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GOP SENATOR SAYS TRUMP IS READY TO START WAR WITH NORTH KOREA, WHICH WOULD BE “ONE OF THE WORST CATASTROPHIC EVENTS IN HISTORY”

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics on February 24, 2018 at 8:00 am

Jon Schwarz The Intercept, February 21 2018

IT DIDN’T GET much notice, but Sen. Jim Risch made extremely alarming remarks on Sunday at the Munich Security Conference, in which he said President Donald Trump is prepared to start a “very, very brief” war with North Korea that would be “one of the worst catastrophic events in the history of our civilization.” Trump would go to these extraordinary lengths, the Idaho Republican said, in order to prevent the government of Kim Jong-un from developing the capacity to deliver a nuclear warhead to the U.S. via an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Kim claimed in his 2018 New Year’s address that North Korea can already strike all of the U.S. with nuclear weapons. While U.S. intelligence does not believe this is currently true, CIA Director Mike Pompeo stated recently that North Korea may be able to hit at least some of the U.S. mainland in a “handful of months.”

Risch will likely become chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, if the GOP maintains control of the Senate and the current chair, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., retires. Risch said he and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. — who was sitting next to him on stage at the conference in Germany — had “drilled down with the administration” on its North Korea policy. Risch emphasized that the Trump administration was not bluffing.

If Risch is correct, Trump is willing to cause “mass casualties the likes of which the planet has never seen” in a conflict with North Korea, rather than rely on principles of deterrence that have prevented nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia and the U.S. and China for many decades.

Risch’s claims are congruent with Trump’s own statements, including that North Korea will face “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it threatens the United States. Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster recently said, “We’re not committed to a peaceful [resolution], we’re committed to a resolution. … We have to be prepared if necessary to compel the denuclearization of North Korea without the cooperation of that regime.” Last August, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., spoke of how “there is a military option to destroy North Korea’s program and North Korea itself.”

None of Risch’s remarks addressed the fact that the U.S. Constitution gives Congress, rather than the president, the power to declare war.

These are Risch’s most disturbing words:

There is no more dangerous place on the earth than the Korean peninsula right now. …

The president of the United States has said, and he is committed to, seeing that Kim Jong-un is not able to marry together a delivery system with a nuclear weapon that he can deliver to the United States. …

The consequences of that are breathtaking when you think about how this could happen. …

If this thing starts, it’s going to be probably one of the one of the worst catastrophic events in the history of our civilization. It is going to be very, very brief. The end of it is going to see mass casualties the likes of which the planet has never seen. It will be of biblical proportions. …

The president can do this quickly, and as I said, it is at his fingertips.

Turning to North Korea, the answer I’m going to give is really quite easy to give, although the message is pretty dire. And that is that this is a really dangerous situation that we’re facing right now on the Korea peninsula. I would argue that there is no, from a mass casualty standpoint, that there is no more dangerous place on the earth than the Korean peninsula right now.

This is all in the hands and the minds of a single person. And that of course is Kim Jong-un. What he does, what he decides to do, is going to be decisive of how this matter resolves. And it is not going to resolve well if he continues on the course that he is continuing on.

The president of the United States has said, and he is committed to, seeing that Kim Jong-un is not able to marry together a delivery system with a nuclear weapon that he can deliver to the United States. He has said that very clearly. That is, our president has said that very clearly. And anyone who doubts the president’s commitment to see that that doesn’t happen does so really at their own peril.

The consequences of that are breathtaking when you think about how this could happen. There is no “bloody nose” policy. Senator Shaheen and I drilled down with the administration on that, and nobody knows where that came from. It appeared in the national media, the administration says they’ve never used the term, they’ve never considered the strategy, there is no such thing.

And if you think about it, it absolutely makes sense. If this thing starts, it’s going to be probably one of the one of the worst catastrophic events in the history of our civilization. It is going to be very, very brief. The end of it is going to see mass casualties the likes of which the planet has never seen. It will be of biblical proportions.

Anyone who doubts that this president isn’t committed to that, I would suggest that they step back, take a breath, listen to what he has said, review the facts on the ground. This president has at his fingertips the ability to dispense what he has said he’s going to dispense, if the North Korean regime, if Kim Jong-un, that he is, uh, the president can do this quickly, and as I said, it is at his fingertips.

I respect any opinion that any of you may have regarding what’s happened, what should happen, where it’s going to go, but please, please, don’t ignore the facts that are there.

Risch’s most significant words on North Korea were first reported by Tom Wright of the Brookings Institution.

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She Wrote a Novel About Nuclear Terror—Could It Come True?

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on February 21, 2018 at 1:59 am

A story about the people who built the atomic bomb seemed like historical fiction, but the escalating rhetoric between Trump and North Korea drags the issue into the present.

JANET BEARD, Daily Beast, 02.17.18
I never wanted my new novel to be timely. When I began researching the book that would become The Atomic City Girls, I wanted to write about the making of the first atomic bomb—specifically, the thousands of everyday people who came to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to work in top-secret facilities built to enrich uranium.

Most of the workers had no idea of the purpose of their jobs until the bomb they had helped to create was dropped on Hiroshima, forcing them to grapple with the moral questions raised by this world-changing event. I thought I was writing about a subject that was safely historical.

But at the end of January, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its famous Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight—their direst assessment of the proximity of global catastrophe since 1953. Suddenly, we are all being forced to think about the questions haunting my fictional characters in a more real and terrifying way than we have in a long time.

The Bulletin was founded by Manhattan Project scientists troubled by the ethical implication of the weapon they had helped to create. Most had dedicated themselves to the project because they feared the Allies were in a race with Nazi Germany to produce a nuclear weapon. But by the time they successfully tested the first atomic bomb, Germany had surrendered, and many of the physicists had already begun to regret their creation. At the dawn of the atomic age in 1947, they created the Doomsday Clock as a warning, and it has been continually updated through the years to reflect the current threats to humanity’s future. At first, it was solely a measure of nuclear peril, but the Bulletin has since expanded its mission to include general political instability and climate change.

Over the past few months as North Korea has continued to test more fearful weapons and the rhetoric exchanged between Trump and Kim Jong-un has grown increasingly heated, Cold War anxiety has crept back into politics. In a November hearing, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expressed alarm with the process in place that gives the president final authority in the decision to use nuclear weapons.

“President Trump has consistently demonstrated a frightening ignorance about nuclear warfare.”
The current system developed out of a series of legislative actions in the early years of the Cold War, motivated by both the fear of a Soviet attack that would require a swift response and the constitutional idea that nuclear weapons, like all aspects of the U.S. military, should ultimately be under civilian control. It gives one individual civilian, the president, tremendous power.

In a recent Washington Post poll, 60 percent of Americans reported that they do not trust President Trump with this authority, and around 50 percent expressed concern that he would launch an unjustified nuclear strike. But it is extremely unlikely that our current Congress will create any checks on the president’s power, despite the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s concerns.
President Trump has consistently demonstrated a frightening ignorance about nuclear warfare, as in his reported July 2017 request to national security advisors to build tens of thousands of new nuclear weapons, an impossible number and a strategically inept idea. Luckily, it seems that he was dissuaded. However, Trump continues to make public statements that only increase the world’s anxiety, most recently with his infamous January tweet about the size of his nuclear button. And recently Victor Cha was dropped as the White House nominee for ambassador to South Korea, because according to Cha, he expressed concern with the idea of a pre-emptive strike against North Korea. The implication that the administration is seriously considering military action against a nuclear power is terrifying.

I’m sorry that nuclear weapons have been so much on our collective minds lately. But the truth is, even if the tensions between the U.S. and North Korea cool down, we will never get them off our minds entirely. They are a fact that the world has been living with now for over 70 years, which means not that many people can even remember what life was like before nuclear anxiety.

The Doomsday Clock is never going to turn all the way back, and we have to continue the ongoing task of figuring out the best way to live in a nuclear reality, even one that includes North Korea. The United States has a special responsibility as not only a leading nuclear power but the originator of the weapons and of course, the only nation to have used them. For our leaders, that means employing diplomacy and discretion to keep us as far as possible from a nuclear conflict. For the rest of us, it means letting those leaders know that we are holding them responsible for the world’s safety and will not accept irresponsible brinksmanship regarding our nuclear arsenal. One thing that hasn’t changed in the 73 years since the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is the absolute necessity of ensuring that nuclear weapons are never used again.

Ed Markey’s career-long fight against nuclear weapons

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Peace, Politics, War on February 21, 2018 at 1:38 am

By Joshua Miller, BOSTON GLOBE, FEBRUARY 17, 2018
Radioactive isotopes were making their way into the country’s milk supply, and Edward J. Markey, the son of a milkman, was sounding the alarm.

He delivered his appeal to the biggest audience he could find: students, parents, and staff gathered for the Malden Catholic High School science fair.

The year was 1962. Markey was 15.

Twenty years later, he was a congressman calling for a freeze of nuclear weapons before almost a million protesters in Central Park. “This is just the beginning,” he pledged.

Now, more than three decades after that, Markey is still warning of our shared nuclear peril — only this time from his perch in the US Senate.

No elected official on the national scene has been banging the drum about the nuclear menace as loudly and for as long as the 71-year-old Malden Democrat.

And with President Trump’s nuclear saber rattling and fervent embrace of a new arms race, Markey’s decades-long efforts have again gained relevance.

“I work on this issue because I think it is the most important issue that faces the planet,” he said in an interview in his Boston office. “We are slipping very quickly into an era where nuclear weapons are becoming more contemplatable, more likely to be used.”

Trump has embraced a muscular nuclear posture, saying in 2016 after the election, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

One month later, Markey introduced a bill that would prohibit the president from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. At a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing that included discussion of the bill, he warned that “Donald Trump can launch nuclear codes just as easily as he can use his Twitter account.”

In January, the president called for plowing money into nuclear weapon modernization to make the arsenal “so strong and powerful” it would deter any acts of aggression.

Markey expressed dismay at the push, saying it would increase the risk of nuclear war.

And the Trump administration’s nuclear posture review released this month contemplates using nuclear weapons in response to “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks.”

Markey responded by saying, in part: “The Cold War is over.”

