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A Review of the Book Losing Military Supremacy by Andrei Martyanov

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 30, 2018 at 12:35 am
Review by The Sake

The fact that the USA is facing a profound crisis, possibly the worst one in its history, is accepted by most observers, except maybe the most delusional ones. Most Americans definitely know that. In fact, if there is one thing upon which both those who supported Trump and those who hate him with a passion can agree on, it would be that his election is a clear proof of a profound crisis (I would argue that the election of Obama before also had, as one of its main causes, the very same systemic crisis). When speaking of this crisis, most people will mention the deindustrialization, the drop in real income, the lack of well-paid jobs, healthcare, crime, immigration, pollution, education, and a myriad of other contributing factors. But of all the aspects of the “American dream”, the single most resilient one has been the myth of the US military as “the finest fighting force in history”. In this new book, Andrei Martianov not only comprehensively debunks this myth, he explains step by step how this myth was created and why it is collapsing now. This is no small feat, especially in a relatively short book (225 pages) which is very well written and accessible to everyone, not just military specialists.

Martyanov takes a systematic and step-by-step approach: first, he defines military power, then he explains where the myth of US military superiority came from and how the US rewriting of the history of WWII resulted in a complete misunderstanding, especially at the top political levels, of the nature of modern warfare. He then discusses the role ideology and the Cold War played in further exacerbating the detachment of US leaders from reality. Finally, he demonstrates how a combination of delusional narcissism and outright corruption resulted in a US military capable of wasting truly phenomenal sums of money on “defense” while at the same time resulting in an actual force unable to win a war against anything but a weak and defenseless enemy.

That is not to say that the US military has not fought in many wars and won. It did, but in the words of Martyanov:

Surely when America fought against a third-rate adversary it was possible to rain death from the skies, and then roll over its forces, if any remained by that time, with very little difficulty and casualties. That will work in the future too against that type of adversary—similar in size and flimsiness of Iraqi Forces circa 2003. But Ledeen’s Doctrine had one major flaw—one adult cannot continue to go around the sandbox constantly fighting children and pretend to be good at fighting adults.

The main problem for the USA today is that there are very few of those third-rate adversaries left out there and that those who the USA is trying to bring to submission now are either near-peer or even peer adversaries. Martyanov specifically lists the factors which make that kind of adversary so different from those the USA fought in the past:

  1. Modern adversaries have command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities equal to or better than the US ones.
  2. Modern adversaries have electronic warfare capabilities equal to or better than the US ones
  3. Modern adversaries have weapon systems equal to or better than the US ones.
  4. Modern adversaries have air defenses which greatly limit the effectiveness of US airpower.
  5. Modern adversaries have long-range subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles which present a huge threat to the USN, bases, staging areas and even the entire US mainland.

In the book, all these points are substantiated with numerous and specific examples which I am not repeating here for the sake of brevity.

One could be forgiven for not being aware of any of these facts, at least if one considers the kind of nonsense written by the US corporate media or, for that matter, by the so-called “experts” (another interesting topic Martyanov discusses in some detail). Still, one can live in an imaginary world only as long as reality does not come crashing in, be it in the form of criminally overpriced and useless weapon systems or in the form of painful military defeats. The current hysteria about Russia as the Evil Mordor which is the culprit for everything and anything bad (real or imaginary) happening to the USA is mostly due to the fact that Russia, in total contradiction to all the “expert” opinions, not only did not crash or turn into a “gas station masquerading as a country” with her economy “in tatters”, but succeeded in developing a military which, for a small fraction of the US military budget, successfully developed armed forces which are in reality far more capable than the US forces. I realize that this last statement is quite literally “unthinkable” for many Americans and I submit that the very fact that this is so literally unthinkable greatly contributed to making this possible in the first place: when you are so damn sure that by some kind of miracle of history, or God’s will, or Manifest Destiny or any other supernatural reason, you are inherently and by definition superior and generally “better” than everybody else you are putting yourself in great danger of being defeated. This is as true for Israel as it is for the USA. I would also add that in the course of the West’s history this “crashing in of reality” in the comfy world of narcissistic delusion often came in the form of a Russian soldier defeating the putatively much superior master race of the day (from the Crusaders to the Nazis). Hence the loathing which western ruling elites always had for everything Russian.

In this book, Martyanov explains why, in spite of the absolutely catastrophic 1990s, the Russians succeeded in developing a modern and highly capable combat force in a record time. There are two main reasons for this: first, unlike their US counterparts, Russian weapons are designed to kill, not to make money and, second, Russians understand warfare because they understand what war really is. This latest argument might look circular, but it is not: Russians are all acutely aware of what war really means and, crucially, they are actually willing to make personal sacrifices to either avoid or, at least, win wars. In contrast, US Americans have no experience of real warfare (that is warfare in defense of their own land, family and friends) at all. For US Americans warfare is killing the other guy in his own country, preferably from afar or above, while making a ton of money in the process. For Russians, warfare is simply about surviving at any and all cost. The difference couldn’t be greater.

The difference in weapons systems acquisition is also simple: since US wars never really put the people of the USA at risk, the consequences of developing under-performing weapons systems were never catastrophic. The profits made, however, were immense. Hence the kind of criminally overpriced and useless weapons system like the F-35, the Littoral Combat Ship or, of course, the fantastically expensive and no less fantastically vulnerable aircraft carriers. The Russian force planners had very different priorities: not only did they fully realize that the failure to produce an excellently performing weapons system could result in their country being devastated and occupied (not to mention their families and themselves either enslaved or killed), they also realized that they could never match the Pentagon in terms of spending. So what they did was to design comparatively much cheaper weapons systems which could destroy or render useless the output of the multi-trillion dollar US military-industrial complex. This is how Russian missiles made the entire US ABM program and the US carrier-centric Navy pretty much obsolete as well as how Russian air defenses turned putatively “invisible” US aircraft into targets or how Russian diesel-electric submarines are threatening US nuclear attack subs. All that at a tiny fraction of what the US taxpayer spends on “defense”. Here again, Martyanov gives plenty of detailed examples.

Martyanov’s book will deeply irritate and even outrage those for whom the US narcissistic culture of axiomatic superiority has become an integral part of their identity. But for everybody else this book is an absolute must-have because the future of our entire planet is at stake here: the question is not whether the US Empire is collapsing, but what the consequences of this collapse will be for our planet. Right now, the US military has turned into a “hollow force” which simply cannot perform its mission, especially since that mission is, as defined by US politicians, the control of the entire planet. There is a huge discrepancy between the perceived and the actual capabilities of the US military and the only way to bridge this gap are, of course, nuclear weapons. This is why the last chapter in the book is entitled “The Threat of a Massive American Military Miscalculation”. In this chapter, Martyanov names the real enemy of both the Russian and the American people – the US political elites and, especially, the Neocons: they are destroying the USA as a country and they are putting all of mankind at risk of nuclear annihilation.

The above summary does not do justice to Martyanov’s truly seminal book. I can only say that I consider this book as an absolutely indispensable “must read” for every person in the USA who loves his/her country and for every person who believes that wars, especially nuclear ones, must be avoided at all costs. Just like many others (I think of Paul Craig Roberts), Martyanov is warning us that “the day of reckoning is upon us” and that the risks of war are very real, even if for most of us such an event is also unthinkable. Those in the USA who consider themselves patriots should read this book with special attention, not only because it correctly identifies the main threat to the USA, but also because it explains in detail what circumstances have resulted in the current crisis. Waving (mostly Chinese made) US flags is simply not an option anymore, neither is looking away and pretending that none of this is real. Martynov’s book will also be especially interesting to those in the US armed forces who are observing the tremendous decline of US military power from inside. Who better than a former Soviet officer could not only explain, but also understand the mechanisms which have made such a decline possible?

