Monthly Archives: March 2008

My Ears Are Ringing

Two people recently were kind enough to mention (positively) some stuff I wrote back in the day. “In _CJR_,”: Eric Umansky referred to “this piece”: I did for the _Bulletin_ about Iran. And Hugh Gusterson “mentioned”: in _NPR_ a couple of _ACT_ pieces I wrote about North Korea.

There are also some very kind words in the comments of “this _ACW_ post.”:

I’m an amateur media critic at best, but I thought I’d offer a few quick observations about media coverage.

* Reporters should, as often as possible, mention publications, organizations, etc. that they get information from. Press mentions help keep nonprofits around to provide said information.

* Obviously, there are bad reporters out there. But people have to remember that newspapers are organizations. Therefore, lots of other people have input in deciding which stories run, how they’re placed, how long they are, etc. So when stuff gets covered badly, or not at all, it’s not necessarily the reporters’ fault.

* Proper resources matter. One of the luxuries that I had at _ACT_ was the chance to focus on a few issues and work on monthly deadlines. Obviously, I can’t speak to the specific situations of papers like the _Post_ or the _NYT_, but newspaper reporters generally have larger portfolios than I ever did and also work on daily deadlines. It seems reasonable to think that having more reporters, researchers, fact-checkers, etc. would improve coverage.

As _The Wire’s_ David Simon said in “this _New Yorker_ profile”:

bq. The newsroom I worked in had four hundred and fifty people. Now it’s got three hundred. Management says, ‘We have to do more with less.’ *That’s the bullshit of bean counters who care only about the bottom line. You do less with less.”*

* As bad as press reporting can be, TV is generally about a billion times worse. And that’s where more people get their information from.

* Reporters should stop quoting hacks who don’t know what they’re talking about and constantly get things wrong.

Russian Defense Industry Bonanza

The Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) recently released a new issue of the “Moscow Defense Brief”: — a one-stop shop for Russian defense industry and arms trade junkies.

This issue of MDB provides an insight into “developments in the Russian defense sector in 2007”:, which included restructuring of Russia’s arms trade monopolist “Rosoboronexport”: into Russian Technologies corporation and the continuation of Russia’s obsession with consolidation of defense enterprises into state-owned holdings. In addition, an article on “preliminary arms trade results”: mentions that Russia may transfer the S-300 air-defense system to Iran after all (see a “RIA Novosti backgrounder”: I’ve worked with the guys at CAST and I really like them, but I am a little skeptical that this transfer is actually pending. Finally, the MDB provides summaries of “major contracts”: and “major deliveries”: of Russian weapons systems in 2007.

Speaking of the S-300, Turkey apparently still “can’t make up its mind”: on whether it prefers the Russian air-defense system to the U.S. Patriot. Hopefully, it will choose soon — so that it can make the awesome tables in the “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations”: come fall.

Janne Nolan on the Nuclear Posture Review in The Bulletin

I earlier “noted”: to Paul in a rather tongue-in-cheek fashion that I wasn’t a member of the Monterey Mafia because my master’s degree was not from the “Monterey Institute”: Instead, I am allegedly a member of the much lesser known (unless one works for the GAO, from what I gather) mafia clan from the University of Pittsburgh’s “GSPIA”:

This random tiny fact is worth a mention because GSPIA’s own “Janne Nolan”: has a timely article, co-authored with James Holmes, in the March/April issue of _The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists_, which dissects the dashed hopes for transformation of the U.S. nuclear posture during the Clinton years. Having listened to quite a few of Janne’s amazing lectures (in hand with reading “_An Elusive Consensus_”: and the equally compelling _Guardians of the Arsenal_), it’s really exciting to see her offer up a “primer for the next president” on ways to go about conducting a reassessment of nuclear policy. Nolan and Holmes begin as follows:

“Much as critics of the Bush administration may wish that January 20, 2009 would automatically change U.S. diplomacy and reignite nuclear disarmament efforts, national policy is not so easily remade. *Current attitudes have deeper roots, and ushering in a new president will not in itself bring about cutbacks to the nation’s nuclear arsenal or improvements to U.S. nuclear strategy. In fact, despite his stated good intentions, it was during President Bill Clinton’s tenure that some of the progress made by the first President Bush ground to a halt.* Clinton’s blind spot was that he didn’t understand enough about the nature of bureaucracy.”

