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The Big Boom: Nukes and NATO

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on July 27, 2016 at 1:32 am

by CONN HALLINANhttp://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/22/the-big-boom-nukes-and-nato/

“Today, the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War and most people are blissfully unaware of this danger.”-William J. Perry, U.S. Sec. Of Defense (1994-97)

Perry has been an inside player in the business of nuclear weapons for over 60 years and his book, “My Journey at the Nuclear Brink,” is a sober read. It is also a powerful counterpoint to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) current European strategy that envisions nuclear weapons as a deterrent to war: “Their [nuclear weapons] role is to prevent major war, not to wage wars,” argues the Alliance’s magazine, NATO Review.

But, as Perry points out, it is only by chance that the world has avoided a nuclear war—sometimes by nothing more than dumb luck—and, rather than enhancing our security, nukes “now endanger it.”

The 1962 Cuban missile crisis is generally represented as a dangerous standoff resolved by sober diplomacy. In fact, it was a single man—Russian submarine commander Vasili Arkhipov—who countermanded orders to launch a nuclear torpedo at an American destroyer that could have set off a full-scale nuclear exchange between the USSR and the U.S.

There were numerous other incidents that brought the world to the brink. On a quiet morning in November 1979, a NORAD computer reported a full-scale Russian sneak attack with land and sea-based missiles, which led to scrambling U.S. bombers and alerting U.S. missile silos to prepare to launch. There was no attack, just an errant test tape.

Lest anyone think the Nov. 9 incident was an anomaly, a little more than six months later NORAD computers announced that Soviet submarines had launched 220 missiles at the U.S.—this time the cause was a defective chip that cost 49 cents—again resulting in scrambling interceptors and putting the silos on alert.

But don’t these examples prove that accidental nuclear war is unlikely? That conclusion is a dangerous illusion, argues Perry, because the price of being mistaken is so high and because the world is a more dangerous place than it was in 1980.

It is 71 years since atomic bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and humanity’s memory of those events has dimmed. But even were the entire world to read John Hersey’s Hiroshima, it would have little idea of what we face today.

The bombs that obliterated those cities were tiny by today’s standards, and comparing “Fat Man” and “Little Boy”—the incongruous names of the weapons that leveled both cities—to modern weapons stretches any analogy beyond the breaking point. If the Hiroshima bomb represented approximately 27 freight cars filled with TNT, a one-megaton warhead would require a train 300 miles long.

Each Russian RS-20V Voevoda intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) packs 10 megatons.

What has made today’s world more dangerous, however, is not just advances in the destructive power of nuclear weapons, but a series of actions by the last three U.S. administrations.

First was the decision by President Bill Clinton to abrogate a 1990 agreement with the Soviet Union not to push NATO further east after the reunification of Germany or to recruit former members of the defunct Warsaw Pact.

NATO has also reneged on a 1997 pledge not to install “permanent” and “significant” military forces in former Warsaw Pact countries. This month NATO decided to deploy four battalions on, or near, the Russian border, arguing that since the units will be rotated they are not “permanent” and are not large enough to be “significant.” It is a linguistic slight of hand that does not amuse Moscow.

Second was the 1999 U.S.-NATO intervention in the Yugoslav civil war and the forcible dismemberment of Serbia. It is somewhat ironic that Russia is currently accused of using force to “redraw borders in Europe” by annexing the Crimea, which is exactly what NATO did to create Kosovo. The U.S. subsequently built Camp Bond Steel, Washington’s largest base in the Balkans.

Third was President George W, Bush’s unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the decision by the Obama administration to deploy anti-missile systems in Romania and Poland, as well as Japan and South Korea.

Last is the decision by the White House to spend upwards of $1 trillion upgrading its nuclear weapons arsenal, which includes building bombs with smaller yields, a move that many critics argue blurs the line between conventional and nuclear weapons.

The Yugoslav War and NATO’s move east convinced Moscow that the Alliance was surrounding Russia with potential adversaries, and the deployment of anti-missile systems (ABM)—supposedly aimed at Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons—was seen as a threat to the Russian’s nuclear missile force.

