Connect with us

Defense

The end of the US-Russian agreement on plutonium

Giancarlo Elia Valori

Published

on

On October 3 last the Russian Federation suspended the agreement reached in 2000 with the United States to downblend the bilateral surplus plutonium for nuclear weapons. The two powers had 34 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium each, at least according to the agreement signed in June 2000, at the time of the famous Reset between Russia and the United States.

The above stated agreement was reconfirmed in 2010, .but President Obama’s 2017 budget submission proposes a “dilution and disposal” approach as enabling the plutonium to be disposed of sooner, at lower cost and with lower technical risk than conversion to mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. Incidentally, some technological considerations are appropriate in this regard.

Mixed-oxide fuel, which accounts for 5% of the nuclear fuel currently used, consists of plutonium recovered from nuclear reactors mixed with depleted uranium, which can also produce electricity.

Hence, for budgetary and strategic reasons, President Obama has proposed halting the construction of a facility in South Carolina to downblend the plutonium into MOX fuel for use in commercial reactors.

However, regardless of the plutonium downblending technology, the MOX use had been defined in the 2010 agreement between Russia and the United States.

Hence, in essence, as early as last April, Vladimir Putin has been accusing the United States of not keeping their word, as they have failed to destroy military plutonium by instead permitting a reprocessing method that allows plutonium to be extracted and used again in nuclear warheads.

The bill Putin submitted to the State Duma sets out pre-conditions for the 2000 agreement to be resumed, including the reduction of US military infrastructure and troops in the countries that joined NATO after September 1, 2000, namely Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Putin also requires the lifting of all US sanctions against Russia and “compensation for the damage they have caused to the country.”

Furthermore, in May 2015, President Obama drew a line under the completed “Megatons to Megawatts” program by terminating a state of national emergency that had been declared in 2000 to help to ensure payments to Russia under the 1993 agreement.

The agreement regarded the US downblending of surplus military highly-enriched uranium that could not be assigned otherwise.

President Obama told Congress that “the conversion of 500 tons of highly-enriched uranium extracted from Russian nuclear weapons was over”.

In fact, in 1993, the US and Russian governments signed an agreement to purchase, over a 20-year period, 500 tons of Russian “surplus” highly-enriched uranium from nuclear disarmament and military stockpiles.

The material was bought by the United States for use as fuel in civil nuclear reactors.

Under the deal, the United States had to transfer to Russia a similar quantity of natural uranium to that used to downblend the highly-enriched uranium.

The deal was signed and complied with by Russia until last year.

The agreements suspended by Putin also include the Research & Development one signed in 2003 and again related to the nuclear sector.

We must consider, however, the complex strategic logic behind these seemingly quick Russian decisions.

The main shock was Ukraine.

During the Russian operations in the country, Putin and his aides launched many nuclear signals to NATO.

In March 2015 Putin said that he “could put the nuclear system on alert during Crimea’s annexation”.

Hence Russia still wants to “escalate to terminate” a possible nuclear attack on the EU and NATO, while continuing to perfect the sub-nuclear weapons and focusing on an increasing role of the nuclear strategy in its military posture towards the West.

A case in point was the simulated nuclear attack on Sweden in August 2015.

What is missing, in fact, is the implementation of the New Start Treaty signed in 2015 by Obama and Medvedev, which reduces to 1,550 the nuclear warheads available to each of the two countries.

The Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and the strategic bombers have been both reduced to 700 units.

The United States, however, have 741 launchers with 1,481 nuclear warheads, while Russia has 521 launchers with 1,735 warheads.

From this viewpoint, apart from the other military nuclear technologies, the United States and Russia have an equivalent potential. The difference is that the Russian weapons seem to be better and more effective than the American ones, from the technological and operational viewpoints.

Nevertheless the United States have not honoured the deal with Russia, thus instilling the legitimate doubt that much of the plutonium and uranium assigned by Russia is used by the United States for military purposes.

Putin, however, is right in substance and has probably not studied the US arguments and reasons well.

Let us go back in time: in the 1990s, the United States reported to have a surplus of 61.5 metric tons of plutonium out of a total equal to 90 metric tons, all intended for military use.

Russia had a stock of 180 metric tons of plutonium, 128 of which already adapted for military use, while also reporting to have a surplus of 50 metric tons of fissile material.

