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On April 13, 2018, the United States, France, and the United Kingdom commenced a highly-coordinated trilateral cruise missile assault against the Assad regime.[1] This event came in response to an earlier chemical weapons attack attributed to government-loyal forces.[2] A total of seven battleships, supported by one submarine, and three bomber squadrons launched over 100 Storm Shadow, JASSM, SCALP EG, and Tomahawk cruise missiles from three different cardinal directions, destroying several research and military facilities associated with the production and storage of chemical weapons.[3] Satellite pictures subsequently illustrated the significant damage the cruise missile attack caused.[4]

Cruise missiles have been used widely in the last two decades, especially in the Middle East.[5] Without doubt, for an increasing number of actors around the world, cruise missiles are an indispensable weapon, providing them with significant military benefits. These include stealthiness, maneuverability, and the ability to fly at extremely low altitudes, making them difficult to intercept, especially for missile-defense systems prepared for use against ballistic missiles.[6] Cruise missiles can also be deployed in versatile land and sea-based environments, rendering them ideal weapon systems to create and reinforce anti-access, area-denial networks.[7] Compared to ballistic missiles, cruise missiles can be up to ten times cheaper and are more reliable.[8]

…CRUISE MISSILES NEED NOT NECESSARILY BE ACCELERATED TO HYPERSONIC VELOCITIES TO CONSTITUTE A DESTABILIZING FACTOR IN THE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM.

Nevertheless, neither security analysts nor international diplomatic efforts have paid serious attention to increasing cruise missile proliferation. Today, cruise missiles are mostly discussed within the context of the so-called hypersonic turn in missile technology and, more broadly, nuclear deterrence.[9] This focus is unfortunate, because cruise missiles need not necessarily be accelerated to hypersonic velocities to constitute a destabilizing factor in the international system. Indeed, subsonic cruise missiles can have serious strategic implications, especially in regional conflicts. In addition, cruise missiles not only affect nuclear deterrence relationships but also conventional ones, as well as deterrence dynamics between state and non-state actors.

As the Biden administration settles into office it faces a number of monumental tasks - dealing with the ongoing global health pandemic, repairing alliances, and preparing the country for the coming great power competition with China, just to name a few. This poses the question regarding which issues in particular should inform the rewriting of the next National Security Strategy. While a number of pressing foreign and security policy issues are high on the agenda, the Biden administration’s National Security Strategy should also make reference to and lay the framework for an active cruise missile counterproliferation and arms control strategy.

CRUISE MISSILE PROLIFERATION

Since the end of World War II, cruise missiles have proliferated widely. Today, more than 70 countries possess indigenously produced or imported cruise missile capabilities.[10] Generally speaking, two types of cruise missiles exist: anti-ship cruise missiles intended to target shore-based structures and surface vessels and land-attack cruise missiles designed to target land-based structures.

…THEIR RELATIVE AFFORDABILITY COMBINED WITH THEIR DESTRUCTIVENESS RENDER THEM HIGHLY ATTRACTIVE WEAPON SYSTEMS, ESPECIALLY FOR STATES THAT CANNOT AFFORD TO MAINTAIN LARGE NAVIES TO PROJECT MARITIME POWER.

Anti-ship cruise missiles started to proliferate heavily in the 1970s and continue to do so today.[11] Because of their relatively low range and payload, most anti-ship cruise missiles do not fall under the export restrictions imposed by the Missile Technology Control Regime instituted in 1987. In addition, their relative affordability combined with their destructiveness render them highly attractive weapon systems, especially for states that cannot afford to maintain large navies to project maritime power. In this sense, anti-ship cruise missiles can be asymmetric force multipliers.[12] They are now one of the most widely proliferated advanced weapon systems in the world.

The proliferation of land-attack cruise missiles took a different trajectory. Throughout the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States had a virtual monopoly on these weapons. Since the 1990s, however, several more countries have acquired land-attack cruise missiles. Today, at least 23 states field an operational land-attack cruise missile capability, twelve of which have produced their land-attack cruise missiles indigenously.[13] Drivers of land-attack cruise missiles proliferation are manifold, including their attractiveness for security purposes as demonstrated repeatedly in modern conflicts, the inadvertent and illegal transfer of sensitive missile technology, business interests, and the prestige associated with deploying a sophisticated land-attack cruise missiles capability.[14]

FOR MUCH OF THEIR HISTORY, ONLY STATES HAD ACCESS TO CRUISE MISSILES.

