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American Missile Defense

Countering the threat from major adversaries

as well as rogue nations


General Greg Bowen

The Ramada, 9:00 a.m., Tuesday, March 10th


Reprocessing Nuclear Waste


Agustus Merwyn

The Ramada, 9:00 a.m., Thursday, March 26th


Latin America Security Issues


Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow

The Ramada, 9:00 a.m., Friday, April 17th

Summary of Presentation on the Future of Nuclear Weapons

Former National Intelligence Officer for Nuclear Weapons Programs and Non-Proliferation, Keith Hansen, provided NSF attendees with a remarkably comprehensive overview of the global nuclear weapons balance today, with a focus on US-Russian stockpiles and delivery vehicles. He also addressed the inventories held by other powers and the potential for further proliferation of these weapons.

Given the current chill in US-Russian relations over Ukraine and other issues, it appears that further reductions in US & Russian strategic offensive nuclear forces are unlikely.  Currently, the US and Russian arsenals each total around 4,000 nuclear bombs & warheads, and they are committed to reduce to around 1,500 by 2018.  Meanwhile, each of the other seven nuclear-weapon states (UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, & North Korea) possess arsenals from tens to hundreds of bombs and warheads (see chart).

Because of their unique destructive power, nuclear weapons are game changers — they alter the balance of power by providing effective deterrence against potential aggressors, even those who possess superiority in conventional arms, nuclear arms, or both.  Therefore, the motivations of countries to possess nuclear weapons are strong.  In addition to providing security against threats, motivations include the desire for international prestige and a means to achieve strategic goals.  Thus despite the high cost in resources and the likely resulting international condemnation & sanctions, some countries continue to seek these weapons.  Therefore, it is likely that a country, such as Iran, will acquire nuclear weapons in an effort to further its ambitions and ensure its national survival.

All this despite extensive international and individual country efforts to prevent further proliferation.  Additional proliferation would risk an increase in the chances of (1) a nuclear weapon being used, (2) of fissile material being sold to or stolen by terrorists, and (3) of provoking even more proliferation among countries, thereby decreasing further international stability.  While the acquisition of a sophisticated nuclear bomb by terrorists appears to be quite difficult, and therefore unlikely, terrorist acquisition of low-grade fissile material for use in a crude radiological device seems to be only a matter of time, especially with the aid of further proliferation.

But are nuclear weapons really useful?  In cases involving tensions between countries the answer has been yes, but in the case of dealing with today’s threats, such as ISIL or other terrorist organizations, the answer is no.  This then begs the question of whether it is now desirable and feasible to eliminate all nuclear weapons.  To do so would require (1) the agreement of all nuclear-weapon states, (2) implementation of extremely intrusive (and probably unacceptable) verification measures to detect cheating, and (3) the political will and ability to deal with any cheating that might occur.  The clandestine existence of even one nuclear bomb in such a scenario would be unacceptable to almost all other countries.  This, therefore, makes it unlikely that countries possessing nuclear weapons will agree to give them up in the foreseeable future, whileAnchor other countries are likely to want them.

Keith’s comprehensive survey and concerns over future proliferation are summarized well in his PowerPoint, which is attached. It deserves careful attention.

Keith Hansen-The Future of Nuclear Weapons PowerPoint



By Tyrus W. Cobb

February 19, 2015

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has resulted in more than 5,500 civilian and military deaths, and mass displacement of ethnic populations. A ceasefire was signed in Minsk that has been partially observed, but is fragile and unlikely to hold. Renewed fighting between separatists– augmented by extensive Russian armaments, materiel and even troops–and ill-trained and poorly armed Ukrainian forces will likely resume soon.

The rapidly deteriorating politico-military position the Ukraine faces has generated demands that the West, specifically the U.S. and its NATO allies, do something to bolster the outnumbered and outgunned Ukrainian armed forces, and assist the new reform-oriented government in Kiev.

The United States and its allies face difficult questions: Should we provide lethal aid to the faltering Ukrainian armed forces in order to strengthen their capabilities to defend their territory and defeat the combined Russian and Separatist elements? If so, should those be strictly defensive weapons? Should we be providing more economic and non-military assistance?

This piece looks at the pros and cons of providing weapons and monetary/aid support to Kiev and the Ukrainian military.

The Minsk Accords and the Order of Battle in Eastern Ukraine

The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany reached an accord in Minsk (also signed by the Russian Separatists) that called for the observance of a ceasefire in the combat zone, starting Feb 15. Following that, the forces were charged with the responsibility of withdrawing heavy weapons, releasing prisoners of war, and to begin working on an agreement for constitutional reform in Ukraine that would provide extensive decentralization of Kiev’s authority and more autonomy for the heavily ethnic Russian east (Donetsk basin region).

