Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Illusion & Delusions & Arms Control

Much like the Olympics or the swallows returning to Capistrano, arms control almost magically appears and disappears. This process makes the world feel better, but alas, it is not safer as a result.

Most recently these arms control agreements have been between the USA and Russia. Apart from propaganda value, they do provide impetus to scrap aging nuclear weapons and delivery systems in a controlled manner. However, they seldom slow down the development of new strategic weapons systems.

The verification regimes always bear a whiff of skepticism and are pinned on mutual self interest rather than on trust. If one side decides to cheat, so what? Both sides are careful that the agreements do not change the strategic balance. Both parties have redundant break-out capabilities to implement, should either wish to restart the expensive arms race.

We are on the eve of another Russo-American arms control agreement. President Obama has announced that he, and his Russian counterpart Medvedev, will sign a new agreement on 8 April of this year at Prague, Czech Republic. Uncertain why Prague was chosen – maybe it was the lure of golden Pilsner Urquell beer or to honor the fact that Schweikist Czechs never quite have the heart to fight a war since their lost battle of White Mountain in 1620 during the Thirty Years War.

You must wonder why Russia, with teeming millions of nuclear armed Chinese on their South and Eastern borders and the USA, facing an ever-growing belligerent Chinese Navy and Army threat across the Formosa Straits, would spare a nuc to comfort world public opinion. The answer is that in both cases, their bomb reservoirs are really untapped and more than sufficient to deter attack.

Both US and Russian military planners understand the Chinese eventually will turn North and East in military adventure. In the 1960s the Russians already fried the Chinese with napalm in battles on the Usari River in Siberia. In the meantime the USA has turned the other cheek to Chinese provocations.

The provisions of the new agreement, similar to Obama's healthcare reform, are obscure at this time. We have been told that it will reduce the Russian and American nuclear arsenals by one third. President Obama also touts the agreement as a reset for Russo-American relations; this aspect of the agreement is probably correct after GW Bush, with his warped neocons, trashed the relationship for all the wrong reasons.

In the past, even more complicated then negotiation of the agreement, are developing implementing regulations for dismantling and destruction of weapons and verification measures. Further, the Russian Duma and US Senate must confirm the agreement. For the US it is problematic as the senate Republicans act as neocon zombies who are still smarting having their ears pinned back badly in Georgia by the gleeful Russians.

Some Republican senators already are using strategic missile defense issue as a red herring to derail the agreement. Maybe they have forgotten that it was Hopeless Henry Kissinger, a Republican, who surrendered US strategic missile defense advantages in the ABM Treaty in SALT I with hopes of getting a meaningful offensive arms treaty. Let us hope Obama did not consult Kissinger Associates on the agreement. We will not know until if secret protocols eventually leak.

The Strategic Defense Initiative was a billion dollar baby conceived by President Reagan in 1983. Since then over 100 billion dollars have been spent and no defense system, global or theater, really works. It has been the ultimate military-industrial boondoggle. There have been positive technology spin offs from the research and for certain, it frustrates the Russians who perceive a threat with a possible US breakthrough. So the program does provide negotiating leverage, albeit at a very high price.

There have been boasts by the US that it can shoot down a clunky North Korean strategic missile if it strays too far from the launching pad flying over the Pacific. That event, if it ever occurs, would be a sell out with tickets bought by skeptics.

President Obama, now with healthcare and an arms agreement has two thin feathers in his hat. He is apparently now foolishly trying to fly with them. In the realm of presidential soaring, he should be cautious, as he was just pitifully batted down by the abrasive Israeli toad Netanyahu. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret


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