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Relevancy of Russian Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons in current NATO-Russian threat environment

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Non-strategic nuclear or tactical nuclear (NSNWs) weapons are basically battlefield weapons and used to hit counterforce (Command and control, nuclear facilities etc.) target of enemy and they are used for limited purpose. NSNWs include Artillery, mines, SRM (small range missile), bombers, ships and submarines etc. There is no exact definition of range and yield of tactical nuclear weapons but just that tactical weapons have smaller yield than strategic weapons[1]

During cold war era there was clear distinction between strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons in term of range and yield. Non-strategic nuclear weapons had low yield and range and were used to target any specific area. But after cold war there is blur line or we can say now there is no more clear distinction between both strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons as their delivery system, range and yield have been improved. Now they have same capability as strategic weapons and can create huge destruction on large scale.[2]

Russia use term ‘Non-strategic nuclear weapons for its tactical or conventional nuclear weapons. It is clear indication that Russian perspective on Tactical nuclear weapons is far different from American perspective. What is the definition of non-strategic nuclear weapons still there is no common consent on it. But it is the fact that Russian tactical weapons are strategic as they have same capability or yield as one strategic weapon has and some weapons have more destructive capability than the bombs which were released on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Basically these non-strategic nuclear weapons were not covered in strategic Arms Reduction Treaty START and Intermediate nuclear force INF.[3]

Russia justify its non-strategic nuclear weapons in this way that its survival is under threat due to European countries whom US has provided extended deterrence and there is huge conventional asymmetry vis-a-vis US and NATO countries. Due to this reason Russia wants to keep NSNWs. There is a ratio of almost 3,000-6,000 NSNWs which can be delivered in counter response to NATO or European theatre. Russian stance towards non-strategic nuclear weapons is that she is relying on these weapons to make deterrence effective and to give message to US and its NATO allies that in case of any armed aggression, Russia will use nuclear strike against them.[4]

Background

United States was the first to start arms race as she developed its nuclear weapons and then Russia followed the same suit. In the early 50’s both started to develop tactical nuclear weapons to use in battlefield as there was nuclear rivalry between soviet and US so there was huge competition between both of them. In mid-1970’s soviet was ahead in term of mega tonnage then USA[5].After the dissolution of USSR, geo-politics had changed the dynamics of the world and according to particular strategic environment soviet adapted the method of limited use of atomic weapons to deter its potential adversary (US and NATO) as soviet was comparatively weaker than US in term of conventional weapons that’s why for soviet this was the only way to curb the crisis. Russia realized non-nuclear but strategic conventional armaments as being of potential use in such scenarios[6]

Throughout the cold war nuclear weapons were central to strategy of the US and Soviet as both states had focused on limited war so both decrease the number of nuclear weapons These Include long-range missiles, magnitude bomb, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMS), submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMS) and heavy bombers etc. These were basically to hit counterforce target of enemy forces and side by side they also positioned number of strategic weapons beyond their own zones along with the troops. Respective weapons typically had less Yield and range so they had less power than nuclear weapons. These weapons were used for battlefield to achieve tactical and limited purpose.

In 1987 soviet and the US signed Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, removed intermediate and middle range cruise missiles. But after the disintegration of Soviet Union there was huge security concern and soviet economy was also collapse and the conventional superiority which soviet had on US during cold war but after cold war Russia get weak in terms of technology and conventional weaponry and according to particular geopolitical circumstance the US also alter its weaponry. Due to further advances little attention was given to tactical nuclear weapons or strategic nuclear weapons. It is clear from the fact that in Presidential nuclear initiative (PNI) from 1991-1992, little attention were given to tactical nuclear weapons and in START, non-strategic weapons were also not included.

Non-Strategic Nuclear weapons (NSNWs) during cold war

US Doctrine and military strategy:

NSNWs were installed for protection of the U.S. allies against hostility which was posed by the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact allies, side by side these weapons were against other adversaries as well. For the US and its NATO allies it was under the strategy of flexible response. According to this strategy, NATO did not claim that they will use nuclear weapons against any sort of attack but they preserved the capability to deter the escalation of war. This was a sort of balance of resolve under which US and NATO influenced the perception of soviet so that soviet don’t escalate the crisis but give up.[7]

As the Cold War was about to an end, NATO recognized that now there is no need of having nuclear weapons at large scale or to defeat ant tactical attack from the side of soviet. As now Soviet is not able to launch full scale war on NATO. Side by side NATO also understand that these weapons would continue to play a crucial political role in NATO’s strategy by putting ambiguity in the concentration of any potential adversary that in case of any aggression NATO can use its nuclear arsenal.[8]

US Force structure:

During cold war US shaped and resize its non -strategic nuclear weapons according to particular security threat environment.US had deployed these weapons on zones of NATO and Asian allies in order to provide extended deterrence. In l970, US started to reduce its non- strategic nuclear weapons about more than 7,000 and in late 1980 NSNWs were less than 1,000.US reduced because its NATO allies were also agreed that less number of weapons are enough for the purpose of deterrence but having a good quality .Now US focus was on upgradation of its arsenals as she was not perceiving any immediate threat from Soviet .Between 1980-1988 US developed and upgrade its nuclear arsenals, which include, GLCM (ground launched cruise missiles) ,IRBM (intermediate range ballistic missiles), SRBM(submarine range ballistic missiles),and also build new bombs for navy but after the collapse of soviet Union, US stopped its modernizing programs and both soviet and US signed intermediate nuclear force(INF) to eradicate all short and medium range cruise and ballistic missiles[9]

Soviet doctrine and military strategy:

Like US, Soviet reliance was also on nuclear weapons as a military strategy[10]. During cold war soviet has doctrine of NFU (no first use) but this doctrine can be changed anytime by any state according to particular circumstances. The other thing was that soviet strategic nuclear weapons were more cohesive than US and these arsenals were also useful in case of any astonishment attack or preventive attack[11] .In 1980, Russia also started to reduce nuclear arsenals as they said that strategic weapons have shattering effects but at the same time they are used for deterrence.

Force Structure:

During cold war, Soviet Union had installed number of delivery vehicles to deliver NSNWs (nonstrategic nuclear weapons). In different periods, it installed devices that were so minute that they could adjust in little container, nuclear mines, shells which were used for artillery, short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, short-range air-delivered missiles, and gravity bombs. The USSR installed these arms on almost 600 centres, some of which were positioned in Warsaw Pact states in East Europe including some western and southern outside of the nation and all over in Russia. In 1991, after disintegration soviet was left with about 20, 0000 of non-strategic nuclear weapons before dissolution of Warsaw pact it was almost 25, 0000 NSNWs. [12]

Non-Strategic Nuclear weapons after Cold War

US strategy and doctrine

NSNWs are still central to strategy of US and NATO policy and US maintained its doctrine of First use (FU) and US relies on amalgam of conventional and nuclear weapons maintaining both offensive and defensive posture and continue to deter and providing extended deterrence . “New Strategic Concept” which were retained in April 1999 specified, “To defend concord and to prevent conflict or intimidation, the Coalition will maintain amalgam of both strategic and conventional weapons. Strategic weapons make a unique contribution in interpretation the dangers of belligerence in contradiction of the Coalition in numerable and offensive”.[13]

Furthermore, the 2010 Strategic Concept stated more reductions in nuclear weapons, in the upcoming future. The allies are “strongminded to follow an inoffensive world for all, in a way that promotes international stability according to Non-proliferation treaty, and is grounded on the belief of security for all.” Whereas coalition had “affectedly concentrated the quantity of strategic weapons based in Europe” and also reduced the role of strategic weapons in NATO plan.” Besides, the arms control progression “should concentrate on the discrepancy with the superior Russian stocks of short-range nuclear weapons.” so, nevertheless  NATO no more watched Russia as an opponent, the coalition deceptively arranged that the discrepancy in  NSNWs (Non-strategic nuclear weapons) could generate security apprehensions for some supporters of the coalition.[14]

Force structure:

From side to side, the late 1990s, George W. Bush Government, the United States preserved almost 1,100 non-strategic nuclear weapons in its dynamic stock. Around about 500 were air-delivered bombs organised at centres in Europe. Whereas the rest of arsenals, counting some extra air-delivered shells and almost 320 strategic equipped sea-launched cruise missiles, were apprehended in storing zones in the United States[15].US has condensed the quantity of its centres in Europe that stock strategic arsenal from over 125 centres in -1980s to 10 centres, in seven countries, in 2000.[16]

