Is Russia Testing Nuclear Weapons Again?

August 8, 2019 Topic: Security Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: RussiaMilitaryTechnologyWorldNuclear Weapons

Is Russia Testing Nuclear Weapons Again?

And you were worried about North Korea. 

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned in October 2008 that, "To be blunt, there is absolutely no way we can maintain a credible deterrent and reduce the number of weapons in our stockpile without either resorting to testing our stockpile or pursuing a modernization program." [46][Emphasis in the original.] We have done neither. By 2003-2005, a consensus emerged in the national laboratories that it would "…be increasingly difficult and risky to attempt to replicate existing warheads without nuclear testing and that creating a reliable replacement warhead should be explored." [47] Unfortunately, the politicians did not want to hear this assessment. Indeed, even the Bush administration's proposal to develop inherently more robust nuclear warheads (without nuclear testing) was rejected by the Congress.

Today, we do not have "science-based stockpile stewardship," but more like "political science-based stockpile stewardship" while, conversely, Russia has science-based development of new and improved nuclear weapons. Our politicians have corrupted the very nature of the scientific process. Because of the liberal ideology that has dictated U.S. nuclear weapons policy for decades, we have much higher cost and much less reliability and certainly no enhancement in effectiveness. Within a decade or two, this is going to result in a national security disaster. There will be increasing uncertainty concerning the effectiveness of a declining U.S. nuclear deterrent while there will be little uncertainty about increasing Russian nuclear capabilities.

Dr. Mark B. Schneider is a Senior Analyst with the National Institute for Public Policy. Before his retirement from the Department of Defense Senior Executive Service, Dr. Schneider served in a number of senior positions within the Office of Secretary of Defense for Policy including Principal Director for Forces Policy, Principal Director for Strategic Defense, Space and Verification Policy, Director for Strategic Arms Control Policy and Representative of the Secretary of Defense to the Nuclear Arms Control Implementation Commissions.  He also served in the senior Foreign Service as a Member of the State Department Policy Planning Staff.

This first appeared in RealClearDefense here


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[2] William J. Perry and James R. Schlesinger, America's Strategic Posture - The Final Report of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Institute of Peace, 2009), p. 83, available at http://media.usip.org/reports/strat_posture_report.pdf.

[3] Mark B. Schneider, "Russian Violations of Its Arms Control Obligations," Comparative Strategy, September 22,

2012, pp. 345-346, available at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01495933.2012.711115?prevSearch


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[4] Bill Gertz, "Russia suspected of nuclear testing," The Washington Times, August 28, 1997, available at http:// www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/1154.htm.


[5] William J. Broad and Patrick E. Tyler, "Russian Compliance with Nuclear Test Ban Stirs U.S. Skepticism," New York Times, March 4, 2001, available at http://nucnews.net/nucnews/2001nn/0103nn/010304nn.htm.; Alexei Fenenko, "Russia and the future of the CTBT," Ria Novosti, November 3, 2010, available at http://en.rian.ru/valdai op/20101103/161192733.html.

[6] Thom Shanker, "Administration Says Russia Is Preparing Nuclear Tests," The New York Times, May 22, 2002, available at http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE0D81639F931A25756C0A....

[7] "Russia: Mikhaylov Pressing for Hydronuclear Experiments," Senior Intelligence Brief, May 4, 1999, available at www.gwu.edu/nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB200/19990504.pdf.

[8] "Russia: Developing New Nuclear Warheads at Novaya Zemlya," Office of Russian and European Analysis, Central Intelligence Agency, July 2, 1999, p. 7, available at www.gwu.edu/nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB200 /index .htm.

[9] Office of Slavic and Eurasian Analysis, Central Intelligence Agency. "Russians Deny Nuclear Test Took Place," The Eurasia Intelligence Weekly, March 15, 1996, available at http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/ NSAEBB/ NSAEBB200/19960315.pdf.

[10] Jonathan Medalia, "Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: Issues and Arguments," (Washington D.C.: Congressional Research Service, March 12, 2008), available at http://congressionalresearch.com/RL34394/ document.php.

[11] Quoted in Mark B. Schneider, The Nuclear Forces and Doctrine of the Russian Federation, (Fairfax Va.:

National Institute Press, 2006), p. 18, available at http://www.nipp.org/wpcontent/uploads/2014/12/Russian-nuclear-doctrine-N....

[12] Michael R. Gordon, "U.S. Says Russia Likely Defies Test Ban," The Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2019, available at https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-says-russia-likely-conducting-low-yield....

[13] Mark B. Schneider, "The Future of the U.S. Nuclear Deterrent," Comparative Strategy, vol. 27, no. 4 ( October 31, 2008), p. 349, available at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/ 01495930802358539.

[14] "Sergei Ivanov visits Novaya Zemlya Nuclear Testing Site," Ria Novosti, July 7, 2006, available at http://en. rian.ru/analysis/20060726/51869240.html.

[15] USSR Nuclear Tests, Hydronuclear Experiments. Plutonium Inventory, Russian Ministry of Nuclear Energy, 1998, p. 4, available at http://npc.sarov.u/english/issues/peaceful/peacefule.pdf.

