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NATO: Increasing the role of nuclear weapons

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

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

By Susi Snyder, PAX

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

Setting a bad example: NATO weakens commitment to nuclear disarmament

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

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

Tightening the nuclear noose on the host states

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

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

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

Leaving it up to Russia to make the next nuclear move

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

And then there’s Turkey

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

Opportunities for disarmament in times of tensions: the humanitarian initiative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Worsening Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strategic Uncertainty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cold Wars of Choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senators Urge Obama to Cancel Nuclear Cruist Missile

In Cost, Human rights, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy on July 22, 2016 at 10:03 pm

Defense News, July 21, 2016

WASHINGTON — A group of ten Democratic senators have penned a letter to US President Barack Obama urging him to cancel development of a new nuclear-capable cruise missile, in what appears to be the next salvo from nonproliferation advocates on Capitol Hill against the weapon.

At issue is the Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) cruise missile, which will replace the Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) program with 1,000 to 1,100 cruise missiles, representing the US Air Force’s standoff nuclear delivery capability. The ALCM program is scheduled to age out in 2030.

Proponents say the LRSO is vital to maintaining America’s nuclear posture into the future. But opponents argue the weapon is too costly and unnecessary given other nuclear options, with a vocal minority in Congress starting to advocate heavily for that position.

“Independent estimates suggest that nuclear weapons sustainment and modernization plans could cost nearly one trillion dollars over the next 30 years, putting enormous pressure on our defense budget at a time when non-nuclear systems will also require major expenditures,” wrote the authors of the letter. “In particular, we urge you to cancel plans to spend a least $20 billion on a new nuclear air-launched cruise missile, the Long Range Standoff weapon, which would provide an unnecessary capability that could increase the risk of nuclear war.”

The letter was signed by Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California, Al Franken of Minnesota, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who recently ended his campaign for the presidency.

Feinstein has been leading the Senate’s charge against the LRSO, pledging to hold hearings on the issue and questioning the cost estimates provided by the Air Force. She has been aided in the House by Rep. Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

Last month, members of the House voted down an amendment to cut $75.8 million from the LRSO program by 159-261, but both Smith and Feinstein vowed to keep fighting on the issue.

The letter also urged Obama to officially adopt a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, something the United States has traditionally been unwilling to do.

“In light of our unmatched conventional military capabilities, we do not need to rely on the threat of nuclear first-use to deter non-nuclear attacks on our homeland or our allies,” the authors wrote. “By adopting a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, the United States could reduce the risk of accidental nuclear conflict while deterring both conventional and nuclear threats to our security.”

Neither the desire to drop the LRSO, nor the goal of a no-first-use policy, appears likely to gain much traction with Donald Trump, officially named the Republican nominee for president this week.

Speaking to The New York Times, Trump reaffirmed a commitment to the so-called nuclear triad but was noncommittal on the no-first-use idea.

“Depends on who we are talking about, it depends on who we are talking about. I would only make that commitment as the agreement is being signed. I wouldn’t want to play my cards. I don’t want to say that,” Trump said. “I will do everything within my power never to be in a position where we have to use nuclear power because that’s a whole different ballgame. That’s very important to me. I will do everything in my power never to be in a position where we will have to use nuclear power. It’s very important to me.”

Turkey’s Nukes: A Sum of All Fears

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on July 22, 2016 at 9:07 am

July 20, 2016  Consortiumnews. com

Exclusive: The post-coup chaos in Turkey is a reminder about the risk of leaving nuclear weapons in unstable regions where they serve no clear strategic purpose but present a clear and present danger, explains Jonathan Marshall.

By Jonathan Marshall

The national security priesthood in Washington has always used claims of superior wisdom and insider knowledge to silence dissent about nuclear policy. But not even they can explain any longer why U.S. nuclear bombs are being stored in politically unstable Turkey as it grows increasingly Islamist and anti-American.

The Incirlik air base in southeast Turkey — from which U.S. pilots launch bombing raids on ISIS forces in Syria — is home to about 50 B-61 hydrogen bombs. That makes it NATO’s largest nuclear storage facility, with about a quarter of all theater nuclear weapons in the alliance’s stockpiles.

