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Robert Gates and Mike McConnell
October 28, 2008, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates gave a speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, calling nuclear weapons one of the world’s “messy realities.” Following is the account from the American Forces Press Service, reported by Donna Miles, as found on defenselink.mil.
“As long as others have nuclear weapons, we must maintain some level of these weapons ourselves,” Gates noted….This, he said, “will deter potential adversaries while reassuring over two dozen allies and partners who rely on the U.S. strategic umbrella for their own security.”
The United States soon will have 75 percent fewer nuclear weapons than at the end of the Cold War, he said. But while endorsing more non-nuclear deterrence and response options, Gates said modern-day threats require the country to preserve what former President Clinton called a “lead and hedge strategy.”
“We’ll lead the way in reducing our arsenal, but we must always hedge against the dangerous and unpredictable world,” he said.
“The power of nuclear weapons and their strategic impact is a genie that cannot be put back in the bottle, at least for a very long time,” he said. “While we have a long-term goal of abolishing nuclear weapons once and for all, given the world in which we live, we have to be realistic about that proposition.”
The secretary cited threats posed by rising and resurgent powers, rogue nations pursuing nuclear weapons, proliferation and international terrorism.
“There is no way to ignore efforts by rogue states such as North Korea and Iran to develop and deploy nuclear weapons, or Russian and Chinese strategic modernization programs,” he said. “As long as other nations have or seek nuclear weapons – and can potentially threaten us, our allies and friends – then we must have a deterrent capacity that makes it clear that challenging the United States in the nuclear arena, or with weapons of mass destruction, could result in an overwhelming, catastrophic response.”
The United States continues to keep the number of nuclear states as limited as possible, Gates said, citing “real successes” during the past 45 years through nonproliferation and arms-control efforts. He noted that many countries have opted not to seek nuclear weapons, recognizing that the U.S. nuclear capability protects them.
“Our nuclear umbrella – our extended deterrent – underpins our alliances in Europe and the Pacific and enables our friends, especially those worried about Tehran and Pyongyang, to continue to rely on our nuclear deterrent rather than to develop their own,” he said.
But possessing nuclear weapons means accepting the responsibilities involved, Gates said, citing problems that arose last year over the Air Force’s handling of nuclear weapons and related material.
--A new office within the Air Staff will focus exclusively on nuclear policy and oversight and report directly to the Air Force chief of staff.
--The Air Force’s proposed Global Strike Command would bring all nuclear weapons and material supporting U.S. Strategic Command under one entity.
--The Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., has been revitalized and expanded, with clearly understood chains of command to prevent repeats of past problems.
--The Air Force is undergoing a full review to provide better control of nuclear-related components, and placing them under the Nuclear Weapons Center’s control.
--A new, centralized process within the Air Force will ensure proper handling of nuclear material and provide expanded training for those charged with securing it.
Gates conceded the effort will be “a long-term process,” but said he is confident the Air Force “is now moving in the right direction.” He expressed thanks to the airmen working to return the Air Force’s nuclear mission “to the standards of excellence for which it was known throughout the Cold War.”
Meanwhile, Gates said he looks forward to recommendations from a task force he formed to review nuclear enterprise oversight.
Gates confirmed that U.S. nuclear weapons are safe, secure and reliable, but said failure to look ahead to the future leaves a “bleak” long-term prognosis. No one has designed a new nuclear weapon in the United States since the 1980s, and veteran nuclear weapons designers and technicians are steadily moving into retirement, with no one following behind.
“The United States is the only declared nuclear power that is neither modernizing its nuclear arsenal nor has the capability to produce a new nuclear warhead,” Gates said. He also expressed concern that the country is not replacing its existing stockpile.
Congress’s refusal to fund a joint Defense Department and Energy Department program to field a safer, more secure warhead leaves the United States lacking, he said.
“The program we propose is not about new capabilities,” he said. “It is about safety, security and reliability. It is about the future credibility of our nuclear deterrent, and it deserves urgent attention.”
On October 30, 2008, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell addressed the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation. The following excerpts of his speech are taken from dni.gov.
The three topics that I want to discuss with you are the rise of a more globalized, more multi-polar system for the entire world, the changing dynamics of population demographics, competition for natural resources, and predictions for climate change. And then, thirdly, the increasing potential for conflict over the next 20 to 30 years.
The first observation is that the international system we have known since the mid-‘40s, the one we all grew up with, is being fundamentally transformed, is being transformed by the rise of emerging powers, an increasingly globalized – means shrinking globe – and the historic transfer of relative wealth and economic power from West to East. Let me repeat that part just for emphasis; the transfer for economic power and wealth from West to East, something that we haven’t experienced in our lifetimes, not in your parents’ lifetimes, or even your grandparents’ lifetimes.
We’re also witnessing the growing influence of non-state actors. They can be businesses, they can be stateless terrorist groups, or they can be criminal organizations. Their power is expanded, enhanced by technology change.