You should go and check out the article, which is available for some time “here”: I won’t ruin it, but just want to note that the piece details several funny and rather disturbing episodes, namely, the military’s briefings on nuclear war plans to presidents Carter and Reagan and the fact that *Pentagon officials at times perceived representatives of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency as “weirdos.”*

Schooling Nuclear Wonks Po-Russki

I came across this a couple of days ago and thought that the readers that speak some Russian might enjoy it. (The non-Russian speakers should either enjoy the graphics or find someone to translate. Trust me, it’s worth it!) 🙂

Russia’s RosEnergoAtom recently launched a very funky educational website for school-age children titled “Nuclear Energy for Students and Schoolchildren”: It features tutorial sections that answer questions such as “What is nuclear energy,” “Why nuclear energy,” as well as a quiz. The quiz is actually not that easy unless one completes the tutorials first. (It goes from questions such as “What does VVER stand for?” to trivia statistics on how many nuclear power plants operate worldwide.) This website definitely builds on the success of the rather famous “The [Russian] President to School Age Citizens”: website, which was actually recently updated with some election-themed trivia. Check it out!

March of the SOD

This “post”: from Spencer Ackerman inspired me to find some live SOD. Here it is. I’ve met three of them over the years (not the singer) – two of them when they were in Anthrax and one when he was in Brutal Truth – and they’re nice guys. Yes, they are a joke.

Saran on the US-India Deal

Shri Shyam Saran, Special Envoy of Inida’s Prime Minister, recently gave a presentation about the US-India deal that, IMO, is one of the best summaries of New Delhi’s reasons for wanting the deal.

I don’t have a direct link to the speech, but “this one”: is for the Ministry of External Affairs site. The whole thing can be downloaded “here.”:

Some excerpts are below:

Let me share with you the mandate which Prime Minister gave to us as negotiators when we took up this initiative with the United States. *Since 1974, India had been the target of an increasingly selective, rigorous and continually expanding regime of technology-denial, not only in the nuclear field but encompassing other dual use technologies as well. It was our aim to seek the dismantlement of these inequitable regimes, which would become progressively more detrimental and significantly impact upon India�s maturing economy, as its key sectors, required constant technological upgradation.*

In pursuing this objective, we were acutely aware of the following:

(i) The multilateral technology-denial regimes whose targeting of India we sought to end such as the Nuclear Suppliers� Group (NSG) and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) would *require the United States to take the initiative as the principal initiator and leader of these regimes, and also because it remains the world�s pre-eminent source of new and innovative technologies.*

(ii) Since our PNE in 1974, *technology denial was first limited to nuclear-related technologies and then progressively expanded to cover a growing range of dual-use technologies. For this historical reason, it was clear to us that unless we tackled the nuclear issue, we would not be able to obtain access to other useful technologies. It is only by turning the nuclear key that we would be able to open the door to enter global trade in dual use and sophisticated technologies.*

There was another important consideration behind the initiative we took in July 2005. We were becoming increasingly aware that we would face a progressively more depleted market for conventional energy resources. Concerns over climate change would act as a further constraint on us. We had to adopt a strategy of diversifying our energy mix, with a graduated shift from fossil fuels to non-fossil fuels, from non-renewable to renewable sources of energy and from conventional to non-conventional sources of energy. Nuclear energy occupies a key place in this strategy and for good reasons. Despite the technology denial regimes which we had to contend with, our scientists had succeeded in putting in place a comprehensive, sophisticated and innovative nuclear industry, with a highly trained manpower able to sustain a major expansion in nuclear power. *Our constraints in this regard were availability of domestic uranium and a technological capability still limited to smaller capacity reactors of about 700 MW, when the world was moving to 1600 MW reactors. If we were to envisage a major expansion in nuclear power in the medium term, to say 60,000 MW plus by the year 2030, then import of higher capacity reactors and uranium fuel, would be necessary.*

This in no way detracts from the continued pursuit of Dr. Bhabha�s visionary 3-stage nuclear energy development programme, which may yield significant results in the longer term. But *in the short and medium-term, a significant expansion of nuclear power is only possible if the constraints we face on import of uranium and of large-capacity reactors, are removed.*

Furthermore, it is not really correct to put indigenous development and international collaboration as antithetical to one another. In fact they are integrally linked. Each cycle of international collaboration prepares the ground for higher level of indigenous development. A higher level of technological sophistication then enables a much more discriminatory and productive new cycle of technological collaboration and eventually partnerships. Let us not forget that Dr. Bhabha himself vigorously promoted international cooperation in nuclear energy which enabled India to lay the foundation of our current nuclear programme. He was, in his time, one of the most highly respected scientists among the international nuclear community.