One immediate effect of ABMs was to chill the possibility of further cuts in the number of nuclear weapons. When Obama proposed another round of warhead reductions, the Russians turned it down cold, citing the anti-missile systems as the reason. “How can we take seriously this idea about cuts in strategic nuclear potential while the United States is developing its capabilities to intercept Russian missiles?” asked Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

When the U.S. helped engineer the 2014 coup against the pro-Russian government in Ukraine, it ignited the current crisis that has led to several dangerous incidents between Russian and NATO forces—at last count, according to the European Leadership Network, more than 60. Several large war games were also held on Moscow’s borders. Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev went so far as to accuse NATO of “preparations for switching from a cold war to a hot war.”

In response, the Russians have also held war games involving up to 80,000 troops.

It is unlikely that NATO intends to attack Russia, but the power differential between the U.S. and Russia is so great—a “colossal asymmetry,” Dmitri Trenin, head of the Carnegie Moscow Center, told the Financial Times—that the Russians have abandoned their “no first use” of nuclear weapons pledge.

It the lack of clear lines that make the current situation so fraught with danger. While the Russians have said they would consider using small,tactical nukes if “the very existence of the state” was threatened by an attack, NATO is being deliberately opaque about its possible tripwires. According to NATO Review, nuclear “exercises should involve not only nuclear weapons states…but other non-nuclear allies,” and “to put the burden of the doubt on potential adversaries, exercises should not point at any specific nuclear thresholds.”

In short, keep the Russians guessing. The immediate problem with such a strategy is: what if Moscow guesses wrong?

That won’t be hard to do. The U.S. is developing a long-range cruise missile—as are the Russians—that can be armed with conventional or nuclear warheads. But how will an adversary know which is which? And given the old rule in nuclear warfare—use ‘em, or lose ‘em—uncertainty is the last thing one wants to engender in a nuclear-armed foe.

Indeed, the idea of no “specific nuclear thresholds” is one of the most extraordinarily dangerous and destabilizing concepts to come along since the invention of nuclear weapons.

There is no evidence that Russia contemplates an attack on the Baltic states or countries like Poland, and, given the enormous power of the U.S., such an undertaking would court national suicide.

Moscow’s “aggression” against Georgia and Ukraine was provoked. Georgia attacked Russia, not vice versa, and the Ukraine coup torpedoed a peace deal negotiated by the European Union, the U.S., and Russia. Imagine Washington’s view of a Moscow-supported coup in Mexico, followed by an influx of Russian weapons and trainers.

In a memorandum to the recent NATO meetings in Warsaw, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity argued “There is not one scintilla of evidence of any Russian plan to annex Crimea before the coup in Kiev and coup leaders began talking about joining NATO. If senior NATO leaders continue to be unable or unwilling to distinguish between cause and effect, increasing tension is inevitable with potentially disastrous results.”

The organization of former intelligence analysts also sharply condemned the NATO war games. “We shake our heads in disbelief when we see Western leaders seemingly oblivious to what it means to the Russians to witness exercises on a scale not seen since Hitler’s army launched ‘Unternehumen Barbarossa’ 75 years ago, leaving 25 million Soviet citizens dead.”

While the NATO meetings in Warsaw agreed to continue economic sanctions aimed at Russia for another six months and to station four battalions of troops in Poland and the Baltic states— separate U.S. forces will be deployed in Bulgaria and Poland —there was an undercurrent of dissent. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for deescalating the tensions with Russia and for considering Russian President Vladimir Putin a partner not an enemy.

Greece was not alone. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeler called NATO maneuvers on the Russian border “warmongering” and “saber rattling.” French President Francois Hollande said Putin should be considered a “partner,” not a “threat,” and France tried to reduce the number of troops being deployed in the Baltic and Poland. Italy has been increasingly critical of the sanctions.

Rather than recognizing the growing discomfort of a number of NATO allies and that beefing up forces on Russia’s borders might be destabilizing, U.S. Sec. of State John Kerry recently inked defense agreements with Georgia and Ukraine.