The accords will leave Russian and separatist forces largely intact in the disputed areas. Moscow has provided extensive monetary and military aid to the separatist elements, and has infiltrated sizeable combat ready elements of the Russian armed forces. The Ukrainian army is overmatched in terms of skilled soldiers, state of the art weaponry, tactics and leadership. Russia has significant advantages in geographic proximity, support by and for the insurgents, and in state of the art offensive and defensive weapons.

U.S. and NATO Options: Should we intervene? Provide more aid?

A growing chorus of voices in the West is calling for the provision of more advanced weaponry, military equipment, and monetary aid. The newly-anointed Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, has indicated that he “very much is inclined in that direction”. At the same time a number of politico-military experts strenuously oppose providing Ukraine with armaments of any type, defensive as well as offensive. They argue that doing so risks an acceleration  of the conflict in that Moscow would surely counter-escalate, and in such a manner that Ukraine would be overwhelmed quickly, and the tactical situation in the eastern regions would deteriorate even more rapidly.

Advocates of arming Ukraine base their recommendations first on the moral ground that Russia has invaded and occupied the territory of a neutral country, one whose borders it pledged to recognize in the Budapest Memorandum signed after the dissolution of the USSR. The right thing to do in this instance is to come to the aid of a beleaguered country being overpowered by the application of military force by a much stronger and voracious neighbor, bent on reclaiming lands it felt were historically Russian and with heavyily ethnic Russian populations.

These “pro-interventionists” (at least in the provision of assistance) also argue that to bow to the application of force by Moscow would only further encourage President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions, emboldening the “Tsar” to make similar demands and incursions elsewhere in Europe—and beyond. To get Russia to back down in this crisis requires Moscow to suffer heavy “costs”, and that means first and foremost supplying modern weaponry.

Most advocate only for the provision of “defensive” arms, although Moscow might not appreciate that distinction. The most prominent spokespersons for this viewpoint are former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and a number of former national security experts.

The recommendations to provide military weapons as well as aid generated a strong counter-response from a number of experts on strategic and military affairs. They point out that any provision of military aid to Kiev would be seen by Moscow as a declaration of war, and potentially spark a global escalation of Ukraine’s separatist conflict. They stress that the Ukrainian armed forces are not proficient in the employment of such weapons, which would likely be utilized erroneously or even fall into the separatist hands. They add that Kiev has had a succession of incompetent and corrupt leaderships, and that the current reform-oriented government has little chance of transitioning Ukraine into a viable and working democracy anytime soon. The nation is divided, broke and militarily weak.

Further, great powers do not react well when distant entities intervene in “their backyard”. For example, if Russia were to begin providing weaponry to Cuba or Venezuela, the U.S. would not view such interventions kindly. This conflict is, for Russia, one that involves its core strategic interests; for Europe and especially the U.S., this is not at that level. Thus escalation of the conflict by the West would certainly not force Moscow to consider withdrawal or even compromises, but would further drive the Kremlin to double the ante and increase its involvement and assistance, they stress.

These critics reject the argument that failing to take decisive action against Russia in this conflict is akin to acceding to Hitler’s demands made in 1938. But Russia is not Nazi Germany, a country then on the rise with growing military and economic strength, and a unified leadership. Instead, they note, Russia today is in a downward economic spiral driven by the sanctions and rapidly falling oil prices, a country facing severe demographic and ethnic problems. This is not 1938. Finally, they add that to confront Moscow so defiantly would just push Russia closer to China, end any chance for observance of current nuclear treaties, and drive Moscow to assist nations or entities such as Al Qaeda in exporting terrorism to Europe and the U.S.

Skepticism regarding the efficacy of providing arms is warranted. Even the U.S. cannot deliver weapons fast enough or train the Ukrainian armed forces in using them to push the highly sophisticated Russian forces out of eastern Ukraine.

Toward A Unfired Western Strategy

At the present there is little agreement among Western leaders regarding what steps the allies should take to counter Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine and to assist the fledging Kiev government. German Chancellor  Merkel is opposed to providing weaponry to Kiev, even defensive arms. France’s President Hollande and the U.K’s Prime Minister Cameron favor some provision of weapons, but have not been precise in their recommendations.  Here in the U.S., President Obama is said to lean towards providing economic assistance and furnishing defensive weaponry, although no specifics have been laid out.

So what can and should the U.S. do?