Let me repeat, *the mandate to the negotiators was:*

*(i) to seek the dismantlement of the multilateral technology denial regimes targeting India;*

*(ii) to seek an accelerated development of our nuclear power generation capability to enable a significant contribution to India�s energy security in an environmentally sustainable manner.*

The negotiators were also given a firm guideline: *in seeking to achieve the above objectives, we should not accept any limitation whatsoever on our strategic weapons programme, which must remain inviolate and fully autonomous.* In practical terms, this implied that

(i) our strategic weapons programme would be outside the purview of any international safeguards regime or any form of external scrutiny;

(ii) *our ability to further develop and produce such weapons would not be constrained in any manner;* and

(iii) *we would retain our legal right to conduct a nuclear test should that, at any time in the future, be deemed necessary in our over-riding national interest.*


The July 18 Joint Statement was then translated into more elaborate and specific arrangements in a Separation Plan, presented to Parliament in March 2006 and in the text of a bilateral cooperation agreement, or the so-called 123 Agreement, between India and the U.S., concluded in July 2007.

In working out these arrangements, the mandate given to the negotiators was to stay within the parameters of the July 18 Joint Statement and to ensure that there would be no repeat of the Tarapur experience. *In practical terms this meant ensuring that there would never again be a threat of reactor operations being disrupted due to a suspension of fuel supplies. We would also need to ensure that India has the right to reprocess foreign origin spent fuel. In both these respects, the U.S. aided Tarapur nuclear facility had suffered and this hung over the negotiations as a negative legacy. There had been U.S. unilateral suspension of fuel supplies, just as there had been a refusal to allow India to reprocess spent fuel, which kept accumulating as hazardous waste, which the U.S. was also not willing to take back.*

This is the background to the multi-layered fuel supply assurances which were spelt out in the Separation Plan, and incorporated in toto in the 123 Agreement. This is also the reason why India was prepared to engage in difficult and sometimes frustrating negotiations to ensure its upfront entitlement to reprocess foreign origin spent fuel. Eventually, the U.S. side agreed to India�s demand.

The negotiators have been criticized by some for having agreed to permanent IAEA safeguards on its civilian facilities. Our position right from the outset had been that *we have no problem with permanent safeguards provided there are permanent supplies of fuel. The multi-layered fuel supply assurances are unique in international nuclear negotiations and include India�s right to take �corrective measures�, should any disruption still occur despite these assurances. India�s entitlement to build strategic reserves of fuel for its civilian reactors, to last the lifetime of such reactors, is also unique.* Frankly, I do not think that we could have secured any better safeguards for our interests.

Criticism has been leveled at various provisions of the Hyde Act and it is argued that irrespective of what the 123 Agreement may say, we would be subject to the several onerous provisions of the Act.

Let me clarify that the operative heart of the Hyde Act, incorporates three permanent and unconditional waivers from relevant provisions of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954. In layman terms, the Hyde Act allows the U.S. Administration to engage in civil nuclear cooperation with India, waiving the following requirements:

(i) that the partner country should not have exploded a nuclear explosive device in the past; this waiver is necessary because India exploded a series of nuclear explosive devices in May 1998;

(ii) that the partner country must have all its nuclear facilities and activities under full-scope safeguards; this waiver is necessary because India has a strategic programme which would not be subject to international safeguards; nor would its indigenous R&D programme; and

(iii) that the partner country is not currently engaged in the development and production of nuclear explosive devices; this waiver is required precisely because there is no freeze or capping of India�s strategic weapons programme. It is an acknowledgement that we will continue to develop and produce additional strategic weapons.

Irrespective of what else the Hyde Act may contain, *these 3 permanent and unconditional waivers are extremely significant because they acknowledge that India has an ongoing strategic programme. No restraint on this programme is envisaged as a condition for engaging India in civil nuclear energy cooperation. This is a significant gain for India and should not be lost sight of. Just juxtapose this with the UNSC Resolution 1172 of June 6, 1998, which called upon India to stop, roll-back and eliminate its strategic programme and join the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state.*

*There are, of course, several extraneous and prescriptive provisions in the Hyde Act which we do not agree with and in negotiating the 123 Agreement we have been more than careful to exclude such provisions. If the U.S. Congress considers the 123 Agreement, as currently drafted, as being in contravention with their own understanding of the Hyde Act, the agreement would be voted down. That would be the end of the matter. If, however, the U.S. Congress does approve the 123 Agreement, then this would confirm that the provisions of the Agreement are what would govern the commitments of the two sides.*

