Russia, U.S. to Update Nuclear Crisis Communications

Diane Barnes, Global Security Newswire
See more stories about...
Diane Barnes, Global Security Newswire
Oct. 18, 2013, 12:02 p.m.

WASH­ING­TON — A new U.S.-Rus­si­an deal made pub­lic on Thursday paves the way for the former Cold War rivals to bring their nuc­le­ar-arms com­mu­nic­a­tions in­to the di­git­al age.

The ac­cord signed this month up­dates a 1987 pact, which es­tab­lished an arms-con­trol-com­mu­nic­a­tion of­fice in each coun­try, so that it now al­lows up­dates to cer­tain com­mu­nic­a­tions equip­ment at the of­fices. The two “Nuc­le­ar Risk Re­duc­tion Cen­ters” — loc­ated at the Rus­si­an De­fense Min­istry in Mo­scow and the U.S. State De­part­ment in Wash­ing­ton — have con­duc­ted routine data swaps re­quired un­der more than a dozen treat­ies, but they provide a means of com­mu­nic­a­tion that could be im­port­ant for use dur­ing any high-stakes nuc­le­ar crisis.

“The Cold War is now long over, but thou­sands of nuc­le­ar weapons re­main, and we both re­cog­nize a re­spons­ib­il­ity to do everything pos­sible to keep each oth­er ap­praised of im­port­ant de­vel­op­ments in or­der to avoid mis­un­der­stand­ings and po­ten­tially cata­stroph­ic con­sequences,” U.S. Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry said at an Oct. 7 news con­fer­ence, after sign­ing the new ar­range­ment with Rus­si­an For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lav­rov. The State De­part­ment on Thursday re­leased the text of the re­vised agree­ment, which still bears the ini­tial title “Agree­ment Between the United States of Amer­ica and the Uni­on of So­viet So­cial­ist Re­pub­lics on the Es­tab­lish­ment of Nuc­le­ar Risk Re­duc­tion Cen­ters.”

Wash­ing­ton last year briefed Mo­scow on a num­ber of tech­no­logy im­prove­ments at the U.S. nuc­le­ar of­fice. However, cer­tain equip­ment covered in the 1987 agree­ment is less up-to-date.

“Ba­sic­ally the old agree­ment was an en­cryp­ted line able to send faxes,” said Mat­thew Bunn, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fess­or at Har­vard Uni­versity’s John F. Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment who served as a nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity ad­viser to the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“The new agree­ment is an en­cryp­ted line for full di­git­al com­mu­nic­a­tions, text, im­ages, etc.,” Bunn told Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire over e-mail. “It’s ba­sic­ally bring­ing it in­to the mod­ern age.”

This month’s agree­ment strikes from the pre­vi­ous one ref­er­ences to floppy disks and low-band­width com­mu­nic­a­tions lines. Now it grants the sides more flex­ib­il­ity in de­term­in­ing how fast their com­puters can trade se­cured “text and graph­ics files,” ac­cord­ing to its text.

The deal also al­lows the coun­tries to rely in part on “com­mer­cial com­mu­nic­a­tions chan­nels” for their data trans­mis­sions.

However, the pact does not fully en­trust nuc­le­ar-arms re­cord­keep­ing to di­git­al tech­no­logy. Spe­cific­ally, it states that “a print­er shall be used” by each coun­try to pro­duce hard cop­ies of ex­changed ma­ter­i­als.

To date, the U.S. and Rus­si­an nuc­le­ar cen­ters have com­pleted more than 5,000 “day-to-day” in­form­a­tion swaps un­der the New START treaty, Rose Got­te­moeller, act­ing un­der sec­ret­ary of State for arms con­trol and in­ter­na­tion­al se­cur­ity, noted in a speech earli­er this month.

What We're Following See More »
Kristol Recruiting National Review’s David French for Third-Party Run
10 hours ago

"Two Republicans intimately familiar with Bill Kristol’s efforts to recruit an independent presidential candidate to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have told Bloomberg Politics that the person Kristol has in mind is David French -- whose name the editor of the Weekly Standard floated in the current issue of the magazine.

French is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to the website of National Review, where French is a staff writer, he is a constitutional lawyer, a recipient of the Bronze Star, and an author of several books who lives in Columbia, Tenn., with his wife Nancy and three children."

Jerry Brown Backs Clinton
11 hours ago

California Gov. Jerry Brown endorsed Hillary Clinton today, calling her "the only path forward to win the presidency and stop the dangerous candidacy of Donald Trump." While praising Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign, Brown said "Clinton’s lead is insurmountable and Democrats have shown – by millions of votes – that they want her as their nominee. ... This is no time for Democrats to keep fighting each other. The general election has already begun."

Clinton Says Voters Still Hung Up on Gender
15 hours ago

In a New York Magazine profile, Hillary Clinton said she still encounters misogyny at her own events: “‘I really admire you, I really like you, I just don’t know if I can vote for a woman to be president.’ I mean, they come to my events and then they say that to me.”

Trump Vows Not to Change
15 hours ago
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
4 days ago

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”