Russia military doctrine strategy

In past, 20years, Russia has reviewed its strategic and conventional weapons with succeeding varieties looking to dwelling a huge dependence on strategic weapons. Like, the armed doctrine delivered in 1997 permitted for the use of strategic weapons “in case of a riskto the survival of the Russian Coalition. “Doctrine printed in 2000 prolonged the environments when Russia may be used strategic weapons to comprise outbreaks using weaponries of mass destruction in contradiction of Russia or its partners “and side by side in rejoinder to large-scale hostility exploiting non-strategic nuclear weapons in circumstances serious threat to the security and sovereignty  of the Russian Alliance[17]

In 2010, it did not definitely approve the preventive use of strategic weapons. But also specified that “Russia assets the precise to usage of strategic arsenal in comeback to a use of strategic or any sort of additional weapons of mass destruction; biological and chemical weapons in contradiction of her and her supporters, and side by side in a case of an hostility in contradiction of her with conventional weaponries that would place in risk the survival of the state.[18]So, there is little indication that Russia strategies to practise strategic armaments at the very start of a clash, before it has involved with conventional armaments. Russia might recourse to the practice of strategic weaponries first, in ongoing limited war.[19]

Force structure:

Non-strategic nuclear weapons in Russian storage, it is very difficult to get idea about that how many NSNWs Russia possess. This ambiguity originates from various factors: improbability about the quantity of nonstrategic nuclear weapons (NSNWs) that the Soviet Union had positioned and stored during 1991, in this year President Gorbachev broadcast his PNI; improbability about the speed of warhead abolition in Russia; and thirdly, ambiguity almost whether all warheads detached from positioning are still programmed for exclusion. Soviet Union might have installed 15,000-25,000 NSNWs(Non-strategic nuclear weapons) in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Through the 1990s, Russian administrators specified that they had finished the arsenals extractions authorized by the PNIs and had ensued to eradicate weapons at a degree of 2,000 each year.[20]

Russia had also seemingly concentrated the quantity of armed centres that could install nonstrategic nuclear weapons (NSNWs), has merged its storing capacities for these arsenals. According to an estimate, the Soviet Union may have almost 500-600 storing locations for strategic armaments by 1991. By the end of this particular period, this amount may have deteriorated to almost 100. In previous 10centuries, Russia might have additional amalgamated its storing positions for strategic arsenals, recollecting almost 50 in manoeuvre[21]

21st century: Relevancy of Russian Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons in response to current NATO threat environment

The strategic balance in Eastern Europe turned a dramatic turn following collapse of Soviet Union in 1991. Newly born Russia was far-cry of previous super power. Though threat was gone, but NATO instead of restricting its capabilities and influence continued to expand, ultimately absorbing more states in Eastern Europe. After Global war on terror, NATO-Russia tensions eased down to great extent but after American with drawl from Anti-Ballistic treaty in 2002, Russia decided not to give extra leverage to arms control agreements with NATO, one of it was maintenance of credible fleet of Tactical Nuclear Weapons which in Russian perspective are called Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons (NSNWs).

Russia is economically far behind from Western Europe and US .Russian has about 30% of world’s natural resources which include precious metals, oil and gas. By exporting these resources, Russia produce a huge revenue but in 2014 after decline in oil prices and sanctions which were imposed by US and European countries on Russia on its defence and energy sectors, due to its annexation of Crimea and these all circumstance lead towards deterioration in Russian rubble .[22] Another aspect is, Russia exported its Gas and oil to European countries and during Ukrainian crisis Russia used gas as a mean to blackmail European states[23]. Europe made 75% of Russian export and it was huge share in Russian economy[24].After sanctions imposed by US and European Union (in term of technology and shale oil production and other sectors) in response to that Russia cut down its supply of gas to European nations due to which it effect the gross domestic product(GDP) of Russia[25]

European states are now relying on renewable energy resources; fossil fuels and shale oil etc.[26] Now Russia is no more able to blackmail European states to fulfil its own geopolitical interests and European states has freed them from the Russian import of oil and gas. Due to such economic conditions, Russia has only option of non-strategic nuclear weapons for the purpose of deterrence against its adversaries as she don’t has enough to build new arsenals as US. Russian defence budget is just 5% of American defence budget[27].

Another justification provided by Russians on its non- strategic nuclear weapons is NATO’s drill inside Baltic States, Russia provides another justification of its non-strategic nuclear weapons as NATO is expanding towards eastern European states and Baltic States and it’s a severe threat for Russia .NATO is doing agreements and improving conventional and nuclear competences and deploying nuclear capable missile on Eastern Europe and Baltic states near to Russian territory not only this NATO and US are also supporting oppositions inside Russia. NATO is also agree to support Allie’s forces in term of readiness, training and command and control whereas US pledged under European Reassurance initiative (ERI), in which US will provide security assurance to its European allies, on its eastern border to deter and provide  advancing resistance against a Russian conventional attack. But NATO maintained a comparable force in West Berlin to serve same interest as US, and it was fruitful for more than forty years in dissuading a Soviet (Russia) endeavour to alteration the status quo by might or coercion. [28]

Russia is facing adversary which is far ahead in every aspect; smart weaponry, long range missiles which are highly conventional capable, well trained soldiers, nuclear weapons kinematic and non-kinematic means of warfare etc. In response to it Russia has its non-strategic nuclear weapons and side by side building its offensive and defensive capabilities, conducting military exercises, verified delivery system of nuclear and conventional weapons and it seems that Russia is signalling US that though there is asymmetry between them but still Russia can respond US and her allies with its present capabilities. [29]

 The Russian nuclear arsenal is not just for outdated nuclear deterrence, just to prevent the status quo but it is also to be used as a tool of bullying. At the same time, Russia’s nuclear bluffing has generated the perception that a nuclear attack in Europe is once again possible. And it has upraised concerns about Russia’s supposed “escalate to terminate “strategy – a strategy that forecasts forced threats which include concrete limited nuclear use, to sack conventional war on Russia’s standings [30]

In a situation that would echo in the West, Russia might decide to slice out territory from one of the Baltic States through amalgam of both conventional and nuclear weapons, opening with an instant conventional interchange to generate a “fait accompli” and will hit counterforce target and in turn it will hit adversary’s capabilities. Russia will try to do limited war but in case NATO react to this strike rapidly and Russia feel its conventional defeat than there is chance that Russia will go for nuclear strike. [31]

Russia didn’t declare what is its nuclear threshold but Russia has military doctrine of first use (FU) and she can launch attack on NATO due to miscalculation as this is game of perception or misperception.

Withdrawal from the ABM (Anti- Ballistic Missile) treaty by US in 2002.This is also tremendous security concern for Russia as US is building Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) and US has deployed BMD in Europe and to counter BMD, Russia has deployed non-strategic nuclear weapons[32]. Deployment of missile shield in Europe means that, “there is preparation of first strike capability”, according to Putin. Russia has its Iskandar program in response to BMD and current status of this program is not clear up till now.[33]

Due to lack of precision guided non -strategic nuclear weapons like submarine launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) maintained by space technology, don’t have effective command and control C4ISR (computer, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance).Still Russia needs to work on all of these aspects.

Conclusion

Russian outlook on its Non –Strategic Nuclear Weapons, deal with both of political and military aspect. Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons have played a central role in the military strategy of Russia against its potential adversary US and NATO after the disintegration of Soviet Union. Russian armed forces still lag behind in term of hi-tech weaponry; unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs),Precision guided conventional weapons and electronic warfare competences with respect to US and NATO. Russia is relying on old soviet military hardware though she is investing in building new military hardware but full implementation is not happening as Russian economy is weak after its dissolution. Russia has capability to attain limited territory with limited options but to fight with major rival, it will take a long way to go.

Though there is asymmetry between Russia and NATO. Russia is behind in terms of technological development but both are doing tit for tat mechanism like US has deployed BMD in response to which Russia launched Iskander missile though it is short range but can cover eastern European states. Both states are doing this for their survival according to realistic perspective but this is engaging both of them in arms race which is very disastrous as it can instigate crisis.

