In 2018, the world is more concerned about nuclear issues that the Trump administration is generating whether it is regarding fast growing capabilities of North Korea or infamous Nuclear Posture Review by residing government in Capitol Hill. The focus of all nuclear issues around the globe is the US, which is of the view that its total inventory of 6800 nuclear warheads is not enough to deter North Korea whose total stock of nuclear weapon is not more than 2 dozen.
With all the limelight on the US, continuous and rapid nuclearization by South Asian dark horse is ignored completely. May be this ignorance is a pathway provided to India, to sail freely in the ocean of arms buildup to seize every possible opportunity. India is also not shy of taking advantage of deliberate ignorance of international community on arms race in South Asia. It is improving its nuclear arsenals inventory with rapid speed before Trump administration loses its charm of capturing wider attention. By giving hype to Trump administration’s foolish ideas many international issues of significance are sidelined which requires a lot more attention and efforts for greater peace. One of the most important issues is arms race in South Asia and inability of conflicting parties to control it.
Year 2018 is also not very different for South Asia’s nuclear pattern, that started two months ago and so far, one side has tested 5 missiles including 4 nuclear capable missile tests and one anti-tank missile tests. This series of test was started by India with rather big explosion by testing its intercontinental ballistic missile Agni V. Agni V is a three-stage solid fueled missile with an estimated operational range of 5,500 to 5,800 km. it is capable of carrying 1,500 kilotons of nuclear payload and is declared as an Indian attempt to strive for credible minimum deterrence against China. Since 2012 it was the fifth time Agni V was tested; it was a developmental test to induct ICBM into operational service.
After the test of ICBM Agni V in January 2018, India tested three more nuclear capable missiles in the month of February. On 6th February 2018, Agni-I which is a short range ballistic missile was test fired by India’s Strategic Force Command at annual training cycle to test the operational readiness of India’s missile force. Range of Agni-I is 700 to 900 km and can be armed with 1000 kilograms of conventional or nuclear payload. After testing its long range and short-range missile systems India was not satisfied with the effect of these tests and went further ahead with some more display of its credible minimum deterrence. On the very next day of testing Agni-I, India test fired third nuclear capable ballistic missile of 2018. This time India’s weapon of choice was surface to surface short range tactical ballistic missile with 350 km range which is single stage, liquid fuel missile capable of carrying 500-1000 kilogram of nuclear or conventional payload and is already in service since 2003.
Then on February 20, 2018 India again tested it’s another nuclear capable ballistic missile Agni-II which is medium or intermediate range from Integrated Test Range on Abdul Kalam Island in Bay of Bengal. Agni-II is a two stage, solid fueled with estimated range of 2000-3000 km which can carry conventional or nuclear warhead of 1000 kilogram. Agni-II is considered as a backbone of India’s land based deterrent force. Thus, it is road, rail mobile and according to media reports entire trajectory of trial was tracked with sophisticated radars, telemetry observation stations and two naval ships located near impact point in the down range area of Bay of Bengal.
After tests of nuclear capable ballistic missiles ranging from ICBMs to short range, it was not enough and India went one step ahead in display of credibility of its nuclear arsenals and tested its third generation anti-tank guided missiles in desert condition against two tanks.
Testing its nuclear arsenals to display the credibility of its nuclear deterrence to ward off the enemy is the right of every state. However, India’s display of its nuclear capability in such massive and fast manner must not be compared to credible minimum deterrence. As on India’s part testing all kinds of nuclear missiles and hurrying to operationalize them is the quest for credible deterrence rather than credible minimum deterrence. When India’s former National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon mentioned in his book “Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy” that India’s nuclear doctrine is much flexible than it is given the credit for, was right. So, even after testing 5 missiles India is linking credible minimum deterrence to military ambitiousness and declaring that these threats are its lowest possible efforts in response to the two tier threat originating from China and Pakistan
Alarming in this regard is silence of international community that is preoccupied with issues Trump administration is causing to seek attention. Moreover, lack of interest by international spectators to resolve the issues in South Asia is triggering the arms race in the region. Another significant aspect of conflict resolution approach suggested by international scholars is the imposition of a lot of conditions on Pakistan which is not a sensible approach for attaining peace and stability as peace and stability are hardly acquired on the basis of discrimination.
