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Thinking the Unthinkable: Another Redacted Version of the US Nuclear Doctrine

M Waqas Jan

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Over the last two weeks, much has been written about the release of the US’s latest Nuclear Warfare Doctrine that was published on the US Joint Chiefs of Staff’s official website earlier this month. While the sensitivity of the topic and the timing of its release are in themselves cause for discussion, the fact that the document was removed from the public domain after being up for less than a week has fueled intense speculation on whether it was made public by mistake before being abruptly redacted from  the JCS website.

The Document titled ‘Joint Publication 3-72: Nuclear Operations’ (dated 11 June 2019)had been uploaded on the publicly accessible section of the JCS’s online library alongside a series of publications self-styled as outlining the fundamental principles of US military action and decision-making. It represents the first official stance on the US’s use of Nuclear Weapons in over 14 years, which either ironically or perhaps deliberately has courted similar controversy over its release much in the same way the last version of this document did back in 2005.

That was when a similar manual bearing the same title had been leaked by the Washington Post as an unapproved revision of the US Nuclear Doctrine. A year after the leak in 2006, the Pentagon had announced that it was cancelling the publication of this revision and had also removed the earlier 1995 version of this document from its website. Titled Joint Publication 3-12: Joint Nuclear Operations, this earlier version had otherwise remained in the public domain for about a decade since it was first released in 1993 and subsequently revised in 1995.  

In order to add a bit of context to what they cover, these documents filed under the Department of Defense’s Joint Doctrine Publications Series comprise of a broad range of categories ranging from personnel, intelligence, operations, logistics, communications and planning. These categories are in turn further divided into specific topics outlining US Military Doctrines on a broad range of themes and subjects. For instance, Joint Publications Series Number 3 which deals specifically with US Military Operations, comprises of the US’s officially declared stance on more specific topics such as Joint Maritime Operations, Special Operations, Cybersecurity, Counterinsurgency (COIN), Counter-terrorism and Homeland Defense among a broad range of other themes and sub-topics. It was as part of these series of documents that the US’s official stance on Nuclear Operations was also published.

However, unlike the US’s officially declared doctrines on the above issues related to its more conventional war fighting capabilities, the issue of Nuclear weapons has always evoked a sense of wonderment and self-reflection outside the ‘strategic community’. In what is otherwise routine discourse for defense and strategic planners, policymakers and academicians, the very idea of discussing when and how to use nuclear weapons presents a chilling insight into one of the many threats and dangers humanity as a whole faces in today’s world.

Consequently, what the layperson sees is the cold impersonal calculus of Nuclear War, where issues such as survivability and the quick, decisive use of nuclear weaponry are instead directly equated with the end of civilization as we know it. This refers to the same kind of dystopian thinking that has been perhaps best immortalized by Kubrik’s Dr. Strangelove where even thinking of a post-nuclear or rather post-apocalyptic scenario represents nothing short of a tragic comedy. While Kubrik’s more satirical take on this sort of thinking parodies it as bordering nothing short of insanity, it still represents a highly plausible reality on which the world almost always seems to be on the brink of even today.

Thus, considering how the content of this latest US Nuclear Doctrine may be one of the most candid and ‘rationally’ justifiable iterations of such a reality, it is no surprise why many have been left shocked by what the US has officially published as its ‘way of thinking’. The doctrine’s very premise that the US considers a Nuclear war as winnable, belies a strategic mindset that has moved far beyond the deterrence value that would otherwise be enshrined in the principles of Mutually Assured Destruction. What this thinking instead represents is an overt declaration of what is known as a counter-force posture, where the US is advocating for greater flexibility and the full-scale integration of its nuclear weapons across the entire gamut of its armed forces.

For instance, the doctrine directly states that “using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability,” and the that the “employment of nuclear weapons can radically alter or accelerate the course of a campaign.” Building on this rationale the doctrine also advocates that the ‘integration of nuclear weapons employment with conventional and special operations forces is essential to the success of any mission or operation.’ Such an overt focus on using and integrating nuclear weapons across a broad range of operations represents a willingness and level of preparedness that has arguably been unprecedented in the history of nuclear strategy.

In one of the many quotes which each chapter of this document opens with, it is thus no surprise to find one of Herman Kahn’s most famous quotes alluding to the possibility of nuclear weapons being used in the near future. Kahn, who was a renowned US strategist with the RAND corporation, has been credited with ‘thinking the unthinkable’ contributing immensely to the development of US Nuclear Strategy during the Cold War. Ironically however, he was also one the primary real-world inspirations which Kubrick had used to create the whimsical Dr. Strangelove. Thus, while Kubrik may have depicted Dr. Strangelove as an artistic imitation of the real-life Kahn, what we have in our increasingly unnerving world today is an example of real-life imitating art instead. Something which the Pentagon might find a lot more difficult to redact as is.

