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Scary Scenario, but Good for TV: Privatization of Nuclear Proliferation

Not just countries, but big companies or even a very rich individual could get a nuclear weapon in the next few years. NATO's Michael Rühle writes in IP Journal about the nuclear smuggling network of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb:

To profit, he created a network of commercial relationships - which ultimately included over a thousand companies - as well as his own production facilities in Malaysia, South Africa and Turkey. This privatization of nuclear proliferation has allowed several countries to approach the threshold of nuclear status, a development that has significantly altered the international security landscape. It is now clear that nuclear proliferation can also take place outside of the international state system - the very system on which the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is built. This development is bound to ensure unpleasant surprises in the future. Whether Khan's proliferation network has been completely dismantled is not entirely clear. What is clear, however, is that the commercialization of nuclear proliferation continues.

Scary eh? Yes, the Non-Proliferation Treaty is so 20th century. We probably need a Bond movie or new TV show by the creators of 24/Homeland to raise some awareness and reform intelligence services. Many European countries still don't have intelligence services with operational divisions.

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Germany's Embarrassing Policy on Iran

Never has Germany been more isolated, wrote Former Foreign Minister Fischer regarding Berlin's position on Libya. The Merkel-Westerwelle government alienates our Western allies with its dealings with Iran as well. Apparently, Germany's foreign and economic ministries agreed to let India pay 9 billion euro to Iran via Germany's central bank.

The United States had pressured India's central bank to end previous business transactions with Iran via an Asian bank. Now Germany's government appears to be undermining these sanctions. India gets about 15 percent of its crude oil imports from Iran. Sources in German: Handelsblatt and Zeit. In English: New York Times.

According to Spiegel International the stands in connection to the release of two German journalists from Iran.

Are Germany and India new best buddies? Both abstained in the UN Security Council on Libya.

Dialog International writes about "The Westerwelle Doctrine", which "would seem to dictate that Germany will seek out different international partners depending on how the domestic winds are blowing.  Germany is happy to align with the US and Great Britain, as long as it doesn't require the use of force or the commitment of resources.  Otherwise it will join with Russia, Brazil or India." wonders how Germany can repair the damage to its international reputation and convince voters of the right course at the same time. Foreign policy makers and experts in Germany and around the world criticize Germany's position on Libya. However the majority of Germans seem to approve it.  Any ideas?

UPDATE (April 5, 2011): AP: "A plan for India to funnel oil payments to Iran through Germany's central bank at a time when Tehran faces international sanctions has been scrapped, a German government official said Tuesday."

NATO foreign ministers meeting press round-up

NATO foreign ministers gathered in Brussels on December 2 for a two-day meeting.  The full final communiqué released by NATO can be found here

The ministerial focused primarily on the future of NATO enlargement (particularly Ukraine and Georgia), US plans for missile defense in Europe, relations with Russia (strongly related to the previous two issues), and ongoing operations (mostly on Afghanistan and to a lesser degree Kosovo). Here is a roundup of articles that address the key outcomes of the ministerial:

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Obama and Missile Defense

A week after declaring his intentions to position Iskander tactical missiles in Kaliningrad region in response to US missile defense plans for Europe, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev lays out his terms (Reuters):
But we are ready to abandon this decision to deploy the missiles in Kaliningrad if the new American administration, after analyzing the real usefulness of a system to respond to 'rogue states', decides to abandon its anti-missile system.

We are ready to negotiate a 'zero option'. We are ready to reflect on a system of global security with the United States, the countries of the European Union and the Russian Federation.
Obama can expect pull in the other direction by the US Missile Defense Agency, whose outgoing Director Lt. Gen. Trey Obering argues missile defense technology may be farther along than the President-Elect believes (
Our testing has shown not only can we hit a bullet with a bullet, we can hit a spot on the bullet with a bullet. The technology has caught up.  What we have discovered is, a lot of those folks that have not been in this administration seem to be dated in terms of the program. They are kind of calibrated back in the 2000 timeframe.
Jeff Lindemyer links to two articles that offer a view of what Obama’s stance on missile defense was during the campaign at Nukes of Hazard.

See also from Atlantic Review:
* Is Russia a Superpower?  Cold War II?
* United States and Poland Agree on Missile Defense Deal
* Georgia Conflict Gives Boost to European Missile Defense Talks

United States and Poland Agree on Missile Defense Deal

From the New York Times:
The United States and Poland reached a long-stalled deal on Thursday to place an American missile defense base on Polish territory, in the strongest reaction so far to Russia’s military operation in Georgia.