Effectiveness of Nuclear Deterrence of India and Pakistan in Pulwama incident
The recent ‘Pulwama crisis were triggered by a suicide attack byAdil Ahmed Dar a 19 years old young Kashmiri from the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK). He was highly distraught from the brutalities committed on him and on other Kashmiris of IoK by the Indian security forces. On 14 Feb 2019, a convoy of vehicles transporting Indian security forces from Jammu to Srinagar was attacked by a suicide bomber driving a vehicle rigged with explosives, killing at least 40 Central Reserve Police Force Reserve (CRPF) personnel. Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility. It is generally believed that it is not possible to bring such a massive amount of explosives by infiltrating the borders. India alleged that Intelligences agencies of Pakistan had control over the perpetrators of the attack but Pakistan had strongly denied these accusations, reiterating that JeM is banned in Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan is itself sufferer of terrorism how can it support this heinous crime elsewhere.
United States and Western countries offered support to India by condemning the Pulwama attack and asking Pakistan to deny safe havens to terrorists. However, US president called on both sides to exercise restraint. In the opinion of the author there is no sufficient evidence to interpret that US was in favor of military action by India. Moreover, Indian elections were scheduled from 11 April to 19 May 2019, therefore it was not in the favor of India to go for a major conflict. There were no other indicators that India has started deploying its military might on our eastern borders and activated important forward air bases and moved her naval units from her Eastern and Southern fleets to Western fleet. India in 2001 subsequent to terrorist attack on the Indian parliament on 13 December, in which 14 people were killed including terrorists, deployed her armed forces on war footing on our borders. In response Pakistan did the same. The armed forces of both the countries remained deployed ready for war for about one year (2001-2) but hostiles did not break out mainly because of possession of weapons of mass destruction by both states.
In another incident, on 18 September 2016, a terrorist attack at an Indian army camp near Uri by militants left 19 Indian soldiers dead. Government of Narendra Modi promised retaliation at a time and place of its choosing. On 29 September, Indian government announced that it had undertaken ‘surgical strikes’ across the Line of Control (LoC) and destroyed a number of terrorist launch pads and also killed a number of militants who were present and intended to be infiltrated into India. Details about casualties and targets remained sketchy. Pakistan strongly denied that any ‘surgical strike’ had taken place. It is considered that Indian government had shifted from a policy of ‘strategic restraint’ which she exercised after the 26 November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai to militarily response in the form of surgical strike in 2016.
After 14 Feb Pulwama incident the tension between the two countries started intensifying. India used this opportunity to malign Pakistan as a supporter of terrorist activities which was vehemently denied by Pakistan at every forum.
This occurrence provided an opportunity to BJP government to prove, her ‘nationalist’ credentials at the political level to please Hindu community and denounce Pakistan as a supporter of terrorist outfits. Politically, there was extraordinary support among India’s influential strategic community for exercising a military option that could test deterrence stability and escalation dominance between the two nuclear weapons states.
Indian Air Force carried air strike at Balakot (Khaibar Pakhtoon Khawa)in side Pakistan territory on 26 Feb19 under the garb of destroying terrorist camp. However there was no physical damage to any building nor any human casualty. Beyond visual range precision weapons were used. The intruder managed to escape unhurt. This was first air strike by Indian Air Force across the international borders of Pakistan after 1971 war. Pakistan decided to respond at the time and place of its choosing. The next morning( 27 Feb 19), Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that Pakistan Air Force has conducted six airstrikes at non-military targets in IoK. The aircraft were able to lock onto the target with great accuracy but they were ordered to drop their bombs in open field in order to avoid any human loss and collateral damages. Two Indian aircraft were also shot down in the dog fight. One pilot fell in the territory of Azad Jammu and Kashmir who was apprehended and later handed over to Indians after two days. This gesture of Pakistan of handing over of pilot was widely appreciated by the world and acted as a source of de- escalation of tension.