First, the U.S. and its European allies must continue the economic sanctions that are in place and gradually extend them to impact other members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle;

Second, America should take no military actions without the full agreement of its NATO allies, including the newest members such as the Baltic states.

Third, Washington should be a major donor to the economic assistance that Kiev immediately requires. The IMF/World Bank is already going forward with a major loan/assistance package. The U.S. should join in this effort.

Fourth, America should provide longer-term institution-building guidance and assistance, recognizing while such advice and help will not have a short term impact, it is vital to the longer term success of Ukraine.

Fifth, President Obama and NATO heads of government should encourage Ukrainian President Poroshenko to grant limited autonomy to the eastern region of the country—not independence or annexation by Russia. Poroshenko should also enunciate a vision for Ukraine that views the country eventually as an integral part of the European Community, but at the same time a nation that is prepared to work closely with its historic brethren in Moscow (not in any alliance, but to maintain close economic and cultural ties).

Finally, with respect to the key issue—the provision of armaments to Ukraine. I recommend that despite the dangers involved in providing defensive weaponry to Kiev–such as modern anti-tank and air defense radars and artillery–that Washington and its European allies do provide such weaponry to Ukraine. This is risky and may eventually prove counter-productive, but in view of Russia’s support and intervention in the eastern regions of Ukraine, necessary.

-Dr. Tyrus W. Cobb was a former Special Assistant to President Reagan for National Security Affairs.

This is the final announcement for a most timely presentation on….


More proliferation or real reductions of nuclear arsenals?


Keith Hansen

Former National Intelligence Officer for

Nuclear Weapon Programs and Non-Proliferation

Thursday, February 19, 9 am, The Ramada

Keith Hansen will briefly trace the growth of offensive strategic nuclear weapon arsenals over time, with particular focus on US & Soviet/Russian balances. He will cover efforts to reduce those arsenals (SALT/START/INF, etc), which might be in jeopardy given the deteriorating relationship today between Moscow and Washington. Hansen will also look at what other nuclear states currently hold, and assess international efforts to halt the further proliferation of nuclear weapons (e.g. NPT/CTBT).

Hansen will also discuss the utility of nuclear weapons in meeting today’s threats, particularly in light of advances in conventional munitions, and the prospects for their total elimination (which Reagan endorsed).  He will address the threat of terrorist groups obtaining and employing nuclear weapons. Finally, Hansen will also explain why further proliferation is a major security concern for the US and our allies.

Keith Hansen is the former National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for nuclear weapons programs and non-proliferation at the CIA. He has over 35 years experience in security affairs with the U.S. government, including stints at State, Navy intelligence, and various arms control agencies, and five years teaching international relations at Stanford and a year at Sierra Nevada College.

Please join us for what will be a very interesting discussion. A full breakfast will be served ($15 Members, $25 Non-Members, and $10 for students with ID and military personnel in uniform; free for WWII veterans). We recommend that you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy some breakfast, coffee and conversation.

You are encouraged to RSVP by clicking HERE. You may also RSVP e-mailing Just a reminder, after the forum, we will be accepting new and renewal membership applications for the July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015 period. Forms will be available at the forum, though you can also access the application form by clicking HERE. For your convenience, we accept cash, check and credit card payments for both the breakfast and membership fees.

Colleagues: Am forwarding a very thoughtful op ed by my colleague, Jack David, a semi-retired New York City investment banker and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Bush 43 administration. Jack makes a persuasive case for taking the “fight to the Islamists” here. Over the years I have disagreed with Jack as often as I agree, and I do have some differences here, but overall his arguments are worth considering, and implementing.


Real Clear Politics, January 28, 2015

It’s Time for U.S. to Take the Fight to Islamists

By Jack David

A headline from last weekend screamed that the murder of an ISIS hostage from Japan, like the beheadings of Westerners carried out by the group last year, was “unforgiveable.” Two weeks earlier, political leaders around the world expressed their outrage at Islamist terrorists’ assassination of the staff of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, and the related murders carried out in a Jewish-owned delicatessen in that city. But mere declarations of the unacceptability of these heinous acts in the name of Islam are not enough. Until policies are stepped up and action is taken to eradicate Islamist terrorism, such statements should be received with skepticism. Until the United States moves against Islamist terrorism – by itself and with the cooperation of allies – it will only get worse.

There are practical steps that American political leaders can take to defeat the Islamists – policy choices that have been available for some time. All entail costs, and all carry risks. But the costs and risks must be borne if the United States is to secure itself and its interests from this growing danger.

