Highlights from the Center for Preventive Action

December 1, 2010

Director's Note

This fall, the Center for Preventive Action (CPA) has continued its highly acclaimed Contingency Planning Memorandum (CPM) and Roundtable series with “Electoral Violence in Nigeria,” a widely read and hotly debated analysis by CFR Senior Fellow Ambassador John Campbell, and my CPM on "Military Escalation in Korea." Conflict scenarios in Lebanon and Sudan that were addressed in previous memorandums by Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer and Katherine Almquist have received our further attention through the Center's Flashpoint Roundtable series and High Level Dialogues as new developments in these areas merited their re-examination. Also, CFR Fellow Micah Zenko has completed a Council Special Report on “Deep Reductions in U.S. and Russian Nuclear Weapons” and a book on limited uses of military force titled Between Threats and War. We thank you again for your interest in CPA and the work it does to improve U.S. and international conflict prevention efforts.

Paul B. Stares

Director, Center for Preventive Action

Military Escalation in Korea

by Paul B. Stares

November 2010

Further provocations by North Korea as well as other dangerous military interactions on or around the Korean peninsula remain a serious risk and carry the danger of unintended escalation. Moreover, changes underway in North Korea could precipitate new tensions and herald a prolonged period of instability that raises the possibility of military intervention by outside powers. This Center of Preventive Action Contingency Planning Memorandum by Paul Stares analyzes potentially dangerous crises that could erupt in Korea due to the atmosphere of recrimination and mistrust that exists between North and South; the possibility of provocative, domestically driven North Korean behavior; and the potential for a troubled succession process in Pyongyang. Stares concludes that the United States has a strong and abiding interest in ensuring that another Korean war not be ignited and provides recommendations to reduce the risk of unwanted military escalation on the Korean peninsula.

Read the full CPM

Toward Deeper Reductions in U.S. and Russian Nuclear Weapons

by Micah Zenko

November 2010

The New START Treaty, signed by presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in April 2010, was an important achievement. Pending ratification in the Russian Duma and U.S. Senate, New START limits both countries to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads--far below the Cold War peak of 31,000 strategic and tactical nuclear weapons in the United States alone.

Even after the implementation of the New START Treaty, though, Obama's goal of a "world free of nuclear weapons" will remain elusive--the United States and Russia will still command enough nuclear weapons to annihilate each other several times over. In this Council Special Report, Fellow for Conflict Prevention Micah Zenko argues that reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles even further than New START treaty levels--to one thousand warheads, including tactical nuclear weapons--would be both strategically and politically advantageous. It would decrease the risk of nuclear weapons theft and nuclear attack and increase international political support for future U.S. initiatives to reduce or control nuclear warheads, all while maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent.

To achieve such a significant reduction in a follow-on to the New START treaty, the United States and Russia would need to reach agreement on three long-standing and contentious issues. Tactical nuclear weapons deployments will be the most difficult of these challenges, Zenko writes, since Russia has a much larger arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons than does the United States and will therefore bear the brunt of the tactical nuclear weapons cuts. Missile defense is the second obstacle toward further significant nuclear reductions. Much work remains to secure Moscow's cooperation on--or acceptance of--the project. Finally, the United States and Russia must reach agreement on the use of nuclear vehicles for conventional weapons. It is difficult to overstate the potential danger if either country mistook a conventional missile for a nuclear one.

Read the full CSR

Electoral Violence in Nigeria

by John Campbell

September 2010

Elections in Nigeria scheduled for January 2011 may well be the first in the country's history featuring a genuine political contest between the predominantly Christian South and the Muslim North. Candidates could be tempted to leverage Nigerians' ethnic and religious identities for political gain, a practice that may lead to widespread electoral violence or even a military coup. This Center for Preventive Action Contingency Planning Memorandum by Ambassador John Campbell describes the events and trends that indicate Nigerian politics are following this dangerous trajectory and recommends U.S. policy options for preventing and containing violent fragmentation of Nigerian society. The memo concludes that the United States should capitalize on the value elite Nigerians place on their country's bilateral relationship with the United States to hedge against the worst outcomes the 2011 Nigerian election might produce.

Read the full CPM