In addition to economic and demographic shifts, this transformation is being accelerated by the current global financial crisis. Already there are calls to establish a new economic framework to replace the one that was set up in 1944. I recall at Bretton Woods – the conference that was held in New England by President Roosevelt with the leaders of the allied powers before World War II concluded but when the end was in sight – many today are claiming that Bretton Woods tilted the playing field in favor of America, and that the rest of the world has not enjoyed equal opportunity, therefore the claims for change.
By 2025, if not before, our Intelligence Community futurists believe there will be a global multi-polar international system with emphasis on the multi-polar part. We judge these sweeping changes will not trigger a complete breakdown of the current international system, but the next 20 years of transition to a new system are fraught with risks and many, many challenges.
Strategic rivalries are most likely to revolve around trade, demographics, access to natural resources, investments and technological innovation. There will be a struggle to acquire technology advantage as the key enabler for dominance. We witness that today in the cyber attacks on the United States systems, in government, and those of you who run systems for the private sector, but also including the academic sector of our nation, particularly those involved in basic research or research and development.
A 19th-century scenario of territorial expansion or military rivalries like that era we’re not predicting as likely, but that also cannot be ruled out in the timeframe of which I’m speaking, 20 to 30 years.
In terms of size, speed, and directional flow, the transfer of global wealth and economic power, now underway, as noted from West to East, is without precedent in modern history. The shift derives from two sources. First, the dramatic increases in the last few years in oil and commodity prices that have generated windfall profits for the Gulf states and for Russia. It remains to be seen what the impact of the most recent price changes over the last few weeks will mean for the long term.
Secondly, the lower cost combined with government policies have shifted the locus of manufacturing and even some service industries to Asia and to some extent to South America. Growth projections for Brazil, Russia, China, and India, the so-called BRIC countries, indicate that they will collectively match the original G-7’s share of global domestic product by 2040. China is poised to have more impact on the world over the next 20 years than any other country.
If the current trends persist, by 2025, China will have the world’s second-largest economy and be in route to becoming the world’s largest economy. China will also start becoming a major military power by 2025. In addition, China will likely be the world’s largest importer of natural resources and the largest contributor to pollution of the entire globe.
Despite inflationary pressures, we believe India will continue to enjoy rapid economic growth and they will do that in route to becoming either the third- or the second-largest economy in the future. India will also strive for a more multi-polar world in which New Delhi is one of the significant polls in this new world. China and India will decide to what extent each is willing and capable of playing an increasingly global role in how they will relate one to the other.
Russia has the potential to be richer, more powerful, and more self-assured in 2025. However, to do so, Russia must invest in human capital, expand and diversify its economy, and integrate with global markets. It could boast a gross domestic product approaching that of the United Kingdom or France during the timeframe of my comments – 2025, but to do so, they would have to become more integrated in the global economy, open up to the outside world, address their demographic trends, which are very negative, address the health issues and the lack of capital investment. If Russia fails to do that, it will condemn them to a lesser status with nuclear weapons, a loud voice, but overall less relevance.
For the most part, Russia and China are not following the Western liberal model for self-development. Instead, they are using a very different model. I’ll refer to it as state capitalism. What I mean by state capitalism, it’s loosely a term to describe a system of economic management that gives a more prominent role to the state. Other rising powers of which you’re all aware – South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore – have used state capitalism in the early development of their economies.
However, the impact of China and Russia following this path is potentially much greater owing to their size and their approach to democracy. We remain optimistic about the long-term prospects for greater democracy but advances are likely to slow and be impacted by globalization as these countries are subjected to the many pressures in increasing social and economic pressures from this globalized future.
A second topic I’ll touch on is the changing dynamics of population demographics and the natural competition for resources and climate change. Both economic and population growth will put increasing pressure on a number of highly strategic resources. These include not only energy but also basic food and of course water. Demand is projected to outstrip the easily available supplies over the next decade. Oil and gas production of many traditional energy producers is already declining. Countries capable of significantly expanding production will see oil supplies dwindle and oil and gas production will be concentrated in unstable areas.
Given the decline in petroleum production, the primary ingredient that fueled growth in the last century, the world will be in the midst of a fundamental economic transition away from oil, but surprisingly toward natural gas and coal unless technology moves us in a different direction. As a result of growing world population, rising affluence and the shift to Western dietary preferences by a much, much larger middle class, the demand for food by 2030 will increase by 50 percent.
Over the next 20 years, the lack of access to safe, reliable supplies of water will reach unprecedented proportions. The problem will worsen because of the rapid urbanization that we’ll experience worldwide and the roughly 1.2 billion people that will be added to the current 6.7 billion people on the globe. By 2025, over 1.4 billion people in 36 countries will likely be faced with a scarcity of water, scarcity of water for the basic needs of drinking fresh water and for agricultural purposes. Now, just think about it: 1.4 billion people without these basic necessities will create significant tensions on the globe, tensions that world bodies and larger states will have to contend.
Based on the many estimates, climate change is expected to exacerbate these resource scarcities. Although the impact of climate change is widely debated and there’s not full agreement, if the United Nations-sponsored studies on this subject are correct, the changes will be significant but will vary by region impacting many regions much more severely.