Finally, it is worth considering the proliferation of nuclear-armed cruise missiles. Today, five of the nine nuclear-weapon states are either confirmed or suspected of deploying operational nuclear-armed cruise missiles. These nations include France, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States. India will likely join this club once it completes development of its Nirbhay cruise missile.[15] China, however, has not yet decided to deploy a nuclear-armed cruise missile capability, likely as a result of the People’s Liberation Army’s organizational structure and doctrinal preferences.[16] Regardless, both nuclear-armed land-attack cruise missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles remain in service today, though the deployment of anti-ship cruise missiles tipped with nuclear warheads is confined exclusively to Soviet legacy systems developed during the Cold War.[17]

STRATEGIC IMPLICATIONS OF CRUISE MISSILE PROLIFERATION

The proliferation of cruise missiles has far-reaching strategic implications on U.S. national security in three particular areas: becoming available to non-state actors, preventing crisis stability, and increasing nuclear risks.

For much of their history, only states had access to cruise missiles. Increasingly, however, nonstate actors have acquired these weapon systems, namely Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthi Rebels in Yemen.[18] This availability is largely determined by their access to legitimate users around the world.[19] As such, their availability to non-state actors should only rise.

This trend presents the United States and its allies with a number of considerable challenges. First, advanced cruise missiles may allow terrorist groups to threaten high-value targets, such as sites of cultural and historical importance, battleships, and military bases, including those hosting forward deployed American troops. Due to the inability of current-generation missile defense systems to defend effectively against incoming cruise missile strikes, such weapons may prove an effective tool for terrorist groups to overcome perimeter defenses and cause significant damage.[20] In addition, by deploying cruise missiles at key maritime geographic chokepoints, such as the Strait of Hormuz, terrorists could threaten commercial shipping, potentially even “paralyz[ing] international commerce.”[21]

CHINA, FOR EXAMPLE, COULD HOPE THAT FIRING A MASSIVE BARRAGE OF CRUISE MISSILES AT HIGH VALUE TARGETS IN THE PACIFIC REGION WOULD LEAD TO A CULMINATING POINT OF VICTORY AND TERMINATE THE CONFLICT ON FAVORABLE TERMS, BEFORE THE UNITED STATES COULD MOUNT A DEFENSE.

Second, especially with nonstate actors acquiring increasingly sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles allow terrorist groups to attack their adversaries over national borders, thereby reducing terrorist casualties, exacerbating prosecution, and fueling insecurity.[22] A related danger is that cruise missiles may be used by terrorist organizations to spark catalytic international wars.[23] Thanks to cruise missiles’ maneuverability and long range, terrorist groups may program the trajectory of a cruise missile attack to appear as if the assault originated from the military facilities of a certain state. This scenario is especially likely due to the stealthiness of modern cruise missiles, which means that radar detects relatively late, thereby rendering attribution difficult.

Even terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland become more likely. Analysts have warned for some time now about the possibility of concealing cruise missile launchers in regular-sized shipping containers.[24] By doing so, terrorist groups could clandestinely move cruise missile launchers within the vicinity of the American coastline and fire their cruise missiles at U.S. cities from a safe distance.

The proliferation of cruise missiles also poses challenges to inter-state relations, especially in strained regional contexts. Here, the proliferation of cruise missiles may not only fuel existing security dilemmas, potentially resulting in costly arms races, but also increase the perceived benefits of striking first, thus decreasing crisis stability.[25] This is because cruise missiles are particularly useful when used in first-strike scenarios where the defender is insufficiently prepared and unexpecting.[26] In addition, while cruise missiles can wreak major havoc in enemy territory, they are vulnerable when attacked first because their launch platforms and supporting infrastructure—such as air-bases, ground-launchers, and surface-vessels—are relatively susceptible to enemy attack.[27] This reality may introduce a so-called use ‘em or lose ‘em mentality into inter-state relations.