‘I work on this issue because I think it is the most important issue that faces the planet.’
Through his 41-year career in Washington as a congressman and a senator, Markey has seen the nation’s fear of thermonuclear annihilation, and attention to efforts to limit the menace, ebb and flow.

All the while, he’s made the case that the proliferation of nuclear power is directly tied to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

In the 1970s, Markey toured the Pilgrim nuclear power station in Plymouth and the still-being-built reactor in Seabrook, N.H., with concern. In 1979, he fought a public but unsuccessful battle for a half-year ban on the construction of new nuclear reactors.

During the Reagan era, when the president was leading the largest peacetime military buildup in history, Markey stayed in the limelight. In his Central Park appearance, he pushed for the United States and Soviet Union to freeze the buildup of nuclear weapons. His photo graced the front page of New York Times the day after the House of Representatives passed a temporary test ban of most atomic weapons, premised on the Soviets doing the same. He published a book on his broader anti-proliferation efforts entitled “Nuclear Peril.”

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, he pressed for greater oversight of power plants — including those in Massachusetts and New Hampshire — by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He expressed worry about the development of “mini nukes” in the years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

And, even as he’s passed laws on everything from telecommunications to the environment to the opioid crisis, fighting nuclear catastrophe has remained his lodestar.

“Markey is one of the real congressional stalwarts on this,“ said David S. Meyer, a University of California, Irvine professor, who had lunch with the then-congressman about the effort to freeze the development of nuclear weapons in 1982, and has been following his career ever since. “I can’t think of somebody who has been doing it longer and more consistently than he has.”

In the Globe interview, Markey underscored his long-held belief that no country can win a nuclear war, because such a fight will have no victor.

He pointed to an errant inbound ballistic missile alert blasted to people’s phones in Hawaii last month as evidence. After the message went out, there was much panic, but the vast majority of people did not have anywhere to go.

“There is no place to run in the event of a nuclear war,” he said. “That’s my message. You cannot fight. You cannot survive a ‘winnable’ nuclear war. That is insanity. That’s part of the old nuclear war-fighting paradigm that we worked very hard to end when military strategists used to talk about the tens of millions of deaths that we could survive, as long as we inflicted far greater damage upon the Soviet Union.”

Markey paused for a moment, his arms crossed across his chest.

“That’s why I work on these issues, because there are people out there who still think in those terms. And, unless we’re very careful right now, we’re getting closer to that day —”

He left the thought unfinished.

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com.

Donald Trump Is Playing a Dangerous Game of Nuclear Poker

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics on February 19, 2018 at 8:18 am

By W.J. HENNIGAN, TIME Magazine, February 12, 2018
At a vast tract of uninhabited desert in southern Nevada, hundreds of moonlike craters dimple the wasteland, remnants of Cold War nuclear explosions that melted the bedrock and fused the sand to ensure that America could take part in the unthinkable: global thermonuclear war. The crowds of scientists and generals are long gone–the U.S. hasn’t tested a nuke since 1992, when then President George H.W. Bush declared a self-imposed testing moratorium. But the Nevada National Security test site is not completely abandoned. A skeleton crew of custodians oversees the long dormant facility, less than 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, standing by to turn the lights back on if the day ever comes.

It may come sooner than many thought.

Since 1993, the Department of Energy has had to be ready to conduct a nuclear test within two to three years if ordered by the President. Late last year, the Trump Administration ordered the department to be ready, for the first time, to conduct a short-notice nuclear test in as little as six months.

That is not enough time to install the warhead in shafts as deep as 4,000 ft. and affix all the proper technical instrumentation and diagnostics equipment. But the purpose of such a detonation, which the Administration labels “a simple test, with waivers and simplified processes,” would not be to ensure that the nation’s most powerful weapons were in operational order, or to check whether a new type of warhead worked, a TIME review of nuclear-policy documents has found. Rather, a National Nuclear Security Administration official tells TIME, such a test would be “conducted for political purposes.”

The point, this and other sources say, would be to show Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Iran’s Ayatullah Ali Khamenei and other adversaries what they are up against.

President Trump has not ordered such a test, but even the consideration of a show of force–by the nation that announced the atomic age by dropping nuclear weapons on Japanese cities in August 1945–marks a provocative shift from the sober, almost mournful restraint that has characterized the U.S. posture toward the weapons for decades. To prevent nuclear war and the spread of weapons to non-nuclear states, the strategy of Republican and Democratic Commanders in Chief alike has been to reduce nuclear arsenals and forge new arms-control agreements.

The Trump Administration, by contrast, is convinced that the best way to limit the spreading nuclear danger is to expand and advertise its ability to annihilate its enemies. In addition to putting the Nevada testing ground on notice, he has signed off on a $1.2 trillion plan to overhaul the entire nuclear-weapons complex. Trump has authorized a new nuclear warhead, the first in 34 years. He is funding research and development on a mobile medium-range missile. The new weapon, if tested or deployed, would be prohibited by a 30-year-old Cold War nuclear-forces agreement with Russia (which has already violated the agreement). And for the first time, the U.S. is expanding the scenarios under which the President would consider going nuclear to “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks,” including major cyberattacks.

“We must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression,” Trump said on Jan. 30 during his State of the Union address. “Perhaps someday in the future there will be a magical moment when the countries of the world will get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, we are not there yet.”

The rapid strategic changes have been matched by Trump’s norm-breaking rhetoric. Previously, every U.S. Administration since Dwight D. Eisenhower’s had avoided referring to the prospect of launching nuclear war and explicitly maintained, advanced or defended treaties designed to limit the spread of nuclear arms. Trump has openly threatened to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” and has been hostile toward international agreements. He reportedly called for more, not fewer, nuclear weapons in a July 20 Pentagon briefing, where military advisers were upbraided for presenting global reductions in nuclear stockpiles as progress.

Trump has criticized New START, which reduces and limits nuclear arms in the U.S. and Russia, as a bad deal. He has repeatedly questioned the multilateral deal under which Iran suspended its nuclear program, and promised to decertify it in May if changes aren’t made. He has publicly undermined Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s diplomatic talks aimed at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, instead warning North Korea about his “much bigger & more powerful” nuclear button. “The long-standing strategic policy of the United States has been to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons,” says Andrew Weber, who spent 30 years on nuclear-weapons issues in the State and Defense departments before retiring in 2015. “That idea seems to have been balled up and thrown out the window.”

The Trump team says it is responding to bad policy by past Administrations that left the U.S. vulnerable as other countries broke their word, and non-nuclear countries decided to pursue the weapons. “The President hates bad deals,” one senior Administration official tells TIME. “There’s a view of arms control as an intrinsic good, per se. Any agreement is a good agreement. That’s not where we are.” Aggressively responding to violations of treaties, launching new nuclear-weapons programs and reminding the world about the power of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, officials say, is the best way to deter others from expanding, or seeking, arsenals.

Foreign nations have issued dire warnings in response. China’s Ministry of National Defense in January urged the Trump government to abandon a “Cold War” mind-set, and view matters more “rationally and objectively.” Russian President Vladimir Putin in December accused the U.S. of violating a landmark Cold War–era nuclear arms deal and carrying out an aggressive military policy that “seriously affects security in Europe and in the whole world.” Both China and Russia are upgrading their nuclear weapons. Other nuclear powers, such as North Korea, Pakistan, India and Israel, continue to build new systems.

Rather than dissuading such efforts, arms-control experts from both political parties say, Trump’s moves will accelerate them. A new nuclear-arms race would not be limited to two superpowers seeking strategic balance in a Cold War but would include many nations, including foes in regions where hot wars are a regular occurrence.

“The new arms race has already begun,” says former Defense Secretary William Perry. “It’s different in nature than the one during the Cold War, which focused on quantity and two superpowers producing absurd numbers of weapons. Today it is focused on quality and involves several nations instead of just two. The risk for nuclear conflict today is higher than it was during the Cold War.”

The Trump administration is planning to take a step toward developing a new generation of nuclear weapons this month in its Nuclear Posture Review, a strategy document for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has not designed any new nuclear weapons as it and Russia have worked to scale back their strategic arsenals. A draft proposal of the 64-page document, published in January by the Huffington Post, included two new sea-launched weapons, one outfitted with a small atomic warhead for battlefield use.

The new warhead, known as a tactical nuclear weapon, would be delivered by a submarine-launched missile against an advancing army. It differs from a strategic weapon, which is designed to destroy cities and hardened military targets. America needs battlefield nukes, the Trump team says, to match and deter adversaries’ tactical arsenals. In an escalating fight with Russia or China, the U.S. military could engage in a “limited nuclear war” rather than leveling whole cities with strategic weapons. Air Force General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tells TIME the President needs options. Trump and his successors should not face a choice between killing millions of civilians or backing down, he says. “It makes people uncomfortable to hear about nuclear war–fighting and presenting options to the President, whomever that person might be,” Selva says. “Strategic stability in the world between our nuclear competitors and our nuclear peers has been assumed. It is not a birthright.”

Trump’s new plan also expands the President’s “first use” of nuclear weapons to circumstances that include “non-nuclear strategic attacks” against the U.S. or its allies. That could mean cyberattacks on nuclear command and control systems or civilian infrastructure, like the electricity grid or air-traffic-control system, arms-control experts have concluded. Previous Administrations limited the threat of a nuclear response to mass-casualty events, like chemical- and biological-weapon attacks. Stephen Schwartz, a nuclear weapons policy expert, said the key concern is the expansion of the nuclear umbrella to “include these new and not extreme possibilities, thus dramatically lowering the threshold for nuclear use.”

The Trump plan also takes a new, skeptical approach to nuclear arms-control agreements. In the 2018 Pentagon budget, Trump included funding for the development of a new missile. If tested or deployed, the missile would violate a 30-year-old arms-control pact with Russia, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Unlike his predecessors, Trump is directly confronting Russia’s prior violation of the treaty, says David Trachtenberg, Defense Undersecretary for Policy, who helped oversee the new plan. “The world is not as benign as some hoped it would be,” he says.

Trump’s nuclear moves, rolled out in policy papers and secret briefings over the past year, have garnered responses abroad ranging from quiet concern to outrage.

