Revisiting the End of the Vietnam War: Allies, War Termination and Strategy

Forty years after the Vietnam War ended, we are still troubled by the “only U.S. military defeat in history” in an “unwinnable” war.

Since then, suggestions of US military intervention have evoked “no more Vietnams.” We have, unfortunately, failed to view this war in historic perspective which has clouded our perception of what actually resulted from it. In the 1930s, we somewhat tolerated Japan’s rampaging all though China.

However, when, in 1940, Japan invaded what is now Vietnam (then part of French Indochina), we correctly saw this as a threat to Southeast Asia, especially to the resource rich Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), and took the strong measure of promoting a boycott of critical oil, scrap iron and rubber deliveries to Japan. Japan, realized that a now especially hostile US would most probably attempt to block its planned invasion of Southeast Asia.

It therefore sought to disable our fleet at Pearl Harbor as a preventative measure. Japan then proceeded to use its new-found base to invade and conquer most of Southeast Asia.

President Eisenhower must surely have had this mind when he was asked, at an April 7, 1954 press conference,  about “the strategic importance of Indochina [Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia] for the free world.” He then described the “falling domino” principle whereby “the beginning of a disintegration there would have the most profound influences” leading to “ the loss of Indochina, of Burma, of Thailand, of the [Malay] Peninsula and Indonesia.” He added that Japan, Formosa [Taiwan], the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand “would also be threatened.”

Eisenhower’s “domino theory” was pooh-poohed by a number of people in the U.S., but, given the perilous, unstable conditions in Southeast Asia, it was taken seriously by leaders there as well as in Australia and India and by leaders in Hanoi and (then) Peking. For example, China’s famed Marshal Lin Piao stated in September 1965 that the defeat of “U.S. imperialism” in Vietnam would show the people of the world “that what the Vietnamese people can do, they can do too.”

Our introduction of US combat troops (Marines) in March 1965 clearly had a bracing effect in Southeast Asia. For example, in the late 19­60s, Indonesian leaders Suharto and Malik (not great friends of the U.S.) told U.S. officials that this first introduction of U.S. combat troops in Vietnam helped embolden them to resist the October 1, 1965 Communist coup supported by China, which came very close to succeeding. (The two later told columnist Robert Novak the same thing.)

Had this coup succeeded, the Philippines would have soon been threatened which could well have triggered our intervention under a 1954 treaty. Then we would have been facing a far more threatening adversary than in Vietnam. This bracing effect also encouraged the British defense of Malaysia against a Communist invasion from Indonesia.

By the end of the Vietnam War, the victorious Communist side, which lost over two million dead was too weakened to pose a threat to any country save nearby Laos and Cambodia. The war also bought precious time to enable the countries of Southeast Asia to strengthen their positions.

Generally overlooked, we basically got into the war to prevent the toppling of dominoes in Southeast Asia and we succeeded.

One could thus say that this was a strategic victory while the loss in Vietnam was a tactical defeat. But also little understood is just how the war was lost, indeed unnecessarily lost.

Critics of the Vietnam War had long insisted that this war was, in any case, “unwinnable” and therefore should never have been fought. After “Vietnamization” had removed all U.S. combat troops from Vietnam, Hanoi, on March 30, 1972, launched its “Easter Offensive” with largest conventional attack of the war consisting of the equivalent of 23 divisions equipped with hundreds of Soviet tanks, long range artillery, rockets and surface to air missiles. The brunt of the fighting fell on the South Vietnamese ground forces with massive U.S. air support as well as naval and logistical support.

The only American ground forces left were advisors and forward air controllers. South Vietnam forces eventually moved from the defensive to counter offensives and by mid-September 1972 were clearly winning.

On September 15, 1972, South Vietnamese marines retook Quang Tri, the only provincial capital captured during the offensive, which was only 20 miles from North Vietnam and was by far the strongest position of the Communist forces. If they couldn’t hold Quang Tri they couldn’t hold anything else and were clearly losing. The Communist forces had already lost about 100,000 killed in action, twice as many as the U.S. had lost in the entire war. Sometime after Hanoi’s final 1975 victory, a former top commander in the South, General Tran Van Tra stated in the Party organ Nhan Dan that, by late 1972, his troops had clearly reached the verge of defeat. Had the war continued some months further, the South with continued US support could have emerged victorious by evicting all enemy forces from Vietnam. Indeed, former CIA Director William Cody, in his 1984 book Lost Victory, stated that already “on the ground in South Vietnam the war had been won.”

Faced with certain defeat, Hanoi saved the day by offering substantial concessions sought by Henry Kissinger in previous negotiations. With the best of intentions, Kissinger, who was devoted to negotiations, took this bait and the resulting negotiations process brought South Vietnamese military operations to a halt thus snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

We then dragooned our Vietnamese allies into accepting the ill-conceived 1973 Peace Accords.

One of its most pernicious features was a “ceasefire in place” which left substantial Communist troops in South Vietnam.

The director of the National Security Council’s Indochina staff, mid-level Foreign Service officer John Negroponte, courageously went mano a mano with Kissinger over this but to no avail. (I raised my objections in memos to Henry.) (John then left, eventually to go on to a brilliant career.)

By the time the Peace Accords were signed on January 27, 1973, I had become director of the National Security Council’s Indochina staff which was the most senior US official who dealt exclusively with Vietnam (and Laos and Cambodia).

The Peace Accords were soon massively violated by the Communist side and somewhat by our Vietnamese allies. For example, in one major violation the primitive Ho Chi Minh Trail supporting Communist forces in the South was converted to a super highway. Once our troops and our released POWs had left the country, Washington largely lost interest in Vietnam. I had a very difficult time getting military equipment and supplies for our Vietnamese.

Then Congress reduced military aid from $2,270 billion for fiscal 1973 to $700 million for fiscal 1975. North Vietnamese Chief of Staff General Van Tien Dung in post victory writings stated, “The decrease in American aid made it impossible for Saigon troops to carry their combat and force development plans…Enemy firepower had been reduced by nearly 60 percent … its mobility was reduced by half.”

The crowning and decisive blow which sealed South Vietnam’s fate was the June 4, 1973 Case-Church Amendment which, in effect, banned all US military operations in Indochina.

The South Vietnamese then, inter alia, permanently lost the US air support upon which it had very much depended in combat. And we lost the ability to enforce the Peace Accords through military action.

Finally, after three years of recovering from their 1972 losses and well supported by its loyal allies, the Soviet Union and China, Hanoi launched the campaign which resulted in victory on April 30, 1975. 1270 words

William Lloyd Stearman, PhD, Senior (flag rank) U.S. Foreign Service officer (Ret.),

White House National Security Council staff under four presidents, director NSC Indochina staff, Jan. ’73 to Jan. ’76, Adjunct Professor of International Affairs Georgetown University (1977 to 1993), author of memoir An American Adventure, From Early Aviation Through Three Wars to the White House (Naval Institute Press, 2012)


The Affordable And Needed Nuclear Arsenal: Why America Needs to Renew Its Nuclear Deterrent

America’s nuclear deterrent is a crucial umbrella on which America’s security and that of over 30 of her allies and friends depends.

And yet, despite growing nuclear threats to US national security, it is under constant attack by disarmament advocates at home.

The most prominent of these – in the revolving door world of the disarmament camp – is the Arms Control Association, a group which has advocated this policy ever since its founding in 1971.

Last year, ACA published a “report” titled The Unaffordable Arsenal: Reducing the Costs of the Bloated U.S. Nuclear Stockpile. Therein, ACA purports to show that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is “bloated”, “excessive”, and too costly. [1]

That “report”, however, is a litany of  half-truths which can only mislead the public.

As an antidote, therefore, one can offer a counter-report which refutes the main points of ACA’s pamphlet with facts, not fantasies.

To address the purported “unaffordability” problem, the ACA proposes the cancellation of several crucial nuclear weapon modernization programs which, if implemented, would amount to a complete cancellation of the badly needed modernization of the US nuclear deterrent, leading it its atrophy.

This would essentially be unilateral disarmament by neglect – an utterly unacceptable course of action.

The Need for a Large, Multi-Layered Nuclear Deterrent

First of all, we shall analyze the threat environment. This will allow us to assess whether a large, multi-layered nuclear deterrent is necessary.

The ACA claims that it’s not.

It claims that

“The possibility of a nuclear attack from Russia is exceedingly remote, and, as of September 2014, Washington deployed over 200 strategic delivery vehicles more than Moscow. (…)

Today’s most pressing security threat to the United States is not nuclear war with Russia or China, but nuclear terrorism and proliferation.

Excessive U.S. nuclear forces have no meaningful role to play in this regard.

The United States needs to sustain a strong international coalition to secure nuclear materials across the globe and turn back nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, and continued U.S. and Russia arms reductions are essential to these goals.”

And further that:

“U.S.-Russian actions on arms control are necessary to sustain global cooperation to on proliferation hard cases, like Iran and North Korea.”

(…)According to then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller, “as we think about our nonproliferation goals,” demonstrating additional progress on arms reductions “is in our interest as we look to put pressure particularly on North Korea and Iran…having a strong coalition in support of us will be vital.”

One could counter that  today’s gravest and most pressing threats to U.S. (and allied) security are, by far, the nuclear and missile arsenals of Russia, China, and North Korea.

Nothing else comes even close in terms of its ultimate impact.

Nuclear terrorism is a hypothetical threat which, to this date, has completely failed to materialize.

Even if it did emerge one day, disarming the US would do absolutely nothing to address it.

By contrast, the nuclear threats posed by Russia, China, and North Korea are here today.

They are real, pressing, and very grave – and only a large and modernized nuclear deterrent can protect America and her 30 allies against those threats.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the incoming Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have openly called Russia by far the greatest threat to US security – and based their judgment precisely on Russia’s nuclear striking power.

  • Russia currently possesses 1,582 (or 1,780, depending on the source[2]) operational strategic warheads deployed across its nuclear triad:
  • 375 ICBMs[3], including 58 SS-18 Satan and 42 Yars missiles capable of carrying 10 warheads each[4];
  • 14 ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs or “boomers” in military and popular parlance), of which 10 are operational and 4 are in overhaul; 9 of these can carry 16 missiles each, and the tenth 20 missiles, enabling them to fire 164 missiles all told. Their SS-N-23 Skiff (Sinyeva) missiles can carry 4 warheads each; their newer Bulava and Liner missiles can carry 10 and 12 warheads per missile, respectively[5]. So a typical Russian SSBN armed with 16 Bulavas could launch 160 nuclear warheads on targets within the Continental US; with Liner missiles, that number increases to 192 warheads.
  • 230 strategic bombers (63 Tu-95s, 16 Tu-160s, and 151 Tu-22Ms, which can carry sixteen, twelve, and ten warheads per aircraft, respectively, but do not currently carry the possible maximum.
  • In addition to that, Russia has 19 nuclear attack and guided missile submarines armed with submarine-launched land attack cruise missiles tipped with atomic warheads. These 19 submarines are essentially Russia’s second “boomer” fleet, but not constrained by any arms limitation treaties. The US has no such capability, because the Obama administration retired the US Navy’s nuclear-armed Tomahawk missiles and their warheads in 2010, without Russia ever taking any reciprocal steps.
  • On top of that, Russia has hundreds of strategic warheads in reserve and thousands of “tactical” atomic warheads – deployed and nondeployed. These can be delivered against American troops deployed abroad and against America’s allies by a wide range of systems, including short- and medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles, attack aircraft, submarines, and even surface ships artillery pieces, because some of them are nuclear artillery shells and depth charges.
  • All told, Russia has 7,500 nuclear warheads, including thousands that could be delivered to the Continental United States by Russian submarines, bombers, and ICBMs.

Russia is currently expanding and modernizing its nuclear arsenal.

