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The Nonproliferation Review will be publishing my book review of Ken Adelman’s Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours that Ended the Cold War. (Where would we be without publishing license and hyperbolic subtitles?) In the meantime, here are some quotes from the book, which tells a story that is endlessly fascinating:

“Reykjavik changed each man, changed their relationship and thus that of the superpowers.”

“SDI was little more than pie in the colorful sky of Ronald Reagan’s imagination.”

Reagan to Gorbachev from verbatim notes: “[SDI] is exactly the same with offensive strategic weapons. We need a gas mask here.”

“Reagan knew enough about arms control to make his arguments adeptly.”

“Each [Reagan and Gorbachev] was genuinely dumbfounded by what the other believed.”

“Although Reagan was always clear in his views and intentions, he was seldom clear in his instructions. Just as Horace Walpole once said of Prime Minister William Pitt, Reagan kept aloof from all details, drew magnificent plans, and left others to find magnificent means.”

“Iran-Contra showed Reagan at his worst – all instinct with little thinking; all improv with little formal decision making; all emotion with little logic.”

“SDI never worked as Reagan wished. It worked better.”

“Gorbachev wanted to reform the Soviet Union in the worst way possible. And that’s pretty much how he did it.”

“We know the things Reagan did but do not know how he was able to do them.”

And back to that subtitle: “Reykjavik alone did not end the Cold War. Only the uninformed and or the sensationalistic could claim that it did.”


Events on the subcontinent are moving quickly, with uncertain outcomes. In short order, Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a resounding mandate. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attended his oath-taking, a savvy symbolic gesture of potential import. One faction of the Pakistani Taliban carried out a brazen attack on Karachi’s international airport, after which Pakistan’s armed forces launched a “comprehensive operation against foreign and local terrorists” in North Waziristan.

After a year of hesitation, Nawaz’s government has finally joined the fight. But it’s unclear whether the Army has a plan to succeed. It’s hard enough to fight shadows, sleeper cells, hardened Taliban fighters and what euphemistically used to be known as “guest militants,” like the Uzbeks reportedly involved in the airport attack. It’s harder when civil and military leaders spar over punishing Pervez Musharraf for suspending regular order to extend his rule, and when Pakistan’s military and intelligence services treat media outlets and journalists who broadcast unwanted messages as enemies. Whatever plans are unfurled in the weeks ahead will prompt even more explosions. The only question is where.

Many scenarios are in play, ranging from positive to catastrophic. A big boost in direct trade between India and Pakistan can improve Pakistan’s economic prospects, but this won’t be easy for Nawaz. Blocking maneuvers in Pakistan are underway, even Operation Zarb-e-Azb ramps up.

Op-ed pages carried trenchant criticism of Nawaz’s performance in Delhi. Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the United States and High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, took him to task for failing to defend Pakistan’s diplomatic priorities and concerns, to object to Delhi’s narrative about terrorism, and to take up the Kashmir cause in a public way.

Maleeha’s most significant complaint was that Nawaz’s oddly cobbled-together team – he has yet to appoint a Foreign Minister – is presumed to be open to India’s desire to restructure the “composite dialogue,” which dates back to 1997. This on-and-off-again format – eight baskets of issues including trade, terrorism, nuclear matters, water, Kashmir and lesser territorial disputes – was designed to allow both countries to raise priority concerns and, in theory, to facilitate trades. In reality, few deals have been consummated because priorities differ. In Maleeha’s view,

To so cavalierly abandon Pakistan’s longstanding position – without any sense of what might replace this structure or what India would agree to – is beyond comprehension…

The risks of abandoning a well-established multi-tiered process and recasting the terms of the future dialogue are obvious. India might seek to narrow the bandwidth of talks by cherry picking issues of its priority…

The greatest risk lies in a ‘new architecture’ that might relegate Kashmir to the back channel and take it out of the formal peace process. This will erode its international and bilateral status as a dispute and send an unmistakably negative signal to the Kashmiris.

Other critics seek more muscular remedies. Shamshad Ahmad, Pakistan’s hard-line Foreign Secretary during Nawaz’s previous tenure, urged him to stay home and then hammered him for going, resurrecting rhetoric on Kashmir that was shelved during Musharraf’s tenure:

“What must be clear to [Nawaz] is that peace in South Asia will remain elusive as long as Kashmir remains under Indian occupation. There can be no compromise on this issue.

There is only one fair, just, legal and moral solution to Kashmir, which was provided by the United Nations, and which both India and Pakistan mutually accepted in UN Security Council resolutions.

Translation: The future of Kashmir is fundamental to the future of Pakistan. Therefore, Pakistan is justified to turn up the heat across the Kashmir divide, just like in the 1990s when the ISI shifted assets and tactics there from Afghanistan.

Shahzad Chaudry, a columnist, retired Air Vice Marshal, had this to say:

Terror is a two-way concern. And let me add, as long as Kashmir doesn’t resolve… terror will continue to be the only tool that the repressed there will use to assert their voice against the state’s repressiveness. Terror in Kashmir is rooted in Kashmir and is only augmented by regional imports, just as Pakistan faces a conglomerate of threats coalesced under the banner of ideological support to a brand that works against Pakistan.

There are way too many moving parts on the subcontinent at present. A decision to boost direct trade without the usual haggles would produce more winners than losers, but Modi, a far more formidable and less predictable leader than Manmohan Singh, is not trusted. US-Pakistan relations are uncertain, and as US troops leave Afghanistan, the TTP will find safe havens across the Afghan border, an ironic twist. On top of all this, internal security concerns are growing along with the tempo of military operations.