On Nov. 8, nearly five weeks before Trump approved research on the new missile, Secretary of Defense James Mattis assembled the defense ministers of the member-countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the 29-nation alliance that contained and defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Convened inside a secure conference room under NATO’s highest security classification, known ominously as “Cosmic Top Secret,” the Mattis briefing laid out the American intelligence case indicating Russia’s violation of the INF treaty.

U.S. intelligence agencies had captured overhead imagery and additional information that Moscow had for years been testing a treaty-violating cruise missile at the Kapustin Yar rocket-launch test site in western Russia, Pentagon sources tell TIME. Now the missile had been deployed with two different Russian military units, putting European capitals at risk. The weapon was derisively nicknamed the SSC-8 “Screwdriver” by NATO analysts because “Russia used it to screw us,” say former U.S. officials.

The Russian cruise missile that violated the treaty could be launched without giving allies much advance time to determine what was coming their way. Leaders would have to quickly discern the blip on their radar screens and decide whether to respond in kind. The INF agreement, signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1987, was the only nuclear arms-control agreement to eliminate a class of nuclear weapons. It forced the superpowers to scrap more than 2,600 missiles with ranges of about 310 to 3,420 miles–weapons considered destabilizing to Europe because they could deliver a nuclear strike in less than 10 minutes.

But if Europeans were concerned about Russia’s violation of the accord, they feared that the Trump Administration’s response would distract from it, said Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association. The last thing Europeans want is Moscow and Washington launching a new arms race in Europe. “There is no indication that NATO supports a new [missile], and attempting to force it upon the alliance would be incredibly divisive,” Reif says. “It is thus a weapon to nowhere.” Three days after Trump signed the defense bill, NATO issued a statement touting the INF treaty as “crucial to Euro-Atlantic security” and reiterated that “full compliance” was essential. NATO also called on Russia “to address these concerns in a substantial and transparent way.”

Arguments over U.S.-Russia nuclear deployments are not new. Strategists have long disagreed about whether to counter Moscow’s nuclear threat with escalation or restraint. It’s a high-stakes game of nuclear poker. The Trump Administration, in its aggressive approach, is betting on coercion. “We have to have this strong stance in order to get Russia to return to the negotiating table,” says Laura Cooper, a top Pentagon Russia expert. “But we are not throwing out the treaties that have served us so well in the past decades.”

If they can’t fix INF, officials tell TIME, the Trump Administration is not willing to engage on future arms agreements with Russia. That’s a particular problem, because New START, a linchpin arms-control agreement, will expire in three years. The 2010 deal limits each side to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads. If it sunsets, it will be the first time the effort to limit the strategic stockpiles in the U.S. and Russia has lapsed since 1991.

Former U.S. Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, whose bipartisan partnership was crucial to gaining ratification of nuclear-weapons treaties in the chaotic years following the Cold War, fear an end to arms control altogether. “We have severe erosion,” Nunn says. “We are going into a period of much greater risk in the nuclear arena.” Says Lugar: “The trend has been moving away from these sorts of international agreements, which is deeply troubling–and frankly dangerous.”

At the same time, the U.S. and Russia are accelerating their spending on nuclear forces. The current U.S. plan would require spending $1.2 trillion to modernize the aging U.S. “nuclear triad” of bombers, submarines and land-based missiles over the next three decades. The U.S. is reinvesting in the labs and factories that produce warheads. While the U.S. nuclear stockpile has been slashed over the past 30 years, the U.S. military has said the remaining arsenal is unmatched.

Russia is in the midst of overhauling its nuclear forces, including new ICBMs, ballistic-missile submarines and modernized heavy bombers. It’s developing a massive RS-28 Sarmat ICBM that boasts countermeasures designed to elude U.S. antimissile systems. It’s also practicing nuclear snap drills that involve missile launches from the air, land and sea.

The rest of the world is not blind to the accelerating U.S.-Russia competition. While the two nations account for nearly 93% of the world’s nuclear arsenal, there are now nine countries with stockpiles. Not only do they have no plans for disarmament, but they aren’t seeking reductions. The number of nuclear weapons in the world has declined since the Cold War, from a peak of about 70,300 in 1986 to 14,550, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). But the pace of reductions has drastically slowed.

Around the globe, the perceived value of acquiring nuclear weapons has gone up, while the repercussions of violating treaties has declined, says Hans Kristensen, director of the nuclear-information project at FAS. “We’re certainly in a dynamic strategic competition where all sides are arming themselves,” he says. “If the dynamic is not stopped and reversed, it will almost inevitably escalate into an arms race. That is in the nature of the beast.”

If Trump undoes the nuclear deal with Iran, analysts fear that Tehran will sprint for a weapon. Its regional rival Saudi Arabia could then develop its own atomic weapon, or import one from close ally Pakistan, which has its own fast-growing nuclear arsenal to counter arch-rival India’s. (Pakistan is building up its stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons.) China now has a nuclear-powered submarine, known as the Jin-class, that gives its military the ability to launch ICBMs from the sea.

Few threats loom larger, or more immediate, for the U.S. than North Korea. Pyongyang has launched a record 23 missiles during 16 tests since Trump took office. It has tested at least six nuclear warheads, and U.S. intelligence believes it has made progress on miniaturizing a nuclear warhead to mount on a missile. The isolated nation’s most recent launch, on Nov. 29, climbed 2,800 miles into outer space, more than 10 times higher than the International Space Station. If that flight path were flattened out, it could have hit New York City, Washington or nearly any other city in America.

Hawaii’s false ballistic missile alert on Jan. 13 was the most visceral reminder yet of what’s at stake. Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill, read the emergency-system alert pushed to people’s smartphones statewide. It took 38 minutes to issue an all clear for the mistake; a worker had mistaken a drill for the real thing.

Disarmament experts warn that this is just one of the risks in a new era of brinkmanship. “Trump has not said what the last 10 Presidents have said, which is we will lead on arms-control agreements and nonproliferation issues,” says Thomas M. Countryman, a 35-year career diplomat who retired last year after leading the State Department’s nonproliferation efforts. “I think that is an indication that the importance of appearing masculine is more important than actually reducing the threat of nuclear warfare.”

Philip Coyle, a former test director at the Nevada Test Site, also warned about the chance of miscalculation. “This is a time where we need more thought about where we’ve been and where we’re headed,” he said. “There is little room for error.”

Americans of a certain age will remember the Doomsday Clock maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. It expresses the risk of nuclear annihilation as time remaining until midnight. On Jan. 26, citing Trump’s moves, it pushed the second hand 30 seconds forward, the closest Doomsday has loomed since 1953, when the U.S. and Russia first tested hydrogen bombs within months of each other.

 

The Ghost of Fascism in the Age of Trump

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Peace, Politics, Race, War on February 19, 2018 at 1:44 am

By Henry A. Giroux

http://www.truth-out.org/author/itemlist/user/44709

In the age of Trump, history neither informs the present nor haunts it with repressed memories of the past. It simply disappears. Memory has been hijacked. This is especially troubling when the “mobilizing passions” of a fascist past now emerge in the unceasing stream of hate, bigotry, lies and militarism that are endlessly circulated and reproduced at the highest levels of government and in powerful conservative media, such as Fox News, Breitbart News, conservative talk radio stations and alt-right social media. Power, culture, politics, finance and everyday life now merge in ways that are unprecedented and pose a threat to democracies all over the world. This mix of old media and new digitally driven systems of production and consumption are not merely systems, but ecologies that produce, shape and sustain ideas, desires and modes of agency with unprecedented power and influence. Informal educational apparatuses, particularly the corporate-controlled media, appear increasingly to be on the side of tyranny. In fact, it would be difficult to overly stress the growing pedagogical importance of the old and new media and the power they now have on the political imaginations of countless Americans.

This is particularly true of right-wing media empires, such as those owned by Rupert Murdoch, as well as powerful corporate entities such as Clearwater, which dominates the radio airwaves with its ownership of over 1,250 stations. In the sphere of television ownership and control, powerful corporate entities have emerged, such as Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns the largest number of TV stations in the United States. In addition, right-wing hosts, such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have an audience in the millions. Right-wing educational apparatuses shape much of what Americans watch and listen to, and appear to influence all of what Trump watches and hears. The impact of conservative media has had a dangerous effect on American culture and politics, and has played the most prominent role in channeling populist anger and electing Trump to the presidency. We are now witnessing the effects of this media machine. The first casualty of the Trump era is truth, the second is moral responsibility, the third is any vestige of justice, and the fourth is a massive increase in human misery and suffering for millions.

Instead of refusing to cooperate with evil, Americans increasingly find themselves in a society in which those in commanding positions of power and influence exhibit a tacit approval of the emerging authoritarian strains and acute social problems undermining democratic institutions and rules of law. As such, they remain silent and therefore, complicit in the face of such assaults on American democracy. Ideological extremism and a stark indifference to the lies and ruthless polices of the Trump administration have turned the Republican Party into a party of collaborators, not unlike the Vichy government that collaborated with the Nazis in the 1940s. Both groups bought into the script of ultra-nationalism, encouraged anti-Semitic mobs, embraced a militant masculinity, demonized racial and ethnic others, supported an unchecked militarism and fantasies of empire, and sanctioned state violence at home and abroad.

Words carry power and enable certain actions; they also establish the grounds for legitimating repressive policies and practices.

This is not to propose that those who support Trump are all Nazis in suits. On the contrary, it is meant to suggest a more updated danger in which people with power have turned their backs on the cautionary histories of the fascist and Nazi regimes, and in doing so, have willingly embraced authoritarian messages and tropes. Rather than Nazis in suits, we have a growing culture of social and historical amnesia that enables those who are responsible for the misery, anger and pain that has accompanied the long reign of casino capitalism to remain silent for their role and complicity in the comeback of fascism in the United States. This normalization of fascism can be seen in the way in which language that was once an object of critique in liberal democracies loses its negative connotation and becomes the opposite in the Trump administration. Politics, power and human suffering are now framed outside of the realm of historical memory. What is forgotten is that history teaches us something about the transformation and mobilization of language into an instrument of war and violence. As Richard J. Evans observes in his The Third Reich in Power:

Words that in a normal, civilized society had a negative connotation acquired the opposite sense under Nazism … so that ‘fanatical’, ‘brutal’, ‘ruthless’, ‘uncompromising’, ‘hard’ all became words of praise instead of disapproval… In the hands of the Nazi propaganda apparatus, the German language became strident, aggressive and militaristic. Commonplace matters were described in terms more suited to the battlefield. The language itself began to be mobilized for war.