It is presently:

  • Replacing its old, Soviet-era single-warhead ICBMs with newer ones capable of carrying multiple warheads, most notably the 10-warhead Yars ICBMs. By 2021, all of Russia’s ICBMs will be multiple warhead missiles.[6]
  • Increasing its ICBM fleet to 400 missiles.
  • Building new ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) capable of carrying and launching 20 missiles per boat, instead of 16.[7]
  • Building 50 additional Tu-160 bombers, capable of carrying 12 nuclear-tipped cruise missiles each, which means bombers capable of carrying 600 additional warheads.[8]
  • Developing a new, stealthy, intercontinental bomber, the PAK DA (Prospective Aircraft Complex of Long-Range Aviation).
  • Developing rail-mobile ICBMs.[9]
  • Developing a new air-launched cruise missile for its bombers, the Kh-102.
  • Procuring new Su-34 continental bombers (which can carry Kh-55 and Kh-102 nuclear-tipped missiles).
  • Developing and testing hypersonic nuclear delivery vehicles.
  • Procuring additional Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles to threaten America’s Eastern European allies.
  • Developing the R-500 and RS-26 Rubezh intermediate-range missiles in violation of the INF Treaty.[10]
  • Testing nuclear weapons at low yields in violation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.[10]
  • In sum, Russia’s already huge nuclear arsenal, and the threat it poses to the US and its allies, is growing by the day – not shrinking as the ACA falsely claims.

That, by itself, completely belies the ACA’s claims.

ACA touts the New START treaty as having supposedly reduced Russia’s nuclear arsenal further.

Yet since New START’s ratification, Russia has increased its atomic arsenal, including the deployed part.

It was below the treaty’s ceiling when it was ratified, but has, since then, increased its deployed stockpile, which now stands at 1,582 (or 1,780, depending on the source) warheads and is still growing – and will be growing for many years to come.

Thus, under New START, the US agreed to cut its deployed nuclear arsenal by one third in exchange for a significant Russian nuclear force buildup – an extremely bad bargain.

What’s more, New START’s verification regime is significantly degraded compared to past arms reduction treaties and does not prohibit the development of rail-mobile ICBMs (like START I and II did) or the deployment of multiple warheads on ICBMs (as START II did).

The only purpose of New START is to constrain America’s nuclear deterrent – not Russia’s.

And Russia is far from being a remote or theoretical threat.

In recent years, its bombers have repeatedly practiced nuclear strikes against the US, Britain, Denmark, and even neutral Sweden. (One might ask what has Sweden done to Russia to merit such aggressive moves).[11]

The ACA approvingly quotes the Obama Defense Department’s claims that:

„the U.S. nuclear force posture can “account for any possible adjustments in the Russian strategic force,” including the deployment of additional warheads.  (…) Russia would not be able to achieve a military advantage by any plausible expansion of its strategic nuclear forces, even in a cheating or breakout scenario.”[12]

Were Russia to substantially increase its number of deployed wahreads, it could gain the ability to destroy all of America’s ICBMs on the ground, as well as all of its airbases, leaving only its submarines deployed at sea left to retaliate – and ACA advocates deep cuts in the ballistic missile submarine fleet.

But Russia is hardly the only country whose nuclear arsenal threatens the US or its allies.

Another is China.

Contrary to ACA’s fassertion that China only has 50-75 single-warhead ICBMs capable of targeting the Continental U.S., China actually has more of these – and they are now armed with multiple, not single, warheads.

At present, China possesses 24 DF-5A/B and 40 DF-31A/B ground-based ICBMs[13] armed with multiple warheads[14], to which one must add the 12 multiple-warhead missiles carried by any Jin-class SSBN that is on patrol at any given time.

Those missiles, called the JL-2, can carry 4 warheads each over a distance of 8,000 kilometers (some sources claim 9,000 kilometres).[15]

A range of 8,000 km is sufficient to reach Seattle and Portland if the missile is launched from North Korean territorial waters, or from waters just east of Japan. A 9,000 kilometer range would enable the Jin class to target the US West Coast from Chinese territorial waters.

Thus, China has a total of 76 multiple-warhead missiles. Each DF-5 can carry 6 warheads, and each DF-31 can carry 3.

But that’s not all.

China is now testing, and nearing the deployment of, the DF-41, a heavy road-mobile ICBM capable of reaching the entire Continental US and carrying 10 warheads.

A typical Chinese ICBM unit has 6-12 missiles deployed and another 12 “reload” missiles for the launchers, giving a single Chinese ICBM unit to launch 18-24 missiles at the Continental US.[16]

In addition, China has 20 multiple-warhead DF-4 intermediate range missiles[15] and an unknown number of cruise-missile-carrying H-6K bombers which can target Alaska and Hawaii – which are US states and host many crucial US military installations.[16]

On top of this, China’s H-6K bombers and DF-26C intermediate-range missiles can target the US territory of Guam – home to two crucial US military bases.[17]

The Chinese nuclear threat – like that posed by Russia – is growing.

China is currently increasing its arsenal in a steady manner and modernizing it, notably by:

  • Procuring additional DF-31 and the new DF-41 ICBMs;
  • Building additional SSBNs, making them quieter, and increasing their missiles’ range[18];
  • Procuring additional medium- and short-range ballistic missiles;
  • Modifying additional H-6 bombers to carry cruise missiles;
  • Procuring additional ground-launched cruise missiles; and
  • Developing and testing hypersonic nuclear delivery systems.[19]

On top of that, the US must also deter North Korea, which has 10-20 nuclear warheads and is growing its arsenal.

It is poised to have 40 warheads by 2016 and 100 by 2020.[20]

It has already managed to miniaturize its nuclear warheads (to fit them on missiles) and possesses ICBMs capable of reaching the US West Coast. It is now developing ballistic missile submarines and missiles for them; it carried out a successful test of such a missile earlier this year.

So, contrary to the ACA’s assertions, the state-origin nuclear threats posed by Russia, China, and North Korea are huge, pressing, and growing.

The threat of a nuclear attack on their part is far from remote.

They will not hesitate to attack America if her nuclear deterrent is allowed to atrophy.

As for nuclear proliferation, cutting the US nuclear arsenal has done absolutely nothing whatsoever to address that problem. As the ACA itself observes, since the end of the Cold War, America’s atomic arsenal has shrunk dramatically, from 22,000 to just 5,000 warheads.[21]

Yet, that hasn’t stopped or even slowed down nuclear proliferation one bit.

Since 1991, two new countries – Pakistan and North Korea – have joined the nuclear club, and Iran is well on its way there.

Deep cuts in America’s atomic arsenal have done absolutely nothing to stop this – or to encourage the international community to prevent this – contrary to the ACA’s utterly unrealistic claims.

Not even the deepest cuts in America’s atomic arsenal have impressed anyone or encouraged the international community to effectively stop Pakistan’s, Iran’s, and North Korea’s nuclear programs.

Thus, as the evidence shows – in contrast to the ACA’s claims – cutting the US nuclear arsenal does absolutely nothing to address the proliferation problem.

In fact, America’s nuclear deterrent is a key tool in tackling this threat, because it protects over 30 U.S. allies and friends and reassures them that they don’t need their own arsenals – an assurance especially needed by America’s Persian Gulf partners and by South Korea, the countries threatened the most by Iran and North Korea, respectively.

It is worth noting that South Koreans are so worried about North Korea that 66% of them already believe Seoul should acquire its own deterrent, while Saudi Arabia already possesses DF-21 medium-range ballistic missiles and has reportedly ordered nuclear warheads in Pakistan.[22]

As CNN reported two years ago:

“We, the Korean people, have been duped by North Korea for the last 20 to 30 years and it is now time for South Koreans to face the reality and do something that we need to do,” said Chung Mong-joon, a lawmaker in the governing Saenuri (New Frontier) Party and a former presidential conservative candiate. ”

The nuclear deterrence can be the only answer.

We have to have nuclear capability.”[23]

A fact almost everyone forgets is that the US has a responsibility to provide a nuclear umbrella to over 30 allies and partners.

By contrast, Russia, China, and North Korea are threats to many but protectors to nobody.

The ACA also falsely claims that

“In addition, by clarifying their intentions to achieve further nuclear arms reductions and taking steps in that direction, U.S. leaders can put greater pressure on China to exercise greater restraint and engage more actively in nuclear risk reduction initiatives.”

Again, this is an utter falsehood. Cutting the US nuclear arsenal further will not put any “pressure” on China to do anything of the sort; on the contrary, it will only encourage Beijing to grow its arsenal even further and to threaten the US.

As the ACA observes, the US nuclear arsenal has been cut from 22,000 to 5,000 warheads since 1989. Yet, since that time, China has significantly increased its atomic arsenal, to some 1,600-1,800 warheads according to retired Russian Strategic Missile Forces general Viktor Yesin[25], and has become more, not less, belligerent towards the US and its allies. It has also covertly exported ICBM launchers to North Korea and MRBMs to Saudi Arabia.[26]

Instead of showing “greater restraint” and engaging in “nuclear risk reduction initiative”, China has only grown its nuclear arsenal, become more aggressive, and proliferated missile and nuclear technology more widely.

Therefore, that claim of ACA is also utterly false.

ACA also asserts that:

These arsenal reductions have encouraged corresponding reductions by Russia, thereby lowering the nuclear threat from the only nation capable of ending the United States as we know it.

Moreover, U.S. reductions have helped build international support for stopping the spread of nuclear weapons to other states or terrorist organizations, a growing threat to U.S. security. (…)

President George H. W. Bush responded with his bold Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNIs) in September 1991, which led to the removal of thousands of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from forward deployment.

Days later Moscow reciprocated, reducing the risk that these weapons would fall into the wrong hands.

No formal treaty was ever negotiated or signed, nor did the Bush administration seek the approval of Congress.

Under the PNIs and subsequent actions, the United States unilaterally reduced its stockpile of non-strategic warheads by 90 percent.

Again, this is dead wrong.

None of the unilateral cuts ever undertaken by the US – including those of President George H. W. Bush – were ever reciprocated by the Soviet Union or Russia; on the contrary, Moscow has always taken advantage of unilateral American cuts to build up its own arsenal and threaten the US. As former Secretary of Defense Harold Brown has said:

“When we build, they build.

When we cut, they build.”

In the late 1960s and the 1970s, the US unilaterally cut its arsenal for the first time.

The Soviet Union did not reciprocate; on the contrary, it deployed more warheads, missiles, submarines, and strategic bombers, including five new ICBM types n the 1970s.

This included the SS-18 Satan heavy ICBM, carrying 10 warheads each, and the SS-19 Stilletto, carrying 6 warheads per missile.

In 1972, President Nixon signed the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT), followed by Jimmy Carter signing SALT II in 1979 in Vienna – signatures that ACA prominently touts and praises in its “report.”

But the Soviet Union never complied with these agreements and actually build up its nuclear arsenal in violation of these accords.

So grave were these violations that the Reagan Administration publicly accused Moscow of violating SALT II and withdrew the U.S. from that treaty (which never even received Senate consent and advice) in 1986.

Nor were the unilateral cuts made by Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush ever reciprocated by Russia.

On the contrary. While President George W. Bush cut the US nuclear arsenal by half in the 2000s, Russia, under President Putin, began building back its own arsenal, a process that continues, of course, to this very day.

The only cuts Russia has ever made in her nuclear stockpile were those which were mandated by verifiable arms reduction treaties negotiated and signed by Presidents Reagan and Bush: the INF, START I, and START II treaties.

These accords, which had very strict verification protocols, were signed while the Soviet Union, and then Russia, was governed by reformist leaders friendly to the West and while its economy was in total disarray. (Russia’s current economic problems pale in comparison to its total economic collapse of the 1980s/1990s.)

None of these factors are present today.

Russia is presently led by an obsessively anti-Western and anti-American ex-KGB officer who is supporting anti-American regimes around the world and who surrounds himself with fellow ex-KGB officers.

Most Russians also harbor anti-American sentiments. Russia’s economic problems today have no bearing on the utter economic disaster it experienced when the Soviet Union collapsed.

And President Obama’s personal stature pales in comparison to President Reagan’s or even the elder President Bush’s.

While Mikhail Gorbachev was keen to end the Cold War, President Putin has resumed it and is pursuing it relentlessly against the US. America needs to recognize this threat and respond accordingly.

Moreover, Russia has violated virtually every arms reduction accord that ACA touts on its website, including both SALT treaties and the INF Treaty, as well as the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives.

In addition, as soon as President Obama declared, in June 2013 in Berlin, his readiness to pursue nuclear arsenal cuts by one third below New START levels, the Rusian government immediately rejected that proposal, and still rejects it to this day.

As former State Department official Stephen G. Rademaker has told Congress, atomic weapons remain central to Russia’s defense policy and Moscow does not share President Obama’s dream of a non-nuclear world at all.

Contrary to ACA’s claims, unilateral cuts in America’s nuclear arsenal would not bring about any reductions in Russia’s stockpile at all – quite the contrary.

And arms control accords have far outlived whatever limited usefulness they might have once had, given that Russia is now flagrantly violating all arms limitation treaties it is party to.

Reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal any further would therefore jeopardize U.S. and allied security, not increase it as the ACA claims.

The U.S. Nuclear Arsenal Is Not Unaffordable

ACA  claims the U.S. nuclear arsenal is unaffordable and that spending on it is “excessive.”

But, as with ACA’s other claims, these assertions do not stand up to empirical scrutiny.

The U.S. nuclear deterrent is due for a wholesale modernization after 25 years (a quarter of a century) of neglect and abandon. Estimates of the modernization effort vary widely, depending on the source.

The Stimson Center estimates the cost at $352 bn to $392 bn over the next decade.

The CBO puts the figure at $570 bn per decade, but its estimate is grossly exaggerated because it includes spending on missile defense – which has nothing to do with the U.S. nuclear deterrent – and expectations of very high cost overruns (which may not materialize).

The Ploughshares Fund estimates the cost even further, at $640 bn, while the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies puts the figure at $1 trillion over the next three decades.

Basic mathematics, however, show that the modernization program is very far from being unaffordable.

The National Defense Authorization Act for FY2016, if passed in the form approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, would authorize $612 bn for national defense.

The Stimson Center’s, the CBO’s, and Ploughshares’ estimates are all decennial, i.e. they cover the entire next decade. This is actually the decade when a “bow wave” of nuclear modernization programs will reach the acquisition stage.

Divided by 10, the Stimson Center’s maximum estimate thus amounts to $39.2 bn per year, i.e. 6.4% of the national defense budget. The CBO’s estimate of $570 bn per decade works out to $57 bn per year, i.e. 9.3% of the military budget.

Ploughshares’ gross overestimate of $640 bn amounts to $64 bn, which is a mere 10.4% of the total military budget.

This means that, even at the peak of nuclear modernization spending, such programs will still account for, at most, 10% of the military budget – and that is only if one uses Ploughshares’ and the CBO’s gross overestimates.

As regards the James Martin Center’s $1 trillion figure, which made the headlines several months ago, that estimate refers to the cost over the next 30 years.

The $1 trillion tridecennial estimate, divided by 30, amounts to $33.3 bn per year on average – which equals 5.44% of the total military budget. That is even lower than the Stimson Center’s $39.2 bn per year figure.

Of course, this is an average – the JMC’s report states clearly that there will be a peak and then a trough of nuclear modernization spending. However, even at its peak, nuclear modernization spending will not siphon money from other defense programs, as the Stimson Center’s and the CBO’s figures, and two superbly researched reports by the Center for Strategic and Budget Assessments, reveal.

Thus, it is clear that the U.S. Government’s nuclear modernization plans are hardly unaffordable, contrary to ACA’s claims.

Refuting Specific ACA Proposals

Because the ACA claims the U.S. nuclear deterrent is “unaffordable”, it offers unsolicited advice to the U.S. Government on how to reduce its cost even if no nuclear stockpile cuts beyond New START are pursued.

It claims that its proposals would not undermine the nuclear deterrent’s effectiveness.

ACA proposals, if ever implemented, would gravely undermine the survivability and thus the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

Specifically, ACA proposes to:

Cut the U.S. ICBM fleet from 420 to just 300 and forego the development of a replacement ICBM.

This would gravely undermine the survivability of the ICBM fleet and thus of the nuclear deterrent writ large, for now there would be only 300 siloes, instead of 420, for Russia to destroy.

Russia would therefore need only 600 warheads, rather than 840, for that purpose (2 warheads per 1 reinforced silo). In addition, contrary to the ACA’s assertions, the Air Force’s current ICBM type, the Minuteman III, cannot be kept in service “indefinitely”.

Its service life can be extended somewhat, but not indefinitely – no material on Earth has indefinite viability.

As the outgoing Vice Commander of the US Strategic Command, LTGEN James Kowalski, has told an event in Washington on June 16th that the U.S. cannot “continue to sustain” the Minuteman III. [x]

Cut the current ballistic missile submarine fleet and the planned replacement fleet to eight boats.

This would also gravely undermine the effectiveness of the nuclear deterrent.

ACA claims that 1,000 warheads could be loaded onto the eight boats.

However, if the total fleet consisted of just eight boats, not all of them could ever be put to sea – only 4-5, because the others would have to undergo overhaul from time to time.

This is why the US Navy currently operates 14 such ships and plans to procure 12 to replace the current 14 – this is the absolute minimum needed for eight SSBNs to be at sea at any given time.

Delay the development of the Long-Range Strike Bomber by a decade.

ACA claims that the LRSB is not currently needed and that current bombers can perform their missions well into the future.

Yet America’s potential adversaries – from Russia and China to North Korea and Iran – have deployed, are planning to deploy, or have ordered state of the art Russian air defense systems (S-300/HQ, S-400, S-500, and upgraded SA-11/17 variants) which can shoot down any nonstealthy aircraft, and especially large, lumbering, nonstealthy B-52 and B-1 bombers.

Even North Korea’s old Soviet-era SA-11/17 systems can do so.

Only B-2 stealthy bombers can penetrate and defeat these air defense systems – but the US only has 20 of them, a woefully inadequate number.

Developing the LRSB now and deploying it by the early 2020s at the earliest is therefore a national security imperative.

In its pamphlet, ACA touts a single sentence from a US Institute of Peace panel report wherein the authors also wrongly claimed that these plans are “unaffordable.”

Yet, ACA conveniently left out vast portions of the report which contradict those claims, as well as the report’s recommendation that:

Strategic force modernization should continue with the ongoing programs for Long Range Strike and the replacement of the Ohio class of ballistic missile submarines.

The Department should also review the viability of both the land-based and seabased classes of ICBMs with an eye towards eventual replacement.

And further, regarding the LRSB, that:

Given expected advances in the quality and proliferation of advanced air defense systems, a critical DOD modernization priority must be developing new, survivable, long-range strike aircraft to maintain the ability to operate from long ranges, carry a broad array of operationally useful payloads, and operate in and around contested airspace.

Whether the aircraft is designed to be manned, unmanned, or “optionally manned,” the need to bring such an aircraft into service by the mid-2020s, when modern air defenses will put the B-2 bomber increasingly at risk, is compelling.

Continued budget cuts and the resulting programmatic instability would jeopardize this critical investment.

As the authors of that USIP report stated above, by the 2020s even B-2 bombers will be increasingly at risk, and therefore, they say, “the need to bring such an aircraft [the LRSB] into service by the mid-2020s” is “compelling.”

Furthermore, they called the LRSB a “critical investment.”

These statements are a very, very far cry from ACA’s claims that the LRSB and the next-generation SSBN program are wasteful and unneeded.

ACA further falsely claims that delaying the LRSB would free up funding for the USAF’s “top priorities” – the F-35 fighter and the KC-46 tanker.

But the USAF has consistently said that the LRSB is also one of its top priorities, on par with the F-35 and the KC-46.

Even if it fully executes all its modernization programs, it will still be spending 16 times as much on next-generation fighters as on the new long-range bomber.

Canceling the next-generation cruise missile and “3+2” warhead replacement plans.

ACA claims that such a missile is not needed because, even if enemy air defense systems improve, the US is developing a long-range strike bomber. But enemy air defense systems have already improved vastly since the Cold War, and the ACA proposes to delay the LRSB by an entire decade (see above).

One must therefore ask: how is the U.S. Air Force supposed to penetrate enemy air defenses and retaliate credibly if both the next generation cruise and intercontinental ballistic missiles are cancelled and the LRSB is delayed by an entire decade?

The answer is that it cannot.

Canceling the Energy Department’s warhead modernization and replacement plans, delaying them, or scaling them back would lead current warheads to rot and become ineffective while leaving the US military without a replacement, thus undermining the US nuclear deterrent.

This would amount to unilateral disarmament by neglect.

The ACA’s proposals would save close to nothing.

By the ACA’s own admission, the programmatic delays and cancellations it proposes would save only about $70 bn over a decade – that is, $7 bn per year, at most.

This would not provide any meaningful additional resources to the DOD (or any other federal agency for that matter) and would not even make a dent in America’s large annual federal budget deficit.


ACA’s claims about the U.S. nuclear deterrent do not stand up to empirical scrutiny.

Contrary to the ACA’s assertions:

The US nuclear deterrent is hardly unaffordable, as it costs only 5-6% of the total military budget to maintain.

Even its impending modernization program at its peak (projected for the 2020s) would not cost more than about 9-10% of the nation’s military budget – even if gross overestimates of modernization costs are accepted at face value.

Even if the USAF’s modernization plans are fully executed, it will still be spending 15 times more on short-range aircraft than on its next generation bomber.

Unilateral reductions in the arsenal have, to date, utterly failed to bring about any reciprocation by Russia and China or effective international action to roll back or even freeze North Korea’s, Iran’s, and Pakistan’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

On the contrary, these programs all continue apace to this very day, while both Russia and China are steadily growing their arsenals.

Unilateral reductions in the US nuclear umbrella have made crucial U.S. allies and partners increasingly worried – so much so that Saudi Arabia has already acquired medium-range ballistic missiles and has ordered nuclear warheads in Pakistan, while 66% of South Koreans say their country needs to acquire its own nuclear deterrent.

America’s nuclear deterrent plays a crucial role in reassuring these and other nervous allies.

The ACA’s proposals would save a pitiful amount of money – just $7 bn per year – while gravely undermining all three legs of the nuclear triad and effectively killing the ICBM leg.

In short, all of ACA’s claims, without exceptions, are questionable at best.

It is therefore hardly surprising that the Obama Administration has completely disregarded ACA’s unsolicited proposals and is proceeding steadily with its nuclear deterrent modernization plan – and that Congress supports the modernization program.

[1] Tom Z. Collina et al., “The Unaffordable Arsenal: Reducing the Costs of the Bloated U.S. Nuclear Stockpile”, Arms Control Association, Washington, DC 2014,

[2] New START Treaty Aggregate Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms, U.S. Department of State, July 1st, 2015,; Status of World Nuclear Forces , Federation of American Scientists,, retrieved September 29th, 2015.

[3] Philippe Wodka-Gallien, Le dictionnaire de la dissuasion nucleaire, .

[4] “R-36M/SS-18 Satan”, Federation of American Scientists, ; “RS-24 Yars nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile MZKT-79221 technical data”, Army Recognition,

[5] “SLBM Bulava ready to enter service”,, June 25th, 2012,; “Russia Succesfully Test-Fires Bulava SLBM”, Sputnik News, September 10th, 2014,; “New submarine supermissile can pierce US ABM Shield”, RussiaToday, August 10th, 2011,

[6] “Russian defense official confirms plans to complete Yars missile system rearmament by 2021”, TASS/Missile Threat, July 23rd, 2015, and; “Russian missile force divisions to be fully rearmed with Yars systems by 2021 – ministry”, TASS, July 21st, 2015,

[7] “Количество шахтных пусковых установок на АПЛ проекта “Борей” будет увеличено до 20 с четвертого корабля” (Russian: The Number of Missile Launchers on Project Borei SSBNs will be increased to 20 starting with the fourth vessel), FlotProm, May 11th, 2012,
[8] Kukil Bora, “Russia To Buy At Least 50 Tu-160 Bombers, Production Likely to Complete Ahead of Time”, International Business Times, May 28th, 2015,

[9] “Only Russian railway companies to develop new missile complex”, TASS, July 21st, 2015,

[10] Michaela Dodge, “Russian Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces: What they Mean for the United States”, The Heritage Foundation, July 30th, 2015,

[11] Gregory Walton, « RAF jets scrambled to intercept Russian bombers”, The Daily Telegraph, May 14th, 2015,; Ben Riley-Smith and Ben Farmer, “RAF jets scrambled more than 40 times to intercept Russian bombers”, The Daily Telegraph, February 21st, 2015,; Bill Gardner and Nicola Harley, “UK summons Russian ambassador after ‘dangerous’ bombers disrupt civil aircraft”, The Daily Telegraph, January 30th, 2015,; Camilla Turner, “Britain cannot defend itself against Putin’s military might, top brass warn”, The Daily Telegraph, February 20th, 2015,; “NATO Chief : Russia’s Nuclear Threats ‘Deeply Troubling’”, DefenseNews via Agence France-Presse, May 27th, 2015,

[12] Tom Z. Collina et al., “The Unaffordable Arsenal”, op. cit.

