Friday, 10 April 2015

BRIC Nations Ramp-Up Nuclear defence Capabilities

BRIC Countries are Expected to Have a Bigger Impact on the World’s Economic Prospects, and Plan to Modernise and Expand their Military Forces

Equal partners at the second annual BRIC Summit in Brazil 2010 - (f.l.t.r.): Former Russian President Dmitri Medwedew; former Brasilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva; former Chinese President Hu Jintao; and former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. (Photo: José Cruz/ABr) 

Economic Foundation

The term BRIC, used to refer to the four countries of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, has become almost synonymous with the rise of emerging economies in the global market. It originated with Jim O’Neil, Chief Economist of Goldman Sachs, in 2001 when he was looking to convey the increasing importance of globalisation and to express that belief that the non-western world would become increasingly important to the global economy compared to the ‘established order’ dominated by the US, Europe, and Japan. Between 2000 and 2008, the four BRIC nations accounted for nearly 50% of the total global growth. This figure changed to some extent, however, since Brazil’s economy stagnated following the global financial crisis, but did not shrink, and Russia’s economy experienced a recession. Since about 2009, growth returned to the nations more strongly than for most western nations. This is mainly thanks to their richness in minerals and minerals-based products; they are the source of origin for nearly 30% of imports of these materials to the European Union (EU). Some 23% of which is from Russia, says a 2010 report by the British Geological Survey (BGS) entitled “Mineral Information and Statistics for the BRIC Countries”. For instance, the EU is 100% import-dependent for supplies of antimony, cobalt, iodine, molybdenum, and zirconium where there is currently no mine production within the politico-economic union.