Agreements like INF (Intermediate nuclear forces), PNI (Presidential Nuclear Initiative) and START treaty didn’t pay attention towards Non- strategic Nuclear weapons which was very crucial to discuss but to different other developments NSNWs were ignored. There are chances that both Russia and US will extend New START treaty but it remains to be seen that whether they will include Non –Strategic Nuclear weapons or not. 


[1] Brian Alexander, Alistair Millar, ed. (2003). Tactical nuclear weapons: emergent threats in an evolving security environment (1. Ed.). Washington DC: Brassy’s. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-57488-585-9. Retrieved 22 March 2011.

[2]Ibid.

[3] Robert M.Gates,(senior fellow at centre for a new American security), “Russia’s Evolving nuclear doctrine and its implications’’, Foundation pourla recherché strategique, 2016

[4] Tom Nichols, Douglas Stuart, Jeffrey D. McCausland,BOOK, Tactical nuclear weapons and NATO, 2012

[5] “US and Russian Tactical nuclear weapons: A forgotten threat”, enter for global and health security”,PSR,2016

[6] Robert M.Gates,(senior fellow at center for a new American security), “Russia’s Evolving nuclear doctrine and its implications’’, Fondation pourla recherché strategique, 2016

[7]“The United States retains substantial nuclear capabilities in Europe to counter Warsaw Pact conventional superiority and to serve as a link to U.S. strategic nuclear forces.” National Security Strategy of the United States, White House, January 1988, p. 16

[8] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “The Alliance’s Strategic Concept,” NATO Office of Information and Press, Brussels, Belgium, 1991, para. 8.

[9]CRS Report RL30033, “Arms Control and Disarmament Activities: A Catalog of Recent Events”, by Amy F. Woolf

[10]CRS Report 97-586, “Russia’s Nuclear Forces: Doctrine and Force Structure Issues”, by Amy F. Woolf and Kara Wilson

[11]Ivan Safranchuk, “Tactical Nuclear Weapons in the Modern World: A Russian Perspective,” in Alexander, Brian and Alistair Millar, editors, Tactical Nuclear Weapons (Washington DC: Brassey’s Inc., 2003), p. 53

[12]Joshua Handler, “The 1991-1992 PNIs and the Elimination, Storage and Security of Tactical Nuclear Weapons,” in Alexander, Brian and Alistair Millar, editors, Tactical Nuclear Weapons (Washington DC: Brassey’s Inc., 2003), p. 31.

[13]The Alliance’s Strategic Concept, approved by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Washington DC, April 23-24, 1999.

[14]ibid., pp. 7-8

[15]“NRDC Nuclear Notebook: U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2007,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January/February 2007.

 16USNuclear Weapons in Europe, 1954-2004, by Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen. Bulletin of the

Atomic Scientists. November/December 2004

17Joshua Handler, in Alexander and Millar, Tactical Nuclear Weapons, pp. 23-25

18 “Russia’s Military Doctrine,” Reprinted in Arms Control Today, May 2000

19New Russian Military Doctrine, Available at Opensource.gov, February 5, 2010.

20Pavel Podvig, “New Russian Doctrine and Preventive Nuclear Strikes,” Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, October 14, 2009, http://russianforces.org/blog/2009/10/new_russian_doctrine_and_preve.shtml

21Lewis Dunn, “Non-strategic Nuclear Weapons Control: What is the Problem?,” in Larsen, Jeffrey A. and Kurt J. Klingenberger, editors, Controlling Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons: Obstacles and Opportunities, United States Air Force, Institute for National Security Studies, July 2001, p. 17.

22 Hans M. Kristensen, Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons, Federation of American Scientists, Special Report No. 3,Washington, DC, May 2012, p. 68, http://www.fas.org/_docs/Non_Strategic_Nuclear_Weapons.pdf.

23Julian Cooper, “The Russian economy twenty years after the end of the socialist economic system”, journal of Eurasian studies, 2012.

24Andrea Thomas, “Russia and Ukraine Mustn’t Use Gas as Blackmail Tool, Says EU Official”, The wall street journal, 2014.

25Sam Meredith, “US ratchets up pressure to break Russia’s stranglehold over Europe’s energy market”, CNBC, 2017.

26Kimberly Amadeo, “Ukraine Crisis: Summary and Explanation, How Ukraine crisis threaten the EU, 2017.

27Fiona Harvey, “Shale and non-Russian gas imports at heart of new EU energy strategy”, 2014.

28Julian Cooper, “The Russian economy twenty years after the end of the socialist economic system”, journal of Eurasian studies, 2012.

29Richard sokolsky, “The New NATO-Russia Military Balance: Implications for European Security”, 2017.

30Jacek Durkalec, “Nuclear-Backed ‘Little Green Men:’ Nuclear Messaging in the Ukraine Crisis”, Polish Institute of international Affairs, July 2015, www.pism.pl.

31Nikolai N. Sokov, “Why Russia calls a limited nuclear strike “de-escalation“,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 2014, http://thebulletin.org.

32Paul Goble, “Putin Believes He Can Win a War with NATO, Piontkovsky Says”, The Interpreter, 10 August 2014, www.interpretermag.com.

33Alexel Arbatov, “A Russian Perspective on the Challenge of U.S., NATO, and Russian Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons”,

34Andrei Akulov, “Iskander – Response to BMD. Should West Further Provoke Russia? (II)”,strategic culture foundation, 2013.

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Revival of Iran Nuclear Deal and the Relevance of Nuclear Terrorism

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The recent cyber-attack on eight meter underground  Natanz nuclear facility of Iran caused damage to the centrifuges operating in the installment, for which they allegedly blamed Israel, is seen as a threat for the revival of negotiations between P5+1 and Iran on JCPOA. Iran terms it as “nuclear terrorism” for which it will respond by increasing the nuclear enrichment up to 60%, though not enough for producing nuclear weapon but is very huge deviation from the 3.76% enrichment allowed under JCPOA. This article tries to understand the possible reasons behind these attacks along with the impacts that would be caused on the revival of JCPOA through such attacks.

JCPOA under Trump Administration:

JCPOA was thought to be a great success of Obama administration as it enabled a formal negotiation among P5+1 members and Iran that would prevent another state from acquiring nuclear power. This concern was more prominent in context of Iran because after 1979 revolution, it was thought that Iran cannot properly handle such a big responsibility especially when it sponsors extremist groups and militias in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon. Along with this, the tussle between Iran and its regional rivals like Saudi Arabia and its allies particularly Israel, from which it is fighting through groups like Hezbollah and Hamas was also a reason. Trump after becoming President withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 due to the flaws in the deal itself. According to him, the nuclear deal did not mention permanent solution to get rid of Iran’s nuclear designs and also had no mention of the development of ballistic missiles and support to militias in the Middle East. The imposition of sanctions on Iran caused an internal pressure for Iran which was mitigated by carrying out secret and covert sites for the enrichment of uranium. Such sites were exposed by Israel in 2018 by leaking out thousands of secret documents containing details of Iranian ambitions and deviation from the terms and conditions of JCPOA.

Why is Israel against this deal?
If JCPOA is a deal that would curtail the nuclear ambitions of Iran then why would it’s archrival, Israel condemns this deal with several attempts (claimed by Iran) to sabotage the key nuclear sites and assassinate the scientist of Iran? Netanyahu has mentioned frequently that this deal comprises of several flaws including short term agreements, no mention of ballistic missiles, weak focus on checks and inspections by IAEA and an upper hand to Iran on economic front after the implementation of this deal which can result in heavy support of militias against Israel or re-operationalization of covert struggles for acquiring nukes. This would also threaten the strategic military edge of Israel and its regional nuclear hegemony.

Non-Compliance by Iran:

IAEA has verified that Iran had crossed the limits set under JCPOA to maintain the stockpiles of uranium and heavy water in Nov, 2019 and since then has increased the amount of uranium percentage from 3.67 to 4.5 percentage per Uranium-235. Later on, under the new nuclear law passed by the Iran Guardian Council the enrichment percentage of uranium up to 20 with abundance of stockpiles was permitted. Iran has responded to the concern shown by other members of the deal by affirming reversal from this law if US rejoins JCPOA along with the withdrawal of all sanctions. We can say that these changes are made by Iran to get attention from the major powers in order to get US again into the deal, ensuring an end to the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. Iran wants to have good economic conditions but no state is willing to trade and start developmental project due to the pressure from US. Same was the case of India which had to stop work on Chahbahar port in Iran although it was very crucial for it to develop trade links with central Asian republics and balancing the effects of CPEC.

