Putin-Kim meeting and new nuclear strategy in the face of a possible nuclear triad?

Putin-Kim meeting and new nuclear strategy in the face of a possible nuclear triad?

The rapprochement between Putin and Kim is not particularly surprising. What belongs together is growing together and is also seen this way by the US NSS: China, Russia, North Korea and Iran. The real question is how and to what extent it grows together and not. The fact that it involves arms deliveries is also no surprise. The question is more what is being exchanged and delivered. At best, North Korea can supply Russia with ammunition, some conventional system as artillery, and perhaps a few missiles, but Russia certainly doesn’t need any help when it comes to nuclear technology or the aerospace or space industry. It is significant that Putin seems to need supplies from North Korea at all and apparently needs help with the most basic conventional weapons. For North Korea, Russian food and energy are likely to be particularly important, which Kim has so far obtained mainly from China, which is why there has been no famine despite sanctions like in the 1990s and by this the regime is stabilized and regime change is made unlikely. This was probably also the case at the East Economic Forum in Russia’s east. Nothing further was known about the specific agreements made by Russian War Minister Shoigu in North Korea, but now at the Putin-Kim meeting it was announced that it was about Russian help with nuclear technology, nuclear submarines and satellites. North Korea now wants to bring its first nuclear submarine in the Pacific ocean. More important than the nuclear ngine of the submarine will be whether it will also be equipped with nuclear missiles that can hit Japan or the USA. Furthermore, whether Russia is specifically pushingv North Korean ICBM development. Be it that the satellites are perhaps also military satellites that can be used for espionage, reconnaissance, early warning or navigation purposes for ICBMs or other nuclear missiles. Also whether Russia provides the space rockets with which the North Korean satellites are launched into space, be it with Russian rockets from its Russian space center or by supplying North Korea with the rocket technology or even the launchers, which are then could become converted into ICBMs. With Sputnik, the shock was not triggered because there was a beeping Soviet space body orbiting the Earth, but primarily because the SU showed that it now had ICBM technology that could now also reach the USA. Does Putin and Kim want to cause a new sputnik shock, perhaps this time from North Korea?

Or will Putin not go that far? The political scientist Thomas Jäger points out that it is also important how China will react to the Kim-Putin meetings. There is also a fear that China could now increase the number of its ICBMs to US and Russian levels and also drop its no first use doctrine, although Beijing still denies this. A thought leader in the USA who pushed for a change in the US nuclear deterrence strategy was Peter Vincent Pry, who outlined the worst case scenario of a nuclear triad of China, Russia, North Korea, as well as a Cuban missile crisis scenario involving Taiwan. However, Pry died in 2022 and the extent to which his thoughts were further advanced is unknown. So far, there seems to be no change in the nuclear deterrence strategy in sight, neither from the USA nor from NATO. With the discussion by the SPD and Macron of German-French or European nuclear protection under the force de frappe, new options are now being considered, with Poland initially responding by demanding nuclear participation with NATO, and ultimately with the USA. The question would then also be how and whether the US nuclear deterrent strategy will also change in this case. The Europeans are thinking rather limited to Europe and at best in the event of a nuclear Iran (perhaps also nuclear Saudi Arabia, Turkey or Egypt) and in the medium-range (nuclear) missile area, insofar as they do not want to acquire ICBMs against North Korea or China themselves, which seems highly unlikely. In addition, the German military is likely to have a more provincial, more conventional perspective as well as a lack of knowledge due to its decades-long nuclear abstinence, while the USA has always had nuclear wars and nuclear deterrence as a global dimension, and possibly in several theaters of war at the same time, as well as the nuclear triad China, Russia, North Korea are now increasingly suggesting this in the spirit of Peter Vincent Pry. Although this should not be understood in the sense of a joint triad high command, joint Nuclear Planning Group  or in the sense of a NATO SACEUR.

Parts of the Pentagon are also aware that these could not be separate theaters of war, but they have not yet officially changed the nuclear deterrence strategy, which is why some military and security experts fear that the existing deterrence strategy as well as the equipment and structure of the US military could be a kind of mental and nuclear “Maginot Line” similar to the thinking and military of France after the First World War:

 “The Pentagon recognizes that a war on the Korean Peninsula would quickly involve other powers, including China and Russia. A January Brookings Institution report on the changing role of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance warned that older strategies that assumed a war limited to the Korean Peninsula were „inadequate and outdated.“ The report quoted Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford as saying in December that any conflict with North Korea would inevitably be „transregional, all-sided and multifunctional.“ Translated from military language, Dunford’s comments mean that the Pentagon is preparing a „transregional“ world war that will be fought on all sides: on the ground, by the Navy, the Air Force, in space and in cyberspace. To do this, it wants to use all means possible, including nuclear weapons.”