Research Associate and Program Coordinator for the China Study & Information Centre (CS & IC) at the Strategic Vision Institute, a non-partisan think tank based out of Islamabad. He can be reached at waqas[at]thesvi.org

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Lithuania: To serve or not to serve in the army

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source: flickr.com

It is well known that in 2015 Lithuanian authorities reintroduced compulsory military service due to the potential threat caused by the Russian Federation.

It should be said, that young Lithuanians do not appreciate the idea and try to avoid the service in every possible way. They even are not afraid of penalties and imprisonment.

In order to force them to serve Lithuanian authorities are inventing new “tools” to make the process of avoidance the conscription harder.

From the beginning of 2015 all Lithuanian men aged 19-26 had to perform compulsory military service in the Lithuanian Armed Forces for a period of 9 months if fate decided.

The matter is the way of choosing the men who will serve is more than surprising. They say that 2 percent of men are randomly selected to complete vacancies in the army within the year. The lists of military conscripts then are published on the Internet. But “randomly” could also mean “nobody knows how they are selected.”

At the beginning of this year authorities lowered the age range at which men are called up for mandatory military service to 18-23 years and banned volunteer soldiers from holding seats in the parliament and municipal councils.

Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis said that the aim of lowering the conscription age is to ensure that conscripts’ military service causes the minimum possible disruption to their civilian lives.

The matter is the way of choosing the men who will serve is more than surprising. They say that 2 percent of men are randomly selected to complete vacancies in the army within the year. The lists of military conscripts then are published on the Internet. But “randomly” could also mean “nobody knows how they are selected.”

In reality the Ministry of National Defence can’t meet its recruitment goals.

The system includes Lithuanians living abroad who are forced to leave their home and come back for the service. The government of Lithuania doesn’t care that men living overseas have their personal life, own career paths and financial responsibilities.

The military authorities are trying to take immigrants for service on purpose, not caring about their personal problems, including health issues and financial commitments.

They also discriminate homosexual men by giving them specific tests to find out how gay they are, including a talk with the psychiatrist. Because homosexuality is still a sickness in Lithuania, with existing laws against gay people.

A lot of Lithuania men who decided not to come back for the service, are often wanted by police, and in some circumstances might end up in prison for up to 3 years.

Thus, in December 2019, 24-year-old Marius H. from Kedainiai was prosecuted for not visiting the military registration and enlistment office, but did not change his position. He said later that he would not go to serve, it is not in his interests. He has a well-paid job in Belgium and is not going to change his way of life. So he paid penalty (800 euros) and left for Belgium. And he is not the only one in the country who has made such choice.

Evidently, it is impossible to solve the problem in that way, using methods of coercion and punishment. Unfortunately, reintroducing of compulsory military service was the decision of the authorities, finding the ways to avoid it is the choice of youth. If the government doesn’t respect the citizens, the citizens have a right not to obey their decisions.

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Assessing India’s Enhanced Air Defence Shield with reference to Pakistan’s MIRV Capabilities

Haris Bilal Malik

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Since the last few years, India has been continuously carrying out an extensive military modernization program aimed at enhancing its counterforce capabilities vis-à-vis Pakistan. Under this notion, one of its most important components is the enhancement of its air defence capabilities aimed at providing an extensive multi-layered air defence shield. This has been done partly by combining indigenously developed systems with some of the world’s most expensive and advanced Missile Defence Systems which India has been purchasing over the last few years. Pakistan, due to its economic constraints cannot compete with India on a tit for tat basis. Hence, to address such a threat, Pakistan, for the time being, seems to be enhancing its indigenously developed Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicle (MIRV) capabilities. These, in turn, are aimed at accurately penetrating the Indian Air Defense network that is being currently developed, by swarming it with a plethora of smarter and precision-based warheads to devastating effect.

At present, India possesses and intends to acquire various air defence systems in its missile defence inventory.  These include indigenously developed ballistic missile defence systems such as the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) missiles, the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) Ashwin missiles and the Barak-8 missile defence system which has been jointly developed with Israel. Furthermore, to enhance its future capabilities, India had also signed an agreement with Russia for the acquisition of the S-400 anti-missile system back in October 2018, the delivery of which is expected in October this year. In another significant development, India reportedly intends to acquire the ‘National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System-II (NASAMS-II), a medium-range missile system from the US. India’s acquisition of advanced missile defence systems such as these would thus likely destabilize the pre-existing deterrence framework in South Asia, as it would embolden India to consider countering Pakistan’s existing range of warhead delivery systems such as its ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, fighter jets, and unmanned aerial vehicles with greater impunity.

In order to restore stability, Pakistan has two choices; firstly, in the long term, to purchase similar, albeit expensive missile defence systems from the international market – such as from Russia and/or China. A tall prospect which already seems difficult given the country’s economic difficulties. Secondly, to counter the Indian advanced air defence shield while staying within its existing doctrinal posture, it seems that the induction of an increased number of MIRV capable ballistic missiles appears as the more plausible and immediate solution.