Historical Relevance:

In 2010, the world first digital weapon was discovered which was used to disrupt the Iranian centrifuges in the Natanz site. The virus was known as Stuxnet that caused a physical damage to the computer rather than mere hijacking and controlling. It is now widely accepted that Stuxnet was a joint venture of Israel and USA that started under President Bush and continued during the Obama presidency. The attack however was never accepted by officials of both countries but a video surfaced in 2011,celebrating the retirement of Israeli Defense Forces head which declared Stuxnet as one of his great successes. The purpose of that attack was to derail the Iranian program for achieving its aim of forming a nuclear weapon. Similarly, the purpose of recent attack was to weaken the position of Iran in the negotiation talks occurring in Vienna and expose the vulnerability and economic costs of standing against major powers.

The Foreign Minister of Iran, Saeed Khitabzadeh responded to the concerns put forth by the GCC countries, demanding a proper response to the latest announcement of Iran for the enrichment of Uranium as “immature and irresponsible.” And various sources have confirmed that second round of nuclear deal negotiation are taking place as it was scheduled earlier, with apparently no impact of recent attacks on Natanz. However, Israel is not a participant to these talks and extreme internal pressure is exerted on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take constructive measures against their “existential threat” and confront the reality.

 It has become crucial for all involved parties to act proactively and gain maximum interests out of it, where Iran on one side does not want to appear aggressive for uplifting the sanctions and reviving the talks with USA, they are also facing severe economic downfall with rapid declining foreign investments and oil trade. This deal is needed to mitigate both internal pressure as well as for running the proxies in various countries of the Middle East. Biden had run his election campaign by stressing on the importance of multilateralism and regaining the role of US in the world. This would require it to play a significant role in the revival of JCPOA and most importantly making it favorable for the US. In between these two states, Israel is facing a dilemma as its involvement in any substantive or military engagement with Iran can make the situation worse but remaining silent would affect their stance of Iran and its approach to Iranian Nuclear deal. In case of sabotaging the nuclear deal, Israel will cause harm to the national interest of US, which Netanyahu would not want to do in context of Israel’s internal political situations. So it can be concluded that the current negotiations will continue despite these attacks but to predict the nature and objectives of the new draft resolution is difficult and immature.

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Pakistan Test Fire of Shaheen 1A: Revalidating the Minimum Credible Deterrence Posture

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Very recently, on 26th March 2021, Pakistan has successfully conducted flight test of Shaheen- 1A nuclear-capable surface-to-surface ballistic missile. The missile was first tested in 2012, and has a reported range of 900 km, with 10,000 kg weight, is a road-mobile launched and solid-fueled ballistic missile. It is an enhanced version of Shaheen-1 and has the capability of hitting the target with high precision, because of its sophisticated and highly developed guidance system, which inculcates it amongst the most accurate missile systems. The test, according to ISPR, was conducted to revalidate the design and technical parameters of the ballistic missile, along with the advanced navigation system. The missile tests are being conducted to validate the operational readiness of the missiles and to enhance Pakistan’s posture of credible minimum deterrence. In South Asia, such missile tests are routinely being conducted by both states, of which they notify each other well in advance as per the 2005 bilateral missile test pact.

Several factors account for the strategic policy making of Pakistan with regards to India. These factors include geographical proximity, relations with other states, economic and military aspects. The foreign policy of Pakistan is based on all these factors, and given the confrontational and antagonistic relations with India; Pakistan essentially has to reform its military capabilities, to come at par with the years-long rival. This animosity and historical rivalry between India and Pakistan has created such a strategic culture that compels the latter to embark upon the policy of minimum credible nuclear deterrence as a defensive strategy.

The paramount purpose of nuclear deterrence is essential to deter wars. Pakistan deems nuclear weapons as ‘weapons of mass destruction’, however, ostensibly reserves the option of First Use against the nuclear-weapon state. As, India’s military posture is aggressive, which aggravates a dire need to re-check the operational preparedness of Pakistan’s military forces. Pakistan is bolstering its capabilities in view of India’s military and technological advancements. These advancements create strategic pressure on Pakistan, for the reason Pakistan attempts to comply by taking essential strategic measures, within the stated framework of minimum credible deterrence.

Pakistan maintains the policy of minimum credible deterrence and emphasizes the sole purpose of nuclear weapons be based on security vis-à-vis India. Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine is of minimum credible deterrence. As many believe, the ambiguity surrounding the nuclear force posture of Pakistan makes it challenging to unravel the ‘minimum’ and ‘credible’ in its force posture, which is dynamic, subject to the advancements made at the adversary’s end; therefore the particular number of weapons can’t be quantified. The minimum credible deterrence aims to serve as the stabilizing factor in the strategic environment of South Asia. Pakistan has developed this posture as a counter to India’s conventional superiority, hence created a playing field at par with the adversary. This believes to have coped up with the conventional superiority of Indian military forces, and has emasculated India of its military superiority in conventional vein, and has thus wiped the chances of all-out war in south Asia.

The nuclear posture is contingent on capability, credibility, and communication. Hence, the credibility of the capability of the nuclear arsenals needs to be ascertained and should be well communicated to the adversary for maintaining the deterrence. The demonstration of the capability is essential for signaling the capabilities of a state. The missile tests are believed to be a way of communicating the capability, as a signal to the adversary of its effective capability. The test fires are conducted to communicate the capability, which should be credible enough to deliver unacceptable damage to the adversary. This is the essence of nuclear deterrence and has become vital in the view of emerging technological developments in South Asia.

The unstable peace between the two South Asian nuclear rivals remains vulnerable to competition and animosity. Since overt nuclearization, the chance of an all-out war between the two nuclear states has considerably been reduced. Peace and security in South Asia depend on strategic stability and nuclear deterrence robustness. The nonpareil conventional military superiority of India vis-à-vis Pakistan compelled India to go for aggressive military doctrines and force postures. The acquisition of such weapons helps Pakistan in achieving its desired deterrence stability in the region, and it offsets any kind of enemy’s aggression against the sovereignty of Pakistan.

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A Provident Posture for Israel: Facing Nuclear Iran as an Intellectual Problem

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“Subjugating the enemy’s army without fighting is the true pinnacle of excellence.” Sun-Tzu, The Art of War

Mitigating Trump-Policy Mistakes

Though Donald Trump sought to convince Israel that US withdrawal from the Iran pact would be gainful, the opposite was actually true. Subsequent to his artless American departure from JCPOA, Tehran merely accelerated its ongoing processes of nuclearization. Among other things, the former president’s argument that leaving a presumptively inadequate pact in place was worse than having no pact at all turned out to be evident nonsense. Prima facie, Trump’s politics-driven abrogation of the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement diminished Israel’s national security.[1]

To be sure, in such weighty matters, what’s done is done. Still, what is past here can also be prologue. By openly ignoring all proper considerations of history, logic and intellect,[2] Trump’s seat-of-the-pants strategic reasoning could only have exacerbated Israel’s security situation. But while these once-avoidable Trump-inflicted harms were not immediately remediable, Jerusalem could still act to prevent assorted worst case scenarios.[3]

Going forward, details matter. How, precisely, shall Israel best compensate for its Trump-accelerated losses of security preparation and strategic initiative? At this point,the odds of Israel launching any full-blown preemption against Iran,[4]possibly a proper act of “anticipatory self-defense”[5] under international law,[6] are understandably low.[7] Though Israel could still plan on undertaking intermittent episodes of Iranian nuclear reactor sabotage (e.g., along the lines of its earlier Stuxnet interventions and (probably) more recent cyber-attacks against Natanz enrichment processes), such a piecemeal strategy would display the significant defeats of any “infinite regress problem.”

This common problem is discoverable in science, engineering and philosophy.

 At best, this strategy would have to be regarded as a self-limiting option.

At worst, it could precipitate its own catastrophic consequences.