After disappearing from the radar for several decades, nukes are back, and the decision to modernize the U.S. arsenal will almost certainly kick off a nuclear arms race with Russia and China. Russia is already replacing its current ICBM force with the more powerful and long range “Sarmat” ICBM, and China is loading its ICBM with multiple warheads.

Add to this volatile mixture military maneuvers and a deliberately opaque policy in regards to the use of nuclear weapons, and it is no wonder that Perry thinks that the chances of some catastrophe is a growing possibility.
Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com

NATO: Increasing the role of nuclear weapons

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on July 25, 2016 at 1:59 am

July 21, 2016 ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear  Weapons)

By Susi Snyder, PAX

The Heads of State and Government that participated in the NATO summit in Warsaw Poland on 8-9 July 2016 issued a series of documents and statements, including a Summit Communiqué and the Warsaw Declaration on Transatlantic Security. Whereas the majority of countries worldwide are ready to end the danger posed by nuclear weapons and to start negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons, both NATO documents reaffirmed the NATO commitment to nuclear weapons, and the Communiqué included a return to cold war style language on nuclear sharing.

Setting a bad example: NATO weakens commitment to nuclear disarmament

The summit documents weaken previously agreed language on seeking a world without nuclear weapons by tacking on additional conditions. Instead of simply saying that NATO is seeking to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons, now NATO is seeking to create the conditions “in full accordance with the NPT, including Article VI, in a step-by-step and verifiable way that promotes international stability, and is based on the principle of undiminished security for all.” Not only that, but instead of creating conditions for further reductions, now the alliance only remains “committed to contribute to creating the conditions for further reductions in the future on the basis of reciprocity” (emphasis added).

NATO member states needs to address the inherent proliferation push that results from their own refusal to end their reliance on nuclear weapons. With three nuclear armed member states, five states hosting US nuclear weapons, at least 15 states actively involved in NATO exercises practicing nuclear attacks, and a consensus document reemphasising the intention to keep the ability to threaten others with nuclear weapons as long as nuclear weapons exist – NATO continues to set a bad example.

Tightening the nuclear noose on the host states

The last several summits, since about 2010, had effectively removed language that explicitly linked the concept of ‘burden sharing’ with nuclear weapons, and had no direct reference to the forward deployed US nuclear weapons in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. This document however adds new language and says:

NATO’s nuclear deterrence posture also relies, in part, on United States’ nuclear weapons forward-deployed in Europe and on capabilities and infrastructure provided by Allies concerned. These Allies will ensure that all components of NATO’s nuclear deterrent remain safe, secure, and effective. That requires sustained leadership focus and institutional excellence for the nuclear deterrence mission and planning guidance aligned with 21st century requirements.

This puts pressure on NATO members not only to make sure that they’re meeting the agreed target of spending 2% of GDP on defence, but also to make sure that they remain actively ready to participate in decisions to use nuclear weapons. By agreeing to this language, NATO heads of state and government have acknowledged that they are not acting in good faith towards a nuclear weapons free world, but instead will invest significantly in this weapon of mass destruction. It also means that despite efforts by several host countries, there is less scope for an alliance wide decision to remove the US nuclear weapons from Europe. This is not surprising though, the removal of forward deployed nuclear weapons has happened in the past, with host countries asking forgiveness for changing the posture, instead of permission to do so beforehand. The fact that this escalatory language was agreed at the highest level by NATO members shows that there is significantly less interest in taking any disarmament or non-proliferation responsibility at this time, reaffirmed by the Communiqué itself which says “We regret that the conditions for achieving disarmament are not favourable today”.

Leaving it up to Russia to make the next nuclear move

Through the repeated emphasis throughout the documents on reciprocity, NATO almost looks as if it is handing over decision making power over its nuclear weapons future to the Russian Federation, instead of leading the way towards de-escalation. For an alliance responsible for 60% of global defense spending, this relinquishing of control is plain peculiar. The document suggests that any future reductions are dependant on reciprocal action by the Russian Federation. Even the issue of transparency, a priority issue for a number of host countries (particularly the Netherlands & Germany,) is now contingent on reciprocal action by the Russian Federation.