It is worth mentioning here that Pakistan’s Ababeel Ballistic Missile, a medium-range ballistic missile, which it had tested in January 2017, is believed to have introduced MIRV technology into Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal with its reported range of 2200 kilometers. Pakistan’s rationale for achieving this milestone is widely believed to be inclined towards neutralizing a broad range of the expected outcomes of India’s military modernization drive, including the threat from its enhanced missile defence systems. This is further evident in the statements of Pakistan Military Officials, in which they have clearly stated that the development of the Ababeel weapon system is aimed at ensuring the survivability of Pakistan’s ballistic missiles ‘keeping in view the growing regional Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) environment’, hence further reinforcing nuclear deterrence.

In the same vein, there is widespread speculation that Pakistan’s recently tested short-range ballistic missile Ghaznavi – with its operational range of 290 kilometers – is also MIRV capable. No matter the validity of such speculation, there is still an ongoing debate questioning whether Pakistan needs to have such a short-range MIRV capable ballistic missile. Particularly keeping in view India’s counterforce designs which highlight an apparent shift towards nuclear counterforce and the notions of ‘splendid first strike’ and surgical strikes against Pakistan. A strategy that is, in turn, directly linked to its Air Defence modernization plans because such counterforce temptations might provoke Pakistani retaliation. Hence, the road-mobile Ghaznavi missile, based on its accuracy and, shorter range and flight times could thus be a prospective platform for being a MIRV capable delivery system aimed at penetrating the Indian Air Defence shield. Hence, for Pakistan, the provision of such short-range MIRV capable ballistic missiles like Ghaznavi would likely serve as a key deterrent against the Indian advanced air defence shield. 

At the present, Pakistan by being overtly threatened by the ruling BJP government still holds a principled stance in working towards bringing about lost peace and stability in the South Asian region. However, Indian aspirations as evident in its ambitious military modernization plans have compelled Pakistan to take all possible measures to assure its security and preserve its sovereignty. As such Pakistan may need to expand its strategy of playing its cards close to its chest particularly when taking into account India’s ongoing expansion of its Air Defence shield. In this regard, the induction and perhaps even testing of a medium to short-range MIRV capable missile seems to be the only way out, at least for the time being.     

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The Baltic States are Target Number One

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From 1 January 2020 security of the Baltic airspace is ensured by three Command and Reporting Centers designed for specific national airspace surveillance, based in Tallinn, Lielvarde, and Karmėlava, instead of one joint unit.

It is said that they enhance capabilities of NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense System, regional interoperability, and reliability of protection of the Alliance airspace. On December 19 the new BALTNET (Baltic Air Surveillance Network and Control System) configuration and three national centers in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were inaugurated at a ceremony in Kaunas.

According to the Baltic States’ officials, three countries have moved from the defensive to offensive measures in order to provide their security and defence.
The more so, the three Baltic Allies have launched the cooperative project of the BALTNET future configuration to further enhance their contribution to NATO’s collective defence effort and architecture.

Major Pärn, senior Estonian officer at Baltic Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) Karmelava said that “a before-and-after comparison clearly shows that we are moving from peacetime construct with just one joint Baltic CRC to the crisis-and-conflict-capable architecture of three Control and Reporting Points, including back-up capabilities and clear responsibilities increasing support for Allies and enhancing our national skills in special fields such as surface-based air defense, integration of ground forces and intelligence.”

This sounds like a very proud statement to any who is not accustomed with the situation.
At the moment, the Armed Forces of the three states are deprived of modern air defense systems. The main reason for this, as Estonian Defence Minister Jüri Luik admitted, is the lack of money.

For example, the Estonian Armed Forces continue to use the Soviet 23mm Anti-aircraft Cannon ZU-23-2, despite the supply of other systems. Thus, Tallinn has been purchasing the Mistral portable air defense missile systems. In 2018, the Ministry of Defence of Estonia signed a contract with the European company MBDA for the supply of these systems. However, the Mistral missiles have a range of 6km only.

In the coming years, Lithuania will remain the only owner of medium-range air defense systems in the region. In 2017, the Lithuanian Air Force was set to procure NASAMS mid-range air defense systems for $ 122.4 million from Norway. The missile is able to hit targets at the range of up to 40 km and at the height of up to 14 km. However, NASAMS, developed in the early 1990s, can’t be named the most advanced air defense system.

Washington provides financial assistance to the Baltic States but the amount of funds allocated for the needs of air defense is small: as Luik previously reported, in 2020 Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia will receive a total of $ 50 million from the Pentagon’s budget.

Generally speaking, the United States is interested in developing the air defense system of the Baltic region, but is not ready to invest substantial financial resources in it. For this reason, Russia doesn’t consider BALTNET to be a serious threat.

At the same time, Russia is not going to tolerate the Baltic States’ attempts to enhance NATO military strength near its borders. Moscow considers these measures as demonstration of readiness to attack. Its reaction is unpredictable and the Baltic States with its population have become real targets. BALTNET will help to detect a threat, but will not defend. On the other hand, three Baltic States are the NATO’s shield, aimed to stop Russia in case of war. On the other hand, NATO, probably, could stop Russia in the Baltic States, but these countries in this case will cease to exist. They will be Target Number One with no chances.

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