Furthermore, with the proliferation of cruise missiles, escalate-to-deescalate strategies may become more attractive. Especially when combined with other long-range precision-strike capabilities, such as theater-range ballistic missiles and long-range rocket artillery, a comprehensive conventional first-strike using long-range precision-guided weapons may present the enemy with a fait accompli, rendering a nation defenseless.[28] China, for example, could hope that firing a massive barrage of cruise missiles at high value targets in the Pacific region would lead to a culminating point of victory and terminate the conflict on favorable terms, before the United States could mount a defense. Of course, there is no guarantee that this strategy succeeds. There is also a high likelihood that such an attack, short of rendering the enemy defenseless, induces escalation and paves the way to a large-scale, protracted, and enormously costly conflict.

…THE THREAT OF CRUISE MISSILES HISTORICALLY HAS PLAYED AT BEST A MARGINAL ROLE IN THE UNITED STATES’ NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY.

The proliferation of cruise missiles also increases nuclear risks, especially between NATO and Russia. Most significant is the potential role of cruise missiles as so-called kinetic non-nuclear strategic weapons. Russia may fear that the proliferation of cruise missiles within NATO increases its vulnerability to a disarming or decapitating first strike. Traditionally, decision-makers calculated that two to three nuclear warheads would have to be detonated within the target’s vicinity to destroy one hardened missile silo or bunker facility with certainty.[29] As a result of more recent advancements in guidance and warhead technology, however, a nuclear detonation may not be necessary to destroy hardened strategic targets. Even conventional cruise missiles armed with multi-effect and penetrator warheads, such as the JASSM, the KEPD 350, and the SOM B2, may cause enough concentrated point-effect damage to destroy or to render nuclear facilities unserviceable.[30] While a conventional cruise missile attack alone would likely not disarm or decapitate Russia, that nation’s decision-makers might fear that cruise missiles could be used in conjunction with American nuclear weapons.[31] These considerations clearly undermine strategic stability in Europe and are cause for increasing concern.

…OF THE NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY DOCUMENTS DRAFTED SINCE 2000, ONLY THE 2017 DOCUMENT MENTIONS CRUISE MISSILES EXPLICITLY

Another destabilizing byproduct of cruise missile proliferation is the increasing entanglement of nuclear and non-nuclear assets. Most types of nuclear-armed cruise missiles include a conventional variant.[32] Unfortunately, changing the warhead on a cruise missile may not necessarily alter the missile’s appearance. In addition, nuclear and conventional variants generally use the same launcher platforms. It is therefore feasible that NATO, in a conventional crisis scenario, may inadvertently target nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and, in doing so, trigger nuclear escalation.[33]

LOOKING FORWARD: ADDRESSING CRUISE MISSILE PROLIFERATION IN THE NSS

The proliferation of cruise missiles clearly threatens the national security interests of the United States and its allies in several ways. Unfortunately, however, the threat of cruise missiles historically has played at best a marginal role in the United States’ National Security Strategy. In fact, of the National Security Strategy documents drafted since 2000, only the 2017 document mentions cruise missiles explicitly as well as the general threat of missiles.[34] Nevertheless, it does so almost exclusively in the context of missile defense and nuclear deterrence, ignoring the role of missiles in conventional crisis scenarios as well as the growing threat of advanced missile technology in the hands of non-state actors.

As such, the Biden administration’s National Security Strategy should put missile proliferation high on the agenda. As stated above, the current debate surrounding missile technology is almost entirely subsumed by the issue of hypersonic missiles, especially in the context of strategic stability. This sidelines other missile-related topics, such as the proliferation and strategic implications of conventional subsonic cruise missiles. A broader debate about missile technology is therefore required to take stock of the entire missile landscape. The Biden administration could fuel this debate by engaging the issue of missile technology and proliferation extensively in its upcoming National Security Strategy, including the growing threat of cruise missiles. In addition, the Biden administration should further operationalize this point by including the issue of missile proliferation more comprehensively in its diplomatic efforts. It could, for example, take a more active role in the proceedings of the Missile Dialogue Initiative, a global independent network of experts engaged in discussing the future of arms control.[35] The administration should work to facilitate dialogue between key stakeholders by regularly sending U.S. experts and decision-makers to its meetings. In addition, U.S. diplomats should frequently approach the proliferation of missile technology in bilateral and multilateral meetings, also outside the nuclear context.