Russia reacted angrily, saying that the move would worsen relations with the United States that have already been strained severely in the week since Russian troops entered separatist enclaves in Georgia, a close American ally.
I wonder how far Russia-West relations will spiral?  We may continue to see a tit-for-tat exchange that has real consequences on the institutions and defense postures that govern these delicate relations.  From EU Observer:
The US missile deal had an instant impact on already fragile Polish-Russian relations, with Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, cancelling a scheduled trip to Warsaw in September as soon as media reported the initialling ceremony would take place.

"It is this kind of agreement, not the differences between the US and Russia over South Ossetia, which could lead to a real rise in the tension in Russian-American relations," the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee chairman, Konstantin Kosachev, told Interfax.

The US-Russia deal "cannot go unpunished" Russian general, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, said. "Poland, by deploying [the missiles] is exposing itself to a strike - 100 percent."
See also from Atlantic Review:
* Georgia Conflict Gives Boost to European Missile Defense Talks
Euro-Missile Talks Are Back, Leaving "New Europe" Behind

Euro-Missile Talks Are Back, Leaving "New Europe" Behind

After months of pitfalls and procrastination, talks have picked up again on the placement of US missile defense sites in the Czech Republic and Poland – and negotiations are not getting any easier for the United States. The NYT reports:

The new [Polish] government apparently intends to press the United States to pay for creating, maintaining and protecting the system and to modernize Poland’s air defense capacities by providing Patriot missiles. “The new Polish government is prepared to drive a hard bargain because much is at stake if this system goes ahead,” said Tomas Valasek, director of defense at the Center for European Reform, an independent research agency in London . “Poland wants security guarantees from the U.S. since it is not convinced NATO would provide that guarantee. This means the U.S. putting boots on the ground in Poland but also helping Poland to upgrade its air defenses.”

What I find interesting is that Europe is supposed to benefit from the missile shield, and yet is now demanding more money and goodies from the US to secure European support.

The harder line by the new Polish government is not a surprise, but nonetheless will increase uncertainty for a project that is already facing domestic opposition in Europe, official opposition from Russia, and is not too popular among Democrats in Congress either – all this during a US election year. Congress is wary about expanding missile defense systems based in large part on high costs and frequent let-downs in the technology. According to a recent report by the reputable non-partisan Congressional Budget Office:

Carrying out current plans would cause total investment costs for missile defenses to peak in 2016 at about $15 billion [per year] (excluding cost risk), CBO projects, and then decrease, as systems finished the procurement phase and became operational. This peak occurs about three years later than that projected by CBO in October 2005 because of delays in several major programs, as discussed below. If cost risk is taken into account, DoD’s projected investment needs for missile defenses might be about $3 billion higher each year.

The new Euro-missile sites in the Czech and Poland are alone estimated to cost roughly $18 billion between 2007-2017.

I wonder if Poland's harder line signals the death of Rumsfeld’s unequivocally pro-American "New Europe"?  The US appears willing to entertain Polish demands for now, with a Pentagon spokesman stating, "Because of [Poland's special relationship with the U.S.], we believe that we can overcome whatever differences may exist on this issue very quickly."   However, there is definitely a notable reticence to back US missile defense plans from the new Polish government that was not found in its predecessor. 

German Government Split on President Bush's Climate Policy

Chancellor Merkel (CDU) welcomed President Bush's invitation to the world's 16 worst polluters for climate talks, despite his continuing opposition to mandatory targets on global warming. German Foreign Minister Steinmeier (SPD), however, thinks that it would be more productive to negotiate with individual US states rather than with the US federal government. He recently met with Governor Schwarzenegger, see Casey Butterfield's op-ed "For Transatlantic Future, Look Beyond Heads of State" in Atlantic Community.

And Germany's Environment Minister Gabriel (SPD) got real angry with Chancellor Merkel's and President Bush's proposal to expand nuclear energy to fight climate change. He is quoted by DW World:

First you urge people to expand nuclear energy and then you send in NATO to bomb the nuclear power plants because they did the wrong thing -- that isn't particularly intelligent politics.

Well, that is quite a populistic statement by the former SPD commissioner for pop-culture. After all, the IAEA found indications that Iran's nuclear program is not for civilian use only. Besides, it is very unlikely that NATO would agree to bomb Iran.

Ret. U.S. General Would Accept a Nuclear-Armed Iran

John Abizaid, the retired Army general who headed Central Command for nearly four years, said according to Yahoo! News:

"I believe that we have the power to deter Iran, should it become nuclear," he said, referring to the theory that Iran would not risk a catastrophic retaliatory strike by using a nuclear weapon against the United States. "There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran," Abizaid said in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. "Let's face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we've lived with a nuclear China, and we're living with (other) nuclear powers as well."
Totally unrelated: Gainesville Sun reports about a shrewed journalism student and the incompetent and brutal security service at the University of Florida. Many US universities are better than German universities, but here students don't get tasered, not even obnoxious self-promoters.