You can also get both versions of the book (paper & electronic) here: http://claritypress.com/Martyanov.html

The book is also available on Amazon as a pre-order here: https://www.amazon.com/Losing-Military-Supremacy-American-Strategic/dp/0998694754/

It is scheduled to become available on September 1st.

Get at least one copy and give more to your friends!

The Saker

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Watch Out World: Peace May be Breaking Out!!

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 8, 2018 at 7:21 am

By Alice Slater, July 7, 2018.

Less than a week or so before Donald Trump’s groundbreaking meeting planned with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, to take place after the NATO summit in mid-July, the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons celebrated its first birthday on July 7 when 122 nations voted a year ago in the UN General Assembly to ban the bomb, just as we have banned biological and chemical weapons.  The new ban treaty shattered the establishment consensus that the proper way to avoid nuclear catastrophe was to follow the endless step by step path of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, now 50 years old this month, which has only led to nuclear weapons forever.

In light of the new détente Trump succeeded in negotiating with the long-despised and isolated North Korea, it just might be possible that peace is breaking out, to the great consternation and disapproval of the military-industrial-academic- congressional-media complex and the traditional neoliberal Republicrats who have been opposing any efforts of these sorts, and badmouthing and diminishing the positive effects of the encouraging news that resulted from the Korean negotiations and the possibility of its achieving any promising outcomes.  Other naysayers are the members of the US nuclear alliance including NATO states as well as Australia, South Korea, and most surprisingly, Japan, the only country to have ever suffered catastrophic nuclear bombing which was wreaked upon it twice in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US in August 1945.

Let us do a thought experiment: 

The megalomaniacal Trump and the egomaniacal Putin decide to be the greatest heroes the world has ever known!  They recreate the negotiating environmt in Reykjavik with Reagan and Gorbachev and Putin repeats Gorbachev’s offer to the US that he is willing for both countries to rid the world of all their nuclear weapons if Reagan drops his plans to dominate and control the military use of space with Star Wars.   Trump agrees to give up his planned Space Force, converting it into an international space inspection regime in partnership with Russia and other spacefaring nations under UN supervision to make sure floating debris doesn’t injure any of our critical communications equipment orbiting in space.  Trump also agrees to sign the treaty that China and Russia have been proposing since 2008 and 2014 to keep weapons out of space which the US has blocked to date.   They both agree to sign the provision in the new ban treaty that was provided for nuclear weapons states to enter into the treaty and work out a way to verify and dismantle their arsenals, after they get agreement from the other 6 nuclear weapons states—England, France, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel.   North Korea has already agreed to denuclearize once appropriate conditions are met.   Surely the total elimination of nuclear weapons by all the other states and ratification of the ban treaty would be adequate reassurance to North Korea to get rid of its nuclear weapons as well.

Another negotiating tactic they could revisit is for Putin to repeat the offer to Trump which he made to Clinton to cut the US and Russian arsenals to 1,000 warheads each and call all the other parties to the table to eliminate nuclear weapons and reinstate the ABM Treaty, which Bush walked out of in 2002, while Trump could promise in return to remove our missiles from Romania and the ones planned for Poland and not to  put any more missiles in Eastern Europe under the newly reinstated ABM Treaty.

Putin could also remind Trump that Reagan promised that if Gorbachev didn’t object to a united East Germany entering NATO, after the wall came down and Gorbachev miraculously let go of all of Eastern Europe without a shot, the US would not expand NATO one step to the east.  In light of that broken promise and how NATO has now expanded to all of the former Soviet occupied Eastern Europe, Trump should agree to Putin’s request that he disband NATO.  (Let Trump remember, and the rest of us as well, that Russia lost 29,000,000, that’s 29 million, people to the Nazi onslaught, and feels very threatened to have NATO breathing down its neck with military maneuvers on its borders.)

One more agreement Putin might negotiate with Trump in their efforts to achieve the very greatest negotiations for peace ever!   He should remind Trump that in 2009 Obama rejected his request that the US and Russia negotiate a cyberwar ban treaty.  What could be more beneficent while saving trillions of competitive dollars chasing superiority in cyberwarfare, and wasting hundreds of thousands of IQ points on a senseless and perilously dangerous kind of  novel warfare, when the world needs all the brainpower and resources  it can use to avert the coming climate catastrophe and save Mother Earth.

Then the US could promise to commit the $1 trillion it had budgeted for new nuclear bomb factories, weapons, and delivery systems to a fund to help rebuild war torn countries, from which the largest waves of immigrants are fleeing.  Trump should ask Russia as well as other countries who are leaving NATO and giving up their nuclear weapons and joining the ban treaty to also commit to donate those funds no longer needed to support their nuclear military budgets which would more than adequately and generously support the “Keep People Safely and Happy in Their Home Countries Fund”, so we won’t need to build walls and hire police forces and homeland security guards to stop impoverished, war-torn, threatened people from migrating.   Who would ever want to leave their homeland if they could live in the land of their birth in peace and prosperity?

Now is the time to urge that another world is truly possible!

###

Alice Slater serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War

By Alice Slater, July 7, 2018.

Less than a week or so before Donald Trump’s groundbreaking meeting planned with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, to take place after the NATO summit in mid-July, the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons celebrated its first birthday on July 7 when 122 nations voted a year ago in the UN General Assembly to ban the bomb, just as we have banned biological and chemical weapons.  The new ban treaty shattered the establishment consensus that the proper way to avoid nuclear catastrophe was to follow the endless step by step path of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, now 50 years old this month, which has only led to nuclear weapons forever.

In light of the new détente Trump succeeded in negotiating with the long-despised and isolated North Korea, it just might be possible that peace is breaking out, to the great consternation and disapproval of the military-industrial-academic- congressional-media complex and the traditional neoliberal Republicrats who have been opposing any efforts of these sorts, and badmouthing and diminishing the positive effects of the encouraging news that resulted from the Korean negotiations and the possibility of its achieving any promising outcomes.  Other naysayers are the members of the US nuclear alliance including NATO states as well as Australia, South Korea, and most surprisingly, Japan, the only country to have ever suffered catastrophic nuclear bombing which was wreaked upon it twice in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US in August 1945.

Let us do a thought experiment: 

The megalomaniacal Trump and the egomaniacal Putin decide to be the greatest heroes the world has ever known!  They recreate the negotiating environmt in Reykjavik with Reagan and Gorbachev and Putin repeats Gorbachev’s offer to the US that he is willing for both countries to rid the world of all their nuclear weapons if Reagan drops his plans to dominate and control the military use of space with Star Wars.   Trump agrees to give up his planned Space Force, converting it into an international space inspection regime in partnership with Russia and other spacefaring nations under UN supervision to make sure floating debris doesn’t injure any of our critical communications equipment orbiting in space.  Trump also agrees to sign the treaty that China and Russia have been proposing since 2008 and 2014 to keep weapons out of space which the US has blocked to date.   They both agree to sign the provision in the new ban treaty that was provided for nuclear weapons states to enter into the treaty and work out a way to verify and dismantle their arsenals, after they get agreement from the other 6 nuclear weapons states—England, France, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel.   North Korea has already agreed to denuclearize once appropriate conditions are met.   Surely the total elimination of nuclear weapons by all the other states and ratification of the ban treaty would be adequate reassurance to North Korea to get rid of its nuclear weapons as well.

Another negotiating tactic they could revisit is for Putin to repeat the offer to Trump which he made to Clinton to cut the US and Russian arsenals to 1,000 warheads each and call all the other parties to the table to eliminate nuclear weapons and reinstate the ABM Treaty, which Bush walked out of in 2002, while Trump could promise in return to remove our missiles from Romania and the ones planned for Poland and not to  put any more missiles in Eastern Europe under the newly reinstated ABM Treaty.