THE CONTINUED TRACK RECORD OF MISSILE DEFENSE CAPABILITIES FAILING TO FEND OFF CRUISE MISSILE ATTACKS, HOWEVER, DEMONSTRATES THAT THIS APPROACH HAS NOT BEEN SUCCESSFUL.

Second, the National Security Strategy should lay the groundwork for a more comprehensive counterproliferation and arms control strategy regarding cruise missiles. Past National Security Strategy documents addressing the issue of cruise missiles and missile technology have only stressed the need for improved missile defenses. The continued track record of missile defense capabilities failing to fend off cruise missile attacks, however, demonstrates that this approach has not been successful. Instead, the Biden administration should employ a whole range of counterproliferation tools, including missile defense, but also broader nonmilitary measures, such as strengthening nonproliferation norms, negotiating confidence and transparency building measures, and adopting more stringent international export control policies, among others. The National Security Strategy should first and foremost admit that missile proliferation, and cruise missile proliferation in particular, constitute comprehensive challenges, demanding comprehensive solutions.

In light of the above, the National Security Strategy should therefore emphasize the need to strengthen the norm against cruise missile proliferation, which has traditionally been weak.[36] This could be done, for example, by amending the Hague Code of Conduct to include cruise missiles or by negotiating a new nonproliferation instrument devoted entirely to cruise missiles.[37] In addition, the norm against cruise missile proliferation would be strengthened by having China and other missile-producing states accede to the Missile Technology Control Regime. To this date, the Missile Technology Control Regime counts a total of 35 members, including most states that possess advanced missile technology. However, several key states and potential missile proliferators, such as China, Pakistan, or Iran, do not belong. The Biden administration should therefore seek to grow the regime’s membership to universalize the norm against missile proliferation and, in doing so, to curb the proliferation of cruise missiles. Other treaty and regime-based instruments—such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Hague Code of Conduct—prove that strengthening norms can promote nonproliferation efforts by ostracizing the possession of certain weapon systems and taking away impunity if used.

Furthermore, the National Security Strategy should call for a new wave of confidence and transparency building measures surrounding the deployment and use of cruise missiles. This step has important short-term implications, seeing that cruise missiles have already proliferated widely, and comprehensive arms control agreements appear infeasible for the near future. In this regard, states possessing significant numbers of cruise missiles that are locked in geopolitical and regional rivalries should work out codes of conduct concerning the use and deployment of cruise missiles. Such codes of conduct may, for example, relate to geographical criteria, such as the agreement not to deploy these systems within 100 kilometers of an international border, or rules and procedures to facilitate communication.[38]

THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION SHOULD PURSUE SUCH CONFIDENCE AND TRANSPARENCY BUILDING MEASURES THROUGH VARIOUS INTERNATIONAL FORUMS, INCLUDING THE UNITED NATIONS, THE ORGANIZATION FOR SECURITY AND CO-OPERATION IN EUROPE, OR NATO.

In addition, states possessing long-range cruise missile systems should clarify their doctrinal use and purpose for deploying these systems.[39] NATO states in Europe could, for example, publicly and unequivocally state that the deployment of cruise missiles serves conventional deterrence only rather than playing any role in NATO’s nuclear planning. This could ease Moscow’s fear that NATO’s significant cruise missile capabilities may take part in a U.S.-led nuclear first strike.[40] Whether Russia would take such a declaration at face value is difficult to say. Looking at the current NATO-Russia relationship, it seems likely that Russian decision-makers distrust such efforts. Nevertheless, statements like these do count for something, even if their only purpose is to raise the issue and begin a dialogue.

At the same time, the United States should approach Russia to be more transparent about where it stores its nuclear-tipped precision-strike capabilities. This action would lower the risk of inadvertent nuclear escalation as a result of accidentally targeting Russian nuclear-tipped cruise missiles during a conventional crisis scenario. Such confidence and transparency building measures would foster a more cooperative international environment and lower conventional and nuclear escalation risks as a result of cruise missile proliferation. The Biden administration should pursue such confidence and transparency building measures through various international forums, including the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or NATO.