[16] V.N. Mikhailov, N.P. Voloshin, A.M. Matushchenko, "NUCLEAR TESTS OF USSR. HYDRONUCLEAR EXPERIMENTS.PLUTONIUM CONSUMPTION STOCK-TAKING," (Moscow, Russian Federation Ministry for Atomic Energy, Moscow, 1999), available at https://inis.iaea.org/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Public/29/067 /29067933.pdf.: Vitaly I. Khalturin, Tatyana G. Rautian, Paul G. Richards, and William S. Leith, "A Review of Nuclear Testing by the Soviet Union at Novaya Zemlya, 1955–1990," Science and Global Security, vol. 13 (2005): p. 28, available at http://www.princeton.edu/∼globsec/publications/pdf/131-2khalturin%20NZ%201-42%20.pdf

[17] Khalturin, Rautian, Richards, and Leith, "A Review of Nuclear Testing by the Soviet Union at Novaya Zemlya, 1955-1990," op. cit., p. 28.

[18] Quoted in Schneider, "The Future of the U.S. Nuclear Deterrent," op. cit., p. 349.

[19] Khalturin, Rautian, Richards, and Leith, "A Review of Nuclear Testing by the Soviet Union at Novaya Zemlya, 1955–1990," op. cit., p. 28.

[20] Ibid., p. 7.

[21] Kathleen Bailey and Thomas Scheber, The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: An Assessment of the Benefits, Costs, and Risks, (Fairfax Va.: National Institute for Public Policy, 2011), p. 16, available at http://www.nipp.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/CTBT-3.11.11-electronic-v....

[22] Alexei Fenenko, "Russia and the future of the CTBT," op. cit.

[23] "Russia: Prospects Unclear for Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty," Russian and Miscellaneous Documents (provided by World News Connection), January 2. 2010.

[24] Quoted in Schneider, "The Future of the U.S. Nuclear Deterrent," op. cit., p. 349.

[25] Bailey and Scheber, The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: An Assessment of the Benefits, Costs, and Risks, op. cit., p. 31.

[26] "Statement of C. Paul Robinson, Director Sandia National Laboratories United States Senate Committee on Armed Services October 7, 1999," p. 9, available at http://armed-services.senate.gov/statemnt/1999/991007pr.pdf.

[27] Bailey and Scheber, "Technical Issues Related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty," op. cit., p. 31.

[28] Dr. John S. Foster, "FUTURE POSSIBLE PATHS FOR THE NUCLEAR WEAPONS COMPLEX," January 22, 2016, p. 9.

[29] Khalturin, Rautian, Richards, and Leith, "A Review of Nuclear Testing by the Soviet Union at Novaya Zemlya, 1955-1990, op. cit., p. 28.

[30] "Section II: Minimum Deterrence: Fragile Hope of a Constant and Benign Threat Environment," (Fairfax Va.: National Institute for Public Policy, September 14, 2014), p. 20, available at https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/FOID/Reading%20Room/Other/Litigation%20Release%20-%20Section%20II%20Minimum% 20Deterrence%20Fragile%20Hope.pdf.

[31] Alexei Berezin, "Moscow Emphasizes Quality of its Nuclear Potential," Ria Novosti, January 13, 2005, available at http://www.ghana.mid.ru/nfr/nfr331.html.

[32] "Nuclear Munitions to be Improved and Revitalized --Russian Federation Ministry of Defense," Ria Novosti, September 4, 2009, (Translated by World News Connection.)

[33] Section II: Minimum Deterrence: Fragile Hope of a Constant and Benign Threat Environment," op. cit., p. 21.

[34] "New warheads for Russian missiles," Voice of Russia, December 22, 2010, available at http://englishruvrru/ 2010/12/20/37280 236 html.

[35] Bailey and Scheber, The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: An Assessment of the Benefits, Costs, and Risks, op. cit. pp. 17-23.

[36] Michaela Dodge, "Russia Likely Conducting Low-Yield Nuclear-Weapons Tests, Intel Chief Says," (Washington D.C.: The Heritage Foundation, May 29, 2019), available at https://www.heritage.org/missile-defense/commentary/ russia-likely-conducting-low-yield-nuclear-weapons-tests-intel-chief.

[37] Paul Robinson, John Foster, and Thomas Scheber, "The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Questions and Challenges," (Washington D.C.: Heritage Foundation Lecture No. 1218, November 7, 2012), available at http://www.heritage. org/ research/lecture/2012/11/the-comprehensive-test-ban-treaty-questions-and-challenges.

[38] Baker Spring and Michaela Dodge, "Keeping Nuclear Testing on the Table: A National Security Imperative," (Washington D.C.: Heritage FoundationFebruary 27, 2013), available at https://www.heritage.org/ node/11938/ print-display.

[39] Dr. William Leith, Geologic and Engineering Constraints on the Feasibility of Clandestine Nuclear

Testing by Decoupling in Large Underground Cavities, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Geological Survey,

January 2001), p. 36, available at http://geology.er.usgs.gov/eespteam/pdf/USGSOFR0128.pdf.

[40] Vice Admiral Robert R. Monroe, "In Alarming New Study, Nuclear Lab Scientists Question U.S. Weapons' Performance," Investor's Business Daily, August 7, 2018, available at https://www.investors.com/politics/ commentary/u-s-nuclear-weapons-performance/.

[41] John C. Hopkins and David H. Sharp, "The Scientific Foundation for Assessing the Nuclear Performance of Weapons in the U.S. Stockpile Is Eroding." Issues in Science and Technology 35, no. 2 (Winter 2018), p. 23, available at https://issues.org/byline/david-h-sharp/.

[42] Ibid.

[43] James Glanz, "Testing the Aging Stockpile In A Test Ban Era," The New York Times, November 28, 2000, p. 1.