In another incident Pakistan Navy surveillance aircraft detected an Indian German built Scorpion submarine in the international waters about 98 nautical miles south of Gwadar on 5 March. She was tracked till left the area. It was a conventional submarine equipped with medium range cruise missiles (750 Km) which can be used against ships and land targets. With this background it is evident that both nuclear powers avoided any major military action. Some intellectual view this episode as a punch in nuclear deterrence which occurred on 26 Feb and was plugged the next day by Pakistan. The critical analysis reveal that nuclear deterrence prevailed because the tension did not escalate to meaningful and major military action.
The Indian action of 26 Feb maybe termed as “New Normal” which was first conceived and then employed by the US and Israel in their foreign policy or geopolitics, especially after 9/11. Under the garb of fighting terrorism, Americans and Israelis justified the breach of sovereignty of other states, such as Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Using their superior military and technological power, Washington and Tel Aviv turned the abnormal act of breaching the sovereignty of these states into their New Normal. However Indian New Normal has not been successful because of swift, timely, accurate and befitting response given by Pakistan the next day. Response of Pakistan Air force on 27 Feb and detection of Indian submarine on 5 March by Pakistan Navy has abundantly highlighted the importance of modern conventional war machines equipped with state of the art weapons, equipment and professional training. Principal outcome of this event is that Pakistan needs to emphasize on quality rather quantity of its conventional weapons and equipment. Keeping in view prevalent unhealthy economic conditions of the country arms race with India may be avoided. It is pertinent to mention that at the time of Cuban missile crisis of 1962 former USSR had 300 nuclear warheads as compared to USA which had 3000. Even then because of huge destruction envisaged, the war between the two nuclear states did not break out.
A new world without “old” rules?
On May 30, President Vladimir Putin submitted to parliament a bill on suspending the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF). With Washington having failed to respond to Moscow’s proposals to resolve existing differences concerning the treaty, Russia has been forced to respond to President Donald Trump’s February 1 announcement about the start of the US exit from the 1987 accord. How dangerous is Washington’s irresponsible behavior to global strategic stability?
Over the course of the past three decades, the INF treaty has faced a great deal of pressure from changing realities of a political, military and technological nature, earning the unofficial status of the “most vulnerable” agreement in the field of nuclear arms control. For example, the treaty is pretty vague about the status of the US combat drones, whose characteristics mirror those of the ground-based cruise missiles it bans. And also about the ballistic target launch vehicles used in the development and testing of missile defense systems, and which are similar to short- and medium-range missiles. And, finally, about launchers of the US missile defense system being deployed in Europe since 2015, which are also capable of firing medium-range Tomahawk cruise missiles. The INF treaty thus effectively constrains Washington’s attempts to maintain military-strategic, “escalation” supremacy in a number of key regions around the globe.
Therefore, the Trump administration apparently thought that it was the right time for it to walk away from the INF treaty, which is fraught with a serious strategic destabilization and increased uncertainty for America’s main rivals (which, according to Trump’s National Security Strategy, are Russia and China), without posing any immediate strategic threat to the US itself.
Scrapping the INF accord is also fraught with unraveling the existing system of global strategic stability, with the START-3 treaty (also known as New START, and set to expire in 2021) remaining the only bilateral agreement limiting the two countries’ nuclear missile arsenals. The START-3 treaty is particularly important in that it is open to extension without the need to obtain parliamentary consent in both Russia and the United States, which is especially important in view of the current standoff between Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress. Besides, this could throw in doubt the future of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
With the US and Russia already differing on the size of their nuclear armories, a formal exit from the INF treaty is a clear demonstration of Washington’s refusal to engage in a dialogue about a specific nuclear issue. However, all nuclear-related issues are closely intertwined, so if the US withdrawal from the INF treaty results in the termination, or even just a suspension of the START-3 treaty, this would be the end of the legally binding mechanism of mutual checks agreed upon by the parties. This would throw the dialogue on nuclear disarmament back decades and force the parties to get back to square one and start negotiations on the limitation and reduction of nuclear arms virtually from scratch.
