israel, without its atomic arsenal – whether ambiguous, or declared – could never survive, especially in a region that may soon combine further nuclear spread with steadily undiminished chaos.

Israel will have to decide, in prompt and sometimes inter-related increments, upon the precise extent to which the nation needs to optimize its composite national security policies on preemption, targeting, deterrence, war fighting, and active defense. A corollary imperative here must be to deal more purposefully with the complicated and politically stubborn issues of “deliberate ambiguity.” Going forward, it will not serve Israel’s best interests to remain ambiguous about ambiguity.

To date, at least, it seems that this longstanding policy of “opacity” (as it is also sometimes called) has made perfectly good sense. After all, one can clearly assume that both friends and enemies of Israel already acknowledge that the Jewish State holds persuasive military nuclear capabilities that are (1) survivable; and (2) capable of penetrating any determined enemy’s active defenses. Concerning projections of nuclear weapon survivability, Israel has made plain, too, its steady and possibly expanding deployment of advanced sea-basing (submarines).

Thus far, “radio silence” on this particular “triad” component has likely not been injurious to Israel. This could change, however, and rather quickly. Here, again, there is no room for error. Already, in delivering his famousFuneral Speech, with its conspicuously high praise of Athenian military power, Pericles had warned: “What I fear more than the strategies of our enemies, is our own mistakes.”[11]

Thus far, there have been no expressed indications that Israel’s slowly growing force of Dolphin-class diesel submarines has anything at all to do with reducing the vulnerability of its second-strike nuclear forces, but any such policy extrapolations about Israeli nuclear retaliatory forces would also be problematic to dismiss.[12]

Also significant for Israel’s overall security considerations is the refractory issue  of “Palestine.” A Palestinian state, any Palestinian state, could pose a serious survival threat to Israel, in part, as a major base of operations for launching increasingly lethal terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens. A possibly more important “Palestine” security issue for Israel lies in an even larger generalized potential for creating a steadily deteriorating correlation of regional forces. More specifically, any such deterioration could include various destabilizing “synergies,” that is, tangible interactive effects resulting from instabilities already evident  in Iraq and Syria, and from a manifestly concomitant Iranian nuclearization.

Leaving aside the various possibilities of any direct nuclear transfer to terrorists, a Palestinian state would  itself remain  non-nuclear. But, when viewed together with Israel’s other regional foes, this new and 23rd Arab state could still have the stunningly consequential effect of becoming a “force multiplier,” thereby impairing Israel’s already-minimal strategic depth, and  further rendering the Jewish State vulnerable to a thoroughly diverse panoply of both conventional and unconventional attacks. Here, for a variety of easily determinable reasons, a “merely” non-nuclear adversary could still heighten the chances of involving Israel in assorted nuclear weapons engagements,[13] including, in the future, a genuine nuclear war.[14]

What, then, should Israel do next about its core nuclear posture, and about its associated “order of  battle?”  How, exactly, should its traditionally ambiguous nuclear stance be adapted to the increasingly convergent and inter-penetrating threats of Middle Eastern chaos, Iranian nuclearization, and “Palestine?” In answering these difficult questions, Jerusalem will have to probe very carefully into the alleged American commitment to “degrade” and “destroy” ISIS(IS).  However well-intentioned, this pledge, especially if actually carried out effectively, could simultaneously aid both Syria’s President Assad, and the surrogate Shiite militia, Hezbollah.[15]

___________________________

[1] Although composed in the seventeenth century, Thomas Hobbes’Leviathan still offers an illuminating and enduring vision of chaos in world politics. Says the English philosopher in Chapter XIII, “Of the Naturall Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery:”  during chaos, a condition which Hobbes identifies as a “time of Warre,”  it is a time “…where every man is Enemy to every man… and where the life of man is solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.” At the time of writing, Hobbes believed that the condition of “nature” in world politics was less chaotic than that same condition existing among individual human beings -because of what he called the “dreadful equality” of individual men in nature being able to kill others – but this once-relevant differentiation has effectively disappeared with the global spread of nuclear weapons.

[2] The core importance of literally thoughtful military doctrine – of attention to the complex intellectual antecedents of any actual battle – had already been recognized by early Greek and Macedonian armies. See, on this still-vital recognition, F.E. Adcock, The Greek and Macedonian Art of War (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1962), especially Chapter IV.

[3] For much earlier, but still useful, scholarly assessments of polarity in world politics, by this author, See: Louis René Beres, “Bipolarity, Multipolarity, and the Reliability of Alliance Commitments,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 1972, pp. 702-710; Louis René Beres, “Bipolarity, Multipolarity, and the Tragedy of the Commons,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 4, December 1973, pp. 649-658; and Louis René Beres, “Guerillas, Terrorists, and Polarity: New Structural Models of World Politics,”Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 27, No.4., December 1974, pp. 624-636.

[4] Of course, in the context of any non-zero-sum game, ensuring enforceable agreements between the players (here, the United States and Russia) could still prove more-or-less decisively problematic.

[5]  See Louis René Beres, “After the Vienna Agreement: Could Israel and a Nuclear Iran Coexist?”  IPS Publications, IDC Herzliya, Institute for Policy and Strategy, Israel, September 2015.

[6] Significantly, this agreement also violates two major treaties, the 1968Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and the 1948 Genocide Convention. The first violation has to do with subverting the NPT expectation that all non-nuclear state signatories must remain non-nuclear for a period of “indefinite duration.” The second violation centers on codified U.S. indifference to Genocide Convention obligations concerning responsibility to enforce the prohibition against “incitement to genocide.” In both cases, moreover, per article 6 of theU.S. Constitution – the “Supremacy Clause” – these violations are ipso factoalso violations of U.S. domestic law.