And then there’s Turkey

The recent coup attempt in Turkey brings additional, and clearly unanticipated, concerns to the continued nuclear sharing practices in the alliance. Turkey has a slightly different situation than the other host countries. Turkey hosts the most American bombs (about 50) of the approximately 180 in Europe, but Turkish planes are not currently certified to drop the bombs in the same way the others are. Instead, use of nuclear weapons from Incirlik (the Turkish base where they are stored) would be done by US pilots. Currently, US (and German) pilots are stationed there, as Incirlik is used to fly (non nuclear) bombing missions over Syria. The chances that the nuclear weapons on the base could be stolen or used is slim, but it is not zero.

Opportunities for disarmament in times of tensions: the humanitarian initiative

In the last three years, nearly all NATO members (the exception being France) have participated in at least one of the conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. These conferences have reaffirmed that nuclear weapons are unique, and that there is no way to adequately prepare for or mitigate the consequences of their use. While the majority of state have seen this as an impetus to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate the weapons, the small group of NATO states have instead chosen to ramp up the rhetoric on nuclear weapons instead, saying:

If the fundamental security of any of its members were to be threatened however, NATO has the capabilities and resolve to impose costs on an adversary that would be unacceptable and far outweigh the benefits that an adversary could hope to achieve.

NATO continues to say that its deterrence is based on a mix of nuclear and conventional forces, but this language boldly returns to cold war style rhetoric, and increases the ongoing escalation that is leading to a new nuclear arms race.

While the majority of the world recognizes that nuclear weapons should never be used again, under any circumstances the minority – those within NATO and Russia- are increasing the possibility of use. It is important to remember that all significant nuclear weapons treaties that are currently in force were negotiated during the Cold War. The increased perception of threat inspired creative action by those not engaged in the conflict, resulting in multilateral agreements with positive global ramifications. Multilateral negotiations on nuclear weapons have not progressed during decades of reduced great power tension leaving one to wonder if the rising threats now are the incentive needed to galvanize the international community to finally negotiate the prohibition of nuclear weapons.

Without clear milestones, timelines, and consequences there is no incentive for progress on nuclear disarmament or penalty for failure to disarm. This shows how the step-by-step approach advocated by NATO members has effectively become a delaying tactic. A nuclear ban treaty would eliminate the distinction between recognised nuclear weapon states and nuclear armed states, and put the focus on the illegality of the weapons, regardless of who possesses them. This would facilitate the delegitimizing of the weapon, and provide the legal underpinning to complete all of the ‘steps’ necessary to achieve and maintain a nuclear weapons free world.

In the past we’ve seen that rising tensions can force countries to reconsider the role of nuclear weapons. Most of the major disarmament and nonproliferation treaties were negotiated in times of heightened tensions: The Partial Test Ban Treaty (1963), the NPT (1970), the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (1987) and bilateral treaties such as the SALT and first START agreement. It is in those moments that governments seem to most aware of the insane dangers posed by the continued possession and threat of use of nuclear weapons by some states. The idea of the NPT, the cornerstone of multilateral nuclear weapons disarmament was introduced by Ireland, a small non-aligned country that changed the world for the better. NATO has never been a leader when it comes to international law or international humanitarian law, but it always manages to adapt to whatever the rest of the world decides. Although these nuclear weapons addicted NATO states are not likely to join negotiations on a new treaty in a positive and cooperative manner, as the global context is changed through new multilateral negotiations to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, all NATO heads of state (and the democratic countries they represent) will take notice and find ways to embrace the change, as they always do.

We May Be at a Greater Risk of Nuclear War than During the Cold War

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on July 25, 2016 at 1:45 am

Astounding increases in the danger of nuclear weapons have paralleled provocative foreign policy decisions that needlessly incite tensions between Washington and Moscow

by Conn Hallinan, July 23, 2016, Foreign Policy in Focus

“Today, the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War,” warns William Perry, “and most people are blissfully unaware of this danger.”

A former U.S. defense secretary from 1994 to 1997, Perry has been an inside player in the business of nuclear weapons for over 60 years. And his book, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, is a sober read. It’s also a powerful counterpoint to NATO’s current European strategy, which envisions nuclear weapons as a deterrent to war: The purpose of nukes “is to prevent major war, not to wage wars,” argues the Alliance’s magazine, NATO Review.