Geopolitically, Washington’s actions are changing the strategic landscape throughout the Eastern Hemisphere. If the United States decides to bring medium-range or short-range missiles back to Europe, this would inevitably lead to a new spike in tensions with Russia. Washington is bending enormous political, diplomatic, and media efforts to put the “blame for the breakdown of the INF treaty” at Russia’s doorstep, and is looking for a new source of cohesion for NATO, namely to force America’s European allies to adopt the new rules of the game proposed by Washington, which is explicitly insisting on a “monetization” of allied relations. What we see are attempts to dismantle the system of strategic stability by economic means, portraying Russia’s responsive measures to European allies as “aggressive plans,” which necessitate an increase in their defense outlays so that they can buy expensive US weapons designed to defend against an imaginary “Russian threat.”
Meanwhile, the US withdrawal from the INF treaty could further undermine trust between Washington and other NATO allies, bringing back memories of the political crisis over the deployment of Pershing-2 missiles in the late 1970s – early-1980s, when “bloc discipline” within NATO was still strong. Today, Europe will have to choose between ensuring continued US loyalty at the cost of resuming its role of a hostage to Washington’s short-term tactical intentions and pursuing a much more European-oriented defense policy. Some experts believe that the latter option could deepen the already existing split in the EU and even lead to its collapse. Above all due to the intractable contradictions between those who view the US not merely as a guarantor “against external threats,” but also as a counterbalance to a number of leading EU countries that are beginning to see the continuously diverging interests of the United States and continental Europe.
As for the impact the elimination of the INF treaty could have on European security, it would be of a truly comprehensive nature as NATO’s deterrence strategy hinges on a strategic nuclear potential that will not be directly affected by the termination of the treaty. Hiding behind the Trump administration’s openly negative view of the START-3 agreement is a much greater threat to Europe because, according to Western analysts, the negative developments around this treaty would seriously undermine NATO’s nuclear deterrence capability.
While admitting that the recent events have forced Europe to “wake up from hibernation,” the experts wonder exactly what the increasingly divided European Union will do “in a situation of increasing danger.”
The impact of all this on Asia will be even more destabilizing, as the White House often justifies pulling out of the INF treaty by imaginary threats from China and North Korea. However, most experts consider a complete elimination of Pyongyang’s nuclear missile potential as “unrealistic” in the foreseeable future for the simple reason that nuclear weapons are the most reliable, if not the only, guarantor of the preservation of the political system currently existing in North Korea. Therefore, sooner or later, “the United States will revert to a purely forceful policy towards North Korea,” including by deploying medium-range missiles in the region. However, this would pose a serious security threat to China, because these missiles would endanger “the political decision-making centers and the military administration of China, as well as many of the most important military installations of the People’s Republic.”
Apparently not so sure about its ability to defeat China in the emerging global rivalry, Washington now wants to draw Beijing into the costliest of all arms races – a race of nuclear missiles.
Moreover, scrapping the INF treaty would only exacerbate the problem of nuclear non-proliferation in Asia. Many US experts believe that in the event of a new arms race – now between the United States and China, Beijing could, at least within the next decade, “overtake” the United States in the number of deployed new land-based medium- and short-range missiles. Given the current tensions between the two countries, chances for them to engage in a meaningful dialogue on military-strategic matters look pretty slim. With the Trump administration trying to water down its commitments pertaining to regional security, a buildup of these two leading powers’ military might could force Washington’s Asian allies, including Japan, South Korea and Australia, to make independent decisions on strategic security. India, and probably Pakistan too, would have to respond to China’s growing strategic potential, and in the worst scenario, this could kick-start a nuclear arms race in Asia.
Russia has always been firmly and consistently opposed to attempts to “dismantle the instruments of strategic stability,” which would only stoke up mistrust between nuclear powers and “militarize their foreign policy thinking.” Therefore, Moscow has consistently reaffirmed its desire to continue “work to save the INF treaty, despite the US position.”