[13] Bill Gertz, “China Conducts Flight Test of New Mobile ICBM”, Washington Free Beacon, October 2nd, 2014, Given that China paraded 12 DF-31s during the parade commemorating the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic’s founding, it is evident that it has many times more than just 12 DF-31 ICBMs.

[14] Bill Gertz, “China Tests New Long-Range Missile with Two Guided Warheads”, Washington Free Beacon, August 18th, 2015,

[15] “JL-2 (CSS-NX-14)”,,, retrieved September 29th, 2015.

[16] Bill Gertz, “China Tests New Long-Range Missile with Two Guided Warheads”, op. cit. William J. Perry and John P. Abizaid, U.S. Institute of Peace, “Ensuring a Strong U.S. Defense for the Future,” July 31, 2014,

[x] Kingston Reif, “Air Force Drafts Plan for Follow-On ICBM” in Arms Control Today,, Washington, DC, July/August 2015,



“Clinton Inc.” Is in Uncharted Political Waters: Swept Aside by The Changing Political Tide?

“The president has indicated that his view that the decision that he made, I guess 7 years ago now, to add Joe Biden to the ticket as his running mate was the smartest decision that he has ever made in politics.

And I think that should give you some sense into the president’s view into Vice President’s aptitude for the top job,” Earnest said.

(Monday August 24, 2015 White House Press Briefing)

The very insightful Mark Finkelstein captures exactly the threat that Earnest’s statements makes to Clinton Inc, by a news program that has been a traditional liberal safe haven.

On today’s Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough said that the unequivocally pro-Biden statement from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest yesterday not only sent “a strong, strong message to Hillary” but, echoing The Wall Street Journal, “you wonder whether they’re sending a message to the Justice Department as well.”

If Bill and Hillary still have breakfast together, it must have made for a bad Tuesday morning.

Former President Bill Clinton is aging but still has some of his famous political “mojo.”

Both Bill and President Obama have that radiant personality necessary for politics in America, and so does Donald Trump.

Hillary Rodham Clinton on the other hand has essentially “nojo.”

She is an absolutely truly terrible Pol. Her demonstrated lack of skill to connect is independent of party or ideology.

The late very smart John “Jack” Wheeler once quipped that when HRC was First Lady, “of the ten people who hate her the most, five have to be in the WH.”

On the surface, everything looks the same for Clinton Inc, they have media attention along with some enabling friends in high places and lots of money but everything is also very, very different for them in the 2016 race.

Significantly, they do not control Law Enforcement both on the investigative side and the prosecution side which could lead to indictments if potential criminal behavior is discovered.

Ever since Bill began to shimmy up the famous “greasy pole” of politics as Arkansas Attorney General, then the Governor and finally his two Presidential terms, pulling Hillary along they have been able to control Law Enforcement in ways to conducive to Clinton, Inc., and now they do not.

Clinton Inc. also does not control damaging fact based leaks the Obama Administration does. So Bill and Hillary cannot leak themselves out of trouble. They can try but they do not have access to all the facts being collected against them. This is a now huge problem with President Obama tilting to his VP.

Strategically damaging fact based leaks to take down a President is personified in American History by Mark Felt, AKA “Deep Throat” He was at the very top of the FBI as Deputy and either a very bitter man that he had been passed over for the Directors job, or a hero of the republic, readers about Watergate can make up their own mind.

The problem for Clinton Inc. is that the Obama Administration is that fact collecting is not controlled by them, and there is little they can do about it all leaking out.

The media will not protect them if handed “breaking” stories on a regular basis.

Clinton Inc. does not have the power of the Presidency to change the subject. Just one perfect example, when President Clinton launched his air campaign “Desert Fox” in December 1998, many friends resisted the urge to call it in public the ‘War of Monica’s Thong.”

A yet to be recognized threat against HRC’s Presidential aspirations, is a legal dimension of her using a private server officially as Secretary of State.

If she or her coterie attacked anyone one by name, with the effect of damaging careers, or are subject to claims that she violated personal privacy or spread malicious and nasty gossip in her public, private communication system she can be sued by those who claim their reputations were damaged by such communications.

I doubt President Obama’s Justice Department will defend her.

Finally. it is ironic that the atmospherics of 2015-2016 is against them.

In their youth many Boomers expressed their anger which was captured with a “give it to the man!!” attitude. A lot of media savvy leaders of the baby boom generation declared war on what had gone before and saw the establishment as an enemy.

Today’s younger generation still has the “give it to the man” gene which is probably a function of youth. But currently the establishment “man” is now HRC and Jeb because of his name, along with Washington hacks and flacks and the left leaning Main Stream Media.

This is a dramatic time in our history, and it appears that finally many Americans, a real silent majority, are tired of being hectored, lectured and made to be politically correct in their language and burdened by historical baggage that had nothing to do with them.

This can easily be seen by cutting edge comedians bring angry, for good reason, by a politically correct culture that attacks their chosen profession. A lot of American’s have to be tired of having some special interest group grab onto a statement and use it to crank up public grievances to further their agenda.

It is way over done boring and predictable, especially the argument vote for Hillary simply because she is a woman.

Donald Trump has tapped into all this and the establishment pundit class and Clinton Inc. supporters who are the problem cannot figure him out and how to defend against the shifting tides.




Shaping a Way Ahead for the USN in the Pacific: Rear Admiral Aquilino and PACFLEET Work the Challenges

Pac Fleet operates in the largest area of operations for US forces.

The immensity of the theater of operations, as well as the dynamics of change in the region, pose ongoing challenges of matching resources against tasks in protecting US interests and working closely with allies and partners.

Recently, I had a chance to sit down with the PACFLEET’s Director of Maritime Operations, Rear Admiral Aquilino to discuss the challenges and the way ahead.

In his current position, he is at the vortex of the operational capabilities and deployment of the fleet, and is positioned to understand the dynamics of shaping strategy up against the ongoing challenges and threats in the Pacific.

PACFLEET Organization

Against the backdrop of a growing chorus of comments Inside the Beltway about the growing ability of the Chinese to purse an effective area denial strategy, Admiral Aquilino presented a different perspective.

Clearly, China is improving its capabilities to operate in the Pacific, and quantity has a quality all of its own, but the Chinese are coming out into the Pacific, and the are not “12 feet tall.”

The Admiral highlighted that the Pacific when all is said and down is a maritime domain, and learning to operate in the blue water and to operate from the sea into the littorals is an art form which needs to be learned, and not just assumed.

The US Navy has a long history in the region, and has gone through many learning cycles.

And the strategy in the Pacific was simply put by the Admiral: “We need to have the ability to operate where it matters and when it matters. And we can do that.”

He followed the lead of the CNO who emphasizes that if one fight the high end fight, one can adapt to the other challenges; but the reverse is not necessarily true.

We discussed distributed lethality and the evolving US Navy’s joint and coalition approach to deploying diversified and distributed capabilities which can when combined in coordinated concepts of operations deliver what is needed in the area of interest.

“What I think is meant by distributed lethality is an ability to have an agile and diversified force operating over an extended battlespace but with an ability to concentrate force against the crucial tasks, targets and goals to execute an effective strategy.”

F-35C on approach to a landing aboard the USS Nimitz. Credit Photo; Breaking Defense

F-35C on approach to a landing aboard the USS Nimitz. Credit Photo; Breaking Defense

When asked what technologies are coming to the Pacific which we enable PACFLEET to achieve this strategy more effectively, he quickly focused on the coming of the F-35 to the fleet and to the region.

“I mentioned earlier that our task is clearly that we need to have the ability to operate where it matters and when it matters.

The F-35 will enhance our ability to do so.

Although I am a naval aviator, I am not speaking as one when I make this point about the new aircraft.

It is a force multiplier and enhancer not just a new combat aircraft. It clearly will enhance or air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities, but it as a deployed and integrated sensor aircraft it extends our reach and expands our flexibility and agility.”

He focused on the F-35’s role organically with PACFLEET (on carriers and on amphibious ships) but also in terms of being able to draw from the sensor stream of a deployed USAF as well as allied force of F-35s.

“The integration of the sensor grid is a crucial and evolving capability which will be expanded as the F-35 enters the Pacific.”

My colleague Ed Timperlake referred to the evolution, which the Admiral was discussing as the 21st Century variant of the “big blue blanket.”

As we put in our book on the evolution of Pacific strategy:

“In World War II, the USN shaped what became called the big blue blanket of ships to cover the Pacific operations.

Obviously, this is beyond the ken of current realities, but shaping a connected set of U.S. and allied forces able to work together to shape defense and security in the Pacific is not.” [ref]Laird, Robbin F.; Timperlake, Edward (2013-10-28). Rebuilding American Military Power in the Pacific: A 21st-Century Strategy: A 21st-Century Strategy (The Changing Face of War) (Kindle Locations 213-215). ABC-CLIO. Kindle Edition.[/ref]

The Admiral clearly had a similar thought in mind in our discussion.

And clearly was not ceding ground against those who assume that an area denial strategy was already effectively in place.

U.S. Navy Biographies – REAR ADMIRAL JOHN C

Later I had a chance to discuss with senior PACFLEET staff how PACFLEET is working the way ahead along the lines discussed by Rear Admiral Aquilino.

I had a chance to talk with an learn for four senior members of the PACFLEET staff in addition to the earlier interviews published recently.

Captain Mark “JP” Sousa is PACFLEET Liason to PACAF and focuses on C2 issues in working the evolution of the force. He operates from the 613th Air Operations Center at Hickam.

Captain Sousa is a former Tomcat pilot, and given the key role which the F-14s played in the chain saw strategy for the carrier battle groups, it is not surprising that the F-14 pilots are playing a key role in the Navy’s transition to distributed operations.

The head of Naval Air Warfare as well as the head of PACFLEET operations are both former F-14 pilots.

The Pacific from the Arctic to Australia Credit Image: Bigstock

The Pacific from the Arctic to Australia Credit Image: Bigstock

It is important to underscore how the F-14 operational experience anticipates in some ways the coming of the F-35 to the fleet and its impact on C2, ISR and strike.

As Ed Timperlake puts it:

“The USAF had real early experience with stealth with the F-117 Nigh Hawk leading the way. Concurrently the Navy had excellent experience with their F-14 fighter community in developing technology, a state-of-the art radar and a missile Aim-54, that could reach out and touch someone.

After the Vietnam War, the US Navy introduced the F-14 and began again the never ending process of always evolving  the training, tactics and command and control to push the  threat from a reactive enemy  out as far as possible from a Carrier Battle Group (CBG).

The CBG could then conduct combat strikes against all targets, land air and sea.

This evolution of reach and range technology and cockpit enhanced situational awareness driving training and tactics will be soon be seen in the nature of changing command and control relationships as the F-35 enters the Sea Services inventory.”

(See also,

Captain Kevin Melody works ballistic missile and air defense issues for PACFLEET and has significant experience with the surface fleet, including Aegis.

Captain Patrick Walsh is director of Deliberate Planning for PACFLEET and as the title suggests is focused upon the planning process in dealing with current and evolving threats.

And finally Captain Patrick Molenda is the Operations Deputy, Staff of the Commander, Pacific Fleet and steered me through the PACFLEET interview process during my time in Honolulu.

What clearly comes across is that PACFLEET is clearly aware of the various challenges facing the Navy, the Marine Cops and the joint force in the Pacific, including the Chinese reaching out into the Pacific.

They are stepping up to the challenges, and are focused on shaping a more effective force, one which can operate over an extended battlespace, with distributed C2 and a more integrated joint and coalition sensor set from which warfighting solutions can be informed.

The Pacific Strategic Quadrangle. Credit: SLD

The Pacific Strategic Quadrangle. Credit: SLD

The effort to shape a new combat approach will not be easy; and will take technology investments, training, operational experience and shaping lessons learned from that experience as well as shaping the combat skill necessary to execute in a 21st century Pacific security and defense environment.

The shift from the preoccupation with the land wars in an area of the world far from the Pacific to Pacific operations is not an easy one.

Many skills learned there need to be shed and new skills learned.

Operating in a slow moving war with air dominance to a theater with the tyranny of distance, allies shaping new capabilities which need to be worked with those of the American forces, and forging ways to operate in contested areas in higher tempo operations is a challenging shift.

An aspect of the change is clearly with regard to C2.

The C2 revolution is clearly an important one inherent in some of the new platforms and technologies which have come or are coming to the Pacific, such as the P-8, the Global Hawk and the F-35. 

Forging ways to do distributed C2 in contested areas is the challenge; this means learning how to aggregate and disaggregate force given disruptions adversaries will try to create with deployed US and allied forces.

