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Germany Seeks Multilateralization of Nuclear Fuel Cycle

The Federal Foreign Office announced today:

Germany is stepping up its efforts to establish an international uranium-enrichment plant under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Today, at IAEA's headquarters in Vienna, Federal Government representatives informed interested States about the details of the German proposals to multilateralize the nuclear fuel cycle, receiving a highly positive response. This concept is based on an initiative by Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier. More and more countries are thinking of starting their own enrichment activities. Any joint solution must therefore take the desire for the peaceful use of nuclear energy into account, while at the same time making sure no fuel is misused to build nuclear weapons.

Could this be a workable compromise for the conflict over Iran's nuclear program?

A Different Kind of Quagmire: Iran

Tired of the same old boring quagmire?  Looking for a new kind of quagmire to talk about with your friends?  Good news if you are, because Iraq is not the only quagmire around.  No need to look far—keep it in the “axis of evil.”  Iraq’s neighbor, Iran is also a quagmire of a sorts… a diplomatic quagmire for the transatlantic allies. 

I’ll corroborate: the United States and Europe have been trying to anneal sanctions against Iran through the United Nations Security Council for years, only to have their proposals consistently rebuffed and watered down by China and Russia.  The latest US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities” (PDF version), is unlikely to make the pursuit of sanctions any easier:
We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.
Good news, right?  Only kinda, according to Ralf Fuecks who points out at Atlantic Community that Iran remains a threat, regardless of the NIE:
Continue reading "A Different Kind of Quagmire: Iran"

Military Leaders Outline Plan for New Transatlantic Bargain

A group of European and American military leaders co-authored a report that was released last week, titled Toward a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World, Renewing Transatlantic Partnership (PDF version available from CSIS). The top brass – all with NATO experience – argue that the Alliance remains critical to both Europe and the US:
We are convinced that there is no security for Europe without the US, but we also dare to submit that there is no hope for the US to sustain its role as the world’s sole superpower without the Europeans as allies.
The manifesto begins by arguing that many current and future threats – such as terrorism, international crime, demographic shifts, energy security, climate change, etc. – cannot effectively be addressed by any single country on its own. Instead, NATO provides the best opportunity for western countries to address new threats because it "links together a group of countries that share the most important values and convictions and that took a decision to defend those values and convictions collectively."

Continue reading "Military Leaders Outline Plan for New Transatlantic Bargain"

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. 

Contemplating Germany with Nukes

One of the questions Zenpundit Mark Safranski and his readers are thinking about in this holiday season is:

If the EU has genuinely changed the twenty century-long warlike character of Europeans to apathetic, bureaucratic, declinists why does the idea of Germany with nuclear weapons still give everyone pause ?

Is that really the case? How many folks are contemplating these days whether Germany would violate the non-proliferation treaty and waste billions of Euros to get nukes?

John Jay responds to the Zenpundit in the group blog Chicago Boyz. He says that he does not worry about Germany or Japan if they obtain nukes in the near term, but also states:

Certain cultures tend to fall prey to militaristic regimes. Germany, Russia and Japan are all such cultures - conformist, hierarchical, and clannish.

Sorry, I can't respond right now. Naughty Hitler [NSFW] just ordered me to get back to my clan to celebrate Christmas and plan the next world war.

Happy Holidays everyone!  Enjoy your Zen meditation about the future of the free world.  Get inspired by the Queen's Christmas Broadcast from 1957. (German politicians' Christmas messages do not change that much over the decades either.)  And if you want to get sentimental about war in "the good old days," then read about the 1914 and 1915 Christmas Truce.

Related posts in the Atlantic Review: WSJ: Russia and Jihadists Target America's "Giant Aircraft Carrier with Sausages", United States Apparently Removes Nuclear Weapons from German Base Ramstein, and A World Free of Nuclear Weapons?.

WSJ: Russia and Jihadists Target America's "Giant Aircraft Carrier with Sausages"

Mark Helprin, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, is concerned about Germany's security. He describes Germany as the "soft underbelly of Europe," which presents a tempting target for Russia and the Jihadists.

Having been deeply humiliated in recent years, Russia is now "like Germany between the wars." Moscow is encouraged by European pacifisim and US failure in Iraq and views Germany as "the strategic gate to Western Europe," says Helprin.

And the Jihadists are interested in Germany, because it is according to Helprin the "richest target least defended," because Germany does not spend much on defense and lacks an independent expeditionary capability and nuclear weapons. Helprin assumes that nukes would deterr Jihadists... He also opines that NATO would not retaliate with nuclear weapons, if a member country was attacked by a nuclear weapon.