A number of these regions will begin to suffer harmful effects, particularly the water scarcity that I mentioned, and the loss of agricultural production. Agricultural losses are expected to mount over time with substantial impacts during the period of my forecast. Decreased agricultural output will be devastating for many of the countries because agricultural accounts for a large share of their economies and many of these citizens live close to the subsistence level.
New technologies and innovations could again provide solutions such as viable alternatives to fossil fuels or means to overcome food and water constraints; however, all current technologies are inadequate for replacing the traditional energy architecture on the large scale in which it’s needed. New energy technologies probably will not be commercially viable and wide spread by 2025; therefore, the pace of technology innovation will be key, but even with favorable policy and the right kind of funding and the ability to have clean fuels, biofuels, clean coal or hydrogen, the transition to these new fuels will be slow. Most technologies historically have had an adoption lag. We looked at a recent study to just get a feel for this. It takes an average of 25 years for a new technology – for energy new technology to become widely adopted.
Where does this leave us? What am I predicting for the future? What I’m suggesting – there’s an increased potential for conflict. During the period of this assessment, out to 2025, the probability for conflict between nations and within nation-state entities will be greater. Given the confluence of factors from a new global international system, increasing tension over natural resources, weapons proliferation, things of this nature, we predict an increased likelihood for conflict.
Now I know there is a journalist or two here in the audience. And I am asking you – and I hope I don’t read tomorrow morning the United States DNI predicts mass casualty conflicts in our future. That is not what I am attempting to say. I am making the point that the conditions for conflict between nations and for large casualty terrorist attacks using chemical, biological, or less likely, nuclear materials will increase between now and 2025. This is true as technology diffuses and nuclear power and possibly even nuclear weapons – those programs expand. The practical and psychological consequences of such attacks will intensify in an increasingly globalized and shrinking world, where one can communicate across the globe in seconds and move across the globe in hours.
Terrorism is unlikely to disappear by 2025. Absent economic and political opportunities in the Middle East and in other areas, conditions will be right for growing radicalism and recruitment of youths into terrorist groups. In 2025, terrorist groups will likely be a combination of descendents of long-established groups. And these groups will inherit organizational structures, the command-and-control processes and the training procedures necessary to conduct sophisticated attacks.
As I noted just a bit earlier, the expansion of technologies and scientific knowledge by 2025 will place some of the world’s most dangerous capabilities within the reach of terrorist organizations, whatever their cause. One of our greatest concerns continues to be that a terrorist group or a dangerous group – some other dangerous group might acquire and employ biological agents or less likely a radiological device to create casualties greater than 9/11. There are some of these groups today that will plan and seek these capabilities to inflict harm on the country. Types of conflict that we have not seen for a while such as over resources could emerge by 2025. Perceptions of energy scarcity will drive countries to take actions to assure their future access to these energy supplies. And the worst case, this could result in conflicts between states or even inside states.
If government leaders deem assured access to energy resources is essentially maintaining their domestic stability and in some cases, even survival of their regime, they will likely initiate the necessary conflict. Even actions short of war will have potential important geopolitical consequences. Maritime-security concerns are providing a rationale for naval buildups and for modernization efforts, such as China and India’s development of blue-water capabilities. The buildup of regional naval capabilities could lead to increased tension, rivalries and counterbalancing moves. Conversely on the positive side, if they did this in partnership with other nations, it could make our seaways safer and more secure.
Although Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons has not been achieved, other countries worrying about a nuclear-armed Iran could lead states in the region to develop new security arrangements with external powers. They would also acquire additional weapons systems and some will consider pursuing their own nuclear ambitions. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it is unlikely that the type of stable deterrent relationship that existed between the great powers of the Cold War would emerge naturally in the Middle East. This region would once again sow the seeds of instability and potential conflict on a greater scale that could impact the entire globe.
These concerns are what fuel the Intelligence Community’s worries about the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran. As a result of several converging trends that I have mentioned, the risk of nuclear-weapons use over the next 20 to 30 years – although we expect is very low – that possibility is grayer in the future than it is today. And the spread of nuclear technology and expertise is generating concerns about the potential emergence of new nuclear-weapon states in the acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorist groups. The possibility of future disruptive regime change or collapse occurring in a nuclear-weapon state, such as North Korea, also raises the question regarding the ability of weaker states to control and secure their nuclear arsenals.
Now, from this short review of the global trends out of the next 25 to 30 years, there should be one conclusion on which everybody in this room can agree. Next Tuesday after the new President-elect’s excitement subsides after winning the election, it is going to be dampened somewhat when he begins to focus on the realities of the myriad of changes and challenges we are going to face in the future. Like it was a mistake to predict the end of history at the close of the Cold War, the future world is full of tensions that could spawn conflict. I hope this brief description of global challenges highlights the complexity of what we face, not only today but in the very near future.
While I have discussed some likely trends, I would also point out there is always surprise. There is a surprise always just over the horizon. The trends that I have mentioned and the unforeseen surprises that will come will pose significant challenges.
I’m in China and Hong Kong next week. Hot Spots will return on Nov. 20.