Nawaz Sharif has not used his electoral mandate to good effect, the ISI is defending its prerogatives, and civil-military relations are frayed. The only thing missing from this combustible mix is increased friction along the Kashmir divide. Sure enough, Pakistani media outlets reported on June 13th that Indian troops initiated indiscriminate firing along the Kashmir divide, prompting Pakistani troops to retaliate. Indian media outlets reported that Pakistani troops initiated the firing, which is far more likely. Why elevate the Kashmir issue now, after such a long hiatus? What good can come from doing so?

One possible reason would be to put India on the defensive — but this strategy has consistently produced more pain than gain for Pakistanis and Kashmiris. A second possibility is to block the prospect of improved India-Pakistan relations. Elevating concerns about Indian misrule in Kashmir and support for separatists in Balochistan could also serve as a prelude or justification for upping the ante across the Kashmir divide – or worse, another attack originating in Pakistan on an Indian city. Praveen Swami, who writes must-read pieces in The Hindu, surmises that, “for Pakistan’s Army, mired in a losing war against the jihadists it once nurtured, hostilities with India offer the sole hope of repairing its relationship with the jihadists.”

Raising the Kashmir cause at this juncture might reflect internal maneuvering between Pakistan’s power centers. Or perhaps this is merely shadow play to prompt the Modi government to recommit to the composite dialogue and to lay off changes in Kashmir’s status — or some combination of the above.

Many scenarios are in play, ranging from positive to catastrophic. Bilateral relations could improve markedly by fast-tracking a significant increase in direct trade. The Modi government could cut Pakistan considerable slack during Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Alternatively, if Rawalpindi raises the stakes on its losing hand in Kashmir, the new Indian government seeks to change the status quo in Kashmir, or if surrogates are not kept in check, trying times lie ahead. The most dangerous scenario is another major crisis sparked by a spectacular act of terror in India carried out by groups that are either unencumbered or aided by Pakistan’s intelligence services.

Bottom line: Buckle your seat belts.


The Republican Party in the United States has adopted positions on social issues and the environment that are at odds with those of the majority of the voting public. Their signature opposition to “Obamacare” is losing ground. Both parties gerrymander and receive large sums from major donors, but Republican legislators benefit more from laws reaffirmed or struck down by a one-vote margin on the Supreme Court. Gerrymandered Congressional districts drawn up by gerrymandered state legislatures have tipped the scales toward the Grand Old Party in the House of Representatives. Republican legislators are betting that they do not have to make deals with the Obama administration to retain control of the House and perhaps win the Senate in November. They cannot win the presidency on domestic issues, but the Obama administration is one damaging foreign policy and national security crisis away from handing the keys to the White House over to the Republican Party in 2016.

Over time, Ukraine may become a signal success for the West, if Kiev has competent leadership and receives sufficient economic and military assistance to deal with domestic challenges and to reorient the country toward Europe. In the short run, however, Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and the tentative, circumscribed nature of U.S. and NATO responses have undermined President Obama’s standing on the world stage. Those around him provide insufficient help for trials of this magnitude.

The daily drumbeat of media opposition to the Obama administration from the echo chamber of Fox News and right-wing radio do not sway the voting public – they reinforce grievances of those already convinced. Foreign and national security crises affect broader audiences. Once a president’s perceived standing to represent U.S. interests abroad begins to slip, it’s easier to slide further downhill than to reverse course. If another damaging crisis accompanies the continued decline in defense spending, a strong Republican presidential candidate can buck demographic trends and move into the White House. Reconsidering deficit reduction is good politics and good for national security.

Three foreign crises could be looming. The first is with China over offshore islands that U.S. friends and allies claim. The second is with Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in Israel, which is seething over the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran and its response to the formation of a new Palestinian coalition government that includes Hamas. Localized Israeli military action would not come as a surprise, prompted by casualties taken at home. The third is the growing possibility of another confrontation between India and Pakistan in which Washington’s standard crisis-management playbook proves insufficient. The next attack on a major airport could be in India instead of Pakistan.

It’s possible that all three of these crises can be avoided over the remainder of the Obama presidency. China’s leadership is focusing on economic growth, corruption and social cohesion. Palestinian leaders might reason that this is not a good time to carry out attacks against Israelis. President Obama and his partners might succeed in negotiating an outcome with Iran that is far more protective of Israeli interests than the cartoon depiction of the nuclear threat used by Netanyahu to instruct the UN General Assembly in September 2012. And perhaps India and Pakistan will finally improve relations by engineering a substantial growth in direct trade – a deal that will not be interrupted by yet another spectacular act of terrorism in India by the usual suspects in Pakistan, either unencumbered or assisted by Pakistan’s intelligence services. Pakistan’s military and intelligence services are, after all, facing severe internal security threats, and have good reason to avoid another confrontation with India.

Realistically speaking, the odds of avoiding every one of these crises are less than the odds of something going badly wrong. The focus of my next post will be on signs of trouble ahead in South Asia.