First, our political leaders must name the perpetrators of these beheadings, bombings, and sundry acts of terror. The perpetrators are “Islamist terrorists”-not “terrorists,” not “militants,” not “lone wolves.”  U.S. leaders, starting with President Barack Obama, need to acknowledge this explicitly. The terrorists do not disguise the fact that they are committing these assassinations, murders, and bombings in the name of Allah. On the contrary, they loudly proclaim it with every act of mayhem in which they engage. American leaders have no standing to deny that they are who they say they are. American leaders must use language that identifies the enemy: Islamist terrorists and jihadists.

Second, and related to the first step, is that U.S. policymakers must accept the direct connection between Islam and most of the terrorism we have been experiencing. There are plenty of passages in the Koran and other Muslim tracts that advocate or justify killing Jews and Christians who refuse to submit.  Anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, deemed to have insulted Islam according to various rules of Islamic jurisprudence, might be flogged, imprisoned or executed. Unlike Jews and Christians, who have addressed arguably comparable biblical language, Islam has not rejected bloodthirsty religious doctrine as a relic of the past. On the contrary, in a significant part of the Muslim world, Islamists find justification in this language. The rest of Islam remains ambivalent about Islamist terrorism – at least this is indicated by Muslim leaders’ inaction toward the Islamists among them and by surveys of Muslims. Islam itself must decide to renounce such violence, as a matter of Islamic doctrine, and to demand tolerance of religious beliefs and practices outside Islam. Until it does, U.S. leaders should not characterize Islam as “a religion of peace.”

Third, U.S. political leaders should do what they can to support those Muslims in the United States and abroad, who urge their mullahs to modernize Islamic religious doctrine by renouncing words and interpretations of words that justify hatred of non-Muslims. President Abdel Fattah al Sisi of Egypt has bravely asked his country’s mullahs to do just that. He and other Muslim leaders who support the introduction of tolerance into Islamic doctrine deserve Western support. It would be wise to seek al Sisi’s counsel on what forms of support would help.

Fourth, the U.S. should withdraw its support, including military aid, from any country or entity (such as the Palestine Liberation Organization) that directly or indirectly supports Islamist terrorism. The U.S. should require that any country receiving U.S. support adopt and enforce laws prohibiting Islamist terrorism and support for it, whether at home or abroad. Failure to enact and enforce laws prohibiting its citizens from financing or otherwise assisting Islamist terrorism should disqualify a country from U.S. aid. A country that refuses to vigorously combat Islamist terrorism undermines a U.S.-led war on terror. Identifying and outlawing the terrorists is a first and essential step in the effort to defeat them.

Fifth, any country that supports, directly or indirectly, school curricula or media that preach or condone hatred or violence against people who identify themselves as Christians, Jews or followers of any other religion should be disqualified from U.S. aid. Most of today’s Islamists were indoctrinated in the schools of Muslim countries. The United States knows this but has looked the other way. Confronting it now may entail political costs. But continuing to tolerate the extremist curricula of schools in Saudi Arabia and in Saudi-financed schools around the world entails costs as well. The Imams at those schools, and the lessons they impart, continue to develop the Islamist terrorists with whom we are presently at war.

Sixth, U.S. policy should be to use its own military force, and to support other countries using military force to eliminate Islamist terrorists and shut down their havens and training grounds. This too will entail costs. It requires military resources that we have lost because of budget cuts or other funding shortfalls, as well as restoring funds for training essential to preparedness for combating terror. We cannot afford a policy of “no boots on the ground” in this war on Islamist terrorism. We need a larger defense budget.

Seventh, our policy must be that any person engaging in or providing support to an Islamist terrorist operation killing Americans should be hunted down and killed or punished as appropriate – whatever the cost. No more Benghazis, no more beheadings will be accepted. It does make a difference.

Eighth, where useful intelligence may be acquired that could save lives, Islamist terrorists should be captured and interrogated, not killed. The acquisition of human intelligence should be elevated as a priority. Congress and the president should pass legislation providing whatever authority may be necessary to do this. New authorities should be written to protect U.S. military and intelligence personnel responsible for performing any such national service.

We and the rest of the world have reaped the bitter fruits of looking the other way while many Muslims are educated and trained to become Islamist terrorists. Islamist extremists have made war on Jews, Christians, and anyone else who doesn’t share their faith and way of life. Our policies must begin to reflect this reality. We are in a war for survival. Continuing to pretend otherwise is what’s unacceptable.

Jack David, a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute, served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for combating weapons of mass destruction and negotiations policy from 2004 to 2006. Article reprinted with permission of the author.

We would welcome an opinion piece arguing against David’s position (please send as an attached doc, not in an email)