CONCLUSION

Cruise missiles have proliferated widely since the 1990s, and a variety of state and nonstate actors have access to them today. Because of the significant strategic benefits they provide to their possessors, cruise missiles will likely continue to proliferate. Unfortunately, the unregulated and unrestricted proliferation of cruise missiles results in significant strategic drawbacks for the United States and its allies. More attention to this growing issue is therefore urgently required.

…THE NEXT U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY SHOULD LAY THE FRAMEWORK FOR A COMPREHENSIVE CRUISE MISSILE COUNTERPROLIFERATION AND ARMS CONTROL STRATEGY.

Past U.S. National Security Strategies mostly ignored the issue entirely, or addressed cruise missiles only within the context of missile defense. Unfortunately, missile technology today is discussed almost exclusively within the context of hypersonic capabilities and nuclear deterrence. Cruise missiles in particular are astonishingly absent from the debate. the issue entirely, or addressed cruise missiles only within the context of missile defense. Indeed, cruise missile proliferation has not yet been recognized as the complex and multidimensional problem that it is.

This article has made the case for addressing the proliferation of cruise missiles in the Biden administration’s coming National Security Strategy. More specifically, the next U.S. National Security Strategy should lay the framework for a comprehensive cruise missile counterproliferation and arms control strategy. In this regard, confidence and transparency building measures as well as measures strengthening the norm against cruise missile proliferation should form part of the U.S. foreign policy toolkit. In addition, the United States should put missile proliferation high on the agenda and support a broader dialogue, which discusses missile technology outside the nuclear and hypersonic contexts.

For too long, the proliferation of cruise missiles has remained unaddressed by U.S. policymakers. Continued ignorance of the issue will only serve to empower nonstate actors such as terrorist groups, decrease crisis stability, and increase nuclear risks. A call to action, then, seems appropriate at long last.


Fabian Hoffmann is a graduate student at King’s College London where he is currently completing his Master’s degree in War Studies. In addition, he works as a Policy Intern at the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) where he supports the Nuclear Responsibilities Program.


This article appeared originally at Strategy Bridge.

NOTES:

[1] Helene Cooper, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, and Ben Hubbard, “U.S., Britain and France Strike Syria Over Suspected Chemical Weapons Attack,” New York Times, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/13/world/middleeast/trump-strikes-syria-attack.html.

[2] Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Technical Secretariat, “Report of the Fact-Finding Mission Regarding the Incident of Alleged Use of Toxic Chemicals as a Weapon in Douma, Syrian Arab Republic, on 7 April 2018” (The Hague, 2019), https://www.opcw.org/sites/default/files/documents/2019/03/s-1731-2019%28e%29.pdf.

[3]  Tyler Rogoway, “This Awesome Chart Shows All the Assets Used in the Trilateral Missile Strikes on Syria,” The Drive, 2018, https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/20509/this-awesome-chart-shows-all-the-assets-used-in-the-trilateral-missile-strikes-on-syria; Sean Gallagher, “What the Latest Strike on Syria Succeeded at (and What It Didn’t),” ARS Technica, 2018, https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/04/what-the-latest-strike-on-syria-succeeded-at-and-what-it-didnt/.  JASSM: Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile; SCALP EG: Système de Croisière Autonome à Longue Portée – Emploi Général.

[4] “US-Led Strikes on Syria: What Was Hit?,” BBC, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43769332