But as Perry points out, it’s only by chance that the world has avoided a nuclear war – sometimes by nothing more than dumb luck – and, rather than enhancing our security, nukes “now endanger it.”

The 1962 Cuban missile crisis is generally represented as a dangerous standoff resolved by sober diplomacy. In fact, it was a single man – Russian submarine commander Vasili Arkhipov – who countermanded orders to launch a nuclear torpedo at an American destroyer that could have set off a full-scale nuclear exchange between the Soviet Union and the United States.

There were numerous other incidents that brought the world to the brink. On a quiet morning in November 1979, a NORAD computer reported a full-scale Russian sneak attack with land and sea-based missiles, which led to scrambling US bombers and alerting US missile silos to prepare to launch. But it turned out there was no Soviet attack – just an errant test tape.

Lest anyone think the incident was an anomaly, a little more than six months later NORAD computers erroneously announced that Soviet submarines had launched 220 missiles at the United States. This time the cause was a defective chip that cost 49 cents – again resulting in scrambling interceptors and putting the silos on alert.

But don’t these examples prove that accidental nuclear war is unlikely? That conclusion is a dangerous illusion, argues Perry, because the price of being mistaken is so high – and because the world is a more dangerous place than it was in 1980.

A Worsening Climate

It’s been 71 years since atomic bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and humanity’s memory of those events has dimmed. But even were the entire world to read John Hersey’s Hiroshima, it would have little idea of what we face today.

The bombs that obliterated those cities were tiny by today’s standards, and comparing “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” – the incongruous names of the weapons that leveled both cities – to modern weapons stretches any analogy beyond the breaking point. If the Hiroshima bomb represented approximately 27 freight cars filled with TNT, a one-megaton warhead would require a train 300 miles long.

Each Russian RS-20V Voevoda intercontinental ballistic missile packs 10 megatons.

What’s made today’s world more dangerous, however, aren’t just advances in the destructive power of nuclear weapons, but a series of actions by the last three US administrations.

First was the decision by President Bill Clinton to abrogate a 1990 agreement with the Soviet Union not to push NATO further east after the reunification of Germany or to recruit former members of the defunct Warsaw Pact.

NATO has also reneged on a 1997 pledge not to install “permanent” and “significant” military forces in former Warsaw Pact countries. This month NATO decided to deploy four battalions on or near the Russian border, arguing that since the units will be rotated, they’re not “permanent” or large enough to be “significant.” It’s a linguistic slight of hand that doesn’t amuse Moscow.

Second was the 1999 U.S.-NATO intervention in the Yugoslav civil war and the forcible dismemberment of Serbia. It’s somewhat ironic that Russia has been accused of using force to “redraw borders in Europe” by annexing Crimea, which is exactly what NATO did to create Kosovo. The US subsequently built Camp Bond Steel, Washington’s largest base in the Balkans.

Third was President George W. Bush’s unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the decision by the Obama administration to deploy antimissile systems in Romania and Poland, as well as Japan and South Korea.

Last is the decision by the current White House to spend upwards of $1 trillion upgrading its nuclear weapons arsenal, which includes building bombs with smaller yields, a move that many critics argue blurs the line between conventional and nuclear weapons.

Strategic Uncertainty

The Yugoslav War and NATO’s move east convinced Moscow that the U.S.-led alliance was surrounding Russia with potential adversaries, and the deployment of antimissile systems, or ABMs – supposedly aimed at Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons – was seen as a threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

One immediate effect of ABMs was to chill the possibility of further cuts in the number of nuclear weapons. When Obama proposed another round of warhead reductions, the Russians turned it down cold, citing the antimissile systems as the reason. “How can we take seriously this idea about cuts in strategic nuclear potential while the United States is developing its capabilities to intercept Russian missiles?” asked Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

When the US endorsed the 2014 coup against the pro-Russian government in Ukraine, it ignited the current crisis that has led to several dangerous incidents between Russian and NATO forces – at last count, according to the European Leadership Network, more than 60. Several large war games were also held on Moscow’s borders. Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev went so far as to accuse NATO of making “preparations for switching from a cold war to a hot war.”

