PIR Press – March 11, 2019 – Newsletter on Global Security


IN THE SPOTLIGHT: US and DPRK: first steps after the summit 

Washington abstains from large-scale military exercises on the Korean Peninsula but doubts Pyongyang’s commitment to denuclearization

The United States and South Korea decided to cancel joint Key Resolve military exercises and Foal Eagle field maneuvers and conduct less extensive Dong Maeng (Alliance) exercises instead. The parties said they had abandoned the exercises in order to support "diplomatic attempts to reduce tensions and achieve the completion of the Korean Peninsula denuclearization."

At the same time, US National Security Advisor John Bolton implied that the United States could tighten sanctions against Pyongyang. The decision will depend on whether the North Korean government is ready to abandon its nuclear program.

The reason for such a statement could be the information about the resumption of activity at the North Korean Sohae launch site, spotted on satellite images by two experts of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). According to them, North Korean personnel have begun repairs on the launch pad and the vertical engine test stand. Meanwhile, in September 2018 the leaders of North and South Korea agreed to dismantle the facility.

Director of the PIR Center “Russia and Nuclear Nonproliferation” program Adlan Margoev assesses the readiness of the parties to continue negotiations. 

“After the leaders of the United States and the DPRK failed to reach a compromise on further steps for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in Hanoi, the parties sent each other signals that in case of a complete failure of the negotiation process, they will be ready to continue on the previous course. At the same time, Pyongyang did not immediately start preparations for a full-scale missile test, and Washington decided to limit the scope of its exercises with South Korea. This means that both capitals are set to continue negotiations and expect that the other side will become more сoncessive.”

DESERVES ATTENTION: Is the theory "escalate to de-escalate" consistent?

Andrey Baklitskiy, PIR Center Consultant, comments on what are the stakes for misunderstanding Russian strategic doctrine

"The 'escalate to de-escalate' theory about Russia’s thinking was a fundamental misreading — or deliberate misrepresentation — of Moscow’s intent. Mr Putin’s frequent boasts about Russia’s growing hypersonic arsenal shows just the opposite: that the Kremlin is emphasising powerful weapons capable of beating American missile defence systems and hitting the US, rather than slower, or shorter-range, tactical arms". 

Mr Putin’s belief, Mr Baklitskiy suggested, is that a threat of extreme escalation is a much better deterrent to full-scale nuclear war than developing lower yield weapons, even if they supposedly might end a conflict. 

“Russian generals and defence ministry people you talk to now say, ‘we do not believe you can have a limited nuclear exchange; once it starts all bets are off. You just shouldn’t start in the first place’.”

Mr Baklitskiy believes financial constraints in Moscow and Washington may inhibit escalation, for now. “But if you don’t have any legal limitations, administrations come and go, budget deficits come and go and I really don’t see overall relations getting rosy all of a sudden,” he said. “We are getting into a situation which is less and less stable and which can move into an arms race, even if there is not one now. We are moving in a direction that nobody wants.” Read online on The Times website (in English)

DESERVES ATTENTION: What is the future for the dialogue on the establishment of the Middle East WMDFZ in 2019? 

Article by Natalia Artemenkova on the history of this issue in the NPT review process in 1995-2015 and its significance for the 2020 Review Conference 

A conference on the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMDFZ) in the Middle East is to be held before the end of the year 2019. The international community first agreed on its realization in 1995, but since then the Conference has not been held. This year the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is responsible for its conduction. Read on PIR Center website (in Russian)


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