[5] The military utility of cruise missiles was first demonstrated during the Gulf War and later reconfirmed during military interventions in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and especially the Second Iraq War, where cruise missiles played a key role in destroying the enemy’s means of resistance. See Dennis M. Gormley, Missile Contagion: Cruise Missile Proliferation and the Threat to International Security (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008), 50-51. Both the United States and Russia have used cruise missiles extensively and repeatedly in the context of the Syrian civil War. See, for example, “Statement from Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis on U.S. Strike in Syria,” U.S. Department of Defense, 2017, https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releases/Release/Article/1144598/statement-from-pentagon-spokesman-capt-jeff-davis-on-us-strike-in-syria/; Patrick J. Lyons, “Russia’s Kalibr Cruise Missiles, a New Weapon in Syria Conflict,” New York Times, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/09/world/middleeast/russias-kalibr-cruise-missiles-a-new-weapon-in-syria-conflict.html. Most recently, cruise missiles have been used by the Houthi rebels against Saudi oil facilities, causing significant damage and interrupting the world’s oil supply. See Joseph Trevithick, “Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Say They Struck Saudi Oil Facility with New Type of Cruise Missile,” The Drive, 2020, https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/37783/yemens-houthi-rebels-say-they-struck-saudi-oil-facility-with-new-type-of-cruise-missile.

[6] For example, The Patriot missile defense system which is construed for use against ballistic missiles failed miserably at stopping the cruise missile attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. See David Axe, “Did American-Built Patriot Missiles Fail to Protect Saudi Arabia?,” The National Interest, 2019, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/did-american-built-patriot-missiles-fail-protect-saudi-arabia-86691#:~:text=.

[7] For example, cruise missiles constitute an important part of Russia’s anti-access, area-denial system in the Baltic Sea region. See Robert Dalsjö, Christopher Berglund, and Michael Jonsson, “Bursting the Bubble. Russian A2/AD in the Baltic Sea Region: Capabilities, Countermeasures, and Implications” (Stockholm, 2019), https://www.foi.se/rapportsammanfattning?reportNo=FOI-R--4991--SE; and Ian Williams, “The Russia-NATO A2AD Environment,” CSIS Missile Defense Project, 2017, https://missilethreat.csis.org/russia-nato-a2ad-environment/. Cruise missiles also play a crucial role in China’s and Iran’s anti-access, area-denial strategies. See Tymothy M. Bonds et al., “What Role Can Land-Based, Multi-Domain Anti-Access/Area Denial Forces Play in Deterring or Defeating Aggression?” (Santa Monica, 2017), 73-75, https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1820.html; Naveed Amad, “Iran’s ‘Forward Defense’ Doctrine Missile and Space Programs” (Riyadh, 2020), https://rasanah-iiis.org/english/centre-for-researches-and-studies/irans-forward-defense-doctrine-missile-and-space-programs/.

[8] Katarzyna Kubiak, “Missile Control: It’s Not Rocket Science” (London, 2019), 3, https://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/policy-brief/missile-control-its-not-rocket-science/ .

[9] See, for example, Andrew W. Reddie, “Hypersonic Missiles: Why the New ‘Arms Race’ Is Going Nowhere Fast,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2020, https://thebulletin.org/2020/01/hypersonic-missiles-new-arms-race-going-nowhere-fast/; Dean Wilkening, “Hypersonic Weapons and Strategic Stability” 61, no. 5 (2019): 129–48, https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2019.1662125.

[10] Jeff Kueter and Howard Kleinberg, “The Cruise Missile Challenge: Designing a Defense Against Asymmetric Threats” (Washington D.C., 2007), 15. Determining the precise number of states in possession of cruise missiles is challenging, not least due to the difficulties in defining the term ‘cruise missile’. Different definitions exist, emphasizing different aspects of the missile system. For example, depending on the range-threshold one adopts for categorizing missiles as cruise missiles, certain missile systems will be included or excluded in the definition.

[11] Carus Seth, Cruise Missile Proliferation in the 1990s (Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 1993), 9-11.

[12] See, for example, Dennis M. Gormley, Andrew S. Erickson, and Jingdong Yuan, A Low-Visibility Force Multiplier: Assessing China’s Cruise Missile Ambitions (Washington D.C.: National Defense University Press, 2014).

[13] International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2020 (Abingdon: Routledge, 2020).

[14] For the first case, Iran’s cruise missile program has greatly benefited from illegal transfers of Russian Kh-55s from Ukraine. See Paul Kerr, “Ukraine Admits Missile Transfers,” Arms Control Association, n.d., https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2005-05/ukraine-admits-missile-transfers. Pakistan’s and China’s LACM production, on the other hand, benefitted from recovering intact Tomahawks inside Pakistani territory. “Hatf 7 ‘Babur,’” CSIS Missile Defense Project, 2016, https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/hatf-7/.