The U.S. hydrogen bomb explosion codenamed Bravo on March 1, 1954.
The U.S. hydrogen bomb explosion codenamed Bravo on March 1, 1954.
Each bomb has a yield of up to 170 kilotons, nearly a dozen times more powerful than the weapon that leveled Hiroshima. The bombs are stored in underground vaults within aircraft shelters that in turn are protected by a base security perimeter.

But Eric Schlosser, author of a 2014 book on the perils of nuclear accidents, observed recently, “With a few hours and the right tools and training, you could open one of NATO’s nuclear-weapons storage vaults, remove a weapon, and bypass the [protective switches] inside it. Within seconds, you could place an explosive device on top of a storage vault, destroy the weapon, and release a lethal radioactive cloud.”

In addition, the security of the bombs is premised on them being defended by loyal NATO forces. In the case of Incirlik, that loyalty proved uncertain at best. Power to the base was cut after mutinous troops used a tanker plane from the base to refuel F-16s that menaced Ankara and Istanbul.

After the coup, the Turkish commander of Incirlik was arrested for complicity and marched off in handcuffs. One can easily imagine a clique of Islamist officers in a future coup seizing the nukes as a bargaining chip with Ankara and Washington — or, worse yet, to support radical insurgents in the region.

Getting Attention

After years of inattention to NATO’s nuclear deployment policy, the recent failed coup in Turkey is finally setting off alarm bells. Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, asked rhetorically, “Does it seem like a good idea to station American nuclear weapons at an air base commanded by someone who may have just helped bomb his own country’s parliament?”

F-15 Eagles from the 493rd Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, taxi to the runway during the final day of Anatolian Eagle June 18, 2015, at 3rd Main Jet Base, Turkey. The 493rd FS recently received the 2014 Raytheon Trophy as the U.S. Air Force’s top fighter squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Burks)
F-15 Eagles taxi to the runway at 3rd Main Jet Base, Turkey. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Burks)
Hans Kristensen, a nuclear expert with the Federation of American Scientists, declared that “the security situation in Turkey and in the base area no longer meet the safety requirements that the United States should have for storage of nuclear weapons. You only get so many warnings before something goes terribly wrong. It’s time to withdraw the weapons.”

Most tellingly, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis wrote — being careful not to publicly confirm any classified information — that if NATO really does house tactical nuclear weapons at Incirlik Air Base, “this poses a very dangerous problem, and Washington will need Ankara’s full cooperation to ensure that all U.S. military equipment and forces are fully protected.”

The questioning should go beyond the obvious security risks of loose nukes falling into unfriendly hands, however. No one has ever explained what enemy the hydrogen bombs stored in Turkey might be used against, a quarter century after the fall of the Soviet Union. No doubt there are plenty of neocons in Washington who would delight in dropping them on Iran, as advocated by Republican billionaire Sheldon Adelson, but one hopes that most Americans do not share his fondness for gambling outside of casinos.

Nor has anyone explained how the bombs might be used if an appropriate enemy were found, since NATO has no nuclear-certified aircraft stationed in Turkey. But in Washington and in Brussels, the inability to answer such basic questions is rarely cause to rethink old policies. After all, how many priests give up their incantations just because the chants don’t work?

Although Turkey offers an egregious case of nuclear risks, questions about nuclear weapons deployment should go well beyond that country. Security is also notoriously lax at NATO bases in Belgium and the Netherlands where nuclear weapons are stored.

As Schlosser recalls, “In 2010, peace activists climbed over a fence at the Kleine Brogel Airbase, in Belgium, cut through a second fence, entered a hardened shelter containing nuclear-weapon vaults, placed anti-nuclear stickers on the walls, wandered the base for an hour, and posted a video of the intrusion on YouTube. The video showed that the Belgian soldier who finally confronted them was carrying an unloaded rifle.”

Brandishing Nuclear Bombs

As I have argued before, the threat of terrorism is only one of several reasons to rethink the presence of theater nuclear weapons on NATO soil. Those weapons actually decrease the security of Western Europe by raising the risks of catastrophic escalation in the case of an inadvertent conflict with Russia. The weapons are also utterly unnecessary for deterrence, given the nuclear arsenals available to the United States, Great Britain and France.

NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
Despite these risks, influential voices in the alliance are calling for more brandishing of nuclear weapons, not less. A recent article in NATO Review declared, “The forces involved in the nuclear mission should be exercised openly and regularly, without undermining their specific nature. Such exercises should involve not only nuclear-weapon states, but other non-nuclear allies.”