“The worst,” we may now be reminded by Swiss dramatist Friedrich Durrenmatt, “does sometimes happen.”[8]

The Primacy of Intellect in National Nuclear Strategy

What next? At this point, prudence dictates that Jerusalem back away from its traditional posture that Iran never be allowed to “go nuclear,” and replace this no longer feasible position with suitably intellectual preparations for comprehensive nuclear deterrence. The traditional Israeli stance was more impressively “hard-nosed” and seemingly steadfast, of course, but maintaining any such stance today would be crude, provocative and infeasible.

Back in 2003-2004, as Chair of Project Daniel (PM Sharon),[9] this writer(Professor Louis René Beres) was openly convinced that prospective irrationality could make an Iranian nuclear adversary intolerable. Today, this once-ominous prospect is substantially less credible. For various reasons concerning ordinary Realpolitik, it appears that the Islamic regime in Tehran would calculate in roughly the same fashion as any other rational state decision-maker in prioritizing national survival.[10] Initially, perhaps, there was ample good reason for Israel to fear a “suicide bomber in macrocosm,”[11] but this is no longer a convincing case.[12]

What should now be expected/calculated in Jerusalem? Earlier inclinations to Trump-style bombast and bravado notwithstanding,[13]Israel willmost urgently need to make appropriate preparations for sustaining long-term co-existence with an Iranian nuclear adversary. As part of any such necessary preparations, Israel will have to continue with its impressive developments in both offensive missile technology and ballistic missile defense (BMD.) Although Israel’s well-tested Arrow and corollary interceptors would never be fully adequate for “soft-point” or city defense, these advanced systems could still enhance the Jewish State’s increasingly vital nuclear deterrent.[14]

               The rudiments of Israeli nuclear deterrence are easy to identify. By forcing an Iranian attacker to calculate and recalculate the complex requirements of “assured destruction,” Israeli technologies could make it markedly unrewarding for Tehran to ever strike first. Knowing that its capacity to “assuredly destroy” Israel’s nuclear retaliatory forces with a first-strike attack could be steadily eroded by incremental Israeli deployments of BMD, Iran would likely conclude that any such attack would prove costlier than gainful. Any such relatively optimistic conclusion would be premised on the antecedent assumption that Iran’s decisions must always be rational.

               But what if such a promising assumption should not seemingly be warranted?[15]Inter alia, in such cases, irrationality would not be identical to madness. Unlike a “crazy” or “mad” adversary, which would have no discernible order of transitive preferences, an irrational Iranian leadership could still maintain a distinct, consistent and sequentially ordered hierarchy of “wants.”

               There are further relevant particulars. It is reasonable to expect that even an irrational Iranian leadership would hold in unwaveringly “high esteem” its own primary military institutions. Ipso facto, this leadership would remain subject to Israeli deterrence created by various compelling Israeli threats to these institutions.

               Civilian targets would be excluded from any relevant Israeli attack. Any such calculated exclusion would not only be in Israel’s overall strategic interests. It would also be necessary to ensure normal Israeli compliance with the authoritative law of war, that is, with a commendably exemplary adherence to binding military rules.[16] Law-based conduct is very deeply embedded in Israeli operational planning. This moral imperative is well-known to every soldier of Israel as Tohar Ha Neshek, or the “purity of arms.”

Rationality and Irrationality

 Iran needn’t be irrational to represent a lethal danger to Israel. A nuclear Iran could still be perilous to Israel if its leadership were able to meet all usual criteria of decisional rationality. Miscalculations or errors in information could sometime lead a fully rational Iranian adversary to consider striking first. In these worrisome circumstances, even the best anti-missile defenses could be inadequate in providing adequate population or “soft-point” protections.

               Among other things, if Iran were presumed to be rational in the usual sense of valuing its national physical survival more highly than any other preference or combination of preferences, Jerusalem could then consider certain more-or-less plausible benefits of pretended irrationality. Years ago, Israeli General Moshe Dayan warned prophetically:  “Israel must be seen as a mad dog; too dangerous to bother.” In this crude but potentially insightful metaphor, Dayan acknowledged that it can sometimes be entirely rational for beleaguered states to pretend irrationality.

               What if an Iranian adversary were presumed to be irrational in the sense of not caring most a bout its own national survival? In this aberrant but still conceivable case, there could be no discernible deterrence benefit to Israel in assuming a posture of pretended irrationality. Here, by definition, the more probable threat of a massive nuclear counterstrike by Israel would be no more persuasive to Tehran than if Iran’s self-declared enemy were presumed to be rational.

               “Do you know what it means to find yourself face to face with a madman?” inquires Luigi Pirandello’s Henry IV. While this pithy theatrical query does have some residual relevance to Israel’s mounting security concerns with Iran, the grave strategic challenges issuing from that country will more likely come from decision-makers who are rational and who are not mad. Soon, with this clarifying idea suitably in mind, Israel will need to fashion a more carefully focused and formal strategic doctrine, one from which aptly nuanced policies and operations could be expertly drawn and reliably fashioned.

               Among other things, this doctrine would identify and correlate all available strategic options (deterrence; preemption; active defense; strategic targeting; nuclear war fighting) with all critical national survival goals. It would also take very close account of possible interactions between these discrete but sometimes intersecting strategic options. At times, these interactions would be authentically synergistic; here, the “whole” effect would be greater than the mathematical sum of all relevant “parts.”[17]

               Calculating these complex interactions will present Israel with a computational task on the highest order of intellectual difficulty.[18] In synergistic cases, it may develop that the anticipated entirety of Iranian-inflicted harms would be greater than the technical sum of their discrete components. For Jerusalem, recognizing this task as a preeminently scientific problem represents the necessary first step in meeting Israel’s variously imperiled survival goals.

               In broadest possible decisional terms, Israel has no real choice. Nuclear strategy is a “game” that sane and rational decision-makers must play. But in order to compete effectively, any would-be adversary must first assess (1) the expected rationality of each opponent; and (2) the probable costs and benefits of pretending irrationality.

               The issues are daunting. These are interpenetrating and generally imprecise forms of assessment. They represent challenging but vital judgments that will require accompanying refinements in both intelligence and counter-intelligence. Also needed will be carefully calculated, selectively partial and meticulously delicate movements away from Jerusalem’s extant national policies of deliberate nuclear ambiguity.[19]

Taking the Bomb out of the “Basement”

Soon, for Israel, it will no longer be sensible to keep its “bomb” in the “basement.”[20] Moving carefully toward selected levels of nuclear disclosure could usefully complement any renewed Israeli efforts at diplomacy, e.g., resurrecting or updating certain still-acceptable terms of the Trump-destroyed JCPOA agreement. It would be a delicate balance.

More than likely, Israel’s longstanding “red lines” posture notwithstanding, Iran will manage to join the “nuclear club.” At that point, how will Tehran’s key leadership figures proceed to rank order their country’s critical security preferences? To answer this question – and very precisely this question – should immediately become a primary policy obligation in Jerusalem.

To survive into the future, Israel’s leaders must first come to terms with the knowledge that noad hoc process of interminable preemptions could possibly keep Iran from achieving nuclear status. For Jerusalem, the only sensible option is to prepare for viable long-term nuclear deterrence vis-à-vis Tehran, and to base such necessary preparations on capable intellectual processes.[21]To Israel’s considerable benefit, the anti-science Trump Era of contrived US remedies is over. Accordingly, Israel now has a not-to-be-forfeited opportunity to undertake various still-meaningful strategic initiatives. Any further efforts at preemption, whether incremental (resembling Stuxnet and Natanz hacking) or “all-at-once,” (resembling Operation Opera and Operation Orchard)[22]would be transient and of limited utility.

Exploiting Regional Sunni-Shiite Geopolitics

There is more. The recent Abraham Accords and other bilateral agreements with certain Sunni Arab states are generally “good news” for Israel.[23]Still, these agreements may make Israeli security increasingly dependent upon consistent cooperation with newly-designated Sunni “allies” and simultaneously isolate the nuclearizing Shiite regime in Tehran. Whether or not such expected isolation would actually be net-gainful for Israel remains to be seen. Conceivably, it could at some point prod Iran to act more aggressively and more precipitously against Israel.

