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Is Pakistan a country that might, as opposed to the United States, actually find tactical nuclear weapons useful?

By Russ Wellen

B61You’ve heard of planned obsolescence — tactical nuclear weapons are a case of deferred obsolescence: a weapon that has long ago worn out its welcome in the U.S. arsenal. On June 6, in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Steve Andreasen, a consultant for the Nuclear Threat Initiative, wrote:

Throughout the Cold War, thousands of tactical nuclear weapons — short-range nuclear artillery shells, missiles and bombs — were deployed by the United States to deter the Soviets from exploiting their advantages in Europe to mount a lightning attack. … After the Soviet Union collapsed, President George H. W. Bush ordered the return of almost all U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, leaving only a few hundred air-delivered gravity bombs — the B61 — in European bunkers. Read the rest of this entry »


Theoretically Pakistan is poised to respond to Indian military retaliation for a terrorist strike with tactical nukes.

By Russ Wellen

It’s debatable how much nuclear weapons add to national security. But what’s undeniable is that they add layer upon layer of complexity, sprinkled with convoluted and even counterintuitive thinking (such as how missile defense systems are seen as an offensive act), to national defense. By way of example, on April 30, in the Times of India, Indrani Bagchi, wrote:

India will retaliate massively even if Pakistan uses tactical nuclear weapons against it. [It] will protect its security interests by retaliating to a “smaller” tactical attack in exactly the same manner as it would respond to a “big” strategic attack.

Two questions immediately arise.
1. Why did Pakistan develop tactical nuclear weapons?
2. Why would India respond disproportionately to the use of what’s often referred to as “battlefield” nuclear weapons? (Not to diminish their power or, by any means, condone a state’s possession of them.) Read the rest of this entry »

Extremist Islamist militants also sow confusion about the intentions of the Pakistani state and military.

By Russ Wellen

Earlier this month the Stimson Center issued a report by George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace titled The Non-Unitary Model and Deterrence Stability in South Asia. The daunting title notwithstanding, the paper is not only readable for the general reader, but spellbinding for nuclear-weapons specialists. Hint: “non-unitary” in this context means a nation which fails to demonstrate a “tight, coherent line of authority” over hostilities emanating from that state — in this instance, Pakistan. Though I haven’t quite finished reading the 22-page report, the excitement it generates has spurred me to get a jump start on posting about it. Read the rest of this entry »

By Russ Wellen

It’s bad enough that Pakistan couldn’t have developed a nuclear-weapons program without the help of the nuclear black market and that its program exists outside the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it never signed. It may now possess even more nuclear weapons than the supposed raison d’être for its nuclear-weapons program — India. But, in an article for Zurich’s ISN (International Relations and Security Network), Yogesh Joshi explains that deterring India from attacking it with nuclear weapons isn’t the only reason for Pakistan’s build-up.

[It’s] clear that nuclear weapons have become Pakistan’s chief currency of recognition in a world where international prestige is increasingly being measured in terms of . . . development. Read the rest of this entry »