Captain Sousa highlighted two significant C2 challenges for the joint force.

The first is as the appropriate force mix is shaped, who is the supported and supporting force commander and how to establish the proper C2 relationship so that the proper force mix can operate effectively?

WATERS TO THE WEST OF THE KOREAN PENINSULA (March 17, 2013) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), front, the Republic of Korea Navy Aegis-class destroyer ROKS Seoae-Yu-Seong-Ryong (DDG 993), middle, and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85) move into formation during exercise Foal Eagle 2013. McCampbell and McCain are members of Destroyer Squadron 15, forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, and are underway to conduct exercise Foal Eagle 2013 with allied nation Republic of Korea in support of regional security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Declan Barnes/Released)

WATERS TO THE WEST OF THE KOREAN PENINSULA (March 17, 2013) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), front, the Republic of Korea Navy Aegis-class destroyer ROKS Seoae-Yu-Seong-Ryong (DDG 993), middle, and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85) move into formation during exercise Foal Eagle 2013. McCampbell and McCain are members of Destroyer Squadron 15, forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, and are underway to conduct exercise Foal Eagle 2013 with allied nation Republic of Korea in support of regional security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Declan Barnes/Released)

The second is dealing with disrupted communications for a deployed distributed force. During the most recent Unified Engagement exercise, the challenge of disrupted communications was a key element, and the Navy-Air Force team worked the problem of shaping an effective deployed operation in the face of communications disruptions.

In effect, the ability of the joint force to aggregate and disaggregate forces enabled by a robust communications system is the way ahead within which a honeycomb force – one in which force packages can operate as discrete packages – or be combined across the battlespace is the way ahead.

Captain Melody focused on the importance of shaping a more integrated approach to combining sensors informing operations.

As one created what we have called the 21st century “big blue blanket” of Pacific wide sensors, those sensors can be tapped into to shape more effective mission performance.

Melody underscored that the integration of sensors should not be confused with the integration of missions. “Air and missile defense are very different missions.

Shaping more effective integration of sensors is beneficial to both, but does not lead to the integration of the very different missions.”

All four Naval officers underscored the importance of training for 21st century operations and are concerned with training shortfalls, whether due to the continuing combat rhythm in the Middle East or resource shortfalls.

It was pointed out that carrier time in the Pacific is too often transit time somewhere else and is not about providing support for the kind of 21st century training and exercises crucial for a deterrence in depth strategy in the Pacific.

Whether it be training for deconfliction of forces, more effective aggregation of forces, more effective disaggregation of resources, all of this is different in higher tempo operations than has been the coin of the realm in the Middle East wars ongoing and in the past decade.

Both Walsh and Molenda highlighted the importance of getting the training and exercise commitments to enable the force to implement effective plans appropriate for higher tempo 21st century operations.

Ed Timperlake often makes the point (he is a Naval Academy graduate) that the fighting Marine Corps and the Navy in the Pacific is more than up to meeting Pacific challenges.

Clearly, the USN-USMC team needs the intellectual and financial support from Washington to do the job. 

But the trajectory to mission success is clearly underway. Visiting PACFLEET and MARORPAC only reinforced Timperlake’s point.

Editor’s Note:

For additional insights from Captain Molenda, see the following:

Mission command is the missing link in the Navy’s quest for information dominance.

The “Admiral Turner Revolution” of the 1970s reinvigorated the Naval War College. Today, a similar transformation in the approach to officer education is needed.

A contributing factor to the problem of relevancy is that although the Naval War College is widely recognized throughout the Navy, joint community, inter-agency, and academia as an educational organization of the highest caliber, oddly enough, the Navy typically does not send its best and brightest to Newport, either as students or instructors.

Assignment to the Naval War College does not rise to a level of prominence compared to Navy enterprise, OPNAV, or even joint billets.

Though there are exceptions, hot runners from all warfare specialties are most often advised that they do not have time in their career progression to “waste a year” in Newport . . . and so they don’t go.

And in a recent presentation on the Hill, Timperlake underscored the significant gap between the USN and joint forces approach in the Pacific to able to deal with Chinese efforts at anti-access and area denial and the tendency among some inside Washington to ascribe capabilities to the Chinese, which they simply aspire to but do not have.

Fighting Back in the Pacific from Second Line of Defense






Deputy MARFORPAC Discusses the Way Ahead in the Pacific

Last year I visited MARFORPAC, and interviewed the staff and the then head of MARFORPAC, Lt. General Robling During my last visit, I focused on the broad strategic restructuring which the Marines were undergoing which they refer to as the distributed laydown.

The U.S. Marine Corps is in the throes of a significant shift in the Pacific in the disposition of its forces. Because two thirds of Marines are deployed to the Pacific, such a shift is a key event in shaping the Marine Corps stance in the decade ahead.

The demand to support distributed forces is rising and will require attention to be paid to the connectors, lifters and various support elements. Part of that demand can be met as allies modernize their own support elements, such as Australia and Singapore adding new Airbus tankers, which could be leveraged to support Marine Corps Ospreys as well as other aircraft.

Indeed, a key element of the distributed laydown of our forces in the Pacific is the fact that it is occurring as core allies in the region are reshaping and modernizing their forces as well as partners coming to the table who wish to work with and host USMC forces operating on a rotational basis with their forces. The military and political demands for the kind of forces that the Marines are developing also are what allies and partners want for their operations.

In turn, this drives up the importance of exercises in the Pacific with joint and coalition forces to shape new capabilities for the distributed force.

The distributed laydown, the evolution of the capabilities for distributed forces, the modernization of allied forces and the growing interest in a diversity of partners to work with the USMC are all part of shaping what might be called a deterrence-in-depth strategy to deal with the threats and challenges facing the United States and its allies in shaping a 21st-century approach to Pacific defense.

In a visit to Hawaii on the way to Australia in late July 2015, I had a chance to sit down with Brigadier General Mahoney, Deputy Commanding General of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific.

The key focus of discussion was on the evolving approach to shaping a coalition among amphibious nations in the Pacific, and the concurrent evolution of capabilities by the USN-USMC team with regard to their own amphibious capabilities under the twin impact of the Osprey and the coming of the F-35B to the fleet in the Pacific.

In May 2015, the Navy and the Marines hosted a first ever meeting of nations either with or aspiring to shape amphibious capabilities in the region.

“We just had the PACOM Amphibious Leaders Seminar here, PALS 2015, the first of its kind. Twenty-four countries either have an established capability, a burgeoning capability or an interest in amphibious operation. The PALS, the symposium I think was a great success just in folks who wouldn’t have ever talked to each other were now talking directly. We connected a matrix of people who now understand that there are other friends and capabilities out there that they can connect with. And I think we’re going to try and do that again next year.”

The clear focus of an emerging coalition is upon the application of amphibious capabilities to the 21st challenges posed in the Pacific region. How best to shape and use the tool sets provided by amphibious forces?

The May conference is an important step forward in shaping a narrative to craft a teaming approach for amphibious operations.

“One of the larger points in the evolving narrative is the teaming of force projection capabilities where the amphibious element is a core capability. It is not simply about amphibious ships being transport vessels; it is about reshaping forces to deal with 21st century operations.”

BG Mahoney discussed how under the concept of amphibious, there are very different notions at play, ranging from a transport and support fleet to a strike or force insertion fleet.

The term “amphbiosity” was used to express the broad umbrellas under which diverse notions of what kinds of amphibious forces a nation might wish to operate.

“What we learned during the, the PACOM Amphibious Leaders’ Symposium was what people understand and appreciate with regard to amphibiosity is sometimes completely different. There are close partners as well as some in our own joint force who in their mind’s eye really view amphibiosity as a floating a chow hall, an airfield, a hotel, and a mode of transportation; not a maneuver element, not a C4I node, not a presence effect.”

But clearly, the shortfall in amphibious ships, and support vessels, is of concern the Navy and the Marines.

“The demand side for Phase Zero operations in the Pacific is insatiable. And now we are in the process of distributing our presence among several different locations in the Pacific. Great, but how do we connect all of this into a true operational network? A challenge is that we do not have enough L-class ships; the Commandant and the CNO have made this point very clearly.”

When asked if investment could be increased where would he put it to deal with the demand rhythm and distributed operational requirements, the BG put it this way:

“Give me my 10th Amphibious Ready Group, and more L-class ships in the FDNF (Forward Deployed Naval Force). Then in teaming with PACFLEET, get after the job of dealing with the demands in the Indo-Asia-Pacific which is a growth industry.”

Given the high demand tempo, the Navy and Marines cannot wait around for the proper number of ships to show up, so the approach is to work a broader amphibious coalition and to work various pairings between grey hulls and MSC ships.

“I think that there’s a huge area under the curve to be exploited in experimentation and pairing, or combinations of, gray hull ships with other class ships. I know that in some quarters, that notion is blasphemy; it’s the proverbial slippery slope. But the fact of the matter, it is a practical reality that we need to explore capabilities in combining hulls like LMSR, TAK-E, AFSB, MLP, LCS, JHSV with that L-class ship and see what we can do with it, not assume what we can’t do with it.”

It should be noted that pairings do not make an MSC ship as capable as an L-class ship; but they do provide for greater operational sustainability and enablement of the L-class ship. In a discussion with the Navy, a senior Naval captain made a key point that pairing is crucial as long as one does not equate each member of the pair in terms of capability. A gray hull is neither an MSC ship nor does an MSC ship magically have the capabilities of an L-class ship.

The Osprey has been an element of disruptive change with regard to amphibious operations.

It has led to shaping a distributed operational capability for the classic three-ship formation for the ARG-MEU, and is enabling the USN-USMC team to connect to allied ships as well. Personally, I think it makes little sense for the USN to buy any combat ship which can not land an Osprey onboard, given its key role in connecting afloat or ashore assets seamlessly.

But the recent sale of the Osprey to Japan does raise the question of stepping up the game to support the Osprey globally.

“We’re becoming victims of our own success. Being good Marines we need exploit this success by considering and developing a true global logistic support network. Forward movement in our thinking about how to execute a seamless logistics laydown will maximize the capabilities of the airplane for us. We also need to get and keep other partners on board to matrix with us and also get into the support line.”

And the coming of the F-35B is an important force extender, but it is about leveraging the fleet, not simply operating a new aircraft.

“The F-35 is a hugely capable aircraft. But it clearly only starts there; I think the part that we really need to develop is how we can combine our integrated F-35 capabilities- whether it’s the Navy or the USAF or the Japanese or the Australians flying them, or any partner . And then linking all that capability together to shape an operational combat matrix with well-established TTPs.”

Shortly after I interviewed, the BG, the Commandant of the USMC declared the F-35B combat ready. I asked the BG to comment on this development as it related to his efforts in the Pacific.

“With IOC I hope we can stop talking as much about a platform and what it can do as airplane and continue hammer and tongs with the business of true 5th generation integration across the warfighting domains. Our ability, as a Naval Expeditionary Force, to sense, visualize and understand a hugely complex environment, with F-35 as a critical transformative enabler, carries a significant competitive advantage.”

In short, the Marines are leading the way in transforming the very meaning of amphibious operations.

We are only at the beginning of understanding what an F-35B and Osprey enabled amphibious fleet can do and might do; and with it the leavening effect such capability can have on the evolution of a Pacific amphibious coalition.

But one thing is certain: the MARFORPAC organization is crucially involved in shaping an evolving future.

Also see the following:

Multiple Osprey Flyoff of USS Bonhomme Richard from on Vimeo.

06/27/2015: U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Ospreys flight operations on the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), off of the coast of South Korea, April 2, 2015.

The aircraft are with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed expeditionary unit and is prepared to respond to a wide range of military operations ranging from humanitarian assistance missions to limited combat operations.


Meeting the Pacific Challenge: Shaping Focused Partnerships

The Pacific area is certainly not Europe or the Middle East from the standpoint of shaping a deterrence strategy.

It is about the US providing a core set of capabilities to protect its national interests and working with core allies and a wide range of partners to shape a more effective defense of the region.

It is not about building a coherent and permanent alliance structure aimed against either Russia or China.

It is about shaping capabilities, which solves problems, builds trust and shapes capabilities, which can provide for deterrence in depth.

As one Aussie strategist put it: “We all work bilaterally and multilaterally to focus on issues and solve problems.

The US provides the hub within which our working relationships can be effective.