Germany, says Helprin, "sleeps and dreams unaware" of all theses threats. And the The US just views Germany as a "giant aircraft carrier with sausages." His entire post is available in the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal (HT: ROA and GM Roper). I find Helprin's comments on Russia more convincing than those on the "Jihadists."

Air Force Incompetence: Oops, What Are These Nukes Doing Here?

On the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told Congress according to NTI: "We recognize that our first and most urgent priority is to prevent nuclear weapons from coming into this country and preventing dirty bombs from being constructed and detonated."
But: How secure are the nuclear weapons that are already in the United States?

Eric Hundman writes about "America's loose nukes" in FP Passport: "Last week, the Pentagon admitted that a B-52 had mistakenly flown nuclear-armed cruise missiles across the United States. And worse, for almost fourteen hours no one at the base of departure, on the bomber itself, or at the base of arrival had any idea something was wrong."

North Dakota News adds: "The airmen who first discovered the bombs could not believe what they were seeing and had a hard time convincing superiors that the missiles on the bomber were, in fact, carrying nuclear weapons."

More unbelievable news: According to a new biography, President Bush "is a big fan of Austin Powers and in particular, the character of Dr. Evil, imitating him often along the corridors of the White House," writes Nicole Belle in
Crooks and Liars and adds: "Sometimes the jokes just write themselves..."

Personal conclusion: Neither this kind of White House humor (if the story in the biography is true) nor the air force's screw up is encouraging. In less open societies than the US, such nuclear screw ups would not become public: I wonder how many of these incidents happen in Russia, China, India, Pakistan or Israel... Will the movie Broken Arrow be reality one day?
Nukes are just too dangerous in the wrong hands. We need 
a world free of nuclear weapons. Since even Kissinger claims to support this goal, we should pay attention.

Related: "America, stop waving the nuclear threat at potential adversaries," says Jack Mendelsohn, who was a US State Department official and a member of the US SALT and START delegations. Writing for the Christian Science Monitor, he criticizes that "four Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Duncan Hunter, Jim Gilmore, and Rudy Giuliani have already expressed their willingness to use 'tactical' nuclear weapons against Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons." He argues:

Every time the United States threatens a potential adversary with nuclear weapons it tells the world that these weapons are acceptable instruments of modern warfare and that there are no political or moral constraints on US behavior. It is overwhelmingly in the US national interest to preserve the "taboo" on nuclear weapons use and to seek to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in US security policy.

United States Apparently Removes Nuclear Weapons from German Base Ramstein

Nuclear inspection documents indicate that the U.S. Air Force may have permanently removed its nukes from Ramstein. This would mean that Germany’s contribution to NATO's nuclear mission now is reduced to Büchel Air Base.
The Atlantic Review's long-time reader and friend Marian has recommended an excellent article by Hans M. Kristensen in the Strategic Security Blog by the Federation of American Scientists. Quote on "Germany's Nuclear Decline" and the prospect of throwing NATO's principle of nuclear burdensharing into disarray
A poll published by Der Spiegel in 2005 revealed an overwhelming support across the political spectrum for a complete withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Germany. The German government said in May 2005 that it would raise the issue of continued deployment within NATO, but officials later told Der Spiegel that the government had changed its mind. Yet the withdrawal from Ramstein indicates that the government has been more proactive than thought or that the Bush administration “got the message” and decided not to return the weapons.
The withdrawal reduces Germany from the status of a major nuclear host nation to one on par with Belgium and the Netherlands, both of which also only have one nuclear base. The German government can now safely decide to follow Greece, which in 2001 unilaterally left NATO’s nuclear club. This in turn would open the possibility that Belgium (and likely also the Netherlands) will follow suit, essentially throwing NATO’s long-held principle of nuclear burdensharing into disarray.
Mr Kristensen also points out that "Despite the apparent reduction, NATO's Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) as recently as June 15, 2007, reaffirmed the importance of deploying U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe."
Personal comment: We need to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our defense planning, if we want to convince Iran and other countries to give up their assumed nuclear weapons programs. Thus the removal of some US nukes from Germany is a good step.

RELATED, sort of: "Five more U.S. Army sites in Germany will be closed through 2009 as part of a wider effort to realign the military's overseas structure, the U.S. Defense Department said Wednesday." writes The International Herald Tribune.