Plutonium is always hard to be downblended: either it is used to produce MOX, which is suitable for civil nuclear power plants, or it is “immobilized”, which means it is mixed with highly radioactive material, so that these substances can cover and prevent the radiation of plutonium itself.

However, with a with to making the radioactive material safe, a long and complex industrial process is needed.

The United States had started to build their own ad hoc facility along the Savannah River banks in South Carolina but, for various organizational and technical reasons, the cost of the project agreed with Russia proved to be not affordable for the federal government.

There is speculation that today the completion of the project agreed by the United States with Russia would cost over 30 billion dollars.

Hence President Obama stopped the construction of the facility in the Savannah River site.

At that juncture, the above stated dilute and dispose approach was developed.

It consisted in mixing plutonium with inert material and burying it underground in New Mexico.

As already noted, this is the reason why President Obama halted the construction of the facility in the Savannah River site and started the dilute and dispose project.

In the agreements with Russia, however, the only way to manage excess plutonium is the production of MOX – the dilute and dispose approach is not contemplated at all.

In fact, as underlined by Russia, this technique leaves the plutonium isotopic composition intact.

Hence there is the not remote possibility that plutonium can be extracted from the ground and used again for military purposes.

Therefore, at technical and political levels, Putin is right and, as also US scientists maintain, nothing prevents the buried plutonium from being really reused for military purposes.

However, both for technical and scientific reasons and for a cost analysis, the United States cannot really afford to convert all military plutonium into MOX.

Hence what can be done?

The US plutonium can be transferred to IAEA, which could downblend it in “third party” facilities, also under the Russian Federation’s control, or deal with a European nuclear country to downblend the US plutonium, again under Russian control.

Nevertheless, we must once again note the growing US military and technological backwardness, which seems ever more suited to an Iraq or Syria-style war rather than to a fair confrontation on an equal footing.

If the EU begins to think wisely on these issues, time will come to envisage a small pan-European nuclear military unit, particularly capable of seriously controlling its own borders.

But we already know that this is an impossible dream.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

Continue Reading
Comments

Defense

How 1971 war Brought Pakistan Closer to Nuclear Bomb

Qura tul ain Hafeez

Published

on

Ever since its independence Pakistan is a neighbor of shrewd enemy who always tried nothing better than to undo and divide Pakistan into pieces like what it did in the war of 1971. So it was necessary for Pakistan to acquire a security mechanism that can balance the power equation in the region. It’s pertinent to flash back in the history to answer the question that why after the war of 1971 it was necessary for Pakistan to acquire nuclear weapon. It was not the first time when India entered into to direct full-fledged war with Pakistan in 1971.At the time of independence there were almost 650 princely states in subcontinent that were ruled by princes. These states were given the option by the British Government to either adjoin with India or Pakistan.  Based on the religious line the Majority of the population of Kashmir, Junagarh and Hyderabad Dakan decided to adjoin with Pakistan however India maintained its hostility and once again propagated with the Hindu Raja’s (the ruler of states) and included them in India. Only it was Kashmir which was divided into Indian occupied and Azad Jamu Kashmir as a result of Indo-Pak War of 1948.

Continuing in its conspiracy against Pakistan India waged a war once again in 1965. It did not stop here played its role in giving Pakistan a huge loss in 1971.In the history of Pakistan the Indo-Pak war of 1971 has marked perhaps the darkest memory. It was the time when Pakistan was already weak and trying to overcome the suffering of 1965.Moreover, the internal political instabilities due to the economic, political rights of the people of East Pakistan. Various ethnic and lingual differences were contributing to destabilize the central command. India who was already for the moment just jumped in the scenario. It further fueled the burning conflict the make the situation worse. Furthermore in all this scenario Bengali population was an easy prey for Indian propaganda because they were already being exploited economically and politically. Thus the political clashes between the eastern and the western side of Pakistan turned into ethnolinguistic civil war.  The Indian government supported muktibahini and fed them with the arms and weapons eventually declaring war against Pakistan. This shredded Pakistan into two pieces. Pakistan lost its eastern half-1,600km (990 miles) of India as a result Bangladesh emerged as a new country in south Asia’s map.

Consequently due to such a huge loss Pakistan suffered a lot economically as well as politically. In the very same era while Pakistan was not strong enough and suffering from the wounds of 1971 war India launched it’s so called “peaceful nuclear test” in 1974. Indian nuclear tests create a security dilemma for Pakistan and a further hampered the security situation for Pakistan. In South Asia the geostrategic environment has always been very complex volatile and vulnerable it was quite difficult for Pakistan to assure its survival and national security interests without nuclear technology. In order to secure its vital foreign policy, territorial integrity and to maintain deterrence against its enemy (hostile India) Pakistan started its efforts to acquire Nuclear weapon and in 1998 did successful nuclear tests.

