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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">Much Ado About Poland

Mitt Romney delivered his long-awaited speech to the Republican National Convention last night accepting the party’s nomination for president. The foreign policy section of the speech ran through the usual litany of complaints about Obama—his non-existent “apology tour,” he doesn’t reference American exceptionalism a minimum of 75 times in every speech, etc.—and was notable for not mentioning the decade-plus war in Afghanistan at all. But one thing he did mention, Obama’s supposed betrayal of Poland by removing ten planned missile defense interceptors, reflects an odd, but infuriating habit among conservatives.

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The offending sentence came toward the . . .
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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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John Bolton: Still Wrong About Nuclear Weapons

Everybody’s favorite former ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton, is back with his second op-ed on nuclear policy in as many weeks (h/t Greg Scoblete).  This time, writing in the Washington Times, Ambassador Bolton frets that the Obama administration’s commitment to New START and the negative security guarantees made in the administration's Nuclear Posture Review are going to make American allies uneasy—despite all available evidence suggesting that they are not. %%anc%% if (1==1) {document.getElementById(“link140″).style.display=”none”;}

Apparently Ambassador Bolton is worried that reductions in America’s strategic nuclear arsenal and declarations in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review that forgo nuclear . . .
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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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Russia: China’s restraint in the Pacific?

According to a story in Newsweek Russia is planning to build up its Pacific navy in an attempt to challenge China in the Pacific. The push is part of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s latest stimulus package, thanks to a surge in oil prices. Putin plans to spend $678 billion on defense, with a quarter going to revamp the Russian fleet in the Pacific. According to Newsweek, the shopping list includes “20 new ships, including a new class of attack submarines, plus new missile subs, frigates, and an aircraft carrier.”

It is not clear whether this is posturing or a . . .
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