And of course, our own special relationship with the US goes beyond this to sharing core values and core working relationships among our militaries.”

Exercises among allies and partners are a coin of the realm in the Pacific in shaping the trust and habits of cooperation necessary to succeed when operations are necessary throughout the range of military operations.

Habitual partnerships are a key element of shaping an effective deterrence in depth strategy in the Pacific.

The Russians and Chinese focus on bilateralism in the region and working client states.

The role of the Chinese Coast Guard is indicative in the region: the Chinese have asserted that their Coast Guard Cutters are capable of sinking any ship their size or smaller, not exactly the focus of attention of other Coast Guards world wide.

The head of the Chinese Navy has similarly, asserted that no smaller nation should be able to stand up to a great power like China.

One PACOM official has characterized the Chinese as the “thugs of the sea.”

The focus of US attention in the Pacific will necessarily have to focus on dealing with China, but the Chinese want to make this about China versus the US; the US in contrast understands that the Pacific is about shaping effective multilateral relationships to solve problems and provide for collective security which in turn provides the venue within which deterrence in depth is possible.

An SH-60B Seahawk assigned to the "Saberhawks" of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light 47 lands aboard the Republic of Singapore Navy guided-missile frigate RSS Steadfast during flight deck qualifications with the Republic of Singapore Navy. HSL-47 and other squadrons assigned Carrier Air Wing 2 are on a scheduled seven-month deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility with the USS Abraham Lincoln Strike Group.

An SH-60B Seahawk assigned to the “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light 47 lands aboard the Republic of Singapore Navy guided-missile frigate RSS Steadfast during flight deck qualifications with the Republic of Singapore Navy. Credit: US Navy, 3/26/2008

A country like India as it comes out into the Indian Ocean understands the challenge of China but has not fully embraced working partnerships with the Untied States, Japan or Australia for fear of being committed to a classic alliance strategy.

The government certainly needs to strengthen its working relationships with those countries, including legal agreements to share data and technologies,but it really is not about being part of a permanent alliance against China.

It is about shaping a 21st century effort to provide for collective security, effective partnerships which shape a deterrence in depth strategy against any country which wishes to use military force to change the rules of the game by force, or seize territory illegally.

During my visit to Hawaii at the end of July 2015, I had a chance to discuss the evolving partnership efforts of PACFLEET with William J. Wesley, Director, Plans and Policy, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Wesley has a wealth of experience in the Pacific, including combat experience in Vietnam as a Marine.

His job is described as follows:

“As the N5, he is the chief architect for the coordination and preparation of the Pacific Fleet input into U.S. Pacific Command’s Theater Campaign Plan, which supports the Secretary of Defense’s priorities for creating new partnerships, coalitions and building the capacity of existing international friends, allies and partners to support confidence building measures throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific rim.”

Understanding the Character of Working Relationships in the Pacific

We started by Wesley simply underscoring how different the Western Pacific was from Europe and that the significant differences created problems in understanding inside the policy elite of how to shape alliance and partnership strategies in the region.

090628-N-7058E-064 SOUTH CHINA SEA (June 28, 2009) The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90) fires its 5-inch gun at a ship-deployed surface target as the Royal Malaysian Navy ships KD Lekir, KD Handalan and KD Sri Indera Sakti and the guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) maneuver in formation during a surface gunnery exercise, part of the at-sea phase of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Malaysia 2009. CARAT is a series of bilateral exercises held annually in Southeast Asia to strengthen relationships and enhance the operational readiness of the participating forces. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Ed Early/Released)

090628-N-7058E-064 SOUTH CHINA SEA (June 28, 2009) The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90) fires its 5-inch gun at a ship-deployed surface target as the Royal Malaysian Navy ships KD Lekir, KD Handalan and KD Sri Indera Sakti and the guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) maneuver in formation during a surface gunnery exercise, part of the at-sea phase of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Malaysia 2009. Credit: US Navy

“The sensitivity on sovereignty issues is a core reality in the region, regardless of size of the state.

And working partnerships is the norm in a multi-lateral setting without permanent alliances being forged. It is an ongoing set of working relationships to solve problems.

The Chinese operate differently.

Xi Jinping and Wu Shengli, who’s the head of their navy, have all said the same thing at different times.

They said it’s not good for little countries to argue with big countries, or little navies argue with big navies.

So they do everything bilaterally.

That’s a given.”

He illustrated the working approach with regard to ASEAN..

“The key approach is to shape partnerships through confidence building measures and shaping trust and reliability.

“In 2013, ASEAN did a HA/DR exercise in 2013.

Then the next step was doing a maritime security exercise in Australia. It is a step by step process we see in the region.”

The Case of the Indian Navy

We then discussed at some length the case of India, and notably working with the Indian Navy.

“I think what people have to realize about the government of India, it’s very bureaucratic.

The Indian Navy is about 55,000 strong.

The air force is about 120,000 strong.

Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) salute an Indian navy ship as Halsey prepares to pull into Chennai, India. Halsey is on a deployment to the Indian Ocean. Credit: Navy Media Content Services, 4/7/12

Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) salute an Indian navy ship as Halsey prepares to pull into Chennai, India. Halsey is on a deployment to the Indian Ocean. Credit: Navy Media Content Services, 4/7/12

The army is a million.

They’re more of a continental army, centric organization.

They worry about China through their gap there. \They’re worried about Pakistan.

I’ve been working with the Indian Navy for 21 years.

I also sponsor our Center for Naval Analyses and National Maritime Foundation talks.

The Indian Navy wants to work more closely with us.

They’re opening up to Japan very well, so you have a better relationship now with the Indian Navy and Japan, the JMSDF, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

We have a very close relationship with the Indian Navy.

And the prime example is our Malabar exercise, which is an Indian exercise that the navy does normally in the Bay of Bengal.

Sometimes they’ll come out towards the Philippine Sea and beyond to do it with Japan and the US.

This year, we’re going to do it in Malabar. India, Japan, and the U.S. are involved in the exercise.

And they have opened the aperture to work Japan, Australia, Singapore and us.

And the relationship between OPNAV and the Indian Navy is very good as well.”

Question: The P-8 sale must provide an opening as well and the new agreements to work with India on helping on carriers must as well?

“They do. We have established a relationship with our carrier admiral that’s going to have a relationship with one of their vice admirals to talk CVNs and CVs.

Now they can advance their carrier capabilities.

They want to do better.

I think that’s an ongoing relationship.

We have worked really hard to help them from a maintenance perspective to understand the maintenance of their ships because we’ve sent our N43 there a number of years ago to help them.

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and the Indian Navy's Western Fleet sail in formation in front of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during a passing exercise. The PASSEX symbolized the completion of the exercise, which was designed to increase cooperation between the Indian and U.S. Navies while enhancing the cooperative security relationship between India and the U.S.  Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is on a routine deployment in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility. Operating in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean, the U.S. 7th Fleet is the largest of the forward-deployed U.S. fleets covering 52 million square miles, with approximately 50 ships, 120 aircraft and 20,000 Sailors and Marines assigned at any given time.

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and the Indian Navy’s Western Fleet sail in formation in front of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during a passing exercise. Credit: US Navy. 10/22/2008

I think we’re going to reinvigorate that aspect of it.

We also have opportunities for a number of the returning carriers to do fast exits and CV ops with them.

We’re doing that as well.

And another thing we are doing with the Indian Navy is submarine safety.

That’s another huge thing that we’re working with them on.

I see is there are a lot of opportunities there.”

Question: There is obvious concern with the emergence of the Chinese Navy.

Do you see this as a motivating factor in working with the USN and other allied navies?

“I do.

There is a sense of urgency, noticing how PLAN with their submarine ops and with their transiting counter-piracy groups going to the Indian Ocean are moving more westward.

This has caused concern with the Indian government obviously.

That’s why you saw Prime Minister Modi go to Sri Lanka, and reestablish a relationship with Sri Lanka.

He’s the first prime minister to do that in 28 years.”

Question: The P-8 provides an opportunity for sharing as well, but the sale was limited because of the continued refusal of the Indians to sign what we consider normal, namely an agreement to protect the communications side of share equipment.

Is there progress in this area?

“Not yet.

The Indians have not signed the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement or CISMA and this limits what we can do with India or how we can work the P-8 issues.

Until they sign the CISMOA, you can’t have the real open discourse with them on the classified side.”

Wesley added that they were going to host a seminar with the Indian Navy at Camp Smith in early September 2015.

Habitual Partnering

He then illustrated the challenges and the nature of evolving partnerships in the region by discussing the Regional Maritime Security Initiative or RMSI.

“A dozen years ago, it didn’t have a lot of traction.

Nobody wanted to do it.

But today there’s more effort to work together, to try to have some type of structure without the U.S. in the lead, supporting the effort.

For us, the goal is enhanced maritime security, maritime domain awareness, and information sharing in the region that we can be part of as well.”

He then cited steps, which have indeed done that.

There are new maritime security centers now in Singapore and Malaysia.

“And now Indonesia wants to step forward. They want to do more maritime security issues because of Natuna Island and the Chinese behavior. And then Malaysia is allowing us every other month basically to fly P-8 flights or P-3 flights out of Malaysia. And we have a Malaysian military officer on board when we do that going through the Straits of Malacca. Things that are happening that 12-15 years ago would never occur.”

Question: Could we talk about Vietnam? How do you see Vietnam reaching out into the region?

“I was in Vietnam as a young kid, ’66, ’67. So a few years ago, we had a number of admirals come over here for a meeting.

We sat down.

I sat next to a guy who spoke a little bit of English, an admiral from the People’s Republic of Vietnam’s navy.

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (July 20, 2012) – Military Officials from Vietnam observe Tripler Medical Assistant Team during the Humanitarian Assistant/Disaster Relief Scenario in order to participate in future international training evolutions during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 29 to Aug. 3, in and around the Hawaiian Islands.  The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans.  RIMPAC 2012 is the 23rd exercise in the series that began in 1971. U.S. Navy Video by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jamar X. Perry/RELEASED

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (July 20, 2012) – Military Officials from Vietnam observe Tripler Medical Assistant Team during the Humanitarian Assistant/Disaster Relief Scenario in order to participate in future international training evolutions during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise.  Credit: U.S. Navy

He looked at me and asked me if I’ve ever been to Vietnam.

I said, “Oh, yeah, I was there 1966, ’67.”

And then as he’s eating his soup, he kind of put the soup spoon out at me, “Were you?” I went, “Oh, yeah.”

But now have a working relationship.

I started our Vietnam navy-Navy talks five years ago.

They were a little bit curt, a little bit difficult, not a lot was achieved.

We just finished our fifth iteration and that went very well.

What we’re doing is undersea medicine, military medicine, our medical diplomacy efforts working in this theater, maritime security issues, and submarine rescue.

Of course we have a defense attaché in Vietnam but we have also a medical attaché and for two years a Naval attaché in Vietnam.

What I see is the slow movement with various countries and determine how they want to move forward.

But glacial steps are huge.

We’re taking huge steps with Vietnam. SecNav has been there a couple of times.

Vietnamese sailors depart the guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) following a shipboard in Da Nang, Vietnam, April 7, 2014, in support of Vietnam Naval Exchange Activities (NEA) 2014. Vietnam NEA is an annual collaboration focusing on noncombat events and skills exchanges in areas such as navigation and maintenance. The event is intended to foster improved relationships between the navies of the United States and Vietnam. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jay C. Pugh/Released)

Vietnamese sailors depart the guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) following a shipboard in Da Nang, Vietnam, April 7, 2014, in support of Vietnam Naval Exchange Activities (NEA) 2014. Vietnam NEA is an annual collaboration focusing on noncombat events and skills exchanges in areas such as navigation and maintenance. Credit: US Navy

SecDef has been there.

In fact, we’ve had our PACFLT commander there.”

We then discussed the importance of the CARAT exercises in building habitual relationships, which enable enhanced collective security.

The Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Exercise CARAT) is a series of annual military exercises conducted by United States Pacific Fleet with several member nations of ASEAN in Southeast Asia.

“We started out with six countries.

Today, we now have 10 countries involved in the exercises and it’s evolving from bilateral.

We want to go multilateral, trilateral with it. Vietnam calls it naval engagement activities because they don’t want to say they’re exercising with us, so instead they’re doing naval engagement activities.

Singapore looks at CARAT as a high-end exercise.

With Vietnam, it’s a low-end event.

They finally went out to sea for a few hours, which is a big step forward.”