Military Balancing Act in Russia, China
The Russian Navy will have eight “Borei” class (Projekt 955A) submarines in service by 2018, which will form the core of the country’s strategic submarine fleet. The first-of-class, “Yurij Dolgorukij” (K 535), joined the Northern fleet in January 2014. Armament consists of the three-stage, solid propellant BULAVA SLBM with a range of over 4,300nm (8,000km).
(Photo: Russian Navy)
In more recent years, the four BRIC nations have begun to work together more or less in their areas of common interest in order to gain greater influence in the world. This includes large-scale oil and gas ventures, mining and metallurgical projects, but also military cooperation in specific fields. Chinese oil companies embark on an aggressive international energy asset buying spree. In 2012, China’s state-owned oil companies like CNOOC Ltd. coughed out a record US$35Bn buying oil and gas assets all over the world, and since about 2009, China spent some US$92Bn on energy acquisitions and joint ventures in countries as diverse as Brazil and Angola.
The variety of cooperative efforts in the development of military hardware are in line with steadily increasing defence budgets in most of the BRIC countries, notably Russia and China. According to a new report from Strategic Defence Intelligence (SDI), the Russian defence budget is set to increase over the next five years. For this period, the country’s decade-long plan for the modernisation and expansion of its military capabilities will drive the defence spending to an overall expenditure of US$631.6Bn. An approximately 37% will be spent on the procurement of new and advanced military hardware, replacing most obsolete and ageing Soviet-era equipment by the end of 2020. “Russia has put the upgrades of its air and space defences, as well as the modernisation of its naval capabilities as top priorities, with the aim to resolve major deficiencies in the Command and Control [C2] systems, hardware, weaponry, and intelligence,” according to SDI analyst Moutushi Saha.
There will be a special emphasis on nuclear capability upgrades. The Russian military is set to receive new intercontinental ballistic missiles, allowing the retirement of every missile in the arsenal with a new one by 2020. Also, Russian Navy plans call for at least eight “Yasen” class (Projekt 885M) nuclear-powered multi-purpose attack submarines that could be procured until the end of the decade, in addition to the eight “Borei” class (Projekt 955A) nuclear ballistic missile submarines and a yet unspecified number of “Lada” class (Projekt 677) diesel-electric submarines. Moscow’ arguments to develop a strong nuclear defence base is to mitigate the possibility of extensive aggression against the country. This thinking goes in line with the Kremlin’s fear that, because of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and continuing activities by Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Eastern Ukraine, “the US want to change the Russian regime and humiliate the country”, according to Paul Goble in a post on Window on Eurasia on 19 December 2014.
While some in the EU and in Moscow hope for a restoration of an east-west partnership, Russian President Vladimir Putin now views the West as an ‘enemy’ rather than a partner. Also, Russia’s long international border (which includes two maritime boundaries with the US and Japan) and huge oil and gas reserves will likely drive the country’s investment towards optimising its military power projection capabilities.
A strengthening of the Chinese military is expected to make China sufficiently capable to defend its territories and national resources. The modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is progressing at a steady pace. According to Lee Fuell, Technical Director for Force Modernisation & Employment at the National Air & Space Intelligence Center, the key areas of emphasis include increased introduction of 4th generation multi-role aircraft and the new H-6K bomber to increase PLAAF strike capabilities, as well as developing 5th generation fighters. Fuell, in a testimony before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission in Washington on 30 January 2014, believes the Chinese are not trying to match the US system versus system, but are pursuing more of a ‘system-of-systems’ approach that exploits what they perceive to be adversary weaknesses or exploitable vulnerabilities. In recent years, China made progress with developing conventionally-armed Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBMs) and Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs) at a steady pace, to increase its capability for near-precision strike out to the Second Island Chain.
China’s perimeter of ‘offshore defence’ includes two ‘island chains’. The first chain stretches from the Aleutians to the Kurils, the Japanese archipelago, the Ryukyus, Taiwan, the Philippine archipelago, and the Greater Sunda Islands, while the Second Island Chain encompasses the entire Indonesian archipelago from New Guinea to the Malay Peninsula. One of the reasons for China’s ambitious modernisation of its naval forces is its rapidly changing maritime interest in these regions. China conceives oceans to be its “second national territory”, which, according to the central government in Beijing, includes 12 territorial seas, 24 “maritime adjacent regions”, and 200 maritime Economic Exclusive Zones (EEZ) and continental shelves, totalling more than 3 million or one-third of China’s land mass.
With the PLAN remaining largely a littoral force some 15-20 years ago, the force now developed into a multi-mission force, “rapidly retiring legacy combatants in favour of larger multi-mission ships equipped with advanced anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine weapons and sensors”, according to Jesse L. Karotkin in a testimony on behalf of the trends in the People’s Republic of China’s naval modernisation. According to the report, “the introduction of long-range anti-ship cruise missiles across the force, coupled with non-PLAN weapons such as the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, and the requisite C4ISR [Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] architecture to support targeting, will allow China to significantly expand its ‘counter-intervention’ capability further into the Philippine Sea and South China Sea over the next decade.”

Map illustrating the deployment of attack submarines in the Asia-Pacific region.
(Map: The Heritage Foundation)