For the second example, France exported an export version of its Storm Shadow land-attack cruise missile to the United Arab Emirates, despite a strong assumption of denial under the Missile Technology Control Regime issued by the U.S.. Jeffrey Lewis, “Storm Shadow, Saudi & the MTCR,” Arms Control Wonk, 2011, https://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/204051/saudi-arabia-storm-shadow-the-mtcr/. The case is generally seen as a textbook example of business interests trumping international norms. Finally, land-attack cruise missiles, by combining advanced propulsion, guidance, and warhead technology, are highly sophisticated weapon systems that can easily be construed as symbols of the modern nation-state. Especially Third World countries, trying to reconfirm their independence and technological progress, have therefore went to great lengths to acquire land-attack cruise missiles. On the symbolic significance of certain weapon systems see Dana P. Eyre and Mark C. Suchman, “Status, Norms, and the Proliferation of Conventional Weapons: An Institutional Theory Approach,” in The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics, ed. Peter Katzenstein (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 79–113.

[15] “Nirbhay,” CSIS Missile Defense Project, 2016, https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/nirbhay/.

[16] Gormley, Erickson, and Yuan, A Low-Visibility Force Multiplier: Assessing China’s Cruise Missile Ambitions, 74; Ian Easton, “The Assassin Under the Radar: China’s DH-10 Cruise Missile Program” (Arlington, 2009), 3-4.

[17] Gormley, Erickson, and Yuan, A Low-Visibility Force Multiplier: Assessing China’s Cruise Missile Ambitions, 74.

[18] Iran is said to have provided Hezbollah with Chinese C-802 anti-ship cruise missiles which were used in July 2006 during the Lebanon War. Toi Staff, “New Hezbollah Footage Purports to Show 2006 Strike on Israeli Navy Ship,” The Times of Israel, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/new-hezbollah-footage-purports-to-show-2006-strike-on-israeli-navy-ship/. Reportedly, Hezbollah has also received Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles from Syria, a highly advanced class of Russian anti-ship cruise missiles which is capable of delivering a conventional warhead at supersonic speed with high accuracy. J. Dana Stuster, “Why Hezbollah’s New Missiles Are a Problem for Israel,” Foreign Policy, 2014, https://foreignpolicy.com/2014/01/03/why-hezbollahs-new-missiles-are-a-problem-for-israel/. Lastly, Iran has likely provided Houthi rebels with the Quds-1 and Quds-2, advanced land-attack cruise missiles that were used to attack Saudi oil facilities. Fabian Hinz, “Meet the Quds 1,” Arms Control Wonk, 2019, https://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1208062/meet-the-quds-1/; Douglas Barrie and Timothy Wright, “Cruise Missiles Continue to Make Their Mark in the Middle East,” International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2020, https://www.iiss.org/blogs/military-balance/2020/12/cruise-missiles-in-the-middle-east.

[19] Brian A. Jackson et al., “Evaluating Novel Threats to the Homeland: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Cruise Missiles” (Santa Monica, 2008), 2, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mg626dtra.

[20] Axe, “Did American-Built Patriot Missiles Fail to Protect Saudi Arabia?,” The National Interest, 2019, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/did-american-built-patriot-missiles-fail-protect-saudi-arabia-86691#:~:text=.

Jackson et al., “Evaluating Novel Threats to the Homeland: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Cruise Missiles,” 29-37.

[21] Kueter and Kleinberg, “The Cruise Missile Challenge: Designing a Defense Against Asymmetric Threats,” 3.

[22] Rory Shiner and Branka Marijan, “The Use of Drones by Nonstate Actors,” The Ploughshares Monitor 40, no. 4 (2019): 17–20, https://ploughshares.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/PloughsharesMonitorWinter2019webFIX.pdf.

[23] For the seminal text on catalytic war, see Donald Kobe, “A Theory of Catalytic War,” The Journal of Conflict Resolution 6, no. 2 (1962): 125–42, https://www.jstor.org/stable/172987.

[24] Dennis M. Gormley, “UAVs and Cruise Missiles as Possible Terrorist Weapons” (Washington D.C., 2003), 6, https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep09888.