Last December, Poland’s deputy defense minister proposed putting U.S. nuclear weapons on Polish soil. That proposal came a year after Polish F-16 jets took part in a NATO nuclear exercise.

And the Obama administration, for now at least, remains bent on upgrading its hydrogen bombs and building a new class of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, both of which would be deployed in Europe.

Yet the observation of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier remains as true today as when he said it in 2009: “From the military point of view, those (theater) weapons are absolutely senseless today.”

The question he asked then is the one that all thinking people should be asking in the wake of Turkey’s recent debacle: “Isn’t it time to include substrategic and tactical nuclear weapons in the nuclear disarmament process, in order to [eliminate] once and for all the leftovers of the Cold War on the territory of Russia and Europe?”

Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012). Some of his previous articles for Consortiumnews were “Risky Blowback from Russian Sanctions”; “Neocons Want Regime Change in Iran”; “Saudi Cash Wins France’s Favor”; “The Saudis’ Hurt Feelings”; “Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Bluster”; “The US Hand in the Syrian Mess”; and “Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War.” ]

For the article on line, with comments, go to https://consortiumnews.com/2016/07/20/turkeys-nukes-a-sum-of-all-fears/

Uranium mining: Health Dangers, Radioactive Tailings, and Nuclear Bombs

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere on July 16, 2016 at 6:15 am

In this three-part interview with a Danish woman, Canada’s foremost nuclear critic, Gordon Edwards of Montreal, explains in detail that uranium mining cannot be done without contributing to health dangers, radioactive waste and nuclear bombs. I invite you to read the full interview with one of the most knowledgeable students of nuclear matters anywhere.

Part 1

Anne: Canada is and always has been one of the biggest producers and exporters of uranium in the world. Nevertheless, three of Canada’s ten provinces have outlawed uranium mining, and health professionals have played an important role in each case. Could you please explain why these medical professionals are opposed to uranium mining?

Gordon Edwards: This is a great question. The answer hinges on the remarkable properties of uranium, and the unprecedented nature of the health dangers that it poses. In order to answer the question properly, a good deal of explanation is required.

For Edwards’ complete response see the following link.
http://atomposten.blogspot.ca/2016/06/uranium-mining-interview-with-dr-gordon.html
==================
Part 2

Anne: Danish experts Gert Asmund and Violeta Hansen from the Danish Center for Environment and Energy University of Aarhus have mentioned to me that Cluff Lake is a good example of uranium mining remediation. Do you agree?

Gordon Edwards: It is much too early to determine the long-term success or failure of remediation efforts at Cluff Lake. There has already been one spectacular failure at that site, and there may be more to come.

For Edwards’ complete response see the following link.
http://atomposten.blogspot.dk/2016/07/uranium-mining-interview-with-dr-gordon.html

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Part 3

Anne: Danish authorities say that they will prevent the uranium from Kvanefjeld to be used in nuclear weapons. Is this possible according to you?
Gordon Edwards: There are at least four different ways in which Greenland’s uranium can end up in nuclear weapons, as discussed below. Can the Danish Government successfully block all these avenues?

For Edwards’ complete response see the following link.
http://atomposten.blogspot.ca/2016/07/uranium-mining-interview-with-dr-gordon_15.html

Nuclear Waste: Keep out for 100,000 years.

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Public Health on July 15, 2016 at 11:32 pm

Financial Times has published an article (July 14, 2016) on France’s effort to store nuclear waste underground in the eastern part of the country. Because the waste will remain highly radioactive for millennia they have commissioned artists to prepare signs and symbols that will inform future generations of the danger. The article (on line at http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/db87c16c-4947-11e6-b387-64ab0a67014c.html#axzz4EOZHpVil ) is well worth reading for how well it discusses the problem of what to do with nuclear waste. The Nuclear Guardianship program of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center takes a wholly different approach regarding this exceedingly dangerous material. See Nuclear Guardianship Ethic on our web site (http://www.rockyflatsnuclearguardianship.org/#!about/c8de ).

 

Scottish bishops statement on nuclear weapons

In Cost, Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on July 13, 2016 at 11:53 pm

Statement on nuclear weapons

The Bishops of Scotland have for a long time pointed out the immorality of the use of strategic nuclear weapons due to the indiscriminate destruction of innocent human life that their use would cause.