[7] See Louis René Beres, “Like Two Scorpions in a Bottle: Could Israel and a Nuclear Iran Coexist in the Middle East?” The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, Vol. 8., No. 1., 2014, pp. 23-32. See, also: Louis René Beres and (General/USAF/ret.) John T. Chain, “Living With Iran: Israel’s Strategic Imperative,” BESA Perspectives Paper No. 249, May 28, 2014, BESA Center for Strategic Studies, Israel. General Chain was Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic Air Command.

[8] See Louis René Beres, “Core Synergies in Israel’s Strategic Planning: When the Adversarial Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts,” Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School, June 2, 2015.

[9] See Louis René Beres, “Understanding the Correlation of Forces in the Middle East: Israel’s Urgent Strategic Imperative,” The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, Vol. IV, No. 1 (2010). Russia’s Putin, of course, is accustomed to thinking in such strategic terms; in the Soviet days, “correlation of forces” was already a tested yardstick for measuring Moscow’s presumptive military obligations.

[10] Se: Hans M. Kristensen, “Nuclear Weapons Modernization: A Threat to the NPT?”  Arms Control Today, Arms Control Association, September 2015, 11 pp.

[11] From the Funeral Speech of 431 BCE, near the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, when Sparta first invaded Attica. For greater detail, see:Thucydides, The Speeches of Pericles, H.G. Edinger, tr., New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1979), 68 pp.

[12] On nuclear sea-basing by Israel (submarines) see: Louis René Beres and (Admiral/USN/ret.) Leon “Bud” Edney, “Israel’s Nuclear Strategy: A Larger Role for Submarine Basing,” The Jerusalem Post, August 17, 2014; and Professor Beres and Admiral Edney, “A Sea-Based Nuclear Deterrent for Israel,” Washington Times, September 5, 2014. Admiral Edney was NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic.

[13] Such engagements could include assorted enemy attacks on Israel’sDimona nuclear reactor. Already, in both 1991 and 2014, this small reactor came under combined missile and rocket attack from Iraq and Hamas aggressions, respectively. For fully authoritative assessments of these attacks, and related risks, see: Bennett Ramberg, “Should Israel Close Dimona? The Radiological Consequences of a Military Strike on Israel’s Plutonium-Production Reactor,” Arms Control Today, Arms Control Association, May 2008, pp. 6-13.

[14] Naturally, the risks of a nuclear war would be expected to increase together with any further regional spread of nuclear weapons. In this connection, returning to the prophetic insights of Thomas Hobbes, back in the seventeenth century (see Note #1, above), Leviathan makes clear that the chaotic condition of nature is substantially worse among individual human beings, than among states. This is because, opines Hobbes, also in Chapter XIII, within this particular variant of chaos, “…the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest….” Now, however, with the spread of nuclear weapons, the “dreadful equality” of Hobbesian man could be replicated, more or less, in the much larger and more consequential arena of world politics.

[15] “Everything is very simple in war,” advises Clausewitz, “but the simplest thing is also very difficult.” See: Carl von Clausewitz, On War.

Russian submarine with 20 ICBMs and 200 nuclear warheads is sailing to Syria

September 7, 2015

Russian submarine with 20 ICBMs and 200 nuclear warheads is sailing to Syria, DEBKAfile, September 7, 2015

Dmitriy_Donskoy_BDmitri Donskoy TK-208 submarine heads for Syria

The world’s largest submarine, the Dmitri Donskoy (TK-208), Nato-coded Typhoon, has set sail for the Mediterranean and is destined for the Syrian coast, DEBKAfilereports exclusively from its military and intelligence sources. Aboard the sub are 20 Bulava (NATO-code SS-N-30) intercontinental ballistic missiles with an estimated up to 200 nuclear warheads. Each missile, with a reported range of 10,000km, carries 6-10 MIRV nuclear warheads.

The Russian sub set sail from its North Sea base on Sept. 4, escorted by two anti-sub warfare ships. Their arrival at destination in 10 days time will top up the new Russian military deployment in Syria.

President Vladimir Putin’s introduction of a nuclear force opposite Syrian shores builds up what first looked like an operation to fortify Assad’s regime in Damascus into a military expedition capable of an air and sea confrontation with US forces in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State John Kerry suggested as much Saturday, Sept. 5, when he expressed concern over reports of Russia’s “increasing military build-up in Syria” in a phone call to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The State Department reported: “The Secretary made clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL coalition operation in Syria.”

Kerry was referring to potential Russian interference with US-led coalition air strikes against the Islamic State in Syria.

DEBKAfile’s sources in Washington and Moscow report that the dispatch of a nuclear sub to Syrian waters is taken as a strong message that the Kremlin will not let the US impede its military intervention in the Syrian conflict and will go to extreme lengths to keep the way open for the flow of Russian troops to the war-torn country.

This situation has gone a long way beyond Obama administration intentions when US-Russian talks were initially held for US forces posted in Turkey and Iraq, together with the Russian troops arriving in Syria, to launch a combined effort against the Islamic State. Those talks came to naught.

In its coming issue out Friday, Sept. 11, DEBKA Weekly 678 will reveal for the first time how Putin intends to array the Russian forces he is consigning to Syria, their operational planning, their military coordination with Iran and, above all, how the new Russian intervention in Syria may impact US Middle East policy and Israel.