Nuclear weapons issues
New bomb: The Pentagon has announced a new nuclear bomb, the B61-13. The B61-12 is now in production and will be forward deployed in Europe. But it has a dial-a-yield that maxes out at 50 kilotons. The new B61-13 will max out at 360 kt to get at hardened deeply buried targets (both have limited earth-penetrating capabilities). At one time, production of the B61-12 at least potentially signified retirement of the 1.2 megaton surface burst B83 strategic bomb, but now production of the B61-13 will probably be relatively quick at the tail end of already scheduled B61-12 production.
See: https://www.defense.gov/News/Releases/Release/Article/3571660/department-of-defense-announces-pursuit-of-b61-gravity-bomb-variant/ and https://media.defense.gov/2023/Oct/27/2003329624/-1/-1/1/B61-13-FACT-SHEET.PDF
See excellent analysis by the Federation of American Scientists:
Strategic Posture Review: Commissioned by Congress,
“The Commission recommends that a strategy to address the two-nuclear-peer threat [Russia and China] environment be a prerequisite for developing U.S. nuclear arms control limits for the 2027-2035 timeframe. The Commission recommends that once a strategy and its related force requirements are established, the U.S. government determine whether and how nuclear arms control limits continue to enhance U.S. security…”
“… these threats are such that the United States and its Allies and partners must be ready to deter and defeat both adversaries simultaneously… we find that the United States lacks a comprehensive strategy to address the looming two-nuclear-peer threat environment and lacks the force structure such a strategy will require… we make clear that the fundamentals of America’s deterrence strategy remain sound, but the application of that strategy must change to address the 2027-2035 threat environment. Those changes drive necessary adjustments to the posture of U.S. nuclear capabilities – in size and/or composition.”
In effect it calls for one stockpile against Russia and another against China. It is devoid of any budget reality. In an obscure footnote it called for replacement of PF-4 (LANL’s plutonium pit production facility) – see that story in the New Mexican here: santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/amid-current-upgrades-commission-foresees-replacing-lanl-plutonium-facility/
See below for the already worsening political effects:
NEW NUKES: SASC’s Strategic Forces Chair ANGUS KING (I-Vt.) and ranking member Sen. DEB FISCHER (R-Neb.) are offering bipartisan backing for a new call to expand America’s nuclear arsenal ahead of a committee hearing on the topic Thursday, our friends at Morning Defense (for Pros!) scooped.
King and Fischer issued a joint statement in favor of the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission’s new report: “As the top members of the Strategic Forces subcommittee, we understand the need for a nuclear force posture that can successfully deter adversaries in a worsening global threat environment. We appreciate the bipartisan Commission’s work to develop and unanimously endorse this report.”
Good review by the Union of Concerned Scientists with the title “The congressional strategic posture report is not about nuclear deterrence, but warfighting.” https://thebulletin.org/2023/11/why-the-congressional-strategic-posture-report-is-not-about-nuclear-deterrence-but-warfighting/
Cost of Boomers Goes up [from the Project on Govt Oversight]:
The latest example surfaces in an October 26 CBO [Congressional Budget Office] report into the costs of buying 12 new “boomer” submarines capable of lobbing long-range nuclear-tipped missiles. “CBO’s estimate for the Columbia class program (PDF) reflects current industry conditions and is therefore 19% greater than the Navy’s,” the watchdog agency said (the creator of the phrase “cheaper by the dozen” obviously wasn’t an admiral). Those “current industry conditions” include poor performance by the shipyards building the subs and a fragile supplier network. The subs are part of a potential $1.5 trillion investment to replace the nation’s existing nuclear triad with new subs, bombers and ICBMs.
The first sub in the class, the USS District of Columbia, will cost an eyewatering $17.5 billion when delivered in 2027, the CBO projects. That’s $1.7 billion more than the Navy estimates. Subs number two through 12 will cost an average of $9.2 billion apiece — $1.5 billion more than the Navy’s SWAG. That’s a $1 billion+ overrun — for each boat, as sailors call submarines — not for the program as a whole. “A billion here, a billion there,” Senator Everett Dirksen (R-IL) apparently never said, but The Bunker likes to think he did, “and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”
The Path to AI Arms Control: America and China Must Work Together to Avert Catastrophe By Henry A. Kissinger and Graham Allison October 13, 2023: U.S. and Chinese discussions and actions on this agenda will form only part of the emerging global conversation on AI, including the AI Safety Summit, which the United Kingdom will host in November, and the ongoing dialogue at the UN. Since every country will be seeking to employ AI to enhance the lives of its citizens while ensuring the safety of its own society, in the longer run, a global AI order will be required. Work on it should begin with national efforts to prevent the most dangerous and potentially catastrophic consequences of AI. These initiatives should be complemented by dialogue between scientists of various countries engaged in developing large AI models and members of the national commissions such as the one proposed here. Formal governmental negotiations, initially among countries with advanced AI programs, should seek to establish an international framework, along with an international agency comparable to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
ACCELERATING NUCLEAR ARMS RACE
Russian Official Issues Nuclear Weapons Warning After Historic Achievement https://www.newsweek.com/russian-official-issues-nuclear-weapons-warning-after-historic-achievement-1841145
A high-ranking Russian official is touting his nation’s nuclear arsenal as the world’s best.
Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said during a recent appearance at the Znanie (Knowledge) education expo in Moscow that his nation for the first time has surpassed all other countries in terms of nuclear proficiency…”For the first time in the history of the existence of nuclear missile weapons, our country is ahead of its competitors in this [nuclear] domain,” Patrushev said at the Znanie expo, according to the state-owned RT television channel.
U.S., NATO to Suspend Participation in Landmark Cold War Arms Treaty https://www.wsj.com/world/europe/u-s-nato-to-suspend-participation-in-landmark-cold-war-arms-treaty-ddc08089?reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink
The move follows Russia’s withdrawal from the Conventional Forces in Europe pact
WASHINGTON—The U.S. and its NATO allies served notice Tuesday that they will formally suspend their participation in a 1990 treaty limiting conventional forces in Europe, marking the demise of another landmark arms control agreement…Suspending participation in the treaty—which was agreed as the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union dissolved—will give the U.S. more flexibility in deploying forces on NATO’s northern and southern flanks, including in Romania and Bulgaria near Ukraine. It also enables Ukraine’s Western allies to avoid sharing information on the deployment of their forces with nations close to Russia.
Israel’s Netanyahu suspends minister for suggesting a nuclear weapons option in Gaza https://thebulletin.org/2023/11/israels-netanyahu-suspends-minister-for-suggesting-a-nuclear-weapons-option-in-gaza/
A junior, far-right minister in the Israeli government was suspended indefinitely on Sunday after he suggested that it would be an option for Israel to use a nuclear weapon in Gaza.
Russia revoked its ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty while invoking the fact that the US never ratified it https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/putin-revokes-russias-ratification-nuclear-test-ban-treaty-2023-11-02/
Putin’s Top Priest Says Nuclear Weapons Are ‘Divine Providence’ https://www.newsweek.com/patriarch-kirill-nuclear-weapons-russia-1836950
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, has said that his country’s nuclear weapons saved the nation. Kirill, who has justified Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine in February 2022 on spiritual and ideological grounds, made the remarks on October 18 as he presented a Church honor to physicist Radiy Ilkaev, an honorary scientific director of Russia’s Federal Nuclear Center in the town of Sarov…
Russia’s nuclear weapons were created under “ineffable divine providence,” Kirill said.