There are also the first signs of a possible rethinking in Germany. The Germans, who were confronted with the question of nuclear deterrence quite directly during the Cold War with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and the NATO double decision with its Pershing 2 and cruise missiles, and were interested in security policy, although at that time there was also a million-strong peace movement out of fear of a nuclear Euroshima and a nuclear battlefield Europe. The parliamentary arm was initially the Greens and the left wing of the SPD around Eppler and Brandt, in the period after the fall of the Wall and the collapse of communism during the decades of globalization, including its pacifism with Kant’s peace of change through trade and Fukuyama’s End of history as well the paradigm that nuclear weapons are archaic relics of the past and no longer play a role in world politics in terms of security policy was “denuclearized”. In addition, in Germany in particular, everything that was associated with the word atomic or nuclear met with widespread rejection, be it nuclear power or nuclear weapons, just as Putin knows how to use Pavlovian reflexes again and again when using the A-word or N- word. Now they seem to want to change this as part of the Zeitenwende/turning point, as the newly published book by the old security policy veteran Karl-Heinz Kamp is an indicator of.

“Germany’s nuclear interests after the Ukraine war

Book abstract

 Nuclear deterrence, long a theoretical thought exercise, has suddenly become very real due to Russia’s war against Ukraine. Germany must defend its own values and stand by Ukraine without risking a nuclear escalation by Russia. Germany is and remains a non-nuclear state and is under the protective umbrella of the United States. How exactly does this protective shield work and what are the dilemmas of nuclear deterrence? How can Germany assert its security interests in a world dominated by nuclear weapons and contribute to NATO’s nuclear deterrence while minimizing nuclear risks? Karl-Heinz Kamp addresses questions like these in his comprehensive contribution to Germany’s nuclear future.”

The FAZ is dedicating a book review to this today:

“Debate about nuclear weapons: The bomb that Germany should learn to love

 By Nikolas Busse -Updated 9/13/2023-9:22 p.m

Putin’s threatening gestures hit a political class and a public in Germany that have forgotten how to think about nuclear weapons. Karl-Heinz Kamp wants to increase nuclear IQ. A book review.

A book with “Germany’s nuclear interests” in the title would probably not have been written before the Ukraine war. And if it had, it could have faced some headwinds. The idea that Germany should pursue politics based on its interests, even in the difficult field of nuclear defense, would not have fit with the pacifist and moralistic mood that prevailed in the country until Putin’s attack. Only a small number of experts noticed that the Russian president had tried to back up his earlier attacks on Ukraine with nuclear threats Karl-Heinz Kamp is a veteran of this German “strategic community,” which shrank even faster than the Bundeswehr after the Cold War. He was at the Adenauer Foundation, at NATO, at the Federal Academy for Security Policy and in the Ministry of Defense. Even after the “turning point” he does not give the country a good report when it comes to the most existential of all security issues: “Some of the statements made by members of the German Bundestag on nuclear issues unfortunately show that even in parliamentary circles there is a lack of knowledge about the political context The area of deterrence is incomplete.” https://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/politik-buecher/karl-heinz-kamp-will-den-nuclearen-iq-in-deutschland-erhoehen-19166763.html

Former German NATO General Domroese Jr. commented:

“Of course, for me it is that a “new era” has been ushered in since the NATO summit in Vilnius: DETERRENCE, DEFENSE & DIALOGUE.

Deterrence is based on Nukes and Conventional Forces. Not many people have yet recognized this compelling connection or don’t want to see the topic. But I think the Federal goverment will have to deal with this. Also in exercises that describe a scenario in war gaming where you have to decide: to use nukes or not…. Nuclear participation means: take part! AFTER consultation, of course. But the decision is made by Washington. And/or London, Paris. But the 5 NT states are also planning. It is significantly more than the other states have. They only listen to TAKE COVER 3X”

Maybe  a decisive USA is better than Scholz’s hesitation in an emergency. It will also remain interesting to see to what extent and whether “integrated deterrence” still finds its way into the deterrence strategy that Brookings Institution strategist Michael O‘ Hannon designed in his book “The Senkaku Paradox: Great Power war on Small stakes”. , for example for a Taiwan conflict, an invasion of the Baltics or the Japanese Senkaku Islands.

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