India’s Chain Reaction

India is emerging as an important strategic partner for Washington, particularly with respect to enhanced defence and civil nuclear energy cooperation. During his visit to Delhi in June 2012, former US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta identified India as a “linchpin” in Washington’s emerging “rebalancing” strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. India ranks among the biggest arms markets in the world, although its dynamics, mainly due to delayed military deals, currently is somewhat hampered. The Indian defence market was previously dominated by Russia, but now New Delhi is increasingly buying military hardware from the US and Israel.
Another partner Delhi put onto the agenda is Tokyo. The visit of Japan’s Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera to Delhi on 6 January 2014 signals greater bilateral defence cooperation between the two nations. This includes the procurement of 12 large US-2i amphibious search-and-rescue aircraft from the Japanese aircraft manufacturer ShinMaywa Industries, Ltd. Having responded to the Indian Navy’s Request for Information (RfI) for the amphibious aircraft, ShinMaywa offers a stripped-down civilian version of the airplane, optimised for the Indian Navy’s mission assignment. The deal, once Defence Acquisition Councel (DAC) approval is given, may include the licence-manufacturing of 10 airframes by a private-sector Indian manufacturer. Tokyo has long regarded Delhi as a powerful counterweight to Beijing’s strategic rise. According to government circles in Tokyo, a deal with ShinMaywa “could lay the foundation for a broader Japanese thrust into India.”
As the seventh largest country in the world extending over 3.287 million, India is taking significant steps to expand its footprint in the region. Delhi’s long-term Maritime Capabilities Perspective Plan 2022 (MCPP-2022) stresses the requirement for improved sustainability at sea, in particular sea-lift, surveillance, expeditionary power projection, and stand-off strike, to support the Indian Navy’s emerging ‘blue-water’ requirement. The plan seeks to dominate the Indian Ocean region while effectively countering current and emerging threats closer to the coastline. What international observers expected more than a decade ago, there is a shift in emphasis from an increase in the number of platforms to the enhancement of capabilities. The fleet, consisting of the Eastern Naval Command and Western Naval Command, will probably centre both components on a single aircraft carrier. Eventually, the Indian Navy plans to graduate to three carrier battle groups. However, the pace of modernisation has been slow due to the lack of adequate funding, delayed decision-making, and a low-technology defence industrial base.
However, procurement of military hardware is driven by the fact that the country is flanked by a number of conflicts. The 3,380km long border with China includes the disputed territories of Aksai Chin, north of Kashmir in the west, and Arunachal Pradesh in the east. Both are claimed by India and China. The border with Pakistan is 2,912km long and includes the disputed border through Kashmir. Symptomatic for this region is the threat of growing fundamental terrorism. On 2 November 2014, a terror attack on the India-Pakistan border left 55 people dead and wounded 100 more. This and other similar incidents are believed to form part of the growing ‘Talibanisation’ in Pakistan. The large Chinese presence in the Gilgit-Baltistan area of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir creates extra hurdles that complicates a resolution of the conflict. Delhi also identifies other destabilising factors along its borders: political instability in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka; unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang; narcotics trafficking; and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
This unfavourable strategic environment forced Delhi to prepare for the possibility of a ‘two front’ war, with the four military services requiring better and more modern military hardware. A project that is in an advanced stage is the new strategic cruise missile development, named NIRBHAY, by the Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), a laboratory of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Indian sources said that the Indian Armed Forces were seeking a long-range, low-cost, all-weather cruise missile type with a high accuracy, complementing the 156nm (290km) range Russian/Indian BrahMos cruise missile. This new weapon is needed because Pakistan has already developed two TOMAHAWK-like cruise missiles with a range of some 380nm (>700km). It was claimed that the technology was gained from two TOMAHAWK cruise missiles recovered from Pakistan’s territory in 1998.