My mother never threw out a shoebox at the back of my closet floor with the complete set of Topps baseball cards for the 1958 season inside – a treasured collection that our son will inherit. Later in life, I resumed the habit of filling shoeboxes – this time with 4×6 file cards to help me organize my thoughts for writing projects. These cards have gained value over time as my memory has become spotty. What’s the point of reading so much if you forget most of it later? These 4×6 cards also helped launch my career as a blogger on

I have again pulled together my weekly posts for 2013 into an e-book. Another year, another 40,000 words. Perfect for mass transit. And to remind me of forecasts gone awry. You can find this e-book at

This collection is a bit different from prior years — there’s more opinion and less delving into the file cards for quotes. With the onset of social security checks, I’m either getting more opinionated or less interested in pedagogy.

This collection has a somber tone. The very first post, “Portents of a Difficult Year,” regrettably proved to be correct. There was a very brief moment of optimism with President Obama’s speech about deeper nuclear reductions in Berlin mid-year, but Vladimir Putin squelched that in a matter of days. Several of these posts explored the possibility of a future of improvisation and informal nuclear constraints, rather than new treaties – as a matter of necessity rather than preference. Nor was I very upbeat about nuclear trend lines on the subcontinent, the region where I focus on the most. Ambition and hope waned over the course of the year. A new Indian Prime Minister offers a new start for improved relations with Pakistan, but this can be short-circuited quickly by another spectacular act of terrorism or lesser squabbles.

As troubling as 2013 was, it was merely the prelude to more bad news in 2014 – but more of that later in volume four.


President Obama has delivered another thoughtful, balanced speech, this time at West Point. His commencement address lent structure to his foreign and national-security policy decisions. It was long overdue, and essential after an exasperated, revealing response last month in Manila to a press question about America’s retrenchment in the world. As reported in the New York Times,

“The president’s frustration flared during the first news conference of his trip, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. He was asked if, by declaring that the United States would protect disputed islands in the East China Sea under its security treaty with Japan, he risked drawing another ‘red line,’ like the one in Syria over chemical weapons.” Here are some quotes from the President’s response:

The implication of the question I think is, is that each and every time a country violates one of those norms the United States should go to war, or stand prepared to engage militarily, and if it doesn’t then somehow we’re not serious about those norms. Well, that’s not the case.

Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian Army? Or are we more likely to deter them by applying the sort of international pressure, diplomatic pressure and economic pressure that we’re applying?

That may not always be sexy. That may not always attract a lot of attention, and it doesn’t make for good argument on Sunday morning shows, but it avoids errors. You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run. But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world. Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force, after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous cost to our troops and to our budget. And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?

At West Point, the President’s habitual guard and balanced demeanor were back in place. The White House’s summary of what might become known as the Obama Doctrine reads as follows:

The President spent most of his speech outlining his vision for how the United States, and our military, should lead in the years to come. The four elements of American leadership included:

1. Using military force when our core interests are at stake or our people are threatened

2. Shifting our counter-terrorism strategy by more effectively partnering with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold

3. Continuing to strengthen and enforce international order through evolving our institutions, such as NATO and the United Nations

4. Supporting democracy and human rights around the globe, not only as a matter of idealism, but one of national security.

The most striking passages of the President’s speech, to my mind, were the following:

The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century past, and it will be true for the century to come… The question we face, the question each of you will face, is not whether America will lead but how we will lead…

I believe that a world of greater freedom and tolerance is not only a moral imperative; it also helps keep us safe… But to say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution.

I am haunted by those deaths [of American servicemen and women in Afghanistan]. I am haunted by those wounds. And I would betray my duty to you, and to the country we love, if I sent you into harm’s way simply because I saw a problem somewhere in the world that needed to be fixed, or because I was worried about critics who think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak.

U.S. military action cannot be the only — or even primary — component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.

America’s friends and allies are unlikely to find the President’s speech reassuring. Nor will the increasingly wide spectrum of the President’s domestic critics be mollified. The New York Times editorialized that “The address did not match the hype, was largely uninspiring, lacked strategic sweep and is unlikely to quiet his detractors, on the right or the left.” The Washington Post‘s editorial carried the headline “At West Point, President Obama binds America’s hands on foreign affairs.” Its most seasoned columnist on international affairs, David Ignatius, wrote that “the speech also showed that he hasn’t digested some of the crucial lessons of his presidency… Obama still wants to time-limit America’s commitment to security and stability.” The Wall Street Journal editorialized, in typical caustic fashion, that “listening to Mr. Obama trying to assemble a coherent foreign policy agenda from the record of the past five years was like watching Tom Hanks trying to survive in ‘Cast Away’: Whatever’s left from the wreckage will have to do.”

The Obama Doctrine is a response to two long, poorly conceived wars which will show little in return for the expenditure of U.S. blood and treasure. A course correction from the ambitious follies of the George W. Bush administration was obligatory. There’s nothing wrong with hitting singles and doubles, and a home run remains possible in nuclear negotiations with Iran (which critics will score as a terrible error). But President Obama has overcorrected, and his framing of policy objectives in a rare moment of public candor is problematic. Even if ground realities are unremittingly and obstinately limiting – as they are — US foreign and national security policies will not be persuasive at home or abroad if they can be caricatured as those of a singles hitter seeking to avoid big errors in the field.

The Obama presidency is in danger of being hemmed in by its domestic critics and foreign nightmares. Thoughtful speeches do not help to get out of this predicament. Thoughtful speeches do not frame terms of debate or have lasting resonance — even if the President’s choices stand the test of time. What resonates and matters are wise choices and putting adversaries on the defensive.