Putin could also remind Trump that Reagan promised that if Gorbachev didn’t object to a united East Germany entering NATO, after the wall came down and Gorbachev miraculously let go of all of Eastern Europe without a shot, the US would not expand NATO one step to the east.  In light of that broken promise and how NATO has now expanded to all of the former Soviet occupied Eastern Europe, Trump should agree to Putin’s request that he disband NATO.  (Let Trump remember, and the rest of us as well, that Russia lost 29,000,000, that’s 29 million, people to the Nazi onslaught, and feels very threatened to have NATO breathing down its neck with military maneuvers on its borders.)

One more agreement Putin might negotiate with Trump in their efforts to achieve the very greatest negotiations for peace ever!   He should remind Trump that in 2009 Obama rejected his request that the US and Russia negotiate a cyberwar ban treaty.  What could be more beneficent while saving trillions of competitive dollars chasing superiority in cyberwarfare, and wasting hundreds of thousands of IQ points on a senseless and perilously dangerous kind of  novel warfare, when the world needs all the brainpower and resources  it can use to avert the coming climate catastrophe and save Mother Earth.

Then the US could promise to commit the $1 trillion it had budgeted for new nuclear bomb factories, weapons, and delivery systems to a fund to help rebuild war torn countries, from which the largest waves of immigrants are fleeing.  Trump should ask Russia as well as other countries who are leaving NATO and giving up their nuclear weapons and joining the ban treaty to also commit to donate those funds no longer needed to support their nuclear military budgets which would more than adequately and generously support the “Keep People Safely and Happy in Their Home Countries Fund”, so we won’t need to build walls and hire police forces and homeland security guards to stop impoverished, war-torn, threatened people from migrating.   Who would ever want to leave their homeland if they could live in the land of their birth in peace and prosperity?

Now is the time to urge that another world is truly possible!

###

Alice Slater serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War

NEW POLL: Europeans reject US nuclear weapons on own soil

In Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 8, 2018 at 2:56 am
Q1HOST-nologonosource

July 6, 2018

On the first anniversary of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), new YouGov polling commissioned by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has found an overwhelming rejection of nuclear weapons.  The poll was conducted in the four EU countries that host US nuclear weapons: Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Italy. In each country, an overwhelming majority of people surveyed were in favour of removing the weapons from their soil, and for their countries to sign the Treaty that bans them outright.

Download the full survey here →

What did the survey find?

1. At least twice as many people are in favour of removing the weapons than keeping them.
2. At least four times as many people are in favour of their country signing the TPNW than not signing the TPNW.
3. At least four times as many people are against companies in their country investing in nuclear weapons activities than in favour of it.
4. A strong majority of people are against NATO buying new fighter jets that are able to carry both nuclear weapons and conventional weapons.

One year on, a vast majority supports the Nuclear Ban Treaty

“In their totality, the survey results show a clear rejection of nuclear weapons by those Europeans who are on the frontline of any nuclear attack: those hosting American weapons on their soil. More than simply demonstrating a ‘not in my back yard’ mentality, Europeans are even more strongly in favour of a blanket ban of all nuclear weapons worldwide than they are against simply removing the weapons from their own soil,” said Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN.

“The people of Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy all know that these weapons are a massive humanitarian disaster in waiting, and they will be on the frontline,” Ms Fihn said. “That’s why on the first anniversary of the Treaty to ban all nuclear weapons we are standing with them to push NATO leaders at next week’s Brussels summit to forge a new NATO security that rejects nuclear weapons, in line with the democratic wishes of their constituents.”

This week marks the first anniversary of 122 nations adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in New York on July 7th 2017. The landmark global treaty prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory.



  • aiweiwei

    “Let’s act up! Ban nuclear weapons completely and unconditionally.”

    Ai Weiwei Artist and activist

On the 50th Anniversary of the Non-Proliferation Treaty: An Exercise in Bad Faith

In Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 1, 2018 at 1:34 am

by Alice Slater

 

On July 1, the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will turn 50 years old.   In that agreement, five nuclear weapons states– the US, Russia, UK, France, and China—promised, a half a century ago, to make “good faith efforts” to give up their nuclear weapons, while non-nuclear weapons states promised not to acquire them.   Every country in the world agreed to join the treaty except for India, Pakistan, and Israel which then went on to develop their own nuclear arsenals.   To sweeten the pot, the NPT’s Faustian bargain promised the non-nuclear weapons states an “inalienable right” to so-called “peaceful” nuclear power.   Every nuclear power reactor is a potential bomb factory since its operation produces radioactive waste which can be enriched into bomb-grade fuel for nuclear bombs.  North Korea developed its promised “peaceful” nuclear technology and then walked out of the treaty and made nuclear bombs.  And it was feared that Iran was on its way to enriching their “peaceful” nuclear  waste to make nuclear weapons as well, which is why Obama negotiated the  “Iran deal” which provided more stringent inspections of Iran’s enrichment activity, now under assault by the US with the election of Donald Trump.

 

Despite the passage of 50 years since the NPT states promised “good faith” efforts to disarm, and the required Review and Extension conference 25 years ago, which since then has instituted substantive review conferences every five years as a condition for having extended the NPT indefinitely rather than letting it lapse in 1995, there are still about 15,000 nuclear weapons on our planet.  All but some 1,000 of them are in the US and Russia which keep nearly 2,000 weapons on hair-trigger alert, poised and ready to fire on each other’s cities in a matter of minutes.   Only this month, the Trump administration upped the ante on a plan developed by Obama’s war machine to spend one trillion dollars over the next ten years on two new nuclear bomb factories, new weapons, and nuclear-firing planes, missiles and submarines.  Trump’s new proposal for a massive Pentagon budget of $716 billion, an increase of $82 billion, was passed in the House and now in the Senate by 85 Republicans and Democrats alike, with only 10 Senators voting against it!  When it comes  to gross and violent military spending, bi-partisanship is the modus operandi!   And the most radical aspect of the budget is a massive expansion of the US nuclear arsenal, ending a 15 year prohibition on developing “more usable” low-yield nuclear warheads that can be delivered by submarine as well as by air-launched cruise missiles.  “More usable” in this case, are bombs that are at least as destructive as the atom bombs that wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki, since the subsequently developed hydrogen bombs in the US arsenal are magnitudes more devastating and catastrophic. 

 

Putin, in his March, 2018 State of the Nation Address, also spoke of new nuclear- weapons bearing missiles being developed by Russia in response to the US having pulled out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and then planting missiles in eastern Europe.     He noted that:

 

Back in 2000, the US announced its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Russia was categorically against this. We saw the Soviet-US ABM Treaty signed in 1972 as the cornerstone of the international security system. Under this treaty, the parties had the right to deploy ballistic missile defence systems only in one of its regions. Russia deployed these systems around Moscow, and the US around its Grand Forks land-based ICBM base.

Together with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the ABM Treaty not only created an atmosphere of trust but also prevented either party from recklessly using nuclear weapons, which would have endangered humankind, because the limited number of ballistic missile defence systems made the potential aggressor vulnerable to a response strike.

