, 26 tweets, 10 min read Read on Twitter
Is Russia conducting low-yield nuclear tests? Maybe, but I doubt it. An entirely too long thread.
LT GEN Ashley, the @DefenseIntel director, said at the @HudsonInstitute that "The United States believes that Russia probably is not adhering to its nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the 'zero-yield' standard." dia.mil/News/Speeches-…
Michael Gordon was waiting in the audience to follow up. You can here his question and LT GEN Ashley's careful answer at 24:52
This is not news. There are people in the US intelligence community who have been arguing for more than two decades that Russia is conducting low-yield nuclear testing in violation of its obligations under the CTBT.
The issue here is whether Russia is violating the 1999 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which it signed and ratified. (The US has signed but not ratified.) The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions of any size -- even the little mouse farts we are arguing out here.
Those who believe Russia is conducting such tests are a pretty excitable lot. In 1997, based on some tendentiously interpreted satellite images, the US démarched Moscow over what turned out to be ... an earthquake off the coast of Novaya Zemlya. Oops. 🤷‍♂️
The 1997 fiasco was a serious case of confirmation bias in which satellite images of the test site at Novaya Zemlya primed the intelligence community to feel an earthquake and see a nuclear explosion.
PS: If you are curious how George Tenet ended up as Mr. Slam Dunk on Iraq, look at his summary of the panel convened to figure out went wrong. It's a masterful act of shading the truth to evade responsibility. Good thing we never hold anyone accountable!
The 1997 episode is one of the reasons that @annemp13 and I created a virtual tour of Novaya Zemlya -- we didn't ever again want tendentious interpretations of ambiguous evidence at Novaya Zemlya to distort policymaking.
It's ... again!
So, why do some people believe that Russia is conducting low yield nuclear tests? This argument is old enough that some classified reports are now declassified. In short, some Russian nuclear officials wanted to keep conducting hydronuclear tests.
Read more closely and you will spot an unstated but powerful bias -- the US technical experts assessing Russia's need to conduct hydronuclear tests are products of the US nuclear laboratories who *also* wanted to be able to conduct low yield tests.
Listen to Ashley's answer to Gordon's questions carefully and that comes out. He slips from empirical statements about what the Russians are doing right into opinions about what *we think* the Russians *need* to do to maintain their stockpile -- which is just mirror imaging.
There is a beautiful symmetry at work. Because those Russian officials who argued for hydronuclear tests, like Viktor Mikhailov, explained that Russia needed these experiments because ... wait for it ... they claimed the US was doing them!
Here is Mikhailov in 1999:
"... while in discussing the problem of rejecting nuclear tests the United States initially insisted on a certain 'zero option,' U.S. specialists now speak of the need for a broader interpretation of the concept of "authorized activity."
I think a lot about what the symbiosis of the US and Russian nuclear complexes, each using the other to justify what they both want to do. But their narrow interest is not our national interest. "Doomed to cooperate," indeed.
For what its worth, the @theNASEM panel on the CTBT looked at this issue in 2012, by way, and came away concluding that the Russians were fond of hydronuclear tests but probably wouldn't get much out of them.
So what is new? *Last year* we revealed that Russia constructed a new underground facility at Novaya Zemlya, probably for conducting subcritical experiments. It would be easy to spin these buildings are something potentially nefarious.
But that would be spin. The US has a similar facility in Nevada in an unused nuclear test shaft, U1A. Again, subcritical experiments are permitted under the CTBT.
Here's a thought! Why not design transparency and confidence-building measures at the two sites? If we we're worried about them and they're worried about us, let's monitor each other! von Hipple and Jones wrote a paper years ago on how that might be done.
As it turns out, Russian officials have, from time to time, said they would be open to such measures. So there we go! If we are worried about Russian nuclear activities, we can do something about it. vertic.org/media/assets/P…
That's the rub, though. We aren't interested in doing anything about it. Doing something about it would be arms control and, last I checked, @AmbJohnBolton hates arms control and especially the test ban since he wants an arms race.
Still, Trump could ask Putin to swap inspectors and claim he fixed the very bad Test Ban that Clinton negotiated. @senatemajldr would bring it to a vote with overwhelming @GOP support. Cynical? It's what Reagan did with the Threshold Test Ban Treaty.
Now, having said all this, I do worry that some day Russia will resume nuclear testing. @SecDef19 has made this point repeatedly. After all, Moscow has waited more than twenty years for the US to ratify the treaty with no success.
Those in Russia who never wanted to stop nuclear testing may someday win the argument. But the solution isn't to throw up our hands and curse the Russians as things fall apart. It's to work with the Russians, like them or not, to put things back together and leave a safer world.
(sorry for all the typos.)
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Jeffrey Lewis
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!