Timothy Geithner’s book Stress Test, about Team Obama’s unsatisfying, but essentially wise decisions to avoid the collapse of the financial markets, recounts the administration’s inability to frame public debate about its successful economic recovery program. Geithner writes, “Sometimes I thought he wore his frustration too openly. He harbored the overly optimistic belief that since his motives and values were good, since his team was thoughtful and well-intentioned, we deserved to be perceived that way.” He concludes that the inability to communicate effectively and to explain economic plans in real time meant that “we lost the country” even though the administration succeeded is rescuing the financial markets and laying the basis for sustained economic growth. The same critique might be applied to health care, as well as to foreign and national security policy.

One major source of public frustration is how little has been gained by trillion-dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The President’s decisions reflect conclusions that significant, longer-term investments in both countries cannot meaningfully affect outcomes. These conclusions reflect those of the public at large, but don’t shield him from criticism that has widely become visceral in nature.

This President delivers thoughtful speeches and makes mostly sound decisions despite being behind in the count – operating in a period of psychological retrenchment, severe partisan division, the absence of traditional Republican internationalism, and a slavish devotion to deficit reduction.

My sense is that we are displacing way too many frustrations on Barack Obama, who has no one around him or on Capitol Hill to deflect these slings and arrows. I believe the President hasn’t tried to hit enough home runs, but that he is right on Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Iran. Syria is his Achilles heel, the open wound of his presidency that infects all other challenges to U.S. international standing. Caution about new US military engagements is essential after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But when caution extends even to the provision of U.S. military assistance in complex circumstances, the administration invites a more consequential, defining setback – one that no speech, no matter how well-reasoned, can re-frame.


Pakistan has been failing for a long time. There have been periods of economic growth, backed up by foreign patrons – mostly the United States and increasingly China — but for the most part, Pakistan’s economy and internal security continue to slide. Successive military and civilian leaders have sidestepped inherited problems or made them worse. Predictions of failure, however, have been wrong, or at least premature. The Pakistani state has demonstrated great resiliency. There have been many opportunities for course corrections that haven’t been taken. Another lies ahead.

Here is a short sampler of predictions and characterizations of state failure in Pakistan:

“An impossible dream that failed.” — James Michener, “A Lament for Pakistan,” New York Times, (1972)

Pakistan “resolutely fails to fail.” — John Keay, Midnight’s Descendants (2014)

“Pakistan is not coming apart at the seams. It is not a failing state. In playing out our acquired habits of thought and action, we are succeeding only too well. No, this is not a failing state, just an irrational state, one that just refuses to abide by the laws of normality.” Columnist Ayaz Amir in The News, December 21, 2012

“Each time Pakistan has been declared ‘failed state’ it has come back from the grave – albeit with a weakened economy, a more fragmented political order, less security in relation to its powerful neighbor, and disturbing demographic and educational trends.” — Stephen Philip Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan, 2005.

“Barring a cataclysmic event or a conjunction of major crises such as a military defeat, a serious economic crisis, and extended political turmoil, the failure of Pakistan as a state can be ruled out. However, failure can still take place slowly or in parts. Pakistan may be unable to maintain minimal standards of ‘stateness.’” – Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan, 2005

“Pakistan is more fragmented than ever before, and the economy is unable to develop enough resources internally to sustain the state system. If these trends continue, Pakistan may lose efficacy and become a nonperforming state in most sectors of society.” Hasan Askari Rizvi in Cohen, The Future of Pakistan (2011)

“In a climate of continuing domestic turmoil, the central government’s control probably will be reduced to the Punjabi heartland and the economic hub of Karachi.” – National Intelligence Council, Global Trends 2015 (2000).

Pakistan is likely to “muddle through or slightly worse. Absent a major unexpected shock, it is not destined to become a ‘failed state.’” – Jonathan Paris, Prospects for Pakistan (2010)

The dynamics of decline have accelerated since President and Army Chief Pervez Musharraf stepped aside. Prime Minister Asif Ali Zardari was elected in 2008 with room to maneuver on domestic issues, but he succeeded mostly by staying in office. Nawaz Sharif became Prime Minister for the third time in 2013. He was also elected by a healthy margin, but has started out badly. Civil-military relations are once again frayed. Internal security threats grow as Musharraf is on trial for treason, even as Nawaz’s government seeks to accommodate violent groups with treasonable agendas.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The Army and intelligence services still do not appear to be on the same page with the government in seeking more normal ties with India. Every firing incident along the Line of Control dividing Kashmir reminds Nawaz that he must reckon with his military when trying to improve ties with India. Pakistan’s diplomatic corps is not known for risk-taking. Distinguished veterans of diplomatic skirmishes with India offer cautionary notes in the press about allowing trade to proceed if other contentious issues languish.

India and Pakistan have agreed to a “composite dialogue” where they discuss trade, strategic, water and humanitarian issues. Many agreements have been drafted but have been gathering dust, including nuclear risk-reduction agreements and military confidence-building measures that could demonstrate responsible nuclear stewardship. None have been concluded since the brazen 2008 siege of Mumbai luxury hotels, a train station, and a Jewish center by militants who took direction from their Pakistani handlers.

The most important agreements, by far, would permit a significant increase in trade across the Punjab and Kashmir, along with seaborne commerce between Karachi and Mumbai. Trade is the lifeline Pakistan needs for economic growth to outpace population growth. For Pakistan to demand progress on multiple fronts before trade deals can be settled would constitute yet another self-inflicted wound.