We did our best to dissuade the Americans from withdrawing from the treaty. All in vain. The US pulled out of the treaty in 2002. Even after that we tried to develop constructive dialogue with the Americans. We proposed working together in this area to ease concerns and maintain the atmosphere of trust. At one point, I thought that a compromise was possible, but this was not to be. All our proposals, absolutely all of them, were rejected. And then we said that we would have to improve our modern strike systems to protect our securityhttp://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/56957

Ironically, this week the US Department of State, under the heading “Diplomacy in Action”, issued a joint statement with US Secretary of State Pompeo and the Russian and UK Foreign Ministers , extolling the NPT as the “essential foundation for international efforts to stem the looming threat—then and now—that nuclear weapons would proliferate across the globe…and has limited the risk that the vast devastation of nuclear war would be unleashed.” https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/06/283593.htm

All this is occurring against the stunning new development of the negotiation and passage of a new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the culmination of a ten year campaign by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which succeeded in lobbying for  122 nations to sign this new treaty which prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory.  Just as the world has banned chemical and biological weapon, as well as landmines and cluster bombs, the new treaty to ban nuclear weapons closes the legal gap created by the NPT which only requires “good faith efforts” for nuclear disarmament, and doesn’t prohibit them.

At the last NPT review in 2015, South Africa spoke eloquently about the state of nuclear apartheid created by the NPT where the nuclear “haves” hold the rest of the world hostage to their devastating nuclear threats which provided even more impetus for the successful negotiation of the ban treaty.     ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize for their winning campaign and is now engaged in lobbying for ratification by the 50 states required by the ban treaty to enter into force.  To date, 58 nations have signed the treaty, with 10 national legislatures having weighed in to ratify it.   See, www.icanw.org    None of the nine nuclear weapons states or the US nuclear alliance nations in NATO, as well as South Korea, Australia, and surprisingly, Japan, have signed the treaty and all of them boycotted the negotiations, except for the Netherlands because a grassroots campaign resulted in their Parliament voting to mandate attendance at the ban negotiations, even though they voted against the treaty.  Grassroots groups are organizing in the five NATO states that host US nuclear weapons—Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Turkey—to remove these weapons from US bases now that they are prohibited.

There is a vibrant new divestment campaign, for use in the nuclear weapons states and their allies sheltering under the US nuclear umbrella, www.dontbankonthebomb.com   There is also a parliamentary pledge for legislators to sign who live in nuclear weapons states or allied states at http://www.icanw.org/projects/pledge/ calling on their governments to join the ban treaty.    In the US, there is a campaign to pass resolutions at city and state levels in favor of the new treaty at www.nuclearban.us  Many of these nuclear divestment campaigns are working in cooperation with the new Code Pink Divest from the War Campaign.    https://www.codepink.org/divest_from_the_war_machine

It remains to be seen whether the NPT will continue to have relevance in light of the evident lack of integrity by the parties who promised “good faith” efforts for nuclear disarmament, and instead are all modernizing and inventing new forms of nuclear terror.   The recent detente between the US and North Korea, with proposals to sign a peace treaty and formally end the Korean War, after a 65 year cease-fire since 1953,  and the proposed meeting between the two nuclear gargantuans, the US and Russia, together with the new nuclear ban treaty, may be an opportunity to shift gears and look forward to a world without nuclear weapons if we can overcome the corrupt forces that keep the military-industrial-academic-congressional complex in business, seemingly forever!     Alice Slater is the New York representative for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War.

 

Nuclear Weapons Pose the Ultimate Threat to Mankind | The Nation

In Democracy, Environment, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on June 25, 2018 at 6:39 am

Ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the peace movement has seemed moribund. But in the wake of the US–North Korean summit, there are glimmers of hope that something new is stirring, with a focus on the ultimate threat to humankind: the use of nuclear weapons.

This new momentum has been sparked by some of the dark times of the past 17 months. In January 2018, citing growing nuclear risks and unchecked climate dangers, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set its iconic Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight, the nearest to the symbolic point of annihilation that the clock has been since 1953, at the height of the Cold War. The world seems off its axis as new political forces have rekindled old animosities between nuclear rivals. The president’s disastrous decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal has led to new dangers in the Middle East. Trump’s choice of John Bolton as national-security adviser jeopardizes the prospect for enduring peace with North Korea; Bolton was one of the most rabid proponents for the invasion of Iraq and has pushed for regime change in North Korea, Iran, and Syria. Meanwhile, the nuclear-armed states are undertaking new weapons programs, and the possibility of stumbling into a calamitous war with North Korea and/or Iran has never been more real. There are nine nuclear-armed states with a combined arsenal of around 15,000 nuclear weapons. Another 59 countries possess nuclear materials and the capacity to create their own weapons programs. Even a small regional nuclear conflict could inflict catastrophic global damage. The probability of lost or stolen nuclear material, the accidental use of nuclear weapons (or terrorists acquiring them), and the threat of full-scale nuclear war all rise each time a new country decides to make weapons-grade nuclear materials.

Last year, President Trump declared that he wanted the US nuclear arsenal to be at the “top of the pack,” asserting preposterously that the US military had fallen behind in its weapons capacity. In his 2018 State of the Union address, Trump again stated his determination to modernize the nation’s nuclear stockpile. His appointments, statements, and actions—combined with the knowledge that the president has sole launch authority for these weapons—have raised global anxieties to a level not seen in a quarter-century. Google searches for “World War III” hit an all-time high in April 2017.

In response, movements for nuclear disarmament around the world are reviving the kind of activism that’s been missing for a very long time. Take Korea: The American media make too little of the role of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the domestic movements that propelled him into office. Moon did not emerge from a vacuum; he was backed by numerous progressive forces in South Korea. Women Cross DMZ and other Korean women’s groups were part of that electoral muscle. In 2015, on the 70th anniversary of Korea’s division by the Cold War powers, Women Cross DMZ led 30 female peacemakers from 15 countries, including two Nobel Peace Prize laureates and the American feminist Gloria Steinem, across the Korean Demilitarized Zone. They held peace symposiums in Pyongyang and in Seoul, where hundreds of women discussed the impact of the unresolved Korean conflict on their lives and shared stories of mobilizing in their communities to end violence and war. They walked with 10,000 women on both sides of the DMZ, in the streets of Pyongyang, Kaesong, and Paju, calling for a formal peace treaty to end the Korean War, the reuniting of separated families, and a central role for women’s leadership in the peace process. Women are still pushing with meetings, marches, and political engagement across the Korean Peninsula. Moon’s election was partly a mandate to move forward with a new relationship with North Korea.

Peace movements in the non-nuclear states are on the rise too. In December 2017, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to advance a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear arms. In all, 122 countries have voted in favor of adopting the treaty thus far, and many are on the path to full ratification. On May 17, Vietnam became the 10th nation to ratify it; the treaty requires the ratification of 50 countries before it acquires legal standing. No nuclear state has expressed support for it yet, but the treaty stands as a moral document and is galvanizing peace movements in many countries.

Meanwhile, peace activists are taking a page from the fossil-fuel divestment movement. Don’t Bank on the Bomb identifies corporations that produce key components for nuclear weapons and presses major institutions to divest from them. The Dutch pension fund ABP, the fifth-largest in the world, announced in January that it would divest from all nuclear-weapons producers. Twenty-two major global institutions have already done just that.

Back home in the United States, Beyond the Bomb is a new effort focused on grassroots advocacy to reduce the threat of nuclear conflict. To date, the campaign involves Win Without War and Global Zero, but it aims to enlist a much broader network of groups. The primary focus is to pass emergency legislation that will curtail the president’s sole authority to use nuclear weapons. Few things are more terrifying than Donald Trump’s continual proximity to the so-called nuclear football—a briefcase with codes for launching nuclear missiles. When Trump threatened to rain “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea, Beyond the Bomb gained momentum. The campaign is also working with others to block the United States’ proposed $1.7 trillion nuclear-weapons modernization program, and to support the adoption of no-first-use declarations as well as increased funding to clean up nuclear contamination in frontline communities.