Fantasies of absolute control, racial cleansing, unchecked militarism and class warfare are at the heart of much of the American imagination. This is a dystopian imagination marked by hollow words, an imagination pillaged of any substantive meaning, cleansed of compassion and used to legitimate the notion that alternative worlds are impossible to entertain. There is more at work here than shrinking political horizons. What we are witnessing is a closing of the political and a full-scale attack on moral outrage, thoughtful reasoning, collective resistance and radical imagination. Trump has normalized the unthinkable, legitimated the inexcusable and defended the indefensible.

Of course, Trump is only a symptom of the economic, political and ideological rot at the heart of casino capitalism, with its growing authoritarianism and social and political injustices that have been festering in the United States with great intensity since the late 1970s. It was at that point in US history when both political parties decided that matters of community, the public good, the general welfare and democracy itself were a threat to the fundamental beliefs of the financial elite and the institutions driving casino capitalism. As Ronald Reagan made clear, government was the problem. Consequently, it was framed as the enemy of freedom and purged for assuming any responsibility for a range of basic social needs. Individual responsibility took the place of the welfare state, compassion gave way to self-interest, manufacturing was replaced by the toxic power of financialization, and a rampaging inequality left the bottom half of the US population without jobs, a future of meaningful work or a life of dignity.

The call for political unity transforms quickly into the use of force and exclusionary violence to impose the authority of a tyrannical regime.

Trump has added a new swagger and unapologetic posture to this concoction of massive inequality, systemic racism, American exceptionalism and ultra-nationalism. He embodies a form of populist authoritarianism that not only rejects an egalitarian notion of citizenship, but embraces a nativism and fear of democracy that is at the heart of any fascist regime.

How else to explain a sitting president announcing to a crowd that Democratic Party congressional members who refused to clap for parts of his State of the Union address were “un-American” and “treasonous”? This charge is made all the more disturbing given that the White House promoted this speech as one that would emphasize “bipartisanship and national unity.” Words carry power and enable certain actions; they also establish the grounds for legitimating repressive policies and practices. Such threats are not a joking matter and cannot be dismissed as merely a slip of the tongue. When the president states publicly that his political opponents have committed a treasonous act — one that is punishable by death — because they refused to offer up sycophantic praise, the plague of fascism is not far away. His call for unity takes a dark turn under such circumstances and emulates a fascist past in which the call for political unity transforms quickly into the use of force and exclusionary violence to impose the authority of a tyrannical regime.

In Trump’s world, the authoritarian mindset has been resurrected, bent on exhibiting a contempt for the truth, ethics and alleged human weakness. For Trump, success amounts to acting with impunity, using government power to sell or to license his brand, hawking the allure of power and wealth, and finding pleasure in producing a culture of impunity, selfishness and state-sanctioned violence. Trump is a master of performance as a form of mass entertainment. This approach to politics echoes the merging of the spectacle with an ethical abandonment reminiscent of past fascist regimes. As Naomi Klein rightly argues in No Is Not Enough, Trump “approaches everything as a spectacle” and edits “reality to fit his narrative.”

As the bully-in-chief, he militarizes speech while producing a culture meant to embrace his brand of authoritarianism. This project is most evident in his speeches and policies, which pit white working- and middle-class males against people of color, men against women, and white nationalists against various ethnic, immigrant and religious groups. Trump is a master of theater and diversion, and the mainstream press furthers this attack on critical exchange by glossing over his massive assault on the planet and enactment of policies, such as the GOP tax cuts, which are willfully designed to redistribute wealth upward to his fellow super-rich billionaires. Trump’s alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels garners far more headlines than his deregulation of oil and gas industries and his dismantling of environment protections.

Economic pillage has reached new and extreme levels and is now accompanied by a ravaging culture of viciousness and massive levels of exploitation and human suffering. Trump has turned language into a weapon with his endless lies and support for white nationalism, nativism, racism and state violence. This is a language that legitimates ignorance while producing an active silence and complicity in the face of an emerging corporate fascist state.

Like most authoritarians, Trump demands loyalty and team membership from all those under his power, and he hates those elements of a democracy — such as the courts and the critical media — that dare to challenge him. Echoes of the past come to life in his call for giant military parades, enabling White House press secretary Sarah Sanders to call people who disagree with his policies “un-American,” and sanctioning his Department of Justice to issue a “chilling warning,” threatening to arrest and charge mayors with a federal crime who do not implement his anti-immigration policies and racist assaults on immigrants. What can be learned from past periods of tyranny is that the embrace of lawlessness is often followed by a climate of terror and repression that is the essence of fascism.

Whether Trump is a direct replica of the Nazi regime has little relevance compared to the serious challenges he poses.

In Trump’s world view, the call for limitless loyalty reflects more than an insufferable act of vanity and insecurity; it is a weaponized threat to those who dare to challenge Trump’s assumption that he is above the law and can have his way on matters of corruption, collusion and a possible obstruction of justice. Trump is an ominous threat to democracy and lives, as Masha Gessen observes, “surrounded by enemies, shadowed by danger, forever perched on the precipice.” Moreover, he has enormous support from his Vichy-like minions in Congress, among the ultra-rich bankers and hedge fund managers, and the corporate elite. His trillion-dollar tax cut has convinced corporate America he is their best ally. He has, in not too subtle ways, also convinced a wide range of far-right extremists extending from the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis to the deeply racist and fascist “alt-right” movement, that he shares their hatred of people of color, immigrants and Jews. Imaginary horrors inhabit this new corporate dystopian world and frighteningly resemble shades of a terrifying past that once led to unimaginable acts of genocide, concentration camps and a devastating world war. Nowhere is this vision more succinctly contained than in Trump’s first State of the Union Address and the response it garnered.

State of Disunion

An act of doublespeak preceded Donald Trump’s first State of the Union Address. Billed by the White House as a speech that would be “unifying” and marked by a tone of “bipartisanship,” the speech was actually steeped in divisiveness, fear, racism, warmongering, nativism and immigrant bashing. It once again displayed Trump’s contempt for democracy.

Claiming “all Americans deserve accountability and respect,” Trump nevertheless spent ample time in his speech equating undocumented immigrants with the criminal gang MS-13, regardless of the fact that undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than US citizens. (As Juan Cole points out, “Americans murdered 17,250 other Americans in 2016. Almost none of the perpetrators was an undocumented worker, contrary to the impression Trump gave.”)

For Trump, as with most demagogues, fear is the most valued currency of politics. In his speech, he suggested that the visa lottery system and “chain migration” — in which individuals can migrate through the sponsorship of their family — posed a threat to the US, presenting “risks we can just no longer afford.” In response to the Dreamers, he moved between allegedly supporting their bid for citizenship to suggesting they were part of a culture of criminality. At one point, he stated in a not-too-subtle expression of derision that “Americans are dreamers too.” This was a gesture to his white nationalist base. On Twitter, David Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, cheered over that remark. Trump had nothing to say about the challenges undocumented immigrants face, nor did he express any understanding of the fear and insecurity hanging over the heads of 800,000 Dreamers who could be deported.

Trump also indicated that he was not going to close Guantánamo, and once again argued that “terrorists should be treated like terrorists.” Given the history of torture associated with Guantánamo and the past crimes and abuses that took place under the mantle of the “war on terror,” Trump’s remarks should raise a red flag, not only because torture is a war crime, but also because the comment further accelerated the paranoia, nihilist passions and apocalyptic populism that feeds his base.

Fascism is hardly a relic of the past or a static political and ideological system.

Pointing to menacing enemies all around the world, Trump exhibited his love for all things war-like and militaristic, and his support for expanding the nuclear arsenal and the military budget. He also called on “the Congress to empower every Cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers — and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.” Given his firing of James Comey, his threat to fire Jeff Sessions, and more recently his suggestion that he might fire Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — all of whom allegedly displayed disloyalty by not dismantling the Russian investigation conducted by Special Council Mueller — Trump seems likely to make good on this promise to rid the federal workforce of those who disagree with him, allowing him to fill civil service jobs with friends, family members and sycophants. This is about more than Trump’s disdain for the separation of power, the independence of other government agencies, or his attack on potential whistleblowers; it is about amassing power and instilling fear in those he appoints to government positions if they dare act to hold power accountable. This is what happens when democracies turn into fascist states.

Trump is worse than almost anyone imagined, and while his critics across the ideological spectrum have begun to go after him, they rarely focus on how dangerous he is, hesitant to argue that he is not only the enemy of democracy, but symptomatic of the powerful political, economic and cultural forces shaping the new US fascism.

There are some critics who claim that Trump is simply a weak president whose ineptness is being countered by “a robust democratic culture and set of institutions,” and not much more than a passing moment in history. Others, such as Wendy Brown and Nancy Fraser, view him as an authoritarian expression of right-wing populism and an outgrowth of neoliberal politics and policies. While many historians, such as Timothy Snyder and Robert O. Paxton, analyze him in terms that echo some elements of a fascist past, some conservatives such as David Frum view him as a modern-day self-obsessed, emotionally needy demagogue whose assault on democracy needs to be taken seriously, and that whether or not he is a fascist is not as important as what he plans to do with his power. For Frum, there is a real danger that people will retreat into their private worlds, become cynical and enable a slide into a form of tyranny that would become difficult to defeat. Others, like Corey Robin, argue that we overstep a theoretical boundary when comparing Trump directly to Hitler. According to Robin, Trump bears no relationship to Hitler or the policies of the Third Reich. Robin not only dismisses the threat that Trump poses to the values and institutions of democracy, but plays down the growing threat of authoritarianism in the United States. For Robin, Trump has failed to institute many of his policies, and as such, is just a weak politician with little actual power. Not only does Robin focus too much on the person of Trump, but he is relatively silent about the forces that produced him and the danger these proto-fascist social formations now pose to those who are the objects of the administration’s racist, sexist and xenophobic taunts and policies.