Hating to get involved in an all-stops-out arms race, Russia keeps reminding the United States and the whole world of its readiness to “engage in meaningful and across-the-board negotiations on all aspects of disarmament.” However, the US leaders, just like in the bad old times, are doing exactly the opposite, looking for ways “to dismantle the already established system of international security.”
The draft law on suspending the INF treaty submitted for parliamentary consideration reserves President Putin “the right to renew the treaty.” Commenting on the issue, Franz Klintsevich, a member of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, noted that Russia “leaves the door open.” Moscow is ready to “resume its commitments under the INF treaty any time,” and gives the United States “a chance to think again.” Moscow has also reaffirmed its strong commitment to upholding the principles of strategic stability, with presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling the START-3 treaty “the cornerstone of international security and disarmament architecture.” Russia’s unconditional interest in promoting a constructive and meaningful dialogue was thus emphasized again.
Meanwhile, the prospects of global strategic stability are getting increasingly vague. Optimists say that since formal agreements mainly fix the level of mutual trust, the existing model of strategic stability is becoming a thing of the past for objective reasons. To avoid “strategic chaos,” the leaders of the world’s three leading nuclear powers need to look for new formats of stability indirectly, independently, and even “unilaterally. Pessimists, for their part, believe that having signed treaties is always better for security than not having them at all. Treaties are indispensable as they stand in the way of escalations inherent in the realm of nuclear deterrence. A collapse of the INF treaty can easily dismantle “the entire system of nuclear arms control” and lead to chaos with disastrous consequences “for the security of … superpowers and the whole world“. Thus, consistent efforts to resume the dialogue between Russia and the United States would be the best way out in the current situation, because it would at least help find a new understanding of strategic stability shared not only by our two nations but, ideally, by all the other nuclear powers. Otherwise, at the end of the day, those who wish to “re-deal” the cards of strategic stability for their own benefit will have to realize the futility of their effort. Better sooner than later.
From our partner International Affairs
Grab your Coats: Can America succeed in the Arctic?
Authors: Mathieu Barron and Dr. Jahara Matisek*
It should not be a surprise that the Arctic is melting: climatic warming was identified by the scientific community in 1979.More alarming, though, is that 58% of Arctic sea ice has melted since 1980. Besides being troubling for environmental reasons, the melting of the Arctic opens a Pandora’s Box of geopolitical disputes over ownership of economic resources and newly navigable sea lanes. Chief among the dispute is the claiming of Economic Exclusion Zones (EEZs) as dictated by the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of Sea. Such EEZ areas grant a country 200 nautical miles of exclusive access and rights to resources, such as fishing, natural gas, oil, minerals, etc. In the Arctic, there are valuable mineral resources, to include, nickel, copper, coal, gold, iron, natural gas, oil, uranium, tungsten, and diamonds, and then there are vast biological resources (e.g. fish, etc.).
The treasure trove of resources would be incredibly useful to any state, whether it be Russia or Norway. More importantly, numerous sea lanes are soon to open, to include the Bering Strait and the Transpolar Sea Route, which cuts directly through the Arctic Circle. With the Arctic being a dynamic environment, how should the United States (US)act to promote American prosperity to advance influence in the region?
Before identifying “success,” it is imperative to get a grasp of the region as a whole – who the main actors are, what the primary issues are, what the history of the region is. In the Arctic’s case, the Arctic Council is a who’s who in the northernmost portion of the planet. The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum with eight members: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the US. In addition, there are six permanent participants, each representing indigenous Arctic peoples. The Council was founded to promote cooperation, coordination, and interaction between its members. Generally, this means working together to respond to oil spills, management of fisheries, scientific research, and search and rescue operations.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, there were multilateral operations in icebreaking and search and rescue, to include founding of the Arctic Council in 1996. However, the current Arctic environment in the 21st century is framed by great power competition from Russia and China, who are deviating from norms of conduct regarding the region. Moreover, these two countries are contriving new ways of boxing the US and other Western allies out of the region by signing trade deals with one another and building up Arctic military capabilities that are outpacing the West.
A Russian Arctic?