The current global dynamics of fear, dysfunctional governments, and capitalism run amok are helping to drive the nuclear-arms race. But long-standing groups like Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Tri-Valley Cares, located near nuclear labs and production facilities, are mobilizing with a new intensity against the restarting of industrial-scale plutonium-pit manufacturing. On May 8, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, gave a groundbreaking speech in Washington, DC, that was reminiscent of Martin Luther King’s 1967 anti-war speech at Riverside Church in New York City. Barber invoked the moral necessity to resist militarism, the war economy, and nuclear weapons. Iraq Veterans Against the War is speaking forcefully against Trump’s abandonment of the Iran nuclear deal, while Veterans for Peace has condemned the continuing US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. Young progressives are linking their concerns about the violence directed against women, immigrants, indigenous communities, and African Americans with their outrage over gun violence, ecological destruction, and US militarism. John Qua, senior campaigner for Beyond the Bomb, observes that “many young people see a seamless connection among these movements,” including the need to address the ultimate form of violence—the use of nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, many older Americans perceive a unifying theme here: the need to press for and protect a safe future for our children. Together, this incipient network of old and young alike is beginning to challenge government policies that have left us stranded for too long on the brink of nuclear conflict.

Betsy Taylor helped found the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign and Iraq Peace Fund and is the president of Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions.

Presbyterian Church says no to nuclear weapons, yes to Ban Treaty!

In Democracy, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on June 23, 2018 at 7:37 am

By Ralph Hutchison

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USA, the largest presbyterian ecclesiastical body in the United States, has called on the US government to “begin immediately the process of complete, irreversible and verifiable nuclear disarmament in compliance with our obligations…and the requirements of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” passed last summer at the United Nations.

The General Assembly took its action by adopting an Overture entitled “On Seeking God’s Peace Through Nuclear Disarmament in the 21st Century;” the Overture was approved on the consent agenda of the General Assembly on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 at the church’s biannual meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Overture, which originated in the Peacemaking Committee of the Presbytery of East Tennessee, was sent to the General Assembly by New Hope Presbytery in Raleigh, North Carolina, in February, and received concurrences from the Presbytery de Christo and Muskingham Presbytery before arriving at the church’s national assembly.

Building on the church’s long-standing position of opposition to nuclear weapons, the General Assembly’s action recognizes the urgency of the present moment, when nuclear weapons present a greater threat than at any time in the last fifty years, and the equally unprecedented opportunity presented by the movement to ban nuclear weapons. One hundred twenty-two nations approved the Nuclear Ban Treaty last summer at the United Nations; the United States boycotted the treaty negotiations at the UN and the vote.

The Presbyterian Church also calls on its members to “take actions in defense of God’s creation and our own security, which is inextricably bound to the security of the rest of the world,” and calls on the church to provide resources to educate and mobilize its members in collaboration with other faith communities to work for the elimination of nuclear weapons from the earth.

The Presbyterian Church’s action coincides with budget deliberations in the US Congress. The church calls for the elimination of funding for the Life Extension Program for existing nuclear weapons as well as plans for new nuclear weapon production facilities—the Uranium Processing Facility bomb plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and plutonium pit fabrication facilities proposed for Los Alamos (NM) and the Savannah River Site (SC).

“The action of the Presbyterian Church follows on the strong statements coming from the Vatican over the last three years,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance which provided resource support during the drafting of the Overture. “We hope it will serve as a model for other faith communities to reawaken a powerful voice that can press our government to make the world safer and more secure.”

The Overture also calls for the Presbyterian Church to work collaboratively with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, and other nongovernmental organizations working for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Denuke solution for NK should be multilateral: Nobel Peace awardees

In Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on May 23, 2018 at 11:23 pm

May 23, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump may be eager to cut a groundbreaking and historic denuclearization deal in the Singapore meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to ensure “a very special moment for world peace” that can earn him a Nobel Peace Prize, but laureates of the peace award strongly advise a multilateral denuclearization scheme instead of a bilateral framework to ensure that both Pyongyang and Washington do not walk away from the deal out of whims as they had in the past.

“This (U.S.-North Korea summitry) should be the start, not the end of a process of disarmament and building peace. This process should involve South Korea centrally, other countries of northeast Asia – China, Russia, Japan – and the United Nations,” said Tilman Ruff, Co-President of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

“Multilateral and open approach is key to success,” said Akira Kawasaki, International Steering Group member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2017. Both spoke to the Maeil Business Newspaper in separate exclusive email interviews.

With differences in the means of the dismantlement process casting doubt on the outcome of the Singapore meeting, the prize-winning anti-nuclear activists both advised the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) as the best solution to keep North Korea in the path for complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization.

“TNPW will be an effective legally-binding instrument to ensure a credible denuclearization for the Korean Peninsula” as it will “obligate North Korea to dismantle all nuclear arsenals and related facilities and programs under international verification, while obligating South Korea not to deploy or develop nuclear weapons as well as not to assist or encourage the U.S. to use nuclear weapon against North Korea,” said Kawasaki.

Ruff agreed, as the treaty is a “pathway for all states to join, including those which currently possess nuclear weapons, possessed them in the past, have them stationed on their territory, or like South Korea assist in military preparations for their possible use.”

“Any agreed verification body needs to be empowered to gather all the information it needs for its work in a timely way, needs to be adequately resourced, and clear processes are needed to address and resolve any disputes. Ways to deal with any breaches of binding commitments by any of the parties involved should be laid out,” Ruff said, pointing to both Pyongyang and Washington which had bolted from bilateral and multilateral talks in the past.

The seemingly rapid developments and high hopes for the first-ever sit-down between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea were dashed when North Korea suddenly turned hostile, breaking off military talks with South Korea amid complaints about hostile vibe from the United States.

Trump, sitting across South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the Oval House on Tuesday as the latter tried to keep the back-to-back summits on track, said, “There is a very substantial chance that it won’t work out.”

The mood turned negative after hawks in Washington floated the idea of a “Libyan model” where Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and assassinated after he gave up nuclear weapons in a deal with the U.S. in 2003.

“For a successful summit, both the U.S. and North Korea will need to listen, respect each other, and focus not only on their respective political needs, but on the key opportunity to build security for the Korean people and the world,” Ruff said.

“We should warn the leaders, including Kim and Trump, that nuclear weapons are threats to all humanity and that a nuclear war will never be won and thus must not be fought,” Kawasaki said. “Nuclear weapons are not tools of international game. It is taking all humanity as hostage.”

The two also stressed the importance of ending the Korean War and replacing the armistice agreed in 1953 with a comprehensive peace agreement. “The two leaders should be able to agree to the general principle, pending concrete roadmaps yet to be developed,” Kawasaki added.
By Kim Hyo-hye and Kim Hyo-jin

Ban Treaty on Track to Enter into Force

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on May 2, 2018 at 9:56 am

By Lydia Wood on Apr 30, 2018

Last week, I had the privilege of attending, on behalf of NuclearBan.US, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) campaigners’ meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting brought together over 130 ICAN campaigners from around the world to discuss campaign progress and strategy for making the United Nations Nuclear Ban Treaty successful.

Since 122 nations adopted the treaty at the United Nations on July 7, 2017, 58 countries have already signed and 7 countries have ratified the treaty. Once 50 countries have ratified the treaty it will enter into legal force, becoming binding under international law. Many countries across the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Asia are working through their governmental process of officially ratifying the treaty. This exciting progress means we are on track to have the treaty enter into force sometime over the next two years!

I met energized and creative campaigners from Kenya, Costa Rica, Nepal, The United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, and The United States among many other countries who are bridging generational, national, religious, gender, and ethnic differences to build a thriving coalition against nuclear weapons. They talked about their efforts to lobby governments, politicians, faith organizations, and people and institutions at the grassroots level to take a stand against nuclear weapons.