The ghosts of fascism should terrify us, but most importantly, they should educate us and imbue us with a spirit of civic justice.

As Jeffrey C. Isaac observes, whether Trump is a direct replica of the Nazi regime has little relevance compared to the serious challenges he poses; for instance, to the DACA children and their families, the poor, undocumented immigrants and a range of other groups. Moreover, authoritarianism is looming in the air and can be seen in the number of oppressive and regressive policies already put into place by the Trump administration that will have a long-term effect on the United States. These include the $1.5 trillion giveaway in the new tax code, the expansion of the military-industrial complex, the elimination of Obamacare’s individual mandate, the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and a range of deregulations that will impact negatively on the environment for years to come. In addition, there is the threat of a nuclear war, the disappearance of health care for the most vulnerable, the attack on free speech and the media, and the rise of the punishing state and the increasing criminalization of social problems. As Richard J. Evans, the renowned British historian, observes, “Violence indeed was at the heart of the Nazi enterprise. Every democracy that perishes dies in a different way, because every democracy is situated in specific historical circumstances.”

US society has entered a dangerous stage in its history. After 40 years of neoliberalism and systemic racism, many Americans lack a critical language that offers a consistent narrative that enables them to understand gutted wages, lost pensions, widespread uncertainty and collapsing identities due to feeling disposable, the loss of meaningful work and a formative culture steeped in violence, cruelty and an obsession with greed. Moreover, since 9/11, Americans have been bombarded by a culture of fear and consumerism that both dampens their willingness to be critical agents and depoliticizes them. Everyone is now a suspect or a consumer, but hardly a critically engaged citizen. Others are depoliticized because of the ravages of debt, poverty and the daily struggle to survive — problems made all the worse by Trump’s tax and health policies. And while there is no perfect mirror, it has become all the more difficult for many people to recognize how the “crystalized elements” of totalitarianism have emerged in the shape of an American-style fascism. What has been forgotten by too many intellectuals, critics, educators and politicians is that fascism is hardly a relic of the past or a static political and ideological system.

Trump is not in possession of storm troopers, concentration camps or concocting plans for genocidal acts — at least, not at the moment. But that does not mean that fascism is a moment frozen in history and has no bearing on the present. As Hannah Arendt, Sheldon Wolin and others have taught us, totalitarian regimes come in many forms and their elements can come together in different configurations. Rather than dismiss the notion that the organizing principles and fluctuating elements of fascism are still with us, a more appropriate response to Trump’s rise to power is to raise questions about what elements of his government signal the emergence of a fascism suited to a contemporary and distinctively US political, economic and cultural landscape.

What seems indisputable is that under Trump, democracy has become the enemy of power, politics and finance. Adam Gopnik refutes the notion that Trumpism will simply fade away in the end, and argues that comparisons between the current historical moment and fascism are much needed. He writes:

Needless to say, the degradation of public discourse, the acceleration of grotesque lying, the legitimization of hatred and name-calling, are hard to imagine vanishing like the winter snows that Trump thinks climate change is supposed to prevent. The belief that somehow all these things will somehow just go away in a few years’ time does seem not merely unduly optimistic but crazily so. In any case, the trouble isn’t just what the Trumpists may yet do; it is what they are doing now. American history has already been altered by their actions — institutions emptied out, historical continuities destroyed, traditions of decency savaged — in ways that will not be easy to rehabilitate.

There is nothing new about the possibility of authoritarianism in a particularly distinctive guise coming to the US. Nor is there a shortage of works illuminating the horrors of fascism. Fiction writers ranging from George Orwell, Sinclair Lewis and Aldous Huxley to Margaret Atwood, Philip K. Dick and Philip Roth have sounded the alarm in often brilliant and insightful terms. Politicians such as Henry Wallace wrote about American fascism, as did a range of theorists, such as Umberto Eco, Arendt and Paxton, who tried to understand its emergence, attractions and effects. What they all had in common was an awareness of the changing nature of tyranny and how it could happen under a diverse set of historical, economic and social circumstances. They also seem to share Philip Roth’s insistence that we all have an obligation to recognize “the terror of the unforeseen” that hides in the shadows of censorship, makes power invisible and gains in strength in the absence of historical memory. A warning indeed.

Trump represents a distinctive and dangerous form of US-bred authoritarianism, but at the same time, he is the outcome of a past that needs to be remembered, analyzed and engaged for the lessons it can teach us about the present. Not only has Trump “normalized the unspeakable” and in some cases, the unthinkable, he has also forced us to ask questions we have never asked before about capitalism, power, politics, and yes, courage itself. In part, this means recovering a language for politics, civic life, the public good, citizenship and justice that has real substance. One challenge is to confront the horrors of capitalism and its transformation into a form of fascism under Trump. This cannot happen without a revolution in consciousness, one that makes education central to politics.

Moreover, as Fredric Jameson has suggested, such a revolution cannot take place by limiting our choices to a fixation on the “impossible present.” Nor can it take place by limiting ourselves to a language of critique and a narrow focus on individual issues. What is needed is also a language of hope and a comprehensive politics that draws from history and imagines a future that does not imitate the present. Under such circumstances, the language of critique and hope can be enlisted to create a broad-based and powerful social movement that both refuses to equate capitalism with democracy and moves toward creating a radical democracy. William Faulkner once remarked that we live with the ghosts of the past, or to be more precise: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

However, we are not only living with the ghosts of a dark past; it is also true that the ghosts of history can be critically engaged and transformed into a democratic politics for the future. The Nazi regime is more than a frozen moment in history. It is a warning from the past and a window into the growing threat Trumpism poses to democracy. The ghosts of fascism should terrify us, but most importantly, they should educate us and imbue us with a spirit of civic justice and collective courage in the fight for a substantive and inclusive democracy. The stakes are too high to remain complacent, cynical or simply outraged. A crisis of memory, history, agency and justice has mushroomed and opened up the abyss of a fascist nightmare. Now is the time to talk back, embrace the radical imagination in private and public, and create united mass based coalitions in which the collective dream for a radical democracy becomes a reality. There is no other choice.

US Nuclear Posture Review gives strong arguments for a prohibition of all nuclear weapons

In Climate change, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on February 14, 2018 at 11:01 am

FEBRUARY 13, 2018

by Gunnar Westberg, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
This is how I would summarize the new US Nuclear Posture Review, issued last week by the Trump administration:

We can fight and win a nuclear exchange
We are prepared to use nuclear weapons against a conventional attack, e.g. a cyberattack
We may consider using nuclear weapons against a nuclear-weapons-free country
We care not to mention our obligations under NPT Art VI
We have never heard of the climate effects of nuclear war

In Jan. 2017 President Donald Trump ordered a new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The report is now available. It is 75 pages long. Most the material repeats earlier NPRs. I will here concentrate on the new aspects.

“Escalate to de-escalate”

Russian military writers have discussed the possibility of using “small” nuclear weapons if the country is attacked by an adversary with considerable conventional superiority. These “small”—Hiroshima-sized?—nukes would serve as a warning: we are prepared to defend ourselves with nuclear weapons. Such a discussion is to be expected considering the inferiority of Russia in conventional weapons. President Putin has hinted at such possibilities. However, no change in deployment, activation, upgrading, or maintenance of the “tactical” nuclear weapons in storage has been done, as far as we know, and no evidence is given in the NPR.

A major problem is that there are frequent allegations in the NPR about the strategy of Russia, the main enemy, with no references—you do not know if the NPR relies on explicit statements by Russian military leaders or just refers to discussions in Russian publications, or other unnamed sources. The use of small nukes to “escalate to deescalate” now seems to be a US, instead of a Russian, proposal. This is an unnecessary and irresponsible development. The superior US conventional arsenal should make the use of “small” nukes unnecessary, and it is, in any case, very dangerous.

“Small nukes” for submarines are also considered, both a missile and a cruise missile. This is a dangerous development as the target country will not know that a “small” weapon is coming, and massive retaliation may seem to be the choice. You have no time to evaluate, you cannot wait for the impact.

Development of such a bomb—the B61-12—has already been under way for several years. This is going to be a bomb with a dial, which can be set anywhere from 50 kt to less than 1 kt. The weapon is going to be targetable, probably earth-penetrating, suitable for attack on protected command centers, intended for use in Europe. B61-12 is a new weapon, and thus, like the submarine-based new nukes, breaks the US pledge not to develop any new nuclear weapons.

It is interesting that apart from the new B61-12, no production plans for these new warheads are mentioned. We can hope that the development of these weapons will not start for several years, preferably never.

Use against conventional targets

There are several statements in the NPR that nuclear weapons can be actively used, as deterrent against or retaliation for a non-nuclear attack. Thus, serious damage to US civilian infrastructure could be a reason for nuclear retaliation. This is possibly the most irresponsible and irrational part of the new policy. The USA would then use nuclear weapons against a country which—supposedly—has launched a cyber-attack. Such a policy should be unthinkable. That it is illegal is obvious.

The enormous superiority of the USA in conventional warfare against any possible adversary should make the use of nuclear weapons unwarranted, both against non-nuclear-weapon states or against nuclear-weapon states who have not used their nukes against the USA. Why else have this superiority?

There is a fairly large amount of loose talk about new strategies, new weapons, new principles in the NPR. Much talk, less workshop. Let us hope that Russia and China agree with this interpretation and do not start an arms race. Loose talk from the Pentagon, just as from President Putin, is dangerous. One day your enemy may take you at your word.

Nowhere in the NPR is the vast conventional military superiority of the USA and NATO over Russia mentioned. Nowhere is there a report that the Russian military spending at present is only about one eighth of that of the US, and has been rapidly decreasing for two years.

Nowhere in this document are climate effects of nuclear war considered! President Reagan had said that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” The victor in a large nuclear war is committing suicide, starving to death with the rest of humanity.

This document is dangerous, irresponsible, and naïve.

It pretends that we should prepare for a “nuclear exchange,” a small scale nuclear war that could be contained;
It treats nuclear weapons and nuclear war as just weapons and war, not as means of genocide and omnicide and the possible extermination of humankind.
This document and this policy are the responsibility of the administration of Donald Trump, but are the product of the military-industrial system of the USA. This thinking was there before Trump and will remain after him.