Currently if Pakistan did not have acquired a nuclear technology India must have done the same on the western border i.e. Baluchistan what it has done earlier in East Pakistan. Although it is very much involved in watering the seeds of the terrorist activities in Baluchistan.

Today it has been 48 years still India is engaged in fermenting trouble in Pakistan through its proxies like BLA and TTP. Kulbushan Yadave an Indian spy caught by Pakistan Intelligence is an example of Indian propaganda which shows that. India continues to kept propagating against Pakistan which is causing various internal security threats including the biggest one i.e. terrorism. Moreover the recent attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi on 23 November, 2018 by BLA is one of another Example of Indian conspiracy by feeding the terrorist groups in Pakistan. However it’s now difficult for India to lodged a full fledge war against Pakistan like past because now Pakistan has acquired nuclear technology and war against Pakistan means mutual destruction for India as well. This time purpose behind India’s vested activities is to   distract the unity all across the country by targeting all those developmental and economic projects which are being established under the umbrella of CPEC.

Now Pakistan has learned security lessons from East Pakistan. It is aware of India’s motivations and its presence in Afghanistan and Iran. Pakistan is now moving for good diplomatic relations and friendly regime in Afghanistan so we can be friends with them. Pakistan is one of the top countries who are fighting against terrorism and extremism. Now Pakistan is the world’s 7th atomic power. Its army is one of the most efficient army of the world and it knows how to defend its countries against the enemies like India.

Continue Reading

Defense

European army: An apple of discord

Published

on

The initiative of creating a European Army actually is in the air of the European Union.

Both French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel declared this month that they support the need to create a joint European army. By the way these two countries are the strongest EU member states from economic and political points of view. Their words are not just “air shaking” but the subject to think it over.

France is the only remaining nuclear power in the EU once Britain leaves the organization – and Germany – its major economic power. Both countries make up about 40 % of the industrial and technological base in Western and Central Europe, as well as 40 % of the EU overall capabilities and of combined defence budgets.

The main reason why European leaders voiced the initiative now can be considered from two different points of view. From one hand this can be the indicator of European fears of Russia, China and even the US military activities. According to Macron, “an EU army is needed to “protect ourselves” with respect to these states.”

On the other hand such initiative can be used by France and Germany to stop the US from weakening Europe and promoting its interests in the region. Donald Trump reacted to the statement by tweeting: “Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!” Thus, he tied closely the idea of a European Army to his demand to increase defence spending to NATO.

At the same time the initiative of strengthening the European collective defence capabilities not only irritates the US but scares many EU countries as well.

As for the Baltic States, they have not formed their official opinion yet. The matter is the Baltics are “between two fires.” The EU membership gives them good political positions in Europe where they try to gain respect and influence. But the US remains their main financial donor and security guarantee at the moment. They can’t sacrifice relationships with Washington for the sake of ephemeral European Army. It means that there is a greater likelihood that Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will softly reject the idea. It is not necessary to expect strong opposition to Germany and France. But they surely will do their best to postpone decision making.

After all the initiative could become an “apple of discord” in the EU and split the organization in two sides making the organization even weaker than now.

Continue Reading

Defense

Global arms industry: US companies dominate the Top 100, Russian arms industry moves to second place

MD Staff

Published

on

Sales of arms and military services by the world’s largest arms-producing and military services companies—the SIPRI Top 100—totalled $398.2 billion in 2017, according to new international arms industry data released today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

The total for the SIPRI Top 100 in 2017 is 2.5 per cent higher than in 2016 and represents an increase of 44 per cent since 2002 (the first year for which comparable data is available; figures exclude China). This is the third consecutive year of growth in Top 100 arms sales.

US companies increase their share of total Top 100 arms sales 

With 42 companies listed in 2017, companies based in the United States continued to dominate the Top 100 in 2017. Taken together, the arms sales of US companies grew by 2.0 per cent in 2017, to $226.6 billion, which accounted for 57 per cent of total Top 100 arms sales. Five US companies were listed in the top 10 in 2017. ‘US companies directly benefit from the US Department of Defense’s ongoing demand for weapons,’ says Aude Fleurant, Director of SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.