Russia is America’s biggest competitor in the realm of the Arctic for good reason. About a half of the Arctic – its people, and coastline, and likely a half of its hidden resources – belong to Russia. Even more, the Arctic sea ice on the Russian end melts faster and fuller than the ice on the Canadian end, allowing for more access to resources and shipping lanes. Outside of their geographic advantage, Russia maintains a significant edge in military assets in the Arctic Circle, showing no intention of reducing this footprint.
A 2017reportshowed that Russia stationed 19 warships and 34 submarines in the Arctic, compared to one American warship and no submarines. From a 2018estimate, there are six Russian bases in the Arctic, each equipped with S-400 anti-aircraft weapons systems alongside forty icebreakers between the bases. More troubling, a Canadian report claims that Russian military investments are increasing in the Arctic, leading to the development of four brigade combat teams, 14 operational airfields, 16 deep-water ports, and11 icebreakers. Each of these investments are essentially a Russian proclamation of their own Monroe Doctrine in the Arctic.
Finally, more than ever, Russian bombers are flying over the Arctic, with NORAD reporting 20 sightings and 19 intercepts last year. These developments are in no way shocking – they are even partly expected – given their Cold War antecedent of behavior in the region. However, the Russian government believes it has a valid claim to the Arctic and its resources, and are signaling a strong intent to defend this claim with military force. After all, this is the same state which invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014. In shaping US plans for the Arctic, there is no bigger concern than Russian desires for increased influence and access to resources.
An American Response to Russian Arctic Hegemony?
So how should the US respond to this emerging threat in an oft-ignored theater? The first step lies in making the Arctic a policymaking priority. As of now, the Arctic is given almost no legislative or military attention, and exists mostly in the periphery of policy debates. The word ‘Arctic’ appears once in the National Security Strategy (NSS) and a whopping zero times in the National Defense Strategy (NDS).From a strategic standpoint, the last thing the US wants is a conventional war with a near-peer adversary in the Arctic Circle. This harsh environment has limited infrastructure, narrow logistical networks, and austere operating conditions for humans and machinery alike.
It is important to establish a geopolitical environment similar to NATO’s position on Russia in continental Europe: a careful balance with an enforceable red line. As preferable as it would be to maintain the Arctic Circle as a paragon of international cooperation, it is ignorant to assume that the region exists in a vacuum free of maneuvering for personalist gain. Additionally, making the Arctic a cooperative bubble may only encourage Russian aggression elsewhere if the fear of punitive actions in the Arctic is close to non-existent. Would we see another annexation, or other indirect actions by Russia to capture land and resources in the Arctic?
A careful US and allied militarization focused on flexibility in the Arctic theater is the key to showing signs of strength at the North Pole. By developing airstrips and forming infrastructure in the Arctic region to protect newly-melted sea lanes and land routes, allied forces will gain a logistical foothold in an undeveloped region. Even more, building new icebreakers to replace the two remaining US Coast Guard vessel will ensure continued capability in forward presence and sea control as well as signaling commitment in the form of personnel and appropriations. Finally, increasing multilateral arctic training exercises amongst northern NATO allies, forming a joint interagency task force – while also continuing cooperative efforts across the Arctic Council is needed to demonstrate US resolve to prevent China and Russia from asserting de facto control of the North Pole.
While not a panacea, actionable measures – besides words – by the US and her allies will breathe fresh air into Cold War-era Arctic policies. This will demonstrate that the West will not permit this dynamic and valuable region to fall prey to bellicose Russian behavior. Working with international partners through the Arctic Council and NATO and by revamping US efforts in the Arctic, it is possible not only to enforce the UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea, but to ensure American prosperity across the entire region. Guaranteeing the Commons of the Arctic, especially EEZs, will ensure American hegemony for the 21st century. If not, Arctic spoils will go to those, like Russia, that militarize it first.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US Air Force, Department of the Air Force, Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the US government.
Dr. Jahara Matisek (Major, U.S. Air Force) Assistant Professor, Department of Military & Strategic Studies, U.S. Air Force Academy. Non-Resident Fellow, Modern War Institute, West Point, U.S. Military Academy
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