*While there has been intense focus on the Indo-US bilateral agreement, much of the commentary on the subject has lost sight of the multilateral regime whose adjustment in favour of India is what we are aiming at. Our objective is not merely to seek the U.S. as a partner. Our objective is to enable India to have a wide choice of partners in pursuing nuclear commerce, and high technology trade. But we cannot attain this objective without the U.S. taking the lead on our behalf.* Yes, Russia and France are countries which are friendly to India and extremely keen to engage in nuclear commerce with us. However, there should be no doubt that neither they nor others will make an exception for India unilaterally unless the Nuclear Suppliers Group adjusts its guidelines in the same manner as the U.S. is prepared to do. Whatever be the reservations that have been expressed about our relations with the U.S., *no other friendly country, member of the NSG has the necessary standing to lead the process of opening up the existing multilateral regime to accommodate India. The U.S. is in a unique position precisely because it initiated these restrictive regimes in the first place and also because it remains the pre-eminent source of new sensitive technologies.*

SecDef Gates Reminisces of the Old Days

Important discussions on issues of strategic stability aside, below is a silly exchange from a press briefing Bob and Condi gave in Moscow on Monday, March 17. When the two trained Kremlinologists were asked to provide their opinion on the leadership potential of Russia’s President-elect Medvedev, Gates noted that he didn’t expect “big changes in policy direction,” but then the conversation took a slightly unexpected turn…

SECRETARY GATES: My first — my first experience in dealing with (inaudible) in this country was Leonid Brezhnev.

SECRETARY RICE: Bob, you shouldn’t tell people that. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY GATES: I’m really old. I found him thoughtful.

SECRETARY RICE: Brezhnev or – (Laughter.)

SECRETARY GATES: I found Medvedev thoughtful, articulate. As Condi said, he was clearly on top of his brief. Foreign policy and national security issues have not been his thing before, but he discussed them very, very well this afternoon. I was impressed.

QUESTION: *How did you find Brezhnev? (Laughter.)*

SECRETARY GATES: *You don’t want to go there. (Laughter.)*

QUESTION: Did you —

SECRETARY GATES: *That’s when I knew we’d win. (Laughter.)*

I am not even going to attempt to analyze this one. SecDef must really miss the gerontocracy and the “eyebrows”: Full text of the briefing is “here”:

*Update:* Some snapshots of Medvedev’s eyebrows are available “here”:

Title for McIntosh and Storey Paper

The “paper”: I “posted”: by Chris McIntosh and Ian Storey is making the rounds. I realized that it doesn’t have a title page (don’t look at me), so I got one from he authors:

“Between Acquisition and Use: Examining the Improbability of Nuclear Terrorism.” The date is 1/29/08

New Blogger

As I “noted here,”: there will be some more new bloggers on this site. I am looking to get a byline function on here so as to minimize confusion. But for now, note that the “below post”: is by another member of the Monterey Mafia, Anya Loukianova. Very happy to have her on board.

A few more people, and I will have to do nothing except cash my elephant checks…

*Update:* Anya informs me that she is not a member of said Mafia because she didn’t get a degree from there.

Nuclear Sub Proliferation and the NPT Loophole

Two of my colleagues at “CNS”: recently wrote an excellent and nuanced “piece in _WMD Insights_”: dissecting the politics of Brazil’s quest for a nuclear-powered submarine, which, they conclude is

bq. fueled by the prestige associated with mastering nuclear technology, a desire to win a permanent seat at the UN Security Council with the five NPT nuclear weapons states, a potential arms race with Venezuela, and the hopes of attaining regional leadership.

Apart from the indigenous efforts by the Brazilian Navy at mastering enrichment, Brazil has reportedly sought various forms of cooperation with France, Russia, and Argentina on the nuclear submarine project. The piece notably highlights that some French circles have voiced concerns about the proliferation potential of cooperation with Brazil, specifically,

bq. “the danger of nuclear propulsion technology being diverted toward a nuclear weapons program.”

Brazil’s insistence on getting a nuclear-powered submarine by all means necessary as well as pending acquisition of a nuclear boat by “India”: raise questions about a lack of international norms in this area, because the language in the “Nonproliferation Treaty”: does not explicitly prohibit the transfer of complete nuclear submarines, naval propulsion reactor technology, or even highly enriched uranium (HEU) naval fuel. James Clay Moltz wrote in a 1998 issue of “_The Nonproliferation Review_”: on the need to close the said loophole, created during the NPT negotiations in the 1960s:

bq. “What was intended as a commercial loophole in the NPT is now beginning to be exploited for explicitly military purposes. This situation poses the threat of a new global arms race in nuclear submarines—ironically, with the sanction of the NPT. To understand the scale of this potential threat, it is worth keeping in mind that the number of nuclear reactors outside of safeguards on submarines in the weapon states is equal to the total number of all civilian power reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Allowing the spread of NPRs for military purposes to other states could undermine the IAEA’s role in global nonproliferation efforts and begin a dangerous trend towards leaving control of these materials up to chance.”