Lockheed Martin remained the world’s largest arms producer in 2017, with arms sales of $44.9 billion. ‘The gap between Lockheed Martin and Boeing—the two largest arms producers in the world—increased from $11 billion in 2016 to $18 billion in 2017,’ says Fleurant.

Russia becomes the second largest arms producer in the Top 100

The combined arms sales of Russian companies accounted for 9.5 per cent of the Top 100 total, making Russia the second largest arms producer in the Top 100 in 2017—a position that had been occupied by the United Kingdom since 2002. Taken together, the arms sales of the 10 Russian companies listed in the Top 100 increased by 8.5 per cent in 2017, to $37.7 billion. ‘Russian companies have experienced significant growth in their arms sales since 2011,’ says Siemon Wezeman, Senior Researcher with SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. ‘This is in line with Russia’s increased spending on arms procurement to modernize its armed forces.’

In 2017 a Russian company appeared in the top 10 for the first time since SIPRI started publishing its annual Top 100 list. ‘Almaz-Antey, which was already Russia’s largest arms-producing company, increased its arms sales by 17 per cent in 2017, to $8.6 billion,’ says Alexandra Kuimova, Research Assistant with SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.

Along with Almaz-Antey, three other Russian companies in the Top 100 increased their arms sales by more than 15 per cent: United Engine Corporation (25 per cent), High Precision Systems (22 per cent) and Tactical Missiles Corporation (19 per cent).

The UK remains the largest arms producer in Western Europe

The combined arms sales of the 24 companies in Western Europe listed in the Top 100 increased by 3.8 per cent in 2017, to $94.9 billion, which accounted for 23.8 per cent of the Top 100 total. The UK remained the largest arms producer in the region in 2017, with total arms sales of $35.7 billion and seven companies listed in the Top 100. ‘The combined arms sales of British companies were 2.3 per cent higher than in 2016,’ says Fleurant. ‘This was largely due to increases in the arms sales of BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and GKN.’

BAE Systems, which is ranked fourth in the Top 100, is the UK’s biggest arms producer. Its arms sales rose by 3.3 per cent in 2017, to $22.9 billion.

Other notable developments

  • The arms sales of Turkish companies rose by 24 per cent in 2017. ‘This significant increase reflects Turkey’s ambitions to develop its arms industry to fulfil its growing demand for weapons and become less dependent on foreign suppliers,’ says Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher with SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.
  • Taken together, the arms sales of the four Indian companies ranked in the Top 100 totalled $7.5 billion in 2017, representing a 1.9 per cent share of Top 100 arms sales.
  • Sales of the top 15 manufacturing companies listed in the Fortune Global 500 totalled $2311 billion in 2017. This is almost 10 times greater than the total arms sales of the top 15 arms producers ($231.6 billion) in 2017, and almost six times greater than the total combined arms sales of the Top 100 ($398.2 billion).
Continue Reading

Latest

Economy30 mins ago

Reforming the WTO is a Long and Complicated Process

Since early autumn 2018, the issue of reforming the World Trade Organization (WTO) has become an increasingly visible item on...

Newsdesk2 hours ago

Green Economy in Nigeria gets a boost from India-UN Fund

Jointly advancing environmental sustainability and poverty reduction is a challenge the government of Nigeria holds at heart. In pursuit of...

Reports4 hours ago

Malaysia’s Economy Remains Resilient but Faces Global Headwinds

Malaysia’s economy is expected to grow at a more moderate pace in the near term, growing at 4.7 percent in...

Middle East5 hours ago

Stepped up US military posture in the Gulf threatens Indian hopes for Iran’s Chabahar port

The arrival of the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier group in the Gulf to deter Iran from further testing...

New Social Compact7 hours ago

Wait for Gender Equality Gets Longer as Women’s Share of Workforce, Politics Drops

Stagnation in the proportion of women in the workplace and women’s declining representation in politics, coupled with greater inequality in...

Tourism9 hours ago

Why 2019 Is the Year of the All-Inclusive Resort

Nearly half of all millennials list all-inclusive resorts as a top choice for their vacation stays. For the other half...

Newsdesk17 hours ago

Clean energy transition in Ukraine

On 18 December 2018, the EU-Ukraine Renewable Energy Investment Forum takes place in Kyiv, co-organised by the European Commission’s Directorate-General...

Trending

Copyright © 2018 Modern Diplomacy