There are potentially intersecting issues. The now impending full withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan will likely strengthen Taliban fighters and – reciprocally – certain militias and terror groups (both Sunni and Shiite) sometimes siding with Iran. This dissembling effect would give Jerusalem renewed and reasonable apprehensions about “spillover” Islamist adversaries acting in its own more immediate region. Of particular and prompt concern for Israel should be any related Palestinian resurgence of Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Fatah forces in Judea, Samaria and/or Gaza. In short order, such a resurgence could create its own escalatory momentum, generating not only additional instances of terror-violence, but also wars between states that become bewilderingly complex and more-or-less indecipherable.[24]

“Next door” to Afghanistan, in Pakistan, an already nuclear Islamic state in protracted nuclear standoff with India has expressly tilted toward “usable” Theater Nuclear Weapons (TNW). Since Pakistan first announced its test of the 60-kilometer Nasr ballistic missile back in 2011, that country’s emphasis on TNW appears intended to most effectively deter a catastrophic conventional war with India. By threatening, at least implicitly, to use relatively low-yield battlefield nuclear weapons in retaliation for major Indian conventional attacks, Pakistan seemingly hopes to simultaneously appearmore credible and less provocative to Delhi. Over time, though unintended, this calculated strategy to protect itself from any Indian nuclear strikes (whether as aggressions or reprisals) could elicit various Israeli imitations or replications. For the time being, however, it is plausible that Israel has not adopted any openly “warfighting” or “counterforce” nuclear strategy.

               “In war,” says Clausewitz, “everything is simple, but the simplest thing is still difficult.”Until today, in principle at least, Israel’s national nuclear doctrine and posture have remained determinedly ambiguous. Simultaneously, traditional ambiguity was effectively breached at the highest possible level by two of Israel’s former prime ministers, Shimon Peres, on December 22, 1995 and again by Ehud Olmert on December 11, 2006. Peres, speaking to a group of Israeli newspaper and magazine editors, affirmed publicly: “…give me peace, and we’ll give up the atom. That’s the whole story.”When Olmert later offered similarly general but also revelatory remarks, they were widely (but perhaps wrongly) interpreted as “slips of the tongue.”

               Today, a basic question should once again be raised and examined in Jerusalem: Is comprehensive nuclear secrecy in the verifiably best survival interests of Israel?

                The central importance of any codified military doctrine lies not only in the particular ways it can animate, unify and optimize national forces, but also in the efficient manner it can transmit variously desired “messages” to enemy states, sub-state enemy proxies or state-sub-state enemy “hybrids.” Understood in terms of Israel’s strategic nuclear policy, any indiscriminate, across-the-board ambiguity could prove net-injurious to the country’s national security rather than net-gainful. Though possibly counter-intuitive, this is likely because any truly effective deterrence posture could sometimes call for military doctrine that is at least partially recognizable by certain adversary states and by certain sub-state insurgent/terrorist group foes.

Moving Beyond Too-Much Secrecy and Excessive “Friction”

               There is more. In any routine military planning, having available options for strategic surprise could prove helpful (if not fully prerequisite) to successful combat operations. But successful deterrence is another matter entirely. In order to persuade would-be adversaries not to strike first – in these circumstances a manifestly complex effort of dissuasion – projecting too much secrecy could prove counter-productive.

               In the matter of Israel and both its historic and current enemies, any tangible military success must lie in credible deterrence and not in any actual war-fighting.[25] Examined in terms of ancient Chinese military thought offered by Sun-Tzu in The Art of War, “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” With this worthy dictum in mind, there are imaginable times when successful Israeli deterrence policies could require deliberate “loosening” of information that had formerly been “tight.”

               Such information could concern Israel’s capabilities, its intentions or both of these complex qualities taken together.               To be deterred by Israel, a newly-nuclear Iran or any other newly nuclear adversary (potentially, one of the major Sunni Arab states also worried about Iran) would need to believe that (at least a critical number of) Israel’s retaliatory forces would successfully survive any enemy first-strike and that these forces could not subsequently be stopped from hitting their pre-designated targets in Iran or elsewhere. Regarding the “presumed survivability” component of such adversarial belief, continuously reliable sea-basing (submarines) by Israel could provide  a relevant case in point.[26]

               Carefully articulated, expanding doctrinal openness, or partial nuclear disclosure could represent a distinctly rational option for Israel, at least to the extent that pertinent enemy states were made appropriately aware of Israel’s nuclear capabilities. The presumed operational benefits of any such expanding doctrinal openness would accrue from certain deliberate flows of information about assorted matters of dispersion, multiplication and hardening of its strategic nuclear weapon systems, and about certain other technical features of these systems. Most important, doctrinally controlled and orderly flows of information could serve to remove any lingering enemy state doubts about Israel’s strategic nuclear force capabilities and also its plausible intentions.

               Left unchallenged, such doubts could literally and lethally undermine Israeli nuclear deterrence.

               A key problem in purposefully refining Israeli strategic nuclear policy on deliberate ambiguity issues has to do with what the Prussian military thinker, Carl von Clausewitz, famously calls “friction.” No military doctrine can ever fully anticipate the actual pace of combat activity, or, as a corollary, the precise reactions of individual human commanders under fire. It follows that Israel’s nuclear doctrine must somehow be encouraged to combine adequate tactical flexibility with a selective doctrinal openness. To understand exactly how such seemingly contradictory objectives can be reconciled in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv now presents a distinctly primary intellectual challenge to Israel’s national command authority.

Preventing Inadvertent and Accidental Nuclear War

               In the end, Israeli planners must think about plausible paths to a nuclear war that include relevant risks of inadvertent or accidental nuclear war. It is entirely possible (even plausible) that risks of any deliberate nuclear war involving Israel would be very small, but that the Jewish State might still be more-or-less vulnerable to such a war occasioned by a mechanical/electrical/computer malfunction on one side or another and/or by assorted decisional errors in related reasoning (miscalculation).

               To properly assess the different but intersecting risks between a deliberate nuclear war and an inadvertent or accidental nuclear war must be regarded in Jerusalem/Tel Aviv as an absolutely overriding obligation. These risks could exist independently of one another, and could be impacted in various ways by Cold War II alignments. Moreover, Israel – like the larger United States – must increasingly prepare to deal with issues of cyber-attack and cyber-war; issues now to be considered together with the unpredictably destabilizing advent of “digital mercenaries.”

               There is one more core conceptual distinction that warrants mention at this concluding point of our assessment. This distinction references the difference between inadvertent and accidental nuclear war. By definition, any accidental nuclear war would need to be inadvertent. Conversely, however, an inadvertent nuclear war would not necessarily be accidental. False warnings, for example, which could be generated by various types of technical malfunction or sparked by third-party hacking/digital mercenary interference would not be included under causes of an unintentional or inadvertent nuclear war.

               Instead, they would represent cautionary narratives of an accidental nuclear war.

               Most critical among the causes of any inadvertent nuclear war would be errors in calculation by one or both (or several) sides. The most blatant example would involve misjudgments of either enemy intent or enemy capacity that would emerge and propagate as any particular crisis would escalate. Such consequential misjudgments could stem from an understandably amplified desire by one or several parties to achieve “escalation dominance.”

               Always, in any such projected crisis condition, all rational sides would likely strive for escalation dominance without too severely risking total or near-total destruction. Where one or several adversaries would not actually be rational, all of the usual deterrence “bets” would be “off.” Where one or several sides would not be identified as rational by Israel, Jerusalem could then need to input various unorthodox sorts of security options, including some that could derive in whole or in part from prevailing alignments.

               Still other causes of an inadvertent nuclear war involving Israel could include flawed interpretations of computer-generated nuclear attack warnings; an unequal willingness among adversaries to risk catastrophic war; overconfidence in deterrence and/or defense capabilities on one or several sides (including Israel); adversarial regime changes; outright revolution or coup d’état among adversaries and poorly-conceived pre-delegations of nuclear launch authority among apparent foes.

               Markedly serious problems of overconfidence could be aggravated by successful tests of a nation’s missile defense operations, whether by Israel itself or by any of its relevant adversaries. These problems could also be encouraged by too-optimistic assessments of alliance guarantees. An example might be an intra-crisis judgment in Jerusalem that Washington stands firmly behind its every move during an ongoing crisis, up to and including certain forms of reprisal that are more reasonably imagined than genuine.