The renewal of Trident is questioned not just by those concerned with the morality of nuclear weapons themselves but also by those concerned about the use of scarce financial resources.

Lives are being lost now because money that could be spent on the needy and the poor is tied up in nuclear arsenals. We endorse the words of Pope Francis: “Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations”.

The United Kingdom, permanent member of the UN Security Council and declared nuclear power, signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. That treaty binds signatories who do not have nuclear weapons not to acquire them, but it also binds those who do have nuclear weapons to work towards the disposing and elimination of all nuclear weapons. Britain should take more decisive and courageous steps to revive that aspect of the treaty and not seek to prolong the status quo.

Signed
+ Philip Tartaglia, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, Archbishop of Glasgow
+ Joseph Toal, Vice-President, Bishop of Motherwell
+ Hugh Gilbert, Episcopal Secretary, Bishop of Aberdeen
+ Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh
+ Stephen Robson, Bishop of Dunkeld
+ John Keenan, Bishop of Paisley
+ William Nolan, Bishop of Galloway
+ Brian McGee, Bishop of Argyll and The Isles

Russians ask: “Why do you demonize us when we are so much like you?”

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on July 13, 2016 at 12:54 am

The following piece was written by Center for Citizen Initiatives trip participant Ann Wright based on her experiences during the just-concluded CCI Russia trip.

I’ve just ended two weeks visiting cities in four regions of Russia. The one question that was asked over and over was, “Why does America hate us? Why do you demonize us?” Most would add a caveat — “I like American people and I think YOU like us individually but why does the American government hate our government?”

This article is a composite of the comments and questions that were asked to our 20-person delegation and to me as an individual. I do not attempt to defend the views but offer them as an insight into the thinking of many of the persons we came into contact with in meetings and on the streets.

None of the questions, comments or views tell the full story, but I hope they give a feel for the desire of the ordinary Russian that her country and its citizens are respected as a sovereign nation with a long history and that it is not demonized as an outlaw state or an “evil” nation. Russia has its flaws and room for improvement in many areas, just as every nation does, including for sure, the United States.

New Russia Looks Like You — Private Business, Elections, Mobile Phones, Cars, Traffic Jams

One middle-aged journalist in the city of Krasnodar commented, “The United States worked hard to make the Soviet Union collapse, and it did. You wanted to remake Russia like the United States — a democratic, capitalist country in which your companies could make money — and you have done that.

“After 25 years, we are a new nation much different from the Soviet Union. The Russian Federation has created laws that have allowed a large private business class to emerge. Our cities now look like your cities. We have Burger King, McDonalds, Subway, Starbucks and malls filled with a huge number of totally Russian business ventures for the middle class. We have chain stores with merchandise and food, similar to Wal-Mart and Target. We have exclusive stores with top-of-the-line clothing and cosmetics for the richer. We drive new (and older) cars now just like you do. We have massive rush hour traffic jams in our cities, just like you do. We have extensive, safe, inexpensive metros in all of our major cities, just like you have. When you fly across our country, it looks just like yours, with forests, farm fields, rivers and lakes — only bigger, many time zones bigger.

“Most people on buses and in the metro are looking at our mobile phones with internet, just like you do. We have a smart youth population that is computer literate and most of whom speak several languages.

“You sent your experts on privatization, international banking, stock exchanges. You urged us to sell off our huge state industries to the private sector at ridiculously low prices, creating the multi-billionaire oligarchs that in many ways mirror the oligarchs of the United States. And you made money in Russia from this privatization. Some of the oligarchs are in prison for violating our laws, just as are some of yours.

“You sent us experts on elections. For over 25 years we have held elections. And we have elected some politicians you don’t like and some that we as individuals may not like. We have political dynasties, just like you do. We don’t have a perfect government, nor perfect government officials — which is also what we observe in the U.S. government and its officials. We have graft and corruption in and outside of government, just as you do. Some of our politicians are in jail for violating our laws, just like some of your politicians are in jail for violating your laws.

“And we have the poor just like you do. We have villages, towns and small cities that are struggling with migration to the big cities with people moving in hopes of finding jobs, just like you do.