The biggest challenge moving forward is getting the nine nuclear weapons countries and their NATO allies to support the treaty and eliminate their weapons. ICAN’s approach is to focus on consistent and clear messaging highlighting the humanitarian and existential risk that nuclear weapons pose to humanity. It’s a risk that we all share regardless of our national, political, or ethnic affiliations.

Here in the United States, it is a challenge to get people to think more internationally, but that is specifically what is needed for the Nuclear Ban Treaty to be successful. Grassroots mobilizing will be vital for turning the tides from nuclear posturing towards nuclear disarmament and nuclear abolition. By working in our communities to educate others on nuclear risk, and by personally and collectively divesting from, and boycotting, the 26 companies making nuclear weapons we can help chip away at their legitimacy.

Cities, institutions, businesses, schools, faith organizations, and individuals across the US and abroad have already started committing themselves to divesting and boycotting from nuclear weapons, and many more are in the process of doing so. The treaty compliance campaign that is the centerpiece of NuclearBan.US is one way individuals and communities large and small can take on the nuclear threat and contribute to the success of the Nuclear Ban Treaty. It’s also offers a scalable strategy that other nuclear weapon and NATO countries can adopt to mobilize their citizenry. Furthermore, by mobilizing public support for the treaty we also signal to the international community that there is grassroots support for the Nuclear Ban in the US, further encouraging other countries to ratify the treaty.

After attending the ICAN campaigners’ meeting I am more convinced than ever that this movement will be successful. As we saw with the historic agreement that made vital progress towards ending the Korean War and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, diplomacy is good foreign policy. We need not wait for morality and rationality to creep into our political systems. As ICAN’s success to date reminds us, change starts within ourselves and our communities. It is possible to alter the course of history.

What is socialism?

In Climate change, Cost, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Peace, Politics, Public Health, Race on March 27, 2018 at 10:12 am

By Tom Mayer, Peace Train Column for Friday March 23, 2018

Many people understand that socialism is a possible alternative to capitalism in the modern world, but few know what socialism really means. The nature of an economic system depends upon which social class controls the means of production. Power over the means of production enables the controlling class to govern the entire economic system.

Three basic economic systems (each with many variations) are possible in a modern technologically advanced society: capitalism, state collectivism, and socialism. Under capitalism the owners of productive property (i.e. capitalists) control the means of production. Capitalism is the economic system that currently exists in most parts of the world. Under state collectivism the government bureaucracy controls the means of production. State collectivism was the economic system of Communist countries like the Soviet Union and is often mistaken for socialism. Under socialism working people collectively control the means of production. Although some societies have adopted a few socialist institutions (e.g. economic planning, free health care, cooperative banks) there has never been a full-fledged socialist society in the modern world.

Socialism has five principal goals. (1) Sustainability: the economic system must be organized to sustain human life on our planet for the indefinite future. (2) Equality: the economic system must move towards complete economic equality. All forms of work are equally valued. Complete equality is the long term goal, but limited inequality based upon differential contributions to the economy exists initially. (3) Comprehensive Democracy: all major economic and political decisions are made through genuine democratic processes. (4) Personal Security: all fundamental personal needs are guaranteed by society. This guarantee includes food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, child care, elder care, etc. The levels at which personal needs are guaranteed increase as the socialist economic system matures. (5) Solidarity: a spirit of mutual support, cooperation, and friendship is created among all people. Socialist solidarity contrasts with the egoism and competitiveness fostered by capitalism.

What social institutions can achieve these five socialist goals? Socialists have different views on this subject, particularly on the issue of whether socialism should use markets. Here are some of the institutions proposed by socialists: (a) a democratic state that invites maximum participation and frequent circulation of political officials; (b) democratic and self-governing councils of workers and consumers; (c) jobs balanced for difficulty and desirability by workers councils (hazardous and unpleasant work being divided among all competent adults); (d) compensation according to effort as determined by fellow workers; (e) democratic and participatory economic planning in which workers councils have a major part; (f) use of computers and extensive feedback to reach a feasible and sustainable economic plan.

Building socialism in the context of a capitalist society involves a three prong strategy: (i) consciousness raising – developing socialist consciousness within the capitalist public; (ii) institution building – creating socialist institutions based upon cooperation, equality, and rational planning within capitalist society (e.g. workers cooperatives, strong labor unions, environmental regulation); (iii) political organizing – establishing an effective political party committed to socialism that contests for power within the capitalist political system.

U.S.-Russia Nuclear Arms Racing: Still Crazy After All These Years

In Environment, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, Public Health, War on March 20, 2018 at 1:00 am

By Andrew Lichterman and John Burroughs, truthdig, March 26, 2018
President Vladimir Putin’s major address on March 1 to Russia’s Federal Assembly was candid about the economic and social challenges facing Russians. What attracted attention in the United States, however, was a detailed description, complete with video animations, of an array of new nuclear weapons delivery systems, including a nuclear-powered cruise missile and an underwater drone.

A month earlier, on Feb. 2, the Trump administration released its Nuclear Posture Review. The review’s assessment of prospects for U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control is grim. It proposes two new capabilities, both aimed at Russia, a low-yield warhead deployed on submarine-launched missiles, and a sea-based, nuclear-armed cruise missile. It also endorses existing plans to sustain and upgrade existing nuclear forces and infrastructure to the tune of well over a trillion dollars over the next three decades.

While not as sensational as the weapons described by Putin, the Pentagon’s proposals manifest a commitment to an increasing and long-term reliance on nuclear arms. The review also lowers the threshold for use of nuclear weapons, emphasizing the role of such weapons in responding to “non-nuclear strategic attacks,” notably cyberattacks. The recommendation for increased nuclear weapons spending comes at a time when Congress has approved a budget deal providing for military spending of $700 billion in 2018 and $716 billion in 2019, figures well above those in play just last year.

For most Americans, the emergence of a renewed nuclear arms race with Russia comes as a surprise. Since the end of the Cold War, public discussion about nuclear weapons in the U.S. has been dominated by purported threats of nuclear weapons in the hands of nonstate actors or regional adversaries. In 2010, President Barack Obama proclaimed: “Today, the threat of global nuclear war has passed, but the danger of nuclear proliferation endures. …” As recently as 2013, the Defense Department declared the most pressing nuclear dangers to be proliferation and “nuclear terrorism.”

The crisis precipitated by the 2014 overthrow of Ukraine’s government and Russia’s annexation of Crimea was, for the U.S. public, the first intimation that great-power nuclear arsenals still pose catastrophic dangers. For the first time since the Cold War, Russian and American nuclear-armed forces were conducting exercises and patrols in the same region, while each backed opposing factions in a civil war. As the Ukraine confrontation settled into a tense stalemate, it disappeared from the front pages along with the dangers posed by the immense nuclear arsenals still deployed by the U.S. and Russia. Donald Trump’s ascendance, featuring disturbingly misinformed campaign comments and then his profoundly alarming confrontation with North Korea, brought nuclear weapons back into mainstream public discussion—but U.S. and Russian nuclear forces still remained in the background, out of focus.

Origins of the Current Confrontation

Despite appearances, plans for new Russian nuclear weapon systems are not a response to the Nuclear Posture Review or to Trump’s casual rhetoric about U.S. nuclear might. The causes of the resurgent confrontation between the two countries that possess over 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons extend back decades, to decisions made in the early 1990s. The disintegration of the Soviet Union also marked the end of the Cold War—a titanic, half-century confrontation for which no formal settlement ever was negotiated, only a series of piecemeal arms control measures and political agreements. The spirit and in some cases the letter of this partial Cold War settlement was ignored by the U.S. and its NATO allies.