               Because a prospective nuclear threat from Iran might not be from a “bolt-from-the-blue” attack, but originate instead from a series of interrelated escalations, Israeli nuclear deterrence ought always to be viewed as part of afar wider spectrum of strategic dissuasion. In this connection, Israel’s military planners willhave to inquire whether nuclear deterrence could ever be meaningfully persuasive in cases of conventional military or large-scale terrorist threats. Although the plausibility/credibility of any Israeli threats of nuclear retaliation or counter-retaliation would be greatest where the aggression itself was identifiably nuclear, there could still be circumstances wherein a massive non-nuclear aggression would warrant a limited nuclear response. In these improbable but still conceivable circumstances, Israel would need to clarify all such inherently problematic reasoning “in advance.”

               Significantly, as any such situations would be unprecedented or sui generis, nothing prospectively remedial could be calculated by Israel with genuine measures of decisional confidence.

Concluding Summations

               In sum, though reluctantly, Israel will sometime have to accept a nuclear Iran as fait accompli, and then plan to suitably blunt corresponding or correlative security risks via refined deterrence. To accomplish this indispensable objective, Jerusalem will first need to back away from its traditionally successful preemption tactics and implement credible deterrence policies vis-à-vis Tehran at all levels of prospective conflict. These would range from major terrorist assault to country nuclear attack. Ipso facto, focusing exclusively on more explicitly immediate nuclear threats would ignore a core axiom of contemporary strategic planning: A “bolt-from-the-blue” nuclear attack is not the only way in which Israel could become vulnerable to a nuclear war.

                Left unreciprocated or unmanaged, even “only” a conventional military attack on Israel (including major terror attack) could conceivably escalate in increments to full-scale atomic conflict.

               Whether or not the parties to the 14 July 2015 JCPOA are actually able to renegotiate or reinvigorate the original agreement on terms more favorable to Israel, expert diplomacy could usefully complement Jerusalem’s multi-faceted deterrence posture. Here, however, the Trump-era “Abraham Accords” should be considered as conspicuously minor augmentations. In the final analysis, let this analysis be clear, Iran will not be deterred from steady nuclearization by any US-contrived coalition of Sunni Arab foes cooperating with Israel.

               Always, sensible defense policy requires vigorous antecedent thought.“Subjugating” Iran’s potentially nuclear assets “without fighting” does indeed represent Jerusalem’s only prudent and persuasive strategic option, but this sought-after subjugation must first be recognized as an inherently intellectual task.[27] For Israel, as for any other beleaguered state on planet earth, political measures that are conceptualized and initiated by an allied country’s openly anti-intellectual leaders are likely without any tangible advantage. In the case of recent Trump-negotiated pacts for the Middle East, they could even be destined to fail.


[1]See:  https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/05/08/iran-advances-nuclear-program-withdrawal-jcpoa/

[2]“It must not be forgotten,” instructs French poet Guillaume Apollinaire in “The New Spirit and the Poets” (1917), “that it is perhaps more dangerous for a nation to allow itself to be conquered intellectually than by arms.”

[3]For authoritative assessments of the probable consequences of nuclear war fighting by this author, see: Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd. ed., 2018); Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington MA; Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, ed., Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1986).

[4] “Classical” examples of such a defensive first-strike are Israel’s Operation Opera(against Iraq) and Operation Orchard (contra Syria).

[5]See, on this issue: Louis René Beres and (Major-General/IDF/Res.) Isaac Ben-Israel, “Think Anticipatory Self-Defense,” The Jerusalem Post, October 22, 2007; Professor Beres and MG Ben-Israel, “The Limits of Deterrence,” Washington Times, November 21, 2007; Professor Beres and MG Ben-Israel, “Deterring Iran,” Washington Times, June 10, 2007; Professor Beres and MG Ben-Israel, “Deterring Iranian Nuclear Attack,” Washington Times, January 27, 2009; and Professor Beres and MG Ben-Israel, “Defending Israel from Iranian Nuclear Attack,” The Jewish Press, March 13, 2013. See also: Louis René Beres and (General/USAF/ret.) John T. Chain, “Could Israel Safely Deter a Nuclear Iran?” The Atlantic, August 9, 2012; Professor Beres and General Chain, “Living with Iran,” BESA Center for Strategic Studies, Israel, May 2014.

[6]The most precise origins of anticipatory self-defense in customary law lie in the Caroline, an incident that concerned the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada against British rule. Following this case, the serious threat of armed attack has generally justified certain appropriately defensive actions. In an exchange of diplomatic notes between the governments of the United States and Great Britain, then U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster outlined a framework for self-defense that did not require any prior military attack. Here, the jurisprudential framework permitted a military response to a threat so long as the danger posed was “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.” See: Beth M. Polebaum, “National Self-defense in International Law: An Emerging Standard for a Nuclear Age,” 59 N.Y.U.L. Rev. 187, 190-91 (1984) (noting that the Caroline case had transformed the right of self-defense from an excuse for armed intervention into a legal doctrine). Still earlier, see: Hugo Grotius, Of the Causes of War, and First of Self-Defense, and Defense of Our Property, reprinted in 2 Classics of International Law, 168-75 (Carnegie Endowment Trust, 1925) (1625); and Emmerich de Vattel, The Right of Self-Protection and the Effects of the Sovereignty and Independence of Nations, reprinted in 3 Classics of International Law, 130 (Carnegie Endowment Trust, 1916) (1758). Also, Samuel Pufendorf, The Two Books on the Duty of Man and Citizen According to Natural Law, 32 (Frank Gardner Moore., tr., 1927 (1682).

[7]From the standpoint of international law, it is always necessary to distinguish preemptive attacks from “preventive ones.” Preemption is a military strategy of striking an enemy first, in the expectation that the only alternative is to be struck first oneself.  A preemptive attack is launched by a state that believes enemy forces are about to attack.  A preventive attack, however, is launched not out of genuine concern about “imminent” hostilities, but for fear of a longer-term deterioration in a pertinent military balance.  Hence, in a preemptive attack, the length of time by which the enemy’s action is anticipated is very short, while in a preventive strike the interval is considerably longer.

[8]Donald Trump did manage to move the US Embassy marker tile from a building in Tel Aviv to another building in Jerusalem, but no serious analysis could regard such a minor and superficial movement as authenticIsraeli “victory.” Similarly, the net benefit to Israel of Trump- negotiated agreements with a few minor Sunni Arab states must be assessed vis-à-vis the corresponding costs toIsrael-Iran relations. Even the appearance of a US-concocted Sunni-Israel alignment will further exacerbate already hostile strategic postures obtaining between Tehran and Jerusalem.

[9]See, by this author, Professor Louis René  Beres: https://press.armywarcollege.edu/parameters/vol37/iss1/2/In the considered words of the Project Daniel final report, Israel’s Strategic Future: “The primary point of Israel’s nuclear forces must always be deterrence ex ante, not revenge ex post.”

[10] Says Karl Jaspers in Reason and Existence (1935): “The rational is not thinkable without its other, the non-rational, and it never appears in reality without it. The only question is, in what form the other appears, how it remains in spite of all, and how it is grasped.”

[11] See, for example, Louis René Beres, “Religious Extremism and International Legal Norms: Perfidy, Preemption and Irrationality,” Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Vol. 39, No. 3., 2007-2008.

[12]Expressions of decisional irrationality could take different and sometimes overlapping forms. These include a disorderly or inconsistent value system; computational errors in calculation; an incapacity to communicate efficiently; random or haphazard influences in the making or transmittal of particular decisions; and the internal dissonance generated by any structure of collective decision-making (i.e., assemblies of pertinent individuals who lack identical value systems and/or whose organizational arrangements impact their willing capacity to act as a single or unitary national decision maker).

[13]The belligerent nationalismof Donald Trump stood in marked contrast to authoritative legal assumptions concerningsolidarity between states. Thesejurisprudential assumptions concern a presumptively common legal struggle against both aggression and terrorism. Such a “peremptory” expectation, known formally in law as a jus cogens assumption, had already been mentioned in Justinian, Corpus Juris Civilis (533 CE); Hugo Grotius, 2 De Jure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres, Ch. 20 (Francis W. Kesey., tr, Clarendon Press, 1925)(1690); and Emmerich de Vattel, 1 Le Droit des Gens, Ch. 19 (1758).

