As Russian forces begin exercises on Ukraine’s border and continue their hold on Crimea, I worry about military escalation—unintentional and intentional. What fuels my concern about unintentional escalation is a disconcerting interaction I had last year with a Russian general at a NATO conference in Europe. I was leading a breakout session with a dozen generals and admirals from the region. I was taken aback as many of the Western European NATO officers began lamenting their individual countries’ declining defense budgets and their inability to keep up with American military capability. As complicated as things might be inside NATO, and as difficult as it is to rally collective action at times, NATO is still the premier military alliance in the world. No one is giving up on it, I assured them.
When the Russian general spoke, he leaned into the table and said, “When I was a young soldier in the Soviet Army during the Cold War, I thought of NATO like this…” and he held his hand into a powerful fist. “But now that I am serving with NATO as a liaison, I am thinking, this…” and his hand went limp and wobbly with a whiny sounding sigh. If this small interaction reflects in any way a wider view of NATO by Russian civilian and military leaders, NATO has its work cut out for it in demonstrating to Vladimir Putin that continued military aggression in Ukraine will be challenged. Read the rest of this entry »
What’s the value of a nuclear warhead today? Not the monetary value, but as a deterrent?
Nuclear explosions are frightfully destructive, and that’s the point: to inspire fear, to deter an adversary. Atomic bombs still appeal to some nations and terrorists, making proliferation a constant risk. Fortunately, there are fewer nuclear warheads in the world than during the Cold War; down from about 60,000 to about 22,000 today, most of which remain in the United States and Russia. But the deterrent value of the arsenals isn’t what it used to be. Both the U.S. and Russia face new threats — terrorism, proliferation, economic competition, pandemics — for which these long-range or strategic nuclear weapons are of little value.
Another group of bombs which have lost their purpose are the battlefield or tactical nuclear weapons, originally created during the Cold War to deter a massive land invasion in Europe. NATO has between 150 and 200 B-61 gravity bombs in Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey, fewer than the thousands of weapons based in Europe during the superpower confrontation. Today, Russia has an estimated 2,000 useable tactical nuclear weapons, although it is not clear precisely how many nor where they are located.
Why are they still deployed? Russia has its own calculus; more about that below. But for NATO, the argument made by some is that these weapons have symbolic value, showing that non-nuclear members are sharing in the alliance defense burden.
Yet by many accounts, these nuclear bombs have no military utility. Where would they be dropped? The war plans of the Cold War are defunct. Our modern nuclear-tipped missiles are plenty accurate and sufficient for any future contingency or target. Read the rest of this entry »
Sun Aug 07, 07:37 PM The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau gets a rousing cheer from his cabinet members after a vote in favour of passage of the constitution 246-24 in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Dec. 2, 1981. (Andy Clark / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
OTTAWA — The CIA secretly painted Pierre Trudeau as a politician torn between being a leader of the Third World and a genuine player with global industrialized nations, declassified records show.
The January 1982 assessment of the Liberal prime minister’s ambitions is among several detailed — and until now virtually unknown — analyses of the Canadian economy by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
by Christopher Andrew
From Blackadder to Burgess and Maclean, this history of MI5 is a scholarly and hugely entertaining account, says Robert McCrum
The Observer, Sunday 11 October 2009
British intelligence officer and Soviet spy Kim Philby holds a press conference after being cleared of spying charges in 1955. Photograph: Getty Images
An authorised centenary history of MI5, the mysterious organisation whose existence was not even officially acknowledged until 1989, was bound to be a strange bestseller. But then, as Christopher Andrew amply demonstrates in this compendious volume, British countersubversion, founded in 1909 in response to Edwardian spy mania, stoked by a popular novelist and the Daily Mail, has always been a funny game. Read the rest of this entry »
May 7, 2009
By Sergei Balashov
An EU Bid to Muscle in on Russia’s Turf, or an Effort to Enrich and Stabilize Europe’s Borders?
This week saw the inaugural conference of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program, an initiative meant to improve ties between Brussels and the former-Soviet republics. But European leaders are making it clear that it is not a stepping stone to membership, leaving some of the former-Soviet republics unsure of Europe’s commitment, and making Russia suspicious of the EU’s motives.
Of the new countries that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union, only the three Baltic states have managed to successfully join the European Union. Other former-Soviet republics have found it much harder to find acceptance in Brussels, and none of them holds official candidate status, even though some have expressed the strongest desire to join. Read the rest of this entry »