“Our middle class travels throughout the world, just like you do. In fact, as a Pacific nation just like the U.S., we bring so much tourism money with us on our trips that your Pacific island territories of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas have negotiated with the U.S. Federal government to allow Russian tourists to enter both of those U.S. territories for 45 days without the time-consuming and expensive U.S. visa.

“We have a strong science and space program and are a key partner in the International Space Station. We sent the first satellite into space and the first humans into space. Our rockets still take astronauts to the space station while your NASA program has been curtailed.”

Dangerous NATO Military Exercises Threatening our Borders

“You have your allies and we have our allies. You told us during the dissolution of the Soviet Union that you would not enlist countries from the Eastern block into NATO, yet you have done that. Now you are placing missile batteries along our border and you are conducting major military exercises with strange names such as Anaconda, the strangling snake, along our borders.

“You say that Russia could possibly invade neighboring countries and you have big dangerous military exercises in countries on our borders with these countries. We did not build up our Russian military forces along those borders until you continued to have ever increasingly large military ‘exercises’ there. You install missile ”defenses’ in countries on our borders, initially saying they are to protect against Iranian missiles and now you say Russia is the aggressor and your missiles are aimed at us.

“For our own national security, we must respond, yet you vilify us for a response that you would have if Russia would have military maneuvers along the Alaskan coast or the Hawaii islands or with Mexico on your southern border or with Canada on your northern border.”

Syria

“We have allies in the Middle East including Syria. For decades, we have had military ties to Syria and the only Soviet/Russian port in the Mediterranean is in Syria. Why is it unexpected that we help defend our ally, when the stated policy of your country is for ‘regime change’ of our ally — and you have spent hundreds of millions of dollars for Syrian regime change?

“With this said, we Russia saved the U.S. from an enormous political and military blunder in 2013 when the U.S. was determined to attack the Syrian government for “crossing the red line” when a horrific chemical attack that tragically killed hundreds was erroneously blamed on the Assad government. We provided you documentation that the chemical attack did not come from the Assad government and we brokered a deal with the Syrian government in which they turned over their chemical weapons arsenal to the international community for destruction.

“Ultimately, Russia arranged for the chemicals to be destroyed and you provided an especially designed U.S. ship that carried out the destruction. Without Russian intervention, a direct U.S. attack on the Syrian government for the mistaken allegation of use of chemical weapons would have resulted in even greater chaos, destruction and destabilization in Syria.

“Russia has offered to host talks with the Assad government about power sharing with opposition elements. We, like you, do not want to see the takeover of Syria by a radical group such as ISIS that will use the land of Syria to continue its mission to destabilize the region. Your policies and financing of regime change in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and Syria have created instability and chaos that is reaching all over the world.”

Coup in Ukraine and Crimea Reuniting with Russia

“You say that Crimea was annexed by Russia and we say Crimea ‘reunited’ with Russia. We believe that the U.S. sponsored a coup of the elected Ukrainian government that had chosen to accept a loan from Russia rather than from the EU and IMF. We believe that coup and the resulting government was illegally brought to power through your multi-million dollar “regime change” program. We know that your Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland described in a phone call that our intelligence services recorded the pro-West/NATO coup leader as ‘our guy-Yats.’

“In response to that US sponsored violent government take-over of the elected government of the Ukraine with a presidential election scheduled within a year, Russians in the Ukraine, particularly those in the eastern part of the Ukraine and those in Crimea were very afraid of the anti-Russian violence that had been unleashed by neo-fascist forces that were in the militia arm of the takeover.

“With the takeover of the Ukrainian government, ethnic Russians who composed a majority of the population of Crimea in a referendum participated by over 95 percent of the population of Crimea, 80 percent voted to unite with the Russian Federation instead of staying with Ukraine. Of course, some citizens of Crimea disagreed and left to live in Ukraine.

“We wonder whether citizens of the United States realize that the Southern Fleet of the military of the Russian Federation was located in the Black Sea ports in the Crimea and in light of the violent take over of Ukraine that our government felt it was vital to ensure access to those ports. On the basis of Russian national security, the Russian Duma (Parliament) voted to accept the results of the referendum and annexed Crimea as a republic of the Russian Federation and gave federal city status to the important seaport of Sevastopol.”