The Australian Working Relationship

Question: I am going next to Australia, and how do you view Australia in this evolution of Pacific defense from a maritime perspective?

“I think what’s happening is obviously they’re looking at a way to get their next generation submarine. That’s going to be huge for them.

They’re looking at amphibiosity – if you want to use that word, how to use amphibs.

Jervis Bay, Australia - US Navy sailors assigned to USS Chosin are participating in combined navies exercises and an International Fleet Review in Sydney from Sept. 29 through Oct. 18. The fleet training exercise dubbed, ADMM+, ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus, is a major multi-lateral activity to promote practical Maritime cooperation and information sharing among participating Indo-Asian-Pacific countries and to build a common understanding of interoperability procedures in Maritime Security matters. US Navy photo by Public Affairs Officer Peter Walz

Jervis Bay, Australia – US Navy sailors assigned to USS Chosin are seen participating in combined navies exercises and an International Fleet Review in Sydney from Sept. 29 through Oct. 18, 2013. Credit: US Navy

We’re working very closely with them.

We’re looking at the relationship that we have with New Zealand, Australia, France, and us to shape more effective maritime security policies, not only in Oceania but also elsewhere as well.”

The interview with Wesley provides an understanding both of the challenges in shaping effective policies in the region as well building out an effective deterrence in depth strategy.

As Lt. General Robling, then MARFORPAC Commander put it in an interview in Hawaii last year:

It’s not about just building relationships in the region. It is about collective security in the region.

Building collective security requires, in part, a process of building partner capacity, and working convergent capacities to shape effective and mutually beneficial relationships which underlie the evolution of collective security.

Editor’s Note: In a discussion with the RAAF during the Australian visit, the P-3 community which is now training for transition to the P-8 in Jacksonville, Florida, the failure of India to sign the CISMOA agreement with the United States also reduced the ability of Australia to work with India on the platform and shape common concepts of operations,

This is less about US hegemony than having agreements in place which allow sharing of the communications and intelligence sharing which a platform like the P-8 delivers. 

But here is a view of the CISMOA by some in India as well as a look at other issues mentioned in the article concerning India:

Also, see our pieces on the P-8, for both the US Navy and the Indian Navy:

For our look at the shaping of a deterrence in depth strategy see,

Rebuilding American Military Power in the Pacific: A 21st Century Strategy



The Unasked Question in the Presidential Debate: Addressing the Crisis at the Veterans Administration

It is the goal of Second Line of Defense with the publication of this article to begin a series on the problems with the Veterans Administration.

It is hoped that visibility into VA problems by highlighting key challenges – including specific instances of corruption and malfeasance will inform the Presidential Debate.

Since Fox chose the participants for the first Republican debate, this article focuses on those individuals in that debate.

THIS is NOT a series to bash or take cheap shots at VA in fact just the opposite: it is past time to drive accountability and if necessary bring significant structural change to Title 38, for without such change, problems will not be resolved.

This is direct feedback from a combat disabled Vietnam Veteran who worked with President Reagan’s Vietnam Veteran Leadership Program and is a good statement of the issue:

“From personal experience I have seen the good and the bad at VAMCs and you are correct the good are really dedicated but the bad get away with no accountability!”

The Unasked Question During the First Republican Presidential Debate

“America is not at war. The Marine Corps is at war: America is at the Mall”—Words written on a white board in combat very early in our never ending Middle East wars.

The first Fox Presidential 2016 debate is over so hopefully America can see the strengths and weakness of individuals who wish to become the next Commander-in-Chief of our country. Unfortunately, the ego driven moderators, Brent Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace did not live up to the trust and confidence they wished to instill in the process. The fact that many in the media are applauding their shallow, superficial and nasty lines of inquiry is testimony to the intellectual dry rot that passes for journalism today.

A simple news flash for the entire production crew of Fox News, the Republican Party is the Party of Lincoln. In his historic for the ages Second Inaugural Speech on March 4 1865, a month before his assassination on Good Friday April 14, 1865, he said the following-

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Of all the issues covered no one in the entire Fox Production Team thought of the 22 million American Veterans who are being ill served by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is true that no nation can ever repay the cost of a war but America has developed a support network as Lincoln said to care for the veteran, it is the DVA motto.

Now that safety net has been torn apart by a nasty greedy criminal element that has cheated and gamed the system for their own benefit.

As the first Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Congressional and Public Affairs, I entered a Cabinet Department with some of the most caring professionals I have ever met. They are the rule and allowing a relatively few criminals to go unpunished is an attack on them.

So why wasn’t there one question about the DVA?

It took an anonymous hero smarter and more perceptive that everyone at Fox to even mention veterans.  Megyn Kelly said as the debate was ending a woman came to the stage and wanted a question about what the candidates would do about veterans. Then in one of the more bizarre moments Megyn Kelly framed the issue about God and Veterans.

Let me help Fox–“What will you do as President to bring accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs?”

The American Constitution has well defined roles for the three branches of government, Executive, Legislative and Judicial, and together with a smart and knowledgeable 1st Amendment protected media the country has evolved a dynamic system of Constitutional Accountability.

The Legislative branch focusing on their contribution to accountability can hold oversight hearings under the threat of perjury to bring issues to light. The Executive Department can investigate and prosecute under the rules and guidance set by the courts. The media brings the sunlight of disinfectant to the entire process.

To bring accountability to The Department of Veterans Affairs it has to be understood that it operates within what is called “The Iron Triangle.”

This unofficial triad has historically been the DVA, in partnership with the Congress and the Veteran Service Organizations such as American Legion, DAV and others. Over time this group has evolved a simple formula; Money for DVA equals love support and respect for veterans. Money is always good but the formula also provides superficial cover for DVA bureaucrats, and legislators on both sides of the Hill and aisle. More money for DVA often drives VSO membership and also allows the media to call for budget remedies without real understanding of accountability first.

It is now time, even if Fox missed the opportunity, to ask what will the next President do to fix DVA?

The process is broken; the DVA leadership has totally failed in their mission. To be absolutely fair to President Obama he picked two individuals with exemplary credentials to be Secretary of his Cabinet Department, the Former Chief of Staff of the US Army, and his Under-Secretary for Benefits is an Air Force Academy Graduate General Officer. The fact they were and some still are leading an epic fail is not the Presidents fault.  Because, I suspect a Republican President could have chosen the same team.

However, what can be done now for accountability is still in President Obama’s hands.

Action to bring Constitutional accountability is simple. Currently with the failure of the VA IG team, to make meaningful cases and Congress doesn’t prosecute, it is time to bring in the FBI and get serious. If the FBI is dispatched to look into police departments after just one death it is long past time to bring the best law enforcement organization in the world to investigate a system that is allowing American Veterans die alone in the dark.

One other fact about the FBI there are many military veterans serving in FBI. The mission to clean up the DVA could be historic. The FBI in taking down bad elements in an entire Cabinet Department can ripple forward real accountability for generations to ensure lasting good government.

Republican Candidates could handle such a DVA investigation question very easily.  Governors know Executive Accountability, the two Doctors on the stage are gifted with insights about Medical Accountability, Senator Cruz was in both the Executive and Legislative Branch and appointed Solicitor General of Texas and also served in US DOJ and a potential President “Your Fired” Trump needs no help in understanding accountability.

Fox News should have taken the lead from Fox Sports on what it means to be a veteran and why an FBI investigation can be justified.

The words of the great Rocky Bleier looking back forty years to his Vietnam War experience of being wounded on the battlefield tells us all what it means to be in uniform:

“So there’s no color barrier, no class barrier. There’s no black, no white, no north, no south. You’re just you and your fellow soldier, and that is a bond that you always have.

No matter what the branch may be, there’s a respect for what a fellow soldier has gone through and is going through.”

An earlier version of this was published in “The Hill” newspaper on 12 August 2015.

Ed Timperlake was Assistant Secretary in the Department of Veterans Affairs in President Bush’s ’41 Administration ( Senate Confirmed): 1989-1992

He built the first Congressional Affairs Office at the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), the first Public Affairs Office at DVA and the first Intergovernmental Affairs staff at DVA.

He was senior Government Officer in charge of medical mobilization of the Department of Veterans Affairs during Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

And finally, he was Secretary Derwinski’s designated representative to address “Gulf War Illness” challenge.

Putin Ups the Nuclear Ante in the Second Nuclear Age

President Vladimir Putin’s boasting today that Russia will deploy 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles this year is another reminder of why it would be dangerous to de-alert more of the US nuclear force.

It is not because the Russian nuclear arsenal is poised to pounce on the United States.

As far as we can tell, Moscow remains deterred from attacking the United States or any other nuclear power.

Rather, the problem is that the current Russian leadership is prone to worst-case nuclear thinking and rhetoric.

“Over 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of penetrating any, even the most technologically advanced missile defense systems, will join the nuclear forces in the current year,” Putin told an arms show at Alabino, west of Moscow.

Last year, Russia obtained 38 new ICBMs, in what is planned to be a multi-year effort to upgrade Russia’s nuclear and conventional forces.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg rightly denounced Russia’s continued “nuclear saber-rattling.” During his visit to the United States in May, Stoltenberg warned that Russia’s strategic buildup, nuclear saber rattling, and more aggressive bomber patrols throughout the transatlantic region have compounded alarm about Moscow’s violation of the INF Treaty as well as Russia’s continuing aggression against Ukraine.

Responding to Putin’s message today, Stoltenberg said that, “They are developing new nuclear capabilities and they are also using nuclear rhetoric more in the way they are messaging their defense strategy and defense posture.” Stoltenberg called Russia’s “nuclear saber-rattling … unjustified. It’s destabilizing and it’s dangerous.”

Endorsing US plans to return advanced ground forces to the European Continent, Stoltenberg affirmed that, “We are responding by making sure that NATO also in the future is an alliance which provides deterrence and protection for all allies against any threat.”

US administrations have extensively reviewed and rejected proposals to de-alert more US nuclear forces in peacetime—an idea that President Obama and some of his advisers initially favored. Obama has since participated in many exercises and top-level evaluations and concluded that de-alerting would weaken deterrence, reduce crisis stability, and deny the US important nuclear employment options.

US officials do not see the value of increasing strategic stability slight through de-alerting in peacetime, when the prospects of a Russia-US nuclear war are practically nonexistent and neither side has the capacity to conduct a disarming first strike, in exchange for reducing stability by having to rapidly re-alert more forces in a crisis, when the risks of nuclear use are much higher.

For example, US officials worry that having to bring more of the US nuclear force on higher alert in a crisis could be destabilizing and invite preemptive thinking by Russia and the United States since both sides would have incentives to strike the other sides’ forces before they complete their preparations to launch.

US policy makers fear that Russia and the United States could find themselves in a race to mobilize similar to that which prevailed in Europe before World War I, when national governments felt they had to mobilize their reserves to meet the dictates of the railroad timetables. When German leaders found themselves at war with Imperial Russia, they felt that they had no choice but to attack France as dictated by their Shlieffen war plan.

The U.S. nuclear weapons command system is designed so that only the US President can authorize the use of nuclear weapons and has many safeguards against unauthorized or accidental launch. For example, multiple people and networks would need to transmit and confirm a presidential launch order, and the launch code that must be fed into the missile only exists in hard-copy form. In addition, the United States has an Open-Ocean Targeting policy in peacetime in which US nuclear missiles are aimed at the oceans just in case an accidental launch occurs.

According to those in charge of the US nuclear arsenal, US forces are not on “hair-trigger” alert status in peacetime. At present, only the ICBMs and several of the strategic submarines on patrol are on full-alert status; the strategic bombers do not normally have their bombs loaded on their planes. In a crisis, the rest of the force can be regenerated—with the bombers able to be more rapidly loaded and launched than the rest of the submarine force.

Any decision to raise the US nuclear alert status or actually employ the forces would follow only from an “attack assessment” based on U.S. early warning radars and satellites and the evaluation of their data by US command centers. The focus of US attention is naturally Russia—the only country that for the next decade will be able to launch a counterforce attack against US nuclear systems based in the United States.

The United States does not have a “launch on warning” posture, according to which US forces would attack Russia before Russia actually launched some of its nuclear forces. The United States does have “launch under attack” (LOA) options, but the United States does not need to use them, since a sufficiently large number of US nuclear forces on alert would survive a preemptive Russian attack whether in peacetime or in a crisis, but only provided US forces are regenerated rapidly enough to match Russian launch preparations.