Uncertain Direction

There is a continuing military influence on Brazil’s nuclear programme. The country is the BRIC’s only non-nuclear weapon state in which the military leases uranium enrichment technology to the civilian nuclear programme, and the naval service (Marinha do Brasil) drives technological advances in the nuclear field. Also, Brazil is currently the only non-nuclear weapon state undertaking a nuclear-powered submarine building programme. In the early 1980s, the Brazilian Navy started a nuclear propulsion programme and, until at least 1989, developed a centrifuge enrichment technology. A demonstration plant was constructed at the Aramar Experimental Center in Iperó (São Paulo state), which remains a naval facility to provide fuel enriched to less than 20% for the submarine programme.
In 2010, Brazil and Turkey signed an agreement with Iran – the so-called Tehran Declaration – to swap its 20% enriched uranium for foreign fuel for the Tehran research reactor, alleviating concerns about Iran’s intentions in enriching uranium to that level. This was not acted upon, but led to later agreements with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1).
Currently, enrichment here is reported to be to 5% U-235. Using the enrichment technology, and with centrifuges built by the Navy and leased to INB (Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil S.A.), an industrial enrichment plant at Resende in the state of Rio de Janeiro is intended to provide nuclear fuel for the Angra reactors. In 2012, three domestically-developed cascades similar to Urenco’s technology were operating and produced 2,293kg of 4% enriched uranium, meeting about 5% of the country’s needs. In 2014, INB expected that the Resende plant could produce 80% of Angra’s needs by 2018.
Deliveries of natural uranium are received from the country’s only uranium mining operation, Lagoa Real, at Caetité in the state of Bahia, according to INB’s Luiz Alberto Gomiero. Its output increased slightly from 330mt (metric tons) of uranium in 2008 to 347mt of uranium in 2009, but then dropped steeply to 148mt of uranium in 2010 as regulatory issues related to the tailings ponds were addressed. Expansion of this facility to a nominal capacity of 670mt of uranium annually remains on course for 2015, with conventional agitated leaching technology replacing heap leaching methodologies. There will be a second source for uranium, the Santa Quitéria project at the Itataia phosphate/uranium deposit in the state of Minas Gerais, during 2015. For this installation, independent reports quote an initial capacity of 970mt of uranium per year.

BRIC Uranium Production Capability to 2035
(In metric tons U/year, from RAR (Reasonably Assured Resources) and Inferred Resources Recoverable at Costs up to US$130/kg U)
Source: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 2012
               2015  2020 2025 2030
Brazil 1,600 2,000 2,000 2,000
Russia 4,480 5,840 6,410 2,620
India      980    980 1,000 1,000
China 1,800 1,800 1,800 1,800

Raising Alarm

Four key Republican members of the House - Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida; Spencer Bachus of Alabama; Peter T. King of New York; and Howard P. McKeon of California - have written a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in October 2010, asking him to block the sale of a controlling interest in a uranium mine in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming, to an arm of the Russian government's nuclear agency. According to them, the proposed sale of a uranium processing facility operated by Uranium One USA, a Canadian-based company, to Atomredmetzoloto, a subsidiary of the Russian government agency Rosatom, could "give Moscow control of up to 20% of the US national uranium extraction capability and a controlling interest in one of the country's largest uranium mining sites." A fact sheet on Uranium One's website said the company was intending to complete the transaction by the end of 2010. Rosatom already owns a 23.1% share of Uranium One's common stock and is seeking a controlling 51% share in the subsidiary.
Does the US really want to become a source for uranium for Russia and its allies? In a letter to Rosatom, the lawmakers said the Russian government nuclear agency has "shown little if any inclination to effectively address the widespread and continuing corruption within Russia, particularly its energy sector." They also expressed concern that Rosatom has been involved in energy deals with Iran, including design work and the training of Iranian scientists for the Bushehr nuclear power plant that went online in August 2010.
Uranium One USA claimed in November 2010 that it has received assurances that the Russians will not use any of the uranium mined in the US to fuel Iranian reactors.

Uranium One USA-owned uranium mining operations in the Powder River Basin, northeastern Wyoming, attracted the interest of the Russian government agency Rosatom in 2010. (Photo: Uranium One USA) 

Productive uranium ore mining operations and resources under examination/development in the Powder River Basin, northeastern Wyoming. (Map: Peninsula Energy Ltd.)


It is expected that BRIC nations are seeking to strengthen their militaries in order to gain more influence at a global scale. Both India and Russia have had significant military programmes in recent years and plan to upgrade nuclear capabilities in the near future. Their Also, the government in Brasilia claims some Air Force and Navy modernisation efforts as the “ultimate projection capability” for the Brazilian military, including the country’s nuclear-powered submarine building programme. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) appears to have additional “strategic projects” in the melting pod. Large-scale expenditures are expected for new-construction, nuclear-capable submarines. Their uranium output and stockpiles of fission material seem to be sufficient to allow for extended military use, and some of the BRIC nations, specifically Russia, seek additional ventures abroad to gain control over new processing and production assets.

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