In response, the Russians have also held war games involving up to 80,000 troops.

It is unlikely that NATO intends to attack Russia, but the power differential between the US and Russia is so great – a “colossal asymmetry,” Dmitri Trenin, head of the Carnegie Moscow Center, told the Financial Times – that the Russians have abandoned their “no first use” of nuclear weapons pledge.

It’s the lack of clear lines that makes the current situation so fraught with danger. While the Russians have said they would consider using small tactical nukes if “the very existence of the state” was threatened by an attack, NATO is being deliberately opaque about its possible tripwires. According to NATO Review, nuclear “exercises should involve not only nuclear weapons states… but other non-nuclear allies,” and “to put the burden of the doubt on potential adversaries, exercises should not point at any specific nuclear thresholds.”

In short, keep the Russians guessing. The immediate problem with such a strategy is: What if Moscow guesses wrong?

That won’t be hard to do. The US is developing a long-range cruise missile – as are the Russians – that can be armed with conventional or nuclear warheads. But how will an adversary know which is which? And given the old rule in nuclear warfare – use ‘em or lose ‘em – uncertainty is the last thing one wants to engender in a nuclear-armed foe.

Indeed, the idea of no “specific nuclear thresholds” is one of the most extraordinarily dangerous and destabilizing concepts to come along since the invention of nuclear weapons.

Cold Wars of Choice

There is currently no evidence that Russia contemplates an attack on the Baltic states or countries like Poland. Given the enormous power of the United States, which offers a security guarantee to NATO members, such an undertaking would court national suicide.

Nor do Russia’s recent border conflicts suggest otherwise. Moscow’s “aggression” against Georgia and Ukraine was provoked. Georgia attacked Russia, not vice versa, and the Ukraine coup torpedoed a peace deal negotiated by the European Union, the United States, and Russia. Imagine Washington’s view of a Moscow-supported coup in Mexico, followed by an influx of Russian weapons and trainers.

In a memorandum to the recent NATO meetings in Warsaw, the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity argued as much. “There is not one scintilla of evidence of any Russian plan to annex Crimea before the coup in Kiev and coup leaders began talking about joining NATO,” the members insisted. “If senior NATO leaders continue to be unable or unwilling to distinguish between cause and effect, increasing tension is inevitable with potentially disastrous results.”

The organization of former intelligence analysts also sharply condemned the NATO war games that followed. “We shake our heads in disbelief when we see Western leaders seemingly oblivious to what it means to the Russians to witness exercises on a scale not seen since Hitler’s army launched ‘Unternehmen Barbarossa’ 75 years ago, leaving 25 million Soviet citizens dead.”

While the NATO meetings in Warsaw agreed to continue economic sanctions aimed at Russia for another six months and to station four battalions of troops in Poland and the Baltic states – along with separate US forces in Bulgaria and Poland – there was an undercurrent of dissent. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for de-escalating the tensions with Russia and for considering Russian President Vladimir Putin a partner rather than an enemy.

Greece was not alone. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called NATO maneuvers on the Russian border “warmongering” and “saber rattling.” French President Francois Hollande said Putin should be considered a “partner,” not a “threat,” and France tried to reduce the number of troops being deployed in the Baltic and Poland. Italy has been increasingly critical of the sanctions as well.

Rather than recognizing the growing discomfort of a number of NATO allies and that beefing up forces on Russia’s borders might be destabilizing, US Secretary of State John Kerry recently inked defense agreements with Georgia and Ukraine.

After disappearing from the radar for several decades, nukes are back, and the decision to modernize the US arsenal will almost certainly kick off a nuclear arms race with Russia and China. Russia is already replacing its current ICBM force with the more powerful and long range “Sarmat” ICBM, and China is loading its own missiles with multiple warheads.

Add to this volatile mixture military maneuvers and a deliberately opaque policy in regards to the use of nuclear weapons, and it’s no wonder that Perry thinks that the chances of some catastrophe is a growing possibility.

Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Conn Hallinan can be read at http://www.dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and http://www.middleempireseries.wordpress.com.

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