[25] This is especially the case, given the fact that cruise missiles are extremely difficult to counter once they are launched, thus skewing the offense-defense balance in favor of the offense. On the relationship between the security dilemma and the offense-defense balance, see Robert Jervis, “Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma,” World Politics 30, no. 2 (1978): 167–214, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2009958.

[26] It is therefore no surprise that the U.S. initiated both Iraq wars and the Afghanistan war with a barrage of cruise missiles. See “Where Are the Shooters? A History of the Tomahawk in Combat,” U.S. Navy, 2017, https://www.public.navy.mil/surfor/swmag/Pages/Where-are-the-Shooters.aspx.

[27] David Blagden and David Blagden, “Strategic Stability and the Proliferation of Conventional Precision Strike: A (Bounded) Case for Optimism?,” Nonproliferation Review, 2020, 1–14, https://doi.org/10.1080/10736700.2020.1799569.

[28] Alan Cummings, “Hypersonic Weapons: Tactical Uses and Strategic Goals,” War on The Rocks, 2019, https://warontherocks.com/2019/11/hypersonic-weapons-tactical-uses-and-strategic-goals/. See also Heinrich Brau and Joachim Krause, “Was Will Russland Mit Den Vielen Mittelstreckenwaffen? [What Does Russia Want with Its Many Medium-Range Weapons?],” SIRIUS 3, no. 2 (2019): 156–158, https://doi.org/10.1515/sirius-2019-2005.

[29] Matthew Kroenig, The Logic Of American Nuclear Strategy: Why Strategic Supremacy Matters (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), 46-47.

[30] On the feasibility and risks associated with conventional counterforce strategies, see Ian Bowers and Henrik Stålhane Hiim, “Conventional Counterforce Dilemmas: South Korea’s Deterrence Strategy and Stability on the Korean Peninsula,” International Security 45, no. 3 (2021): 7–39, https://doi.org/10.1080/10736700.2020.1809156. JASSM: Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile; KEPD 350: is a Swedish-German air-launched cruise missile, manufactured by Taurus Systems and used by Germany, Spain, and South Korea; SOM B2: Stand-Off-Missile B2.

[31] China faces similar calculations in East Asia, fearing that South Korean and Japanese cruise missiles may be used as a force multiplier to an American attack. Tong Zhao, “Conventional Long-Range Strike Weapons of US Allies and China’s Concerns of Strategic Instability,” Nonproliferation Review, 2020, 1–14.

[32] In Russia, for example, these include the Kh-55/Kh-555, the Kh-101/Kh-102, Russia’s vast arsenal of nuclear-capable ASCMs, and likely also the 3M14 Kalibr.

[33] Similar dynamics are at play in East Asia, where China deploys dual-capable ballistic missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles. See Zhao, "Conventional Long-Range Strike Weapons."

[34] “National Security Strategy of the United States” (Washington D.C., 2017), 48, https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf.

[35] On the Missile Dialogue Initiative, see “Missile Dialogue Initiative,” International Institute for Strategic Studies, n.d., https://www.iiss.org/research/defence-and-military-analysis/missile-dialogue-initiative; and “Rethinking Arms Control: The Missile Dialogue Initiative,” German Federal Foreign Office, 2019, https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/aussenpolitik/themen/abruestung/missile-dialogue-initiative/2258792.

[36] Dennis M. Gormley, Missile Contagion: Cruise Missile Proliferation and the Threat to International Security (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008), 9-12.

[37] Stéphane Delory, Emmanuelle Maitre, and Jean Masson, “Opening HCoC to Cruise Missiles: A Proposal to Overcome Political Hurdles” (Paris, 2019), https://www.nonproliferation.eu/hcoc/opening-hcoc-to-cruise-missiles-a-proposal-to-overcome-political-hurdles/.

[38] Dmitry Stefanovich, “Proliferation and Threats of Reconnaissance-Strike Systems: A Russian Perspective,” Nonproliferation Review, 2020, 9, https://doi.org/10.1080/10736700.2020.1795370.

[39] Ibid, 10.

[40] Similar statements from U.S. allies in the Asia Pacific would be helpful with regard to China’s concerns.

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