Sanctions on Crimea and Russia — Double Standards

“While the US and European governments accepted and cheered for the violent overthrow of the elected government of the Ukraine, both the US and European nations were very vengeful of the non-violent referendum of people of Crimea and have slammed Crimea with all sorts of sanctions that have reduced international tourism, the main industry of the Crimea, to almost nothing. In the past in Crimea we received over 260 cruise ships filled with international passengers from Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Spain and other parts of Europe. Now, because of the sanctions we have virtually no European tourists. You are the first group of Americans we have seen in over a year. Now, our business is with other citizens from Russia.

“The U.S. and the European Union have put sanctions on Russia again. The Russian ruble has been devalued almost 50 percent, some from the downturn of worldwide price of oil, but some from the sanctions the international community has placed on Russia from the Crimea ‘reunification.’

“We believe you want the sanctions to hurt us so we will overthrow our elected government, just like you put sanctions on Iraq for the Iraqis to overthrow Saddam Hussein, or on North Korea, or on Iran for the people of those countries to overthrow their governments.

“Sanctions have the opposite effect than what you want. While we know sanctions do hurt the ordinary person and if left on a population for a long time can kill through malnutrition and lack of medicines, sanctions have made us stronger.

“Now, we may not get your cheeses and wines, but we are developing or redeveloping our own industries and have become more self-reliant. We now see how the globalization trade mantra of the United States can and will be used against countries that decide not to go along with the U.S. on its worldwide political and military agenda. If your country decides not to go along with the United States, you will be cut off from the global markets that the trade agreements have made you dependent upon.

“We wonder why the double standard? Why haven’t the member states of the United Nations put sanctions on the U.S. since you have invaded and occupied countries and killed hundreds of thousands in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and Syria.

“Why is the U.S. not held accountable for kidnapping, extraordinary rendition, torture and imprisonment of almost 800 persons that have been held in the gulag called Guantanamo?”

Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

“We want the elimination of nuclear weapons. Unlike you, we have never used a nuclear weapon on people. Even though we consider nuclear weapons as a defensive weapon, they should be eliminated because one political or military mistake will have devastating consequences for the entire planet.”

We Know the Costs of War

“We know the terrible costs of war. Our great-grandparents remind us of the 27 million Soviet citizens killed during World War II, our grandparents tell us of the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s and the difficulties arising from the Cold War.

“We don’t understand why the West continues to vilify and demonize us when we are so much like you. We too are concerned about threats to our national security and our government responds in many ways like yours. We do not want another Cold War, a war in which everyone gets frost bitten, or worse, a war that will kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people.”

We Want A Peaceful Future

“We Russians are proud of our lengthy history and heritage.”

“We want a bright future for ourselves and our families…and for yours.”

“We want to live in a peaceful world.”

“We want to live in peace.”

Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand people during the civil war in Sierra Leone. She is most noted for having been one of three State Department officials to publicly resign in direct protest of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Wright was also a passenger on the Challenger 1, which along with the Mavi Marmara, was part of the Gaza flotilla. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.” She has written frequently on rape in the military.

Gorbachev: “The next war will be the last”

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on July 13, 2016 at 12:15 am

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev declared in an interview
with radio station Echo Moskvy that if the crisis escalates to another
war, this war will be the last.

© AFP 2016/ JANEK SKARZYNSKI
NATO Not to Cooperate With Moscow in Usual Format Until Minsk
Obligations Fulfilled – Obama
NATO leaders agreed on Friday to deploy military forces to the Baltic
states and eastern Poland while increasing air and sea patrols to
demonstrate readiness to defend eastern members against the alleged
‘Russian aggression.’

Mikhail Gorbachev reportedly said after the summit that the decisions
made at NATO summit in Warsaw should be regarded as a preparation for
a hot war with Russia.

On Saturday, Gorbachev told Echo Moskvy in an interview that he sticks
to what he had said earlier and that he considers NATO decisions
short-sighted and dangerous.

“Such steps lead to tension and disruption. Europe is splitting, the
world is splitting. This is a wrong path for the global community” He
said. “There are too many global and individual crises to abandon
cooperation. It is essential to revive the dialogue.”

According to the ex Soviet President, by irresponsibly deploying four
multinational battalions to Russian borders, “within shooting
distance”, the alliance draws closer another Cold War and another Arms
Race.

“There are still ways to…avoid military action.” Gorbachev stressed.
“I would say that UN should be called upon on that matter.”