The time has long since passed when Pakistan has been able to force terms of engagement with India. The campaign by Pakistan’s intelligence services to destabilize the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir was supposed to provide such leverage while pinning down and punishing Indian troops. In reality, India took the punishment while Pakistan lost international standing and suffered blow-back. Pakistan’s standing diminished further after the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament and the 2008 attacks on Mumbai. Pakistan effectively lost these engagements without New Delhi having to fire a shot in retaliation.

A powerful, new Indian government may be ready to propose significant new trade initiatives with Pakistan which may, in turn, prompt spoilers to carry out mass-casualty attacks against more iconic Indian targets. A decision by New Delhi to shelve a major trade initiative in the event of another big explosion that can be traced back to Pakistan would impose a heavy mortgage on Pakistan’s future. The new Indian government might think that this severe punishment is insufficient. Political parties that are in the wilderness for eight or ten years tend to overreach once they regain power. We do not yet know the ways that Narendra Modi’s government will overreach. He might choose to focus hard on economic growth while being dismissive of Pakistan. Or he might not pull his punches after another embarrassing attack.

The arrival of a highly motivated Indian government offers a new chance to improve bilateral relations and avoid another nuclear-tinged crisis on the subcontinent. While the pivot for doing so would be trade, practical results can be accomplished on nuclear risk reduction, easing cross-border travel restrictions, helping Pakistan with its power shortages, and in many other ways – if Pakistan works hard to prevent another spectacular act of terrorism. If Pakistani authorities work hard and fail, they might be granted a free pass. If they stay the course, Pakistan’s decline will accelerate.

As India breaks free from family-based leadership and stale, backward-looking policies, Pakistan has yet to demonstrate that it can dispense with bad military habits, diplomatic clichés, and an absentee ownership-oriented political class. In my view, Pakistan is not a failed state. But it is a failing state – a state whose leaders consistently fail to meet public desires for competent governance. Many other countries fit this mold, but Pakistan is an especially hard case.

Pakistan survives by the forbearance or resignation of its citizens, while muddling through predictions of failure. Changing this narrative would require civilian and military leaders that are on the same page to improve internal security, relations with India, and prospects for economic growth.


A dedicated band of anti-arms controllers, led by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle, sought to foil President Ronald Reagan’s pursuit of nuclear arms reduction treaties with Moscow. One tactic was to publish charge sheets of Soviet treaty violations. For example, the Kremlin constructed a large phased array radar in the interior, instead of the periphery of the Soviet Union, where it belonged under the ABM Treaty. Threat inflation turned this radar and Soviet air defense programs into a comprehensive, game-changing, master plan to build national missile defenses. This didn’t happen when the Treaty was in force, and it hasn’t happened since its demise. The Soviet Union also blatantly disregarded the provisions of the Biological Weapons Convention. Other perceived violations relating to nuclear testing were subsequently disproven by intrusive monitoring. The largest category of transgressions related to treaty provisions that Washington sought but that the Kremlin cunningly refused to accept.

Critics of arms control rallied around these reports. One was finalized just prior to President Reagan’s first summit meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva. On November 18, 1985, while Reagan was en route to the summit, the Washington Post ran a front page story written by Walter Pincus headlined “Weinberger Urges Buildup over Soviet Violations.” The story cited a private letter from Weinberger to Reagan, accompanied by an eleven-page summary of the latest compendium of Soviet treaty violations, warning that “current and future Soviet violations pose real risks to our security and to the process of arms control itself.” The letter’s purpose was to dissuade Reagan from seeking new treaties by reminding him of the Kremlin’s premeditated, systemic “policy of treaty violations.”

Some concluded that Weinberger, who didn’t accompany Reagan in Geneva, or someone else in the Pentagon, leaked this material to sabotage the summit. Anti-arms controllers might well have wanted these documents — which were not only unclassified, but also lacked “for official use only” markings — in the public domain. But they didn’t leak them. I did. They were sent to me by someone who didn’t work at the Pentagon, and I passed them along to Pincus.

Reagan couldn’t have been pleased about the timing of this leak, but he was on Weinberger’s wavelength – at least with respect to treaty violations. In his very first presidential press conference, Reagan characterized Soviet leaders as having “openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.” Even so, Weinberger and Perle were unsuccessful in steering Reagan away from pursuing ambitious nuclear arms reduction treaties.

These ambitions are now in short supply. No-one mistakes Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin for Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. New treaties seem unlikely any time soon, but this hasn’t stopped the usual suspects from taking blocking actions and gnawing away at useful cooperative practices with Moscow. True, the Kremlin is back to its old tricks, unhappy with the treaty negotiated by Reagan and Gorbachev. Missile flight tests that either circumvent or violate the INF Treaty’s provisions warrant tweaks in Pentagon programs; Putin’s annexation of Crimea warrants more than tweaks.

In my view, Putin’s actions provide more than sufficient reason to cast off the fixed pursuit of deficit reduction in the United States. US friends and allies have always taken cues about Washington’s resolve by looking to the Pentagon’s budget, and continued shrinkage invites more trouble abroad. Reversing this trend in applicable, non-pork barrel, and non-nuclear ways would send useful signals. This would require making new deals on Capitol Hill over defense and domestic spending, reassessing political orthodoxy, and having the White House do some heavy lifting. If these requirements continue to be in short supply after this fall’s election, they would provide further evidence, if more were needed, of Washington’s deep dysfunction.