The assumption is that any US forces not on alert can and would be destroyed in a preemptive Russian counterforce attack. However, US policy makers believe that having LOA options, which de-alerting would reduce or eliminate, can enhance deterrence.

Notwithstanding Moscow’s nuclear rhetoric, the present Russian government does not seem to care about the de-alerting issue, meaning that Moscow is unlikely to reciprocate any unilateral US concessions. The last time there were any official Russia-US talks on the issue was during the Yeltsin-Clinton years, when the two governments agreed to their Open-Oceans targeting agreement—aiming their missiles at the sea rather than each other in peacetime.

Despite earlier complaints by Russian arms controllers, Russian government officials no longer make an issue of the so-called alleged US “upload potential”–the ability of the United States to return nuclear warheads to strategic delivery systems from where they had been removed under earlier arms control agreements placed in storage pending dismantlement.

US experts believe that their Russian counterparts understand that the United States would require months to return these warheads to US strategic submarines and ICBMs since the United States has only a limited number of skilled technicians and specialized equipment for loading warheads on delivery vehicles.

US officials would like to renew official strategic stability talks with Moscow, but Russian officials insist that their US counterparts cannot pick or choose—they must re-launch the entire two dozen Russian-US presidential commission working groups rather than resume the few ones, such as regarding strategic stability, that the United States considers most important.

In addition, President Obama, like his predecessors, has participated in many exercises and reviewed many studies and decided that he wants to have a range of nuclear employment options, which requires having some of the US nuclear arsenal on full-time alert—and more than required simply to deter a Russian attack against the United States..

Instead, the Obama administration has decided that a better way to strengthen strategic stability that through further de-alerting is to improve the US command and control system to counter the challenges of having aging hardware and to thwart efforts at cyber manipulation of US nuclear forces.

Note: The Russian re-emphasis upon nuclear weapons across the tactical and strategic spectrum, along with their assertive global policies, come at a time when the rules established in the past are not simply that — rules of the past being redefined by new nuclear states forging a second nuclear age.

The Russian actions against US and NATO pilots seen in the Baltic, are either provocations or a new generation of pilots who have not learned that moving within 1o feet of a non-fighter combat aircraft is not safe and not acceptable. 

This is a microcosm of a bigger problem — what are the rules of deterrence going forward?

Responding to Russian INF Violations

Reversing Russia’s INF violations may take years.

It took Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush seven years to convince the Soviet Union to destroy a radar system that violated the since abandoned 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

Russia ceased complying with the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty in 2007 and has yet to end its violations.

Originally most NATO governments seemed to treat the Russian violation issue as a question that Washington and Moscow needed to resolve directly.

Now the violation has become linked with renewed NATO concerns about how the Russian government has been directing nuclear threats and deployments against the alliance.

As with the U.S. drone campaigns and renewed U.S. military operations in Iraq, the administration is finding it difficult to balance the president’s rhetorical support for disarmament and arms control with its projects to counter Russian aggression.

Obama administration officials openly acknowledge that, given the poor security relationship between Russia and the United States, they will not be able to negotiate another major bilateral arms control treaty with Putin before leaving office in January 2017.

The administration is no longer actively seeking Russia’s acceptance of U.S. or NATO missile defense plans and has lost hope of negotiating major reductions in Russia’s large tactical nuclear weapons stockpile.

U.S. officials also believe that chances of securing Senate support for ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty have declined due to decreased congressional support for (or confidence in) the Obama administration’s national security policies.

Indeed, members of Congress are also demanding strong action to counter Russia’s treaty violations and discourage Iran and other countries from also violating arms control treaties.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY16 adopted by the House of Representatives last month, if enacted in the final legislation, would require the White House to notify Congress within 30 days if Russia flight-tests or deploys an INF-prohibited missile and the Intelligence Community and the Defense Department to notify Congress of what they have told NATO about Russia’s violation.

In addition, if Moscow continues its non-compliance with the INF Treaty, the bill would require United States to develop counterforce and countervailing capabilities against Russia; suspend bilateral military-to-military contacts or cooperation; stop funding implementation of the New START accord; and provide the Aegis Ashore BMD sites in Poland and Romania with defenses against cruise missiles.

The Obama administration still hopes that threatening concrete retaliatory measures, along with continued diplomatic efforts and public shaming of Moscow, will induce Russia to come back into compliance with the INF Treaty. However, the administration has recently been publicly considering more assertive responses to Russia’s INF violation but has yet to commit to any specific countermeasure.

The defense Department has developed response options.

During his Senate confirmation hearings in early February 2015, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter indicated that he was inclined to recommend retaliating if Russia failed to convince Washington that it had come back into compliance with the INF treaty.

In his written responses to the questions posed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carter said that, “Russia’s continued disregard for its international obligations and lack of meaningful engagement on this particular issue require the United States to take actions to protect its interests and security as well as those of its allies and partners.”

In general, Carter added the U.S. response “should continue to remind Russia why the U.S. and Russia signed this treaty in the first place and be designed to bring Russia back into verified compliance with its obligations….[and] must make clear to Russia that if it does not return to compliance our responses will make them less secure than they are today… [as well as] negating any advantage Russia might gain from deploying an INF-prohibited system.”

If Russia does not return to compliance, the United States has several options.

According to Carter, the three main ones are: deploying “active defenses to counter intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missiles; counterforce capabilities to prevent intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missile attacks; and countervailing strike capabilities to enhance U.S. or allied forces.”

The least confrontational option, which would more likely to win NATO backing and thwart any Russian effort to use the issue to stir up tensions between the United States and European countries, is to enhance alliance defenses against Russian cruise missiles.

However, this could present challenges due to the potential difficulty of detecting and intercepting Russian cruise missiles that can reach nearby NATO countries in only a few minutes.

The United States could alternatively deploy its own ground-based cruise or ballistic missiles in Europe to threaten Russian military forces, either any INF-banned missiles Moscow deploys or even other Russian military assets, with an equivalent U.S. system.

The move to generate new “counterforce” capabilities would aim to induce Moscow either to negotiate a compromise or to deny—by being able to destroy the Russian missiles before they could be launched—Moscow any military advantages from violating the treaty.

NATO pursued such a successful “dual-track” policy in the 1980s when the alliance deployed U.S. intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles in several West European countries to induce Moscow to accept a “zero-option” INF Treaty for both U.S. and Russian nuclear systems in Europe.

However, it is unclear which countries would host such weapons.

Those NATO members most inclined to welcome them would be those located closest to Russia, but deploying these land-based systems in proximity to Russian territory would also make them more vulnerable to Russian preemption.

In addition, the administration would prefer to avoid violating the INF Treaty, which bans such ground-launched intermediate-range missiles.

The administration is also considering a “countervailing strategy” designed to increase NATO’s strike capabilities in general in a way that, without matching any new Russian ground-based systems, would negate any adverse effects that might result from Russia’s violating the INF Treaty.

The Treaty permits sea- and air-launched intermediate-range systems even while banning them on the land.

Putting U.S. non-strategic systems aimed at Russia on highly mobile warplanes and warships (such as F-35s, which NATO countries will need in any case to employ US tactical nuclear bombs in the future) would make them less vulnerable and would be seen as less provocative than stationing ground-launched missiles near Russia, where both sides would have incentives to use these missiles first against the other’s strike forces.

Looking ahead, this experience underscores the importance of the “trust but verify” maxim that has always guided U.S. arms control policies.

Also see the following:


Moscow and INF: The Return of a Problem

In its just released report on foreign governments’ Adherence to and Compliance With Arms Control, Non-proliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, the U.S. State Department highlighted that the Russians are violating the INF treaty.

“The United States determined the cruise missile developed by the Russian Federation meets the INF Treaty definition of a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km, and as such, all missiles of that type, and all launchers of the type used to launch such a missile, are prohibited under the provisions of the INF Treaty.

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty prohibits Russia and the United States from developing, manufacturing, or deploying ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 kilometers.

The Treaty permits both sides to possess sea- or air-launched cruise missiles within the ranges banned by the Treaty, but the parties may not test them from mobile ground-based launchers or deploy them on land.

The Russian response has always been to deny that they have tested any missile in violation of the treaty.

According to one participant in the Russian-U.S. exchanges on the issue, “so far, our discussion has been roughly like this. Hi, we have a concern, you violated the treaty.

They say, no, we haven’t. But no, you really have, and let us share some information with you about… no, you have to give us more information. We don’t know anything about it.”

Russian officials and media have been describing the U.S. INF allegations as, in the words of Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov on the state-owned RT television channel, “part of the anti-Russian campaign unleashed by Washington in connection with the Ukraine crisis.

And the US is ready to exploit any means to discredit Russia.”

A Russian GLCM is launched from an Iskander-K launcher at Kapustin Yar in 2007.

A Russian GLCM is launched from an Iskander-K launcher at Kapustin Yar in 2007.

Why is Russia violating the INF Treaty? There are several possible reasons.

Russian officials may be maneuvering to induce the United States into withdrawing from the INF Treaty, which they have long disliked.

From Moscow’s perspective, it would be better for Washington to bear the onus of formal withdrawal from the treaty so that other countries in general, and NATO allies in particular, would resist strong measures against Russia.

By pursuing this “soft exit” strategy from the INF and other arms control agreements, Russia can violate an agreement while placing on others the burden of either withdrawing from it, responding with counter-measures, or remaining compliant and constrained by an accord that Moscow is violating.

Prominent Russian national security officials, including President Putin, believe that the INF Treaty—along with NATO membership enlargement, the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, and the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty—represents one of those unequal agreements that the collapsing Soviet Union and then the prostrate Russian Federation was compelled to accept.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has extended this complaint to cover more recent years.

Denying U.S. allegations of Russian treaty violations and accusing the U.S. government of lying and hypocrisy, the Ministry in 2014 charged that:

“Washington is systematically carrying out a plan to dismantle the global strategic stability system…The Americans started this process in 2001, by unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty.

Now it is aggravated by a rapid and unlimited build-up of the US global missile defense system, an unwillingness to clean up the territory of other states from the US tactical nuclear arsenal deployed there, elaboration of a provocative strategy of Prompt Global Strike, and an excessive build-up of conventional weapons, including their offensive components.”

Of course, this victimization perspective makes Russian officials more comfortable violating these treaties.

In addition, Russia might want INF-range systems to attack the ballistic missile defense systems and conventional forces that NATO is deploying around Russia’s periphery.

Russia could use intermediate-range systems to deter and defeat potential threats from surrounding countries and counterbalance U.S. superiority in conventional forces and missile defenses.

Russian officials have long argued that, whereas the United States does not need such missiles to deter attacks from its neighbors Mexico and Canada, Russia is surrounded by countries–including India, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, North Korea, and China—that are acquiring large numbers of short- and intermediate-range missiles—states that have, or could soon have, nuclear weapons.

They also note that Russia is vulnerable from air strikes launched from these neighboring states.

The United States and Russia joined in a limited effort to induce other countries to adhere to the INF Treaty, but this campaign has so far involved little more than issuing an appeal at the U.N. General Assembly.

No other country has joined the Treaty beyond the United States and the Russian Federation (though some provisions apply to the other former Soviet republics).

It is possible that Russian leaders might have hoped that the United States would not soon discover the violation, especially if the plan was to develop the new system but not soon deploy it.

U.S. officials engaged in talks with the Russian officials and experts believe that only a small number of Russians originally knew about the program.

If Moscow had successfully concealed the violation, that would have decreased the prospects of a U.S. response.

Various U.S. experts believe that the Russian government may be violating other arms control agreements, such as the Biological Weapons Convention, the Vienna Document, and the Open Skies Agreement.

In addition, Russia has long been pursuing a variety of tactics to intimidate neighboring countries and undermine NATO’s cohesion.

In pursuit of these goals, Russian leaders have been threatening to attack countries that align themselves with NATO policies and have tried to win over West European leaders through sweetheart energy deals and other inducements.

Whatever the original reason for the deployment, Moscow may now hope that NATO governments will divide over how to respond to a new missile that only threatens the eastern members of the alliance.

While Poland and the Baltic states likely will favor a vigorous response, NATO members beyond the range of the new weapon might oppose a strong reaction.

Finally, Russian actions regarding INF, nuclear threats, and other issues suggest that they are pursuing a nuclear doctrine and modernization plan that differs from their published military doctrine, which continues to describe nuclear weapons as a weapon of last resort.

This experience underscores the importance of the “trust but verify” maxim that has always guided good U.S. arms control policies.

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