[14]Israel’s anti-missile defense shield has four recognized layers: The Iron Dome system for intercepting short-range rockets; David’s Sling for medium-range rockets; Arrow-2 against intermediate-range ballistic missiles; and Arrow-3 for deployment against ICBM’s and (potentially) satellites.

[15]On pertinent background issues of rational vs. irrational adversaries, consider Oswald Spengler: “`I believe,'” says the author of The Decline of the West, “is the great word against metaphysical fear, and at the same time it is an avowal of love.'”

[16]Crimes of War concern (1) laws on weapons; (2) laws on warfare; and (3) humanitarian rules.  Codified primarily at The Hague and Geneva Conventions, and known thereby as the Law of Hague and the Law of Geneva, these rules seek, inter alia, to bring discrimination, proportionality and military necessity into belligerent calculations.  On the main corpus of jus in bello, see: Convention No. IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, With Annex of Regulations, Oct. 18, 1907, 36 Stat. 2277, T.S. No. 539, 1 Bevans 631 (known commonly as the “Hague Regulations”); Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, Aug. 12, 1949, 6 U.S.T.  3114, T.I.A.S.  No. 3362, 75 U.N.T.S.  85; Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Aug. 12, 1949, 6 U.S.T.  3316, T.I.A.S.  No. 3364, 75 U.N.T.S.  135; Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Aug. 12, 1949, 6 U.S.T.  3516, T.I.A.S.  No. 3365, 75 U.N.T.S.  287.

[17]See, by this writer, at Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School:  Louis René Beres, https://harvardnsj.org/2014/06/staying-strong-enhancing-israels-essential-strategic-options-2/

[18] For this writer’s most recent and most comprehensive assessment of these complex issues, see: Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (New York and London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), 167 pp (2nd ed., 2018). https://www.amazon.com/Surviving-Amid-Chaos-Strategy-Destruction/dp/1442253258See also: https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/content/surviving-amid-chaos-israels-nuclear-strategy

[19]The actual security benefits to Israel of any explicit reductions in nuclear secrecy would remain dependent, more or less, upon Clausewitzian “friction.” This refers to the inherently unpredictable effects of errors in knowledge and information concerning intra-Israel (IDF/MOD) strategic uncertainties; on Israeli and Iranian under-estimations or over-estimations of relative power position; and on the unalterably vast and largely irremediable differences between theories of deterrence, and enemy intent “as it actually is.” See: Carl von Clausewitz, “Uber das Leben und den Charakter von Scharnhorst,” Historisch-politische Zeitschrift, 1 (1832); cited in Barry D. Watts, Clausewitzian Friction and Future War, McNair Paper No. 52, October, 1996, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University Washington, D.C. p. 9.

[20] On identifying alternative nuclear disclosure options, see: Louis René Beres, “Israel’s Strategic Doctrine: Updating Intelligence Community Responsibilities,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Vol. 28, No. 1, 2015, pp. 1-16.

[21] For earliest published writings by Professor Beres on the Iranian nuclear threat, see: Louis René Beres, “Israel, Force, and International Law: Assessing Anticipatory Self-Defense,” The Jerusalem Journal of International Relations, Vol. 13, No. 2., June 1991, pp. 1-14; Louis René Beres, “After the Gulf War: Israel, `Palestine,’ and the Risk of Nuclear War in the Middle East,” Strategic Review, Vol. XIX, No. 4., Fall 1991, pp, 48-55; Louis René Beres, “Israel, Iran and Prospects for Nuclear War in the Middle East,” Strategic Review, Vol. XXI, No.2., Spring 1993, pp. 52-60; Louis René Beres, “Israel, Iran and Nuclear War: A Tactical and Legal Assessment,” Jerusalem Letter, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jerusalem, Israel, November 1993, pp. 1-7; Louis René Beres, “North Korea Today, Iran Tomorrow,” Midstream, June/July 1994, pp. 5-7, co-authored with COL. (IDF/res.) Yoash Tsiddon-Chatto (former Chief of Planning, Israel Air Force); Louis René Beres, “The Security and Future of Israel: An Exchange,” Midstream, Vol. XXXXI, No. 5., June/July 1995, pp. 15-23, a debate between Professor Beres and Maj. General (IDF/res.) Shlomo Gazit, a former Chief of IDF Intelligence Branch (Aman) and later, military advisor to Prime Minister Shimon Peres; Louis René Beres, “Israel, Iran and Nuclear War: A Jurisprudential Assessment,” UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs, Spring 1996, Vol. 1., No. 1, pp. 65-97; Louis René Beres, “Israel, Iran and Preemption: Choosing the Least Unattractive Option Under International Law,” Dickinson Journal of International Law, Vol. 14, No. 2., Winter 1996, pp. 187-206; Louis René Beres, “The Iranian Threat to Israel: Capabilities and Intentions,” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Vol. 9., No. 1., Spring 1996, pp. 51-62; Louis René Beres, “The Iranian Threat to Israel,” Midstream, Vol. 44, No. 6., September/October 1998, pp. 8-11; Louis René Beres, “Security Threats and Effective Remedies: Israel’s Strategic, Tactical and Legal Options: A Comprehensive Master Plan for the Jewish State in the Third Millennium,” The Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel), ACPR Policy Paper No. 102, April 2000, 110 pp; Louis René Beres, “Iran’s Growing Threat to Israel,” Midstream, Vol. XXXXVI, No. 7, November 2000, pp. 2-4; and Louis René Beres, “Israel and the Bomb,” a Dialogue with Professor Zeev Maoz, International Security (Harvard University), Vol. 29, No.1., Summer 2004, pp. 1-4.

[22] See https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/operation-opera-raid-on-iraqi-nuclear-reactor; and see also: Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Israel’s Strike Against the Iraqi Nuclear Reactor 7 June 1981, a collection of original articles and lectures by Yitzhak Shamir, Rafael Eitan, David Ivri, Yaakov Amidror, Yuval Ne’eman, Yoash Tsiddon-Chatto, and Louis René Beres. Also: Louis René Beres and COL. (IDF/ret.) Yoash Tsiddon-Chatto, “Reconsidering Israel’s Destruction of Iraq’s Osiraq Nuclear Reactor,” 9 Temple International and Comparative Law Journal, 437 (1995).

[23]See https://www.state.gov/the-abraham-accords/ These agreements refer only to relations between Israel and Bahrain and Israel and UAE. Also to be considered as complementary here is the Israel-Sudan Normalization Agreement (October 23, 2020) and Israel-Morocco Normalization Agreement (December 10, 2020).

[24]Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s steady insistence that any Palestinian state remain “demilitarized” is not merely unrealistic; it is potentially inconsistent with pertinent international law. On this point, see: Louis René Beres and (Ambassador) Zalman Shoval, “Why a Demilitarized Palestinian State Would Not Remain Demilitarized: A View Under International Law,” Temple International and Comparative Law Journal,Winter, 1998, pp. 347-363. See also, by Professor Beres and AMB. Shoval, at West Point (US Department of Defense): https://mwi.usma.edu/creating-seamless-strategic-deterrent-israel-case-study/  Zalman Shoval was two-times Ambassador of Israel to the United States.

[25] This was a major conclusion of this author’s Project Daniel Report (2003) to then Prime Minister Sharon. It was titled Israel’s Strategic Future. http://www.acpr.org.il/ENGLISH-NATIV/03-ISSUE/daniel-3.htm

[26]  See, on such basing imperatives: Louis René Beres and Admiral (USN/ret.) Leon “Bud” Edney, “Israel’s Nuclear Strategy: A Larger Role for Submarine Basing,” The Jerusalem Post, August 17, 2014; and Professor Beres and Admiral Edney, “A Sea-Based Nuclear Deterrent for Israel,” Washington Times, September 5, 2014. Admiral Edney served as SACLANT, NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic.

[27]In the 17th century, French philosopher Blaise Pascal remarked prophetically (Pensées): “All our dignity consists in thought…. It is upon this that we must depend…Let us labor then to think well: this is the foundation of morality.” Similar reasoning characterizes the writings of Baruch Spinoza, Pascal’s 17th-century contemporary. In Book II of his Ethics Spinoza considers the human mind, or the intellectual attributes, and – drawing further from Descartes – strives to define an essential theory of learning and knowledge.

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