What punishments make the most sense in response to Putin’s annexation of Crimea? How about a one percent reduction in Russia’s economic growth? Capital flight? A lowering of ratings to near-junk bond status? A weakened currency? The drying up of foreign direct investment? Economics is not my strong suit, but these seem like these meaningful measures, and more economic penalties appear likely. Putting in motion and implementing a five-to-ten year plan to substitute US for Russian natural gas exports to Europe seems like a no-brainer.

What punishments don’t make sense? Messing with cooperative US-Russian practices that continue to serve US national security interests. Cooperative aerial overflights under the Open Skies Treaty, as discussed here previously, certainly fall into this category. Messing with collaborative efforts on nuclear security is another.

The Nunn-Lugar CTR authority has ended, and continued cooperation with Russia’s Ministry of Defense will be hard to resuscitate. The United States has made significant investments in upgrading security at Russian nuclear weapons storage sites. It would be wise to seek collaborative sustainment of these upgrades, which were given impetus by President George W. Bush and Putin at the Bratislava summit in 2005. Work on these security upgrades managed to survive Russia’s military action in Georgia.

In 2003, the Bush administration also negotiated a new, fifteen-year framework agreement to allow for security upgrades at Rosatom facilities. Some on Capitol Hill now wish to predicate their continuance on reversing Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Trickle-down security upgrades at Rosatom facilities are as uneven and unreliable as trickle-down economics in the United States. US assistance with physical security and material accounting in the past have undeniably improved Russian efforts to prevent acts of nuclear terrorism. There is no evidence that nuclear security initiatives in Russia would be maintained, let alone improved, if Congressional opponents had their way, and considerable reason to conclude otherwise. Much of this work is done by the US nuclear labs, which would be penalized by their supporters on Capitol Hill if nuclear security programs with Russia were stopped.

Why take aim at collaborative steps to reduce nuclear dangers and cross-border tensions, especially when bilateral relations are deteriorating? Caspar Weinberger’s arguments were not convincing to President Reagan. Will they now be convincing to Reagan Republicans?


Henry Kissinger wrote two early, influential books on the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (1957) and The Necessity for Choice (1960). I bought these used books at bargain-basement prices at the Princeton University bookstore. The name on the inside cover suggests that I was the beneficiary of Klaus Knorr’s decision to thin out his library. I was at Princeton on a Council on Foreign Relations fellowship to write Strategic Stalemate: Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control in American Politics (1984).

The Necessity for Choice appeared at a time of great apprehension about Soviet strategic advances and the Eisenhower administration’s seemingly sluggish response. Kissinger, like many others, was under the misapprehension that the missile gap was real and that the Soviet Union was running laps around the United States in the strategic competition. The subsequent discovery that the Missile Gap was imaginary did not calm strategic anxieties because nuclear technologies and delivery vehicles were advancing so rapidly that no one could confidently predict a safe passage in this competition. Kissinger’s concerns resonated greatly at the time. Some have continued relevance. Here are a few passages:

A nation unsure about the circumstances that impair its safety can hardly be expected to address itself with confidence to its positive tasks. It will be torn between complacency and premonitions of catastrophe, between obsession with military security and dismissal of it. When it thinks itself in jeopardy, it will act as if military security were its only problem. When the danger does not materialize immediately it will lapse into euphoria. Its measures are likely to be fitful. Its national mood will alternate between hysteria and smugness…

A gesture intended as a bluff but taken seriously is more useful as a deterrent than a bona fide threat taken as a bluff…

In any given situation a country may be inferior militarily but superior psychologically. It may be able to deter not because it is militarily stronger but because it values an objective highly enough – or can make its opponent believe this – so that it can make plausible a threat to exact a price its opponent is unprepared to pay…

A gap inevitably opens up between deterrence and the strategy we are prepared to implement should deterrence fail…

Since deterrence depends not only on the magnitude but also the credibility of the threat, the side which has a greater reputation for ruthlessness or for a greater willingness to run risks gains a diplomatic advantage…


On March 24, 1985, Major Arthur D. Nicholson, Jr. was shot in the chest by a Soviet sentry while observing a tank shed near Ludwigslust, in East Germany. The 1947 Potsdam Agreement for the military occupation and reconstruction of Germany made provision for US, UK, French and Soviet military liaison missions which carried out observations of restricted areas and military exercises behind the Iron Curtain. Major Nicholson was on one of these “tours” when he was shot.

Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger was rightly incensed, but reacted wrongly. He sought to shut down the annual consultative meeting of US and Soviet naval officers implementing the 1972 Incidents at Sea Agreement, which obligated the two navies to talk to each other about proper conduct when operating in close proximity. President Ronald Reagan overrode Secretary Weinberger’s objections and decided to proceed with the maritime consultative meeting, as the US Navy wished.

This painful historical footnote is worth remembering after Vladimir Putin’s land grab in Crimea and his pot-stirring in eastern Ukraine. In reaction, some treaty opponents in the United States have made an issue of Russian overflights of US territory under the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. Moscow wants to use a digital camera that Washington has yet to approve.

Congressman Mike Rogers, the Republican Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, took serious umbrage of Moscow’s request in a letter to President Obama, accompanied by a press release, portions of which are reprinted below:

Given current world events, President Putin appears to be more than willing to disregard international norms of behavior in seeking geopolitical advantage. We should not now naively believe he will unilaterally adhere to the limitations of the Open Skies Treaty.