Instead of engaging Russia as a partner in a new, potentially more cooperative order, they instead took every opportunity to exploit the political and economic weakness of the post-Soviet states. Despite assurances from Western governments that NATO would not be expanded to the East, the military alliance now includes not only many of Russia’s former Warsaw Pact allies but also the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Even today, NATO membership for Georgia remains on the table, and an effort at some point to include Ukraine is not out of the question.

NATO’s expansion eastward proceeded in tandem with the economic subordination of former Warsaw Pact countries. It was driven as well by the interests of Western arms makers seeking new markets for their wares, and new rationales for endless high-tech weapons development in a post-Cold War world. For them, the confrontational aspect of NATO expansion was and continues to be an opportunity, not a risk.

Confident that Russia no longer presented a significant military challenge, both Republican and Democratic administrations squandered the crucial post-Cold War opportunity to eliminate the existential threat to humanity posed by huge nuclear arsenals. Beginning in the mid-1990s, when Russian economic and military power was at its nadir, the United States embarked on a long-term effort to modernize its nuclear weapons, as well as the laboratories and factories that sustain them. U.S. military spending began to climb out of its brief post-Cold War trough at the same time, with the U.S. developing and deploying an array of powerful, accurate conventional armaments and stealthy delivery systems. Many of these were battle-tested in the wars that the U.S. has been conducting continuously since 1991. These conventional systems, which could destroy some targets previously only vulnerable to nuclear weapons, were seen as a strategic threat by both China and Russia.

Meanwhile, the U.S. nuclear weapons modernization program was applying incremental upgrades to warheads and delivery systems. Perhaps most important of these was an upgrade of submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads beginning in 2009 that increased their capability to destroy hardened targets like missile silos and command centers. Long-time observers of U.S. nuclear weapons programs characterized the changes as “revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the U.S. ballistic missile arsenal.” They concluded: “This increase in capability is astonishing—boosting the overall killing power of existing U.S. ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three—and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.”

Despite its unparalleled conventional military dominance in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, the U.S. government failed to seize the opportunity to pursue elimination of nuclear weapons or at least the reduction of arsenals to very low levels. Informal agreements in the early 1990s took entire categories of tactical nuclear weapons out of service, but still left large numbers of operational nuclear weapons deployed. Although negotiations continued throughout the 1990s, no new bilateral arms control treaty entered into force. Subsequently, the Russia-U.S. nuclear arms agreements completed during the Bush and Obama administrations did little to change the fundamental character of either country’s nuclear arsenal, leaving in place forces still capable of ending human civilization in short order.

In an early sign of an emerging U.S. rejection of multilateral approaches to arms control, in 1999 the Senate refused to approve ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). In 2000, Russia ratified the treaty. Since then it has periodically stressed that U.S. ratification is essential to advancing nuclear disarmament and global security. A commitment to complete negotiation of the CTBT had been central to a 1995 decision to extend indefinitely the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The current Nuclear Posture Review says that the U.S. will not ratify the CTBT, and does not rule out resumption of nuclear explosive testing.

U.S. Withdrawal From the ABM Treaty

In late 2001, the Bush administration announced that the U.S. was withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which since 1971 had placed stringent limits on U.S. and Russian missile defenses. Just a year and a half earlier, the U.S. under the Clinton administration, Russia, and other participating states had agreed to a commitment in an NPT review outcome document to “preserving and strengthening the [ABM Treaty] as a cornerstone of strategic stability and as a basis for further reductions of strategic offensive weapons.”

In his 2018 annual presidential address, Putin characterized the ABM Treaty in similar fashion, stating that Russia saw it as “the cornerstone of the international security system.” Together with U.S.-Russia agreements limiting nuclear arms, said Putin, “the ABM Treaty not only created an atmosphere of trust but also prevented either party from recklessly using nuclear weapons, which would have endangered humankind, because the limited number of ballistic missile defense systems made the potential aggressor vulnerable to a response strike.” As Putin said, and as former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov elaborated, Russia made strenuous attempts to dissuade the U.S. from ending the ABM Treaty, and subsequently sought to make new arrangements limiting missile defenses, all to no avail.

Putin portrayed the continuing development and ever wider deployment of U.S. ballistic missile defense systems in the wake of the U.S. termination of the ABM Treaty as a growing threat: “However, in light of the plans to build a global anti-ballistic missile system, which are still being carried out today, all agreements signed within the framework of New START are now gradually being devaluated, because while the number of carriers and weapons is being reduced, one of the parties, namely, the U.S., is permitting constant, uncontrolled growth of the number of anti-ballistic missiles, improving their quality, and creating new missile launching areas. If we do not do something, eventually this will result in the complete devaluation of Russia’s nuclear potential.”

U.S. officials over the years have maintained that U.S. missile defenses pose no threat to Russia’s nuclear forces due to their large number of deliverable warheads. But the Russians have some reason for concern. Together with U.S. nuclear warhead upgrades that put Russia’s missile silos and command centers at risk, unlimited development of ballistic missile defense systems, despite the technical challenges, in the long run perhaps could threaten Russia’s primarily land-based nuclear forces. Even moderately effective missile defenses that could significantly limit a depleted second strike would complicate an already dangerous strategic calculus, perhaps raising incentives on both sides to strike first and harder in a crisis.

U.S. development and deployment of missile defenses already have had deleterious effects on nuclear arms control. Following the conclusion in 2010 of negotiations on New START, which yielded modest reductions in deployed long-range, “strategic” nuclear weapons, Russia refused engagement on the ambitious follow-on program of bilateral nuclear arms reductions—to include non-strategic nuclear arms and, for the first time, verified dismantlement of warheads—proposed by the Obama administration. As Russian representatives repeatedly explained, concerns motivating its position included U.S. missile defense programs and development of U.S. conventional long-range strike capabilities. The Russian position was deplorable, but it was also predictable.

Russia’s Plans for New Nuclear Weapons Systems

It is against this background that Putin announced the development of Russia’s new nuclear weapons delivery systems. All of the new systems were framed as means to evade existing missile defenses, which are designed primarily to target ballistic missiles that follow a high-arcing, non-maneuvering flight path. These include a new, very long-range, multiple warhead missile that could take unconventional flight paths; a hypersonic, maneuvering air-launched cruise missile; and a gliding, maneuverable hypersonic delivery vehicle with a non-ballistic flight path. Similar hypersonic technologies, it should be noted, are being researched or are under development by both the U.S. and China.

Two more exotic systems that caught the attention of both specialists and the general media are nuclear-powered cruise missiles that are claimed to have unlimited range and nuclear-powered “unmanned underwater vehicles.” Putin characterized the unmanned submersible vehicles as suitable for attacking a range of targets, including “coastal fortifications and infrastructure,” and stated that the “the tests that were conducted enabled us to begin developing a new type of strategic weapon that would carry massive nuclear ordnance.” Although similar concepts had been explored by the U.S. and the Soviet Union (and in the case of a nuclear-armed torpedo designed to destroy shore installations, even briefly deployed by the Soviet Union), they struck many observers as outlandish.

Detonating a “massive nuclear ordnance” at harbor level would devastate any harbor city, and would mobilize immense amounts of radioactive debris into the atmosphere. A nuclear-powered cruise missile likely would leave a trail of radioactive contamination in its wake, and would be dangerous even to flight test (what happens, for example, at the end of the test?). Some speculated that they might be “Potemkin village” weapons, propaganda creations intended to underscore the Russian leadership’s displeasure with U.S. policies or ersatz chips to be bargained away in some future round of arms control negotiations.