This NPR shows that the prohibition of all nuclear weapons is even more important than we knew a few months ago. The nuclear threshold is getting lower, the risk of a large nuclear war is increasing.

Can the president be prosecuted for war crimes in the event of a nuclear strike?

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on February 14, 2018 at 12:49 am

Can U.S. nuclear strike planners and executors be prosecuted for war crimes? Short answer, yes. And the planners are more vulnerable to prosecution than world leaders, such as President Donald Trump.
A preliminary question, of course, is what would constitute an illegal nuclear strike order. It is fairly clear that any use of nuclear weapons to achieve military objectives that conventional weapons can otherwise achieve would be illegal.
The reason is that the nuclear option would violate principles of the law of war, or what’s called humanitarian law, by causing indiscriminate and disproportionate loss of life and superfluous injury, since nuclear weapons are far more catastrophic than conventional weapons. If conventional weapons could achieve the same military objectives, then any order to use nuclear weapons instead would be manifestly illegal, leading to allegations of war crimes.

But heads of state like Trump are generally immune from prosecution, at least while they remain in office, even for serious violations of international law like war crimes and crimes against humanity.
However, the whole reason heads of state enjoy immunity is that the state would be unable effectively to represent itself in its dealings with other states if these individuals were stuck in foreign states’ docks. Thus high-ranking members of the U.S. Strategic Command and other planning bodies likely fall outside the scope of immunity, and the farther down the chain one goes, the less immunity applies. In turn, only heads of state and perhaps other extremely high-ranking officials would have immunity.
But where could these planners and executors be prosecuted? One option would be in U.S. domestic courts or military tribunals, especially if there is a change in administration. Another option would be foreign tribunals. Because war crimes are subject to what’s called universal jurisdiction, any nation in the world may prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes. This is not just theoretical or academic. The practice of universal jurisdiction has spiked in recent years when it comes to serious violations of international law, such as torture, crimes against humanity and certain acts of terrorism.

Nuclear strike planners have a duty under international and domestic U.S. law to reject illegal nuclear strike orders. If they do not, they can be held liable in both domestic and foreign courts. Immunity will not shield them from prosecution.
Anthony J. Colangelo is a law professor at Southern Methodist University and a senior associate at the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Email: colangelo@smu.edu

Immanuel Kunt’s Vision Of Life Beyond Guns And God

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Peace, Politics, War on February 7, 2018 at 2:47 am

(A tribute to a great idea; ‘The Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases’@ University of Baltimore)

Immanuel Kunt…living in Ballarat, a provincial Australian city with a population of 100,000 plus…felt inspired when readingabout the activities of a new organisation of concerned world-wide citizens called The Coalition Against U.S. Military Bases.From the hidden cryptographic depths of his mind, a valued item of stored wisdom crystallised; its’ got to be what Immanuel what’s-his-name believed, he thought… “Act that your principle of action might safely be made a law for the whole world”.

Immanuel was an experienced organizer of public events. The Ballarat Begonia Festival, which attracts more than 60,0000 spectators annually, owed much to his organisational skills. This three- day event—held on the Victorian (State) Labour Day long weekend in Ballarat had something for everyone. Flowers, celebrity gardener’s displaying their skills, markets, entertainment, kids’ activities and a community parade.

The more Immanuel thought about the issues ‘The Coalition Against U.S. Military Bases’ were fulminating against, the more he became convinced that he could do something in his own right that could support their cause. They believed, as he did, that “The United States cannot be a moral or ethical country until it faces up to the realities of the U.S. Empire and the destruction it causes around the world. The U.S. undermines governments…including democratic ones…kills millions of people, causes mass migrations of people fleeing their homes, communities and countries and produces vast environmental damage.”

Immanuel Kunt believed that nature was a spectrum of ideas, projecting forms amidst light and colour phenomena that required a certain balanced conditionality to achieve health wellbeing and sustain order. Begonias had been his path to enlightenment. He had come to associate the skills of the more talented gardeners he encountered, withthose who possessed an understanding of the subject-object nexusthat was normally associatedwith people of a scientific bent of mind. When he walked among the begonias in the Ballarat Conservatory, he perceived the role of science as one which could function asanauxiliaryforce, benevolently reaching out to assist all living things captive to nature’s survival of the fittest gambit, soa more equitable outcome could be achieved.

Only the day before…Immanuel Kunt, after reading what The Coalition Against Military Bases had to say about America’s exceptional hi-tech military creep across the globe, encountered a very different example of exceptionalism in a delicatessen in Ballarat. While standing in a queue waiting for a take-away roastchicken, he fell into conversation with the elderly man next to him: “They do a great chicken here, and most Sundays I buy one to take to Buninyong to have lunch with my sister”, he said to Immanuel. As Buninyong was 11km from Ballarat, Immanuel replied, “You’re managing to stay mobile then, and obviously doing something right?”. “I’m 93 and the doctors can’t find anything wrong with me…I’ve lead a free and natural life, avoiding the guns and god call-to-arms” he said,befo readding somewhat wryly, “a civilized life confronts one’s instinctive urge to resort to force”.

Immanuel left the deli wondering if it was the philosopher Immanuel-what’s-his name who wrote“Science is organised knowledge, wisdom is organised life, and health is a randomly allocated affair in the hands of impersonal forces”. Stopping to reflect a moment, he wondered if time had played tricks upon his ability to retain information? The choice of the word ‘confront’,used by the old man, awakened something in him. Over the following week, his thoughts kept going back to the deli and his chance encounter with the 93-year old.

While observing the multifarious splendours of the begonias assembled for the upcoming Labour Day holiday weekend, Immanuel suddenly became profoundly aware that people were prone to be led astray by false doctrines. A call-to-arms, he mused, is a call to defend or make ready for confrontation and is understood as a call-to-arms to defend against a take-over. Instead it seems to act more as the fiery torch that keeps the impressionable…who only cheer for the ‘good’ guys…ready for the call-to-arms.The more Immanuel thought about the old man’s parting words, “a civilised life confronts one’s instinctive urge to resort to force”, the more his mind went back to The Coalition Against U.S. Military Bases and their questioning of the merits of a hyped-up military,recklessly investing the nation’s treasure in perpetual warfare.

Immanuel wondered how long it would take for the American public to free itself from the tendentious voices of the ruling elites…the military juggernaut…who sold them the proposition that their form of exceptionality confers righteousness upon their quest to straddle the globe with military bases, bythe hundreds…800 maybe…where they then could resortto force, strangling anything and everything that resisted the American way of doing business…business validated by god and gun.

Early in the morning of the day the Begonia Festival was to commence, Immanuel was standing some distance apart from the entrance to the Conservatory admiring the flower arrangements when, to his utter amazement, he saw an old man in jogging apparel slowly move into view and recognized the figure to be that of the old man he had encountered in the deli. The force of his ‘good-morning’ greeting was loud enough to get the jogger’s attention, whereupon he immediately veered towards Immanuel. Stopping in front of Immanuel, he peered at the identity tag connecting the bearer to the events taking place within the Conservatory and exclaimed, “Ah! … so, you’re ‘that’ Kunt!

Over the course of the next half-hour, Immanuel learnt the old man’s name and the name of his older sister who lived in Buninyong. It transpired that Errol Flynn and his 95-year-old sister Peg were committed activists concerned about the corruption of language …especially the propagandistic tactics used to conceal the poisoning effect militarism has had on the health of entire communities.

They were part of a group known as the ‘Buninyong Salon’ who met Sundays to discuss the devious reasons behind the U.S. Empire’s reasons for having bases in Australia. By the end of the half-hour encounter with Errol…much of it covering the tawdry reasons the U.S. gave for being in Australia or elsewhere…Immanuel found himself in receipt of an invitation to attend the group’s bring-your-own style of Sunday luncheon, held from noon onwards every week at Buninyong Salon. Watching the figure of Errol fade from view and disappear behind distant foliage, he was astounded by the magnitude of recent chance encounters that seemed to sign-post a path toward something that requiredhis attention.

Immanuel brought a home baked pizza and a vibrant begonia plant on his very first visit to Buninyong Salon. To his great surprise, the seventeen people who had come together, were all above 90 years of age.A second surprise was to follow when he discovered that none of the people there behaved like ‘old people’ in the least. They were the most lucid, alert, frisky and fun-loving people he had ever encountered. Realising that he had been conditioned to believe that old people belonged in retirement homes once they lost interest in worldly affairs, he took note of the fact that this latest chance encounter had opened a door for him, one enabling his entry into their brave new world. When he was introduced to Peg, he was challenged by her appetite for knowledge when she said without preamble, “interesting name you’ve got there Kunt…how’s it spelt?”

Immanuel was intrigued to discover that even in provincial Australia,in spite of the cant coming from the American propaganda machine and its’ supplicant media, the establishment view of things was now being questioned more openly.It was high time for a greater awareness of the danger of nuclear warheads to percolate through the collective consciousness, he reflected.The propaganda that projected the notion that the U.S. was motivatedby good intentions, and was there to protect smaller states seeking freedom, was now perceived to be fallacious. The very myths that had launched America as the guardian of freedom,were now regarded by millions of people throughout the world as nothing more than hollow jingoism…the policies of the U.S. empire didn’t float allboats…instead, the world witnessed a gung-ho US sheriff repeatedly blow them out of the water.

The military narrative that promotes the U.S. empire as just,is finally beginning to evaporate.As a result, America’s abhorrent foreign policy is being subjected to evergreater critical attention across the globe. Under the weight of evidence showing the frequency of U.S.military powerusing its’ might torepeatedly inflict misery on so many parts of the world… especially in the Middle East…more peoplehave discovered that truth tends to prevail over propaganda in the longer term.

As America’s reputation and stature in the world now rests at the bottom ofa cesspoolof its’ own making, the fundamentals of democracy are once more being revisited. Reprising thethreat of the ‘other’ no longer works. The parasites that now occupy the so-called democratic system have American voices, and they know how to lie. But now, a new era may be approaching, where civilized means may prevail over the urge to use primal methodologies…sane thinking may finally beready to call an evil bluff.

Immanuel was intrigued to be in a situation where the collective wisdom of 17 people, whose primary interest was eliminating U.S. Bases from Australian soil, confirmed what Immanuel what-was-his-name had said, “reason is the source of morality”.

Errol and Peg Flynn had inherited Buninyong Castle…now a heritage site…upon the passing of their parents. Neither could agree on how many rooms were in the castle, or the number of acres it stood upon.During the afternoon,Immanuel was left flabbergasted when he discovered that Buninyong Salon had a plan that would host an expected 300 guests.Some were arriving from as far afield as Hong Kong, California, Singapore and New Zealand. But flabbergast soon gave way to admiration when he realised that the Buninyong Salon was where the denizens of WWW awareness came to stand up and be counted. The festival would have its’ day in the sun and go by the name of ‘Confront’.

All throughout the Begonia Festival weekend, Immanuel Kunt’s mind remained apart from the flow of events at ground level. He dreamed of extending invitations to everybody across the world interested in curtailing the ravishes of U.S. Imperialism. That’s when he got the idea forBegonias Against Imperialism. He was convinced that if he could give Begonia Day the status of Poppy Day in Australia, the symbol of the begonia would, in time, come to represent the people’s concern for the future, as does the Poppy represent people’s concern for remembering the past. It would require people to focus on the dangers of nuclear war and the attendant weapons of mass destruction that throw so dark a shadow over everyone.

Addressing his friends at the Buninyong Salon the following Sunday, Immanuel pitched the following ideas to them;

“The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCray. After reading the poem, Moina Michael, a professor at The University of Georgia wrote the poem, “We Shall Keep the Fate”, and swore to wear a red poppy on the anniversary. The custom spread to Europe and the countries of the British Empire and Commonwealth within three years.”

Continuing his speech, he went on to say; “We need to use these actions as a template for our own purposes so that, with the right means,we can proceed to storm the barricades of apathy by marshalling support for all the groups militating against U.S. military bases throughout the world.We wish Ballaratto be the first region to celebrate the begonia as the emblem of resistance to nuclear-madness. Our hope is that our beloved flower will acquire, over time, an emblematic status equal to that of the red poppy. Our first project will involve producing some thousands of badges bearing the word ‘CONFRONT’ under an image of our beloved flower”.

Immanuel received the reaction to his pitch with a mixture of gratitude and astonishment. The consensus was that three years was a reasonable time in which to make the idea work, and the group also advanced the belief that time was on their side. Adeline Armani, a member of the ‘salon’ knew of someone capable of writing a poem dealing with the dangers of nuclear missiles…tarrying with the devil…were her words for describing the potency of The Pentagon and its’ ability to take us all to the edge of the precipice, and beyond. Joel Harris believed that Australians were now past the point where they would uncritically enter alliances that mightopen Pandora’s Box. Referring to the American base in Darwin he vouched “Aussies are no longer the gullible servants of empires they once believed to be true blue commodities”.

So, time passed,and the ‘oldies’ remained firmly on the perch to observe Immanuel Kunts’ efforts now steadily bearingfruit. From many quarters of the globe, hundreds, then thousands of enquiries arrived in Buninyong,attesting to the need for solidarity in the face of a military culture perceived be extremely toxic. Immanuel Kunt, given over to musing, believed that if all the people from around the world who empathised with the ‘Confront’ cause came to Ballarat, their number would exceed those attending the Begonia Festival by a magnitude of 00000’s.

Something has to be done and something has to start somewhere, he mused!

Denis A. Conroy, Freelance writer, Australia

Unusual: Russian Point of View on the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on February 6, 2018 at 11:32 pm

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
February 3, 2018
Comment by the Information and Press Department on the new US Nuclear Posture Review

We are deeply disappointed with the new US Nuclear Posture Review, which was made public on February 2. The first impression is: the document is focused on confrontation and is anti-Russian. It is regrettable that the United States justifies its policy of massive nuclear build-up with references to Russia’s policy of nuclear modernisation and the allegedly increased reliance on nuclear weapons in Russia’s doctrines. We have been accused of lowering the threshold for the first use of nuclear weapons and aggressive strategies.

None of this has any connection with reality. Russia’s Military Doctrine clearly limits the possibility of using nuclear weapons to two hypothetical defensive scenarios: first, in response to an aggression against Russia and/or its allies involving the use of nuclear or any other weapons of mass destruction, and second, in response to a non-nuclear aggression, but only if Russia’s survival is endangered. The 2014 Military Doctrine introduced a new term, the “system of non-nuclear deterrence,” which implies preventing aggression primarily through reliance on conventional (non-nuclear) forces.

Therefore, readiness to use nuclear weapons to prevent Russia from using its nuclear arsenal, expressed in the new Nuclear Posture Review, amounts to putting in question our right to defend ourselves against an aggression that threatens the country’s survival. We would like to hope that Washington is aware of the high level of danger when such doctrinal provisions move to the level of practical military planning.

We are deeply concerned about Washington’s no-limits approach, under which it might use nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances,” which are not limited to military scenarios in the new US doctrine. Moreover, even military scenarios are presented so ambiguously that it seems like the US planners may view practically any use of military capability as a reason for delivering a nuclear strike against anyone they consider an “aggressor.” If this is not the doctrinal enhancement of the role of nuclear weapons, what then does Washington imply when it uses the term with regard to Russia?

In addition to this, the new Nuclear Posture Review sets out sweeping nuclear modernisation plans. Of special concern are the US plans to modify existing SLCMs to “provide a low-yield option” and also to create a low-yield warhead for the Trident II SLBMs. Nuclear weapons with such options are clearly designed as battlefield weapons. This will greatly increase the temptation of using them, especially considering the right to a disarming first strike as set out in the new US doctrine. Assurances that the implementation of these plans will not lower the nuclear threshold can at least be interpreted as a desire to delude the international community. It is even more frightening that the US military and other national security professionals firmly believe in their ability to model conflict scenarios that involve low-yield nuclear opinions. Quite to the contrary, we believe that this dramatic lowering of the threshold conditions can provoke a nuclear missile war even in a low-intensity conflict.

Of course, we will have to take into account the new US plans and to take measures to enhance our security.

The US nuclear doctrine abounds in anti-Russian clichés, from allegations of “aggressive behaviour” and interference to ungrounded accusations of alleged violations of a long list of arms control treaties. Washington has been lately producing an uninterrupted stream of such hackneyed allegations. We see this as a malevolent attempt to blame others for the deteriorating international and regional security situation and the unbalancing of arms control mechanisms due to a series of irresponsible US actions.

Russia honours its obligations under all international treaties. We strictly comply with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) and the Open Skies Treaty. We have never violated the 2011 Vienna Document on confidence and security-building measures or the Budapest Memorandum. We have laid bare the slanderous allegations regarding this more than once. As for the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), Russia cannot be accused of violating it because it suspended its participation in the treaty back in 2007. We did this because the treaty, which was drafted in the era of confrontation of two military-political blocs – the Warsaw Treaty Organisation and NATO, no longer served the new realities. One of these two blocs has long been dissolved, while the other continues to build up its capability as well as expanding its deployment area. These new realities were formalised in the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, which the US-led NATO countries refused to ratify, unlike Russia.

Likewise, it is untrue what the new US Nuclear Posture Review says about Russia’s alleged refusal to implement the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNIs) of 1991-1992, which concern the two countries’ political commitments to withdraw and reduce non-strategic nuclear weapons (tactical nuclear weapons, or TNWs). Acting in keeping with the PNIs, Russia has reduced the greater part (75 per cent) of its TNWs and has removed the rest from their delivery vehicles for storage at the central storage facilities in the national territory. It was an unprecedented reduction of the operational status of nuclear weapons and a major review of their place and role in the national military doctrine. Although the PNIs are not a legally binding international agreement, they continue to be relevant to us up to this day.

It is notable that the United States still has TNWs in Europe and is even modernising and deploying them in direct proximity to Russian borders. Moreover, NATO maintains the practice of nuclear sharing, or joint nuclear missions, when non-nuclear European bloc members are involved in planning for the use of US nuclear weapons and in training in their use, which is a gross violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Another example of fact-juggling is the claim that Russia has refused to continue to reduce its nuclear weapons. We repeatedly confirmed our commitment to our obligations under Article VI of the NPT. We expressed our readiness more than once to discuss any questions related to the strengthening of international security. We pointed out, including to our American partners, that the conditions for the continuation of nuclear disarmament can be created through the settlement of key strategic security problems, such as the unilateral and unlimited deployment of US BMD systems, the Prompt Global Strike (PGS) concept, as well as the US refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) or to pledge not to deploy weapons in space.

It is also obvious that disarmament efforts should involve all nuclear-capable states, primarily the UK and France as Washington’s nuclear weapons allies. The latter is especially important considering the intention, which has been proclaimed in the Nuclear Posture Review, to use NATO’s overall deterrence and defence posture, including its nuclear forces, against Russia. We point out that our American partners have not mentioned their obligations under Article VI of the NPT in this review.

In light of the above, the claim that the United States “seeks stable relations” and looks forward to resuming “constructive engagement” in order to manage nuclear risks sounds utterly hypocritical.

Russia is indeed ready for such engagement. We urge the United States to join forces with Russia in order to find solutions to the growing number of problems in the area of strategic stability.

 

Sputnik
February 5, 2018
‘Now Is the Moment’: Russia Urges US to Resume Dialogue on Missile Defense

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Russia and the United States should resume their dialogue on missile defense in light of the growing relevance of the subject, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said.

“I would like to emphasize the growing relevance of the missile defense topic. Let me remind you that an indestructible connection between strategic offensive arms and missile defense is noted in the preamble of the current Reduction of Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty. There has been no substantial dialogue with the Americans on this matter for a long time. Now is the moment when it should be resumed,” Ryabkov said in an interview with the newspaper Izvestia.

The Russian diplomat stressed that in order to overcome the impasse in Russian-US relations, it was necessary to cooperate in a number of areas, including economic and regional crises.

“This agenda, in our opinion, includes issues of maintaining and ensuring of strategic stability… It also considers the work on regional crises… as well as economic interaction,” Ryabkov noted.

At the same time, the Russian minister stressed that the Russian-US talks on the crisis in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region had not achieved workable solutions so far. Yet, Ryabkov expressed hope that both sides would find a “scheme” that would be acceptable for both Kiev and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk Republics.

On Friday, the US Defense Department published the country’s new Nuclear Posture Review, which devoted great attention to the development of Russia’s nuclear capability.
In 2014, relations between Russia and the United States deteriorated over Moscow’s alleged involvement in the Ukrainian conflict and Crimea’s reunification with Russia in 2014 following a referendum.

The United States, as well as the European Union, has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia’s energy, banking, defense and other sectors, as well as on a number of Russian officials. Moscow has responded with countermeasures against the Western countries that targeted it with sanctions.

Trump Nuke Plan Resets the Doomsday Clock

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on February 2, 2018 at 12:46 am

Stunning new strategy calls for more tactical weapons and nuclear retaliation against cyber threats.
By SCOTT RITTER • February 1, 2018, The American Conservative

In 1947, a group of scientists who participated in the Manhattan Project—America’s crash wartime effort to manufacture an atom bomb during the Second World War—unveiled what it called the “Doomsday Clock” to graphically convey their concern over the danger posed by nuclear weapons to the survival of humanity.

In the intervening years, this organization, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, has seen its iconic timepiece fluctuate from its starting position—seven minutes to midnight (when the world will end)—to a low of two minutes (in 1953, when the United States and the Soviet Union were racing ahead with the testing and deployment of massive thermonuclear weapons) and a high of 17 minutes (in 1991, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union).

Recently, the Bulletin reset the clock, returning it to the two-minute mark. The threat posed to the world by nuclear weapons, the group believes, is now as great as it has ever been.

The most current time change is derived from an analysis of the state of global nuclear affairs, with an emphasis on the nuclear weapons policy and posture of the United States, the crisis with North Korea, and growing tensions between Washington and Moscow (including efforts by Russia to use technology to interfere in democratic elections around the world). While the Bulletin labels itself non-partisan, its message has historically been embraced by the progressive wing of American politics. The decision by the Bulletin to factor in the threats posed by technology and climate change has only strengthened this perception, especially among American conservatives. However, an examination of the issues underpinning its decision to adjust the Doomsday Clock show that, in this case, the warning issued by the Bulletin is sound and worthy of consideration.

The Bulletin’s reset of the Doomsday Clock comes in advance of the publication by the Trump administration of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the first such document since the Obama administration published its NPR in April 2010. (A draft of the 2018 NPR has been published by the Huffington Post.) The report gives voice to a strategic vision of the Trump administration when it comes to nuclear policy and posture that had been hinted at over the course of the past year. Some aspects of the NPR should come as no surprise—for instance, the $1.2 trillion modernization of the nuclear TRIAD, the manned strategic bombers, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) that serve as the heart of America’s nuclear deterrent. An aging deterrent is no deterrent at all if it is not able to function as intended.

Other aspects of the 2018 NPR, however, are disconcerting, and more than justify what would seem to be the prescient resetting of the Doomsday Clock. On the surface, the principles of deterrence outlined in the 2018 NPR are modeled on past policy pronouncements by previous administrations: “[T]o acquire and maintain the full range of capabilities to ensure that nuclear or non-nuclear aggression against the United States, allies and partners will fail to achieve its objectives and carry with it the credible risk of intolerable consequences for the adversary.” However, whereas the 2010 NPR sought to de-emphasize the role of nuclear weapons in deterring a non-nuclear attack (citing improvements in American conventional and anti-missile capabilities) and pointedly embraced Article IV of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), which places the onus on states to eventually rid themselves of nuclear weapons, the 2018 NPR makes no mention of Article IV. Instead, it eschews traditional nuclear disarmament pathways in favor of a more aggressive posture that seeks to make nuclear weapons more accessible to American policymakers when formulating deterrence.

This, as they say, is pretty huge.

The Obama administration had continued the Bush-era policy of “open ocean” targeting of ICBMs and SLBMs, ensuring that any accidental launch of a missile would deliver its nuclear payload to the middle of the ocean, thereby reducing the chances of miscalculation of intent. The 2018 NPR, however, allows for “open ocean” targeting for ICBMs only—SLBMs will be exempted. This exemption is part of an overall trend that reverses the Obama-era policy of de-emphasizing the role of nuclear weapons in American military planning and operations. “The United States,” the 2018 NPR declares, “will apply a tailored approach to effectively deter across a spectrum of adversaries, threats and contexts.” This “tailored approach” is reflective of the NPR’s contention that, when it comes to nuclear deterrence, there is no “one size fits all” policy. Rather, the United States will now employ an “expanding range of limited and graduated options” that threaten “intolerable damage” in order to deter nuclear and non-nuclear attacks. Moreover, the NPR states that “combatant commands and service components will be organized and resourced for this mission, and will plan, train to integrate U.S. and non-nuclear forces and operate in the face of adversary nuclear threats and attacks”—in short, the U.S. military will be actively preparing for nuclear war.

The 2018 NPR has a vision of nuclear conflict that goes far beyond the traditional imagery of mass missile launches. While ICBMs and manned bombers will be maintained on a day-to-day alert, the tip of the nuclear spear is now what the NPR calls “supplemental” nuclear forces—dual-use aircraft such as the F-35 fighter armed with B-61 gravity bombs capable of delivering a low-yield nuclear payload, a new generation of nuclear-tipped submarine-launched cruise missiles, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles tipped with a new generation of low-yield nuclear warheads. The danger inherent with the integration of these kinds of tactical nuclear weapons into an overall strategy of deterrence is that it fundamentally lowers the threshold for their use. A recent study done by MIT provides a comparison between an attack on five North Korean nuclear infrastructure targets using ten 450-kiloton warheads delivered by American ICBMs, and an attack against the same target set using 20 .3 kiloton B-61 bombs. The ICBM attack destroys all targets and kills 2 to 3 million North Koreans; the B-61 strike does the same, while limiting casualties to a few hundred deaths at each target. According to press reports, American B-2 bombers are flying practice bombing missions against North Korea, using B-61 bombs as their payload.

Most Americans are familiar, at least in passing, with the possibility of scenarios involving nuclear weapons use against North Korea. Even though the 2018 NPR downplays the possibility, the same holds true with scenarios involving Russia and China. The nuclear deterrence policy laid out in the 2018 NPR, however, uses a much broader brush. Noting that the United States has never adopted a “no first use” policy, the 2018 NPR states that “it remains the policy of the United States to retain some ambiguity regarding the precise circumstances that might lead to a U.S. nuclear response.” In this regard, the NPR states that America could employ nuclear weapons under “extreme circumstances that could include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks.” Moreover, the NPR walked back from previous assurances made by the United States not to use nuclear weapons against signatory nations of the NPR who were in good standing with the provisions of that treaty, promulgating declaratory policy that states that “given the potential of significant non-nuclear strategic attacks, the United States reserves the right to make adjustments in the assurance that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of non-nuclear strategic attack technologies and U.S. capabilities to counter that threat.”

The issue of “non-nuclear strategic attack technologies” as a potential precursor for nuclear war is a new factor that previously did not exist in American policy. The United States has long held that chemical and biological weapons represent a strategic threat for which America’s nuclear deterrence capability serves as a viable counter. But the threat from cyber attacks is different. If for no other reason than the potential for miscalculation and error in terms of attribution and intent, the nexus of cyber and nuclear weapons should be disconcerting for everyone. According to the parameters outlined in the 2018 NPR, a nuclear strike could be considered in cases where a nation, like Iran, that has been subjected to a cyberattack initially perpetrated by the United States or its allies, decides to repurpose the malware and counterattack.

Even more disturbing is the notion that a cyber intrusion such as the one perpetrated against the Democratic National Committee and attributed to Russia could serve as a trigger for nuclear war. This is not as far-fetched as it sounds. The DNC event has been characterized by influential American politicians, such as the Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, as “an act of war.” Moreover, former vice president Joe Biden hinted that, in the aftermath of the DNC breach, the United States was launching a retaliatory cyberattack of its own, targeting Russia. The possibility of a tit-for-tat exchange of cyberattacks that escalates into a nuclear conflict would previously have been dismissed out of hand; today, thanks to the 2018 NPR, it has entered the realm of the possible.

The 2018 NPR speaks of an “expanding range of limited and graduated responses” available to American commanders as if this is a new concept. The fact is, American nuclear planners have always sought to provide the decision makers with as broad a range of options as possible when it came to the employment of nuclear weapons. The difference today is that the United States is actively considering the use of nuclear weapons in a first-strike capacity involving non-nuclear threats. It is this posture that represents the game changer—any potential nuclear-armed adversary must now factor in the probability, during times of crisis, of an American nuclear first strike. The logical response is for these potential adversaries to be prepared to launch a preemptive first strike of their own against the United States.

General Lee Butler, the last Cold War-era commander of Strategic Command, which is responsible for America’s nuclear forces, has said that, when faced with the threat of imminent simulated nuclear attack, the national command authority always opted for Massive Attack Option-4—a full-scale nuclear counterattack, which would condemn more than 200 million people to death. Butler, like many of his Cold War-era colleagues and counterparts who lived under the constant reality of nuclear brinksmanship, has become a proponent of the “Global Zero” movement, seeking the worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons. The 2018 NPR, while applauding that goal, has noted that before any movement toward that objective can occur, a “fundamental transformation of the world political order needs to occur.”

The Obama administration had tried to take steps toward such a transformation, an effort that was reflected in the 2010 NPR. The 2018 NPR has propelled the United States in the opposite direction, embracing a nuclear posture that lowers the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons while ignoring altogether the framework of disarmament, founded in the bedrock commitment made by all nuclear powers under Article IV of the NPT. Only the United States can provide the leadership to achieve the “fundamental transformation of the world political order” necessary to affect nuclear abolition. The Bulletin of American Scientists has set the nuclear Doomsday Clock to two minutes until midnight; the fundamental question facing America today is whether its leaders can affect the needed transformation before time runs out.

Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD. He is the author of Deal of the Century: How Iran Blocked the West’s Road to War (Clarity Press, 2017).