Rogers said, ‘Putin’s attempt to upgrade Russia’s sensing capabilities now is particularly problematic. I have serious concerns about the technical advantages Russia would gain.’

Before this tempest in a teapot gains traction, here are some pertinent facts:

An Open Skies Treaty was first broached by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955. It was too radical an idea for a paranoid Kremlin to accept back then. President George HW Bush resurrected this idea in 1989 to test Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost before taking the plunge into deep strategic arms reductions. The Stimson Center was championing cooperative aerial inspections at that time with grant support from the Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Amy Smithson and I edited a book, Open Skies, Arms Control and Cooperative Security (1992), covering this ground. There weren’t many in this cheering section. Most arms controllers felt that the initiative was either of limited utility or a dodge, while anti-arms controllers worried that it would be a prelude to more consequential treaties. One typical qualm was ‘Why bother? We have NTM.’ There wasn’t much of an appreciation that collaborative ventures like Open Skies could strengthen US military ties with countries that didn’t have NTM.

Gorbachev consented to the Treaty, along with 26 other original signatories in 1992. Provisional application of some provisions began right away, while the number of signatories rose to 34. By the time all states deposited their instruments of ratification, ten years had passed – quick work in the multilateral treaty biz. Conditions changed, but the utility of the treaty didn’t. One of the initial benefits perceived by treaty backers was to help prevent friction between Hungary and Romania. Both countries subsequently became members of NATO. Now the most useful open skies flights take place over Russia and Ukraine. More on this later.

Since 2002, when the Treaty entered into force, cooperative aerial observation flights have become routine from Vancouver east to Vladivostok. Last summer, treaty overflights passed the 1,000 mark. Each flight carries approved, commercially-available sensors that are operated only at permissible altitudes. The suite of sensors on board are optical panoramic and framing cameras with a ground resolution of no better than 30 centimeters “at the minimum height above ground level;” video cameras with real-time display, again with a 30 centimeter resolution; infra-red line scanning devices operated in a manner that provides no better than 50 centimeter resolution; and sideways-looking synthetic aperture radar with a ground resolution of no better than three meters. Proof of concept flights and confirmation of sensor capabilities are carried out between the host country and the observing state. The data obtained from cooperative overflights are made available to all state parties.

Every state accepts a quota of overflights (Russia and the United States are obligated to accept up to 42 per year) which are divvied up among state parties. The United States, Russia, Sweden, Turkey and a few other countries have dedicated Open Skies aircraft. They are used on a timeshare basis by other states. Prior notification of overflights occurs no less than 72 hours in advance of the airplane’s arrival at a designated point of entry. There is no right of refusal for routine Open Skies missions. Flight plans are provided no later than 24 hours prior to the overflight. Missions are conducted in conformity with International Civil Aviation Organization standards and practices, as well as with national air traffic control rules, procedures and guidelines for flight safety. Overflights of the Kremlin and the White House are not a good idea; ditto for interference with takeoffs and landings at Sheremetyevo and Dulles.

Treaty overflights provide excellent opportunities for the United States to work with friends and allies, as well as to prevent US-Russian relations from going into free-fall. The Open Skies Treaty, like the Chemical Weapons Convention, has a provision allowing extraordinary monitoring measures. This provision has recently been exercised. Three extraordinary overflights have been carried out in conjunction with Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity; a fourth is in the works. These extraordinary measures, which the Kremlin has voluntarily agreed to, could get messed up by mischief makers in Moscow and/or Washington.

As for the brouhaha about equipping Open Skies aircraft with equipment that could give Moscow a leg up on intelligence collection, here are the facts: The House and Senate Intelligence Committees have been pressing the White House to permit US commercial firms to loft satellites and sell imagery to customers, domestic and foreign, with better resolution than the Open Skies plane. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has already given his consent. It’s safe to assume that Russian NTM can also do better than commercially-available Open Skies sensors.

A long overdue Open Skies upgrade from film to four-band multi-spectral digital imagery is in the works. The new digital cameras would be operated in a manner that provides comparable ground resolution to that of the old film cameras. Treaty implementation and consultative processes have given consent in principle to the use of digital imagery, but in practice, not everyone is ready to proceed.

Russia has an Open Skies plane equipped with the new sensor. The United States does not have one ready for installation. In fact, the Pentagon’s Request for Proposals hasn’t been issued yet. The acquisition of this sensor may cost around $45 million, a pittance in the Pentagon’s proposed $500 billion budget for FY 2015 – but it’s not in the budget. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman issued a rare public complaint on April 21st about Washington’s “highly non-constructive” approach toward the Open Skies Treaty in general and allowing the use of their digital sensor in particular.

Relations between Moscow and Washington are bad and getting worse. Complaints about the Open Skies Treaty’s overflights seem trivial, mischievous or ill-informed – but could provide additional fodder for deconstructionists.


Mark Fitzpatrick is a highly respected, careful chronicler of nuclear proliferation. His monograph of A.Q. Khan’s activities is required reading. So, too, is his latest, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers, in which he recommends that Pakistan be treated as a normal nuclear state if it facilitates the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, negotiation of the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, and helps reinforce other nuclear norms. Mark correctly identifies an intensified nuclear competition on the subcontinent as a grave danger. He reasons that by bringing India and Pakistan into the existing nuclear order, dangers might be averted. He’s right. But will inducements succeed in persuading Pakistan (and India) to accept the limits inherent in signing up to the CTBT and FMCT?

Pakistan’s official narrative is that of a reluctant, unwilling party to a nuclear competition with India. In reality, Pakistani leaders, civil as well as military, have viewed the Bomb as absolutely essential to maintain national sovereignty and territorial integrity. They rightly predicted that New Delhi would develop nuclear weapons and gain conventional military advantages, and countered by engaging in “anticipatory” proliferation.

As Mark writes, “Pakistan assumed the worst about India’s intentions and spared no effort in preparing a nuclear counterpunch.” Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s set the wheels in motion to acquire a nuclear deterrent two years before India’s first test of a nuclear device. Pakistan produced a deliverable nuclear warhead and possessed confidence in its reliability before India’s second round of tests. Today, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal compares favorably to that of a neighbor whose economy is eight times bigger.

Mark is tackling a significant problem that hasn’t climbed anywhere near the top of the New Delhi’s, Islamabad’s or Washington’s agenda. His book is timely because nuclear dangers will grow on the subcontinent as New Delhi applies itself far more seriously to nuclear matters in the years ahead. But I doubt that his inducements will look attractive to Pakistan — or India, for that matter. Sure, Pakistan would like to be re-branded as a normal nuclear state. But unless Pakistan’s anticipatory proliferation reflex changes, and unless its leaders demonstrate a sustained national commitment to reclaim the writ of the state against violent extremists, nuclear normalcy will elude Pakistan.

New Delhi hasn’t shown much interest in helping Pakistan become a normal, nuclear state. Negotiations over confidence-building and nuclear risk reductions measures have been desultory, easily interrupted, and long delayed. Indian and Pakistani interlocutors do not view these measures as having intrinsic value. Instead, they are chips to be played for something more important. Pakistan won’t sign the CTBT and join an FMCT without India. New Delhi has already gained the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s seal of approval without having to sign the CTBT or suspend production of bomb-making material. Why would India help usher Pakistan into the club of responsible states possessing nuclear weapons if this means curtailing capabilities against a rising China?

Defusing an arms competition requires choreographed efforts from the top-down as well as from the bottom up. Pakistan measures itself against India, while India measures itself against China. India will compete with China regardless of what Pakistan does. So, as long as Pakistan pegs its nuclear needs to what it anticipates India wants, inducements in return for treaties are unlikely to be successful. The FMCT may take years to materialize even after Pakistan lifts its veto on negotiations because both countries aren’t sure how big an arsenal they need. And the scenario providing the quickest path to the CTBT on the subcontinent (India resumes testing, followed by Pakistan, followed by signatures) would ratchet up the competition.

India’s nuclear requirements haven’t diminished after being re-branded as a normal, responsible state possessing advanced nuclear technologies via the US-India civil-nuclear deal. This deal has not yet yielded the profits for US nuclear power companies or the geopolitical gains anticipated by its backers. US arms sales to India are up, which would be the case with or without the deal. New Delhi has remained on Moscow’s good side, as evident by India’s UN vote on Russia’s seizure of the Crimea, and will avoid choosing sides between Washington and China unless Beijing becomes belligerent. US-India ties should improve under a new Indian government, but the predicted benefits of re-branding India have so far been illusory.

The arguments by backers of the civil-nuclear deal that it would be good for nonproliferation were fatuous. The deal enabled India to purchase uranium on global markets while refusing to place safeguards on no less than eight power plants as well as breeder programs. Pakistan’s anticipatory proliferation impulse kicked in once again, building a fourth plutonium production reactor and moving forward on other nuclear infrastructure projects. The dangers of deterrence and arms race stability on the subcontinent pre-dated the deal, but were compounded by it.

A civil-nuclear deal for Pakistan isn’t in the cards for many reasons, including Pakistan’s inability to pay for nuclear power plants except at the concessionary prices offered by China. Would some other way to designate Pakistan as a normal state possessing nuclear weapons produce better results that the deal given to India?

Many have tried to provide Pakistani leaders with inducements to take actions that were not perceived to be in their national security or political interests – and many have failed. If Rawalpindi were to conclude that it has sufficient nuclear capabilities to deter India, inducements might help — but they could also backfire, because those accepting favors will be accused of doing Washington’s bidding. Conversely, if Rawalpindi isn’t inclined to relax nuclear requirements, inducements will be wasted. The stewards of Pakistan’s nuclear program tell visitors that they intend to utilize sunk costs to implement planned requirements, perhaps through 2020. But this plateau could be a mirage, as requirements could continue to grow if stimulated by Indian ballistic missile defense programs or other technical advances.

Pakistan’s leaders have a choice to make: they can seek normal, neighborly ties with India or continue to engage in a nuclear competition while accommodating extremist groups that target India. Pakistan cannot become a normal state that possesses nuclear weapons unless it has good neighborly relations, and Pakistan cannot become strong without a strong economy. Until Pakistan gets its house in order, economic growth will be constrained.

These conclusions point in the direction of reclaiming the writ of the state against violent, extremist groups, vastly increasing cross-border trade, and seriously pursuing confidence-building and nuclear risk reduction measures with India. Pakistan cannot be at peace with India until it is at peace with itself. No nation can be considered normal when internal security threats grow alongside its nuclear arsenal. Here too, inducements won’t help; help can only come after Pakistani authorities make wise decisions. For Pakistan, nuclear normality begins at home; it’s not something that can be meaningfully bestowed by others.