Aside from arguable marginal scenarios, the use of nuclear arms of any type would violate international humanitarian law. That law requires the use of violence in war to be necessary, proportionate, and discriminate, with effects on both civilian populations and the natural environment part of the assessment. The U.S. Nuclear Posture Review asserts in passing that “the conduct of nuclear operations would adhere” to those requirements. On the contrary, above all, nuclear weapons cannot be used in compliance with the requirement of discrimination, because their massive and uncontrollable effects—blast, heat, short- and long-term radiation, and, in urban areas, firestorms—make it impossible to distinguish between military targets and civilian populations and infrastructure.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was negotiated in 2017 by 122 states, not including, however, any nuclear-armed states. Its preamble “considers” that use of nuclear weapons would violate international humanitarian law and “reaffirms” that such use “would also be abhorrent to the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience”—factors with legal as well as moral value.

As the treaty’s reference to “principles of humanity” suggests, in many circumstances, certainly in attacks on cities, use of nuclear weapons goes so far beyond the boundaries of warfare that it likely would constitute not only violations of international humanitarian law but also crimes against humanity as most recently defined in the Statute of the International Criminal Court. Use of a submersible drone carrying “massive nuclear ordnance” and of the radiation-trailing nuclear-powered cruise missile are examples—not the only ones—of this extreme deviation from the normal conduct of warfare. They likely would only be used in general nuclear war, and in this sense are true “doomsday” weapons. Even designing them is an implicit acknowledgement that once nuclear weapons are used, even in “limited” fashion, escalation may be difficult or impossible to control.

Erosion of International Law

There is another extremely important component of international law that Putin’s speech and the Nuclear Posture Review blatantly disregard. That is the obligation under Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.” According to a unanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justice in its 1996 Advisory Opinion, “Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons,” the obligation requires states “to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects.” The obligation was reinforced by an NPT review conference “unequivocal undertaking … to accomplish the total elimination” of nuclear arsenals. It was to be implemented in part through fulfillment of another review conference commitment, diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in order to minimize the risk of their use and to facilitate disarmament.

The Russian and U.S. plans for new nuclear weapons systems—and the lack of negotiations about them—plainly violate the obligation regarding “cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date,” as well as the commitment to reduce the role of nuclear weapons. The U.S. expansion of the circumstances in which nuclear weapons might be used additionally violates that commitment.

Moreover, the clear intent of both Russia and the U.S. to maintain large, diversified nuclear forces for decades to come betrays a lack of good faith in relation to the obligation to negotiate the elimination of nuclear arsenals. In the case of the United States, the Nuclear Posture Review fails to identify any concrete steps to pursue on nuclear arms control and disarmament. As to the U.S.-Russian relationship, emphasis is placed upon a claimed Russian violation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. The review does not even endorse extension of New START for five years when it expires in 2021, a step which Russia has supported. Additionally, in his speech Putin said: “Let us sit down at the negotiating table and devise together a new and relevant system of international security and sustainable development for human civilization.” Rhetoric perhaps, but why not test it?

Whether or not Russia’s program to develop nuclear-powered cruise missiles and underwater drones delivering massive nuclear warheads are “real,” even the fact that one of the world’s two leading nuclear-armed states is willing to threaten to build them is a worrisome development. It is a definitive marker that what opportunity there was in the post-Cold War period to eliminate humankind’s self-created mechanism of annihilation on a civilization scale was missed. We are in a new, far more dangerous age, and must discover anew the urgency of nuclear disarmament, and again take the first tentative steps that might lead us there.

Both Russia’s program and the Nuclear Posture Review display a kind of contempt for treaty obligations and for international law generally, underscoring an observation by the International Court of Justice in its 1996 opinion that today seems prophetic: “In the long run, international law, and with it the stability of the international order which it is intended to govern, are bound to suffer from the continuing difference of views with regard to the legal status of weapons as deadly as nuclear weapons.”

Twenty-two years later, the corrosive effect on international law and the stability of the international order of nuclear weapons and differing views regarding who is entitled to have them is evident. Nuclear weapons and the threat of their proliferation has been used as a stalking horse for the geopolitical agendas of the world’s most powerful states. It has sparked an unlawful war based on questionable intelligence. In the confrontation between the United States and North Korea, it has brought us again to the brink of war between nuclear-armed countries.

As the court concluded: “It is consequently important to put an end to this state of affairs: the long-promised complete nuclear disarmament appears to be the most appropriate means of achieving that result.”

The interests of the world’s populations and their governments are as far apart as they have been in a long time. This reflects the growing disparities in wealth and power between those who rule and the rest of us, and the erosion of what democracy had been achieved. Extreme nationalist elements are ascendant worldwide, their common characteristic being a politics that redirects the emotions evoked by those developments—fear, resentment, and a pervasive sense of loss—against vulnerable minorities at home and enemies abroad. Authoritarian nationalists are in power in Russia and in several ex-Warsaw Pact NATO states, and also hold the presidency and constitute a substantial, perhaps dominant, portion of the majority party in the Congress of the United States.

The revanchist intentions of Russia’s government and ruling oligarchs have been exaggerated in the U.S. press due to the peculiar entanglement of U.S.-Russia relations with domestic partisan politics in this moment. This does not mean, however, that no such aims exist. Neither the elites nor the general populations of Eastern Europe see renewed Russian dominance as an attractive option, and authoritarian nationalist governments in front-line NATO states have their own reasons for whipping up fear of a resurgent Russia. Beyond Europe, there are other regions where encounters between U.S. and Russian policies and deployed forces could go awry, from Syria to the border most forget Russia shares with North Korea. With a U.S. government that appears adrift at the top but that still possesses a formidable and well-organized military, this is a combustible mix, with ample opportunities for each side to misjudge the intentions, and the fears, of the other.

The Nuclear Dilemma

The Korea crisis, and the recent hopeful signs regarding its resolution, should be taken as both an urgent warning and as an opportunity to rethink the meaning of nuclear weapons. We will never know how close to disaster we have come in recent months, and still may come. As that danger grew, discussion of the immeasurable horrors of a full-scale warfare between two large modern militaries in densely populated Northeast Asia—even if nuclear weapons were not used—grew more concrete. A full-scale war between Russia and the United States would dwarf our worst imaginings about war between the U.S. and its regional allies and North Korea.

In thinking about the deeper nature of our nuclear dilemma, it is significant that South Korea has taken the lead in seeking—and, as it looks now, achieving—a diplomatic breakthrough with its North Korean counterparts that could end the immediate crisis, and that might lead eventually to a more lasting peace on the peninsula. As was the case for Europeans during the Cold War, South Koreans found themselves trapped between nuclear-armed adversaries, one an ally. And as was the case of NATO countries hosting U.S. nuclear missiles, they faced the possibility that a nuclear war could be fought on their soil without their own government’s consent. This raises a question seldom asked by inhabitants of nuclear-armed countries: Whose nuclear weapons are they, really? Whose interests do they protect?

This question then leads naturally to others. As E.P. Thompson, a founder of European Nuclear Disarmament, asked in 1981 in “A Letter to America,” “Is nuclear war preferable to being overcome by the enemy? Are the deaths of fifteen or twenty million and the utter destruction of the country preferable to an occupation which might offer the possibility, after some years, of resurgence and recuperation?” and finally, “Are we ourselves prepared to endorse the use of such weapons against the innocent, the children and the aged, of an ‘enemy’?” The people of every nuclear-armed country should be asking these questions today.

There are other lessons we should have learned by now. No system or country is immune to corruption, or collapse. No country can guarantee that a class of leaders will not rise to power who are shortsighted and self-serving, and who place their own welfare above that of their people, or of humanity itself. No system or “way of life” is so perfect that its preservation merits risking humanity’s future, and thinking it to be so is a form of madness. Recent events may have sharpened our focus on these realities, but they have been true all along. Nuclear weapons are unsafe in any hands.