The Weakness of a Ukrainian Nuclear Deterrent: Counterfactuals and the Stability-Instability Paradox

(updated below)

Since the Russian incursion in Crimea at the end of February, a meme has been circulating among some national security commentators that Ukraine should have kept the nuclear arsenal it inherited following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The most forceful proponent that Kiev would have been better off maintaining a nuclear deterrent was and is University of Chicago political scientist John Mearsheimer. At the end of the Cold War, Mearsheimer argued in Foreign Affairs (pdf),

A nuclear Ukraine makes sense for two reasons. First, it is imperative to maintain peace between Russia and Ukraine… Ukraine cannot . . .
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Putin, Snowden, and How Credibility Works in International Politics

Our old friend Max Boot has a post at Commentary that demonstrates a common confusion about how credibility works in international politics. Boot argues that Russian President Vladimir Putin offered NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum because he doesn’t fear Obama because Obama hasn’t yet gone to war in Syria… or something. I’ll let him explain:

Obama understandably doesn’t want to get stuck in the Syrian morass. But he should understand that when the president of the United States makes threats and then fails to make good on them, that has consequences for America’s dealings with the rest . . .
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It's Still a MAD, MAD World: The Illogic of U.S.-Russian Missile Defense Cooperation

Ellen Tauscher, a former under secretary of state for arms control, and Igor Ivanov, a former Russian foreign minister, have a new essay at Foreign Policy calling for the United States and Russia to cooperate on missile defense as a means to redefine their strategic relationship. They argue that “U.S.-Russian cooperation on missile defense could fundamentally change the bilateral relationship. It would shift the paradigm of U.S.-Russian strategic relations from ensuring the ability to destroy one another to jointly protecting the two countries from common ballistic missile threats.” Tauscher and Ivanov claim that missile defense cooperation can transform relations between . . .
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Max Boot Responds! And He's Still Wrong…

Earlier this week, Max Boot responded to my post from Sunday night on the differences between Israel's Iron Dome and U.S. missile defense efforts. Unfortunately Mr. Boot obscures the issue even further in his response than he did in his initial post. The new post misrepresents the history of missile defense, fails to properly address the errors in his initial post, continues to ignore the conceptual differences between Iron Dome and national missile defense, and erects a strawman argument as to the motives of those opposed to his views. Needless to say, I am less than impressed.

adobe creative . . .
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Needlessly Kicking a Bear

Recent announcements by Russian President (for now) Dimitry Medvedev raise the specter of a new round of confrontation between the United States and its former superpower rival.  In response to planned American missile defense deployments in Europe Medvedev has said Moscow will deploy Iskander missiles, target land-based interceptor sites that will be activated later this decade, and shut down the Northern Distribution Network to Afghanistan that runs through Russian territory—a serious problem in its own right but even more so given the recent deterioration in U.S-Pakistan relations.  Russia, as well as its Soviet predecessor, has a history of making . . .
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Intermediate Nuclear Forces and Second Strike Capability

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, along with Paula De Sutter, has authored a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed calling for the abrogation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.  The INF Treaty—signed in 1987 and ratified by the Senate in 1988—eliminated U.S. Pershing II and Soviet SS-20 ballistic missiles, as well as ground-launched cruise missiles and several other Soviet short-range missiles, from both superpowers’ nuclear arsenals.  The agreement was universally lauded at the time as a crowning achievement for the Reagan administration, but some in the neoconservative camp of Reagan’s coalition were not pleased and, . . .
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Russia’s Mixed-Up Responses to America’s Missile Defense Plans

It would be nice if Moscow would get its story straight on how it feels about the missile defense system the United States will deploy over the next decade in conjunction with its NATO allies.  Last week, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev said that failure to secure an agreement on a joint NATO-Russian missile defense system in Europe would cause Moscow to have to consider expanding its strategic arsenal—in effect, abrogating New START before the ink even dried.  Medvedev had previously raised the specter of a renewed strategic arms race, and had been fairly consistent in his warning up until . . .
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Wanting it All: The Heritage Foundation’s Flawed Missile Defense Recommendations

The Heritage Foundation has released a new report [pdf] on President Obama’s missile defense strategy by Baker Spring.  Unfortunately, as with most of Heritage’s material on missile defense, Spring’s report has a fatal flaw that makes it unrealistic:  wanting it all.  The strategy proposed in the report goes far beyond what is necessary based on existing ballistic missile threats and is based on technologies that have proved neither reliable nor cost effective.  The report also goes beyond merely honest disagreements about strategic necessities.  It is riddled with factual errors and makes assertions about the Obama administration’s missile defense policy . . .
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Strategic Ambiguity and Arms Control Betrayal


In my previous post I chided Republican lawmakers for wanting to relocate missile defense radar from proposed sites in Turkey to Georgia.  One of the main reasons I cited was that it would unnecessarily strain relations with Russia.  Cultivating good relations with America’s former Cold War adversary is a good thing, and going out of one’s way to exacerbate existing tensions is foolish and counterproductive.  That said, there are limits any state should put on how far it will go in cultivating those relations and the Obama administration may have gone WAY over the line in the recent negotiations for New START.

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Non-NATO Missile Defense

Four Republican senators have sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates suggesting radar crucial to the missile defense system NATO agreed to field at its November summit in Lisbon be relocated from a proposed site in Turkey to Georgia (h/t Josh Rogin).  Getting New START ratified in the face of Republican claims that Obama had traded American missile defense in Europe for Russia’s acquiescence to the treaty—despite administration missile defense plans having been available for some time—came close enough to souring already tenuous U.S.-Russian relations but few suggestions could be worse than moving missile defense radars to Georgia.

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