Yesterday the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission released its much-anticipated final report.
According to the Commission, “ballistic missile defense capabilities can play a useful role in support of the basic objectives of deterrence, broadly defined, and damage limitation against limited threats.” While I object to the Commission’s broad definition of deterrence, I think the report paints a fair and balanced picture of the ballistic missile capabilities of Iran and North Korea – much fairer than what one often sees from the Heritage Foundation and other right-wing outfits. In addition, the report is clear that the deployment of long-range missile defenses should be contingent on their “demonstrated effectiveness and the projected threat from North Korea and Iran” and must take “into account the legitimate concerns of Russia and China about strategic stability.” Clearly the proposed European deployment, which the Commission does not address, does not pass any of these tests.
The report also states that “opportunities for missile defense cooperation with Russia should be further explored” and calls on the U.S. to “work with Russia and China to control advanced missile technology transfer.” These are welcome suggestions.
However, the report should have been more explicit about what form this cooperation should take. For example, it could have called on the U.S. and Russia to resume work on the Joint Date Exchange Center (JDEC), the facility built in Moscow as a center for the United States and Russia to share their global missile launch warning information in real time. The report alludes to the Center, but not by name, and it does not describe it in any detail.
Moreover, it should have recommended full Russian and U.S. implementation of the Hague Code of Conduct (HCOC), which calls on its 128 participating states to “exercise maximum possible restraint” with respect to missiles capable of delivering biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons.
China’s No First Use Policy
The report states that China “continues to announce a policy of no-first use of nuclear weapons. But some Chinese officials have made statements indicating that this commitment may be conditional.” Um, not exactly. These statements have mostly originated with Chinese academics, not Chinese military/government officials. The U.S. intelligence community has for decades pointed to these statements to predict that China is rethinking its no-first-use policy. However, advocates of these views are a minority (at best) within the Chinese leadership. For more on this issue, see here.
Finally, be sure to check out the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s response to the report. They rightly attack the Commission for giving NNSA a blank to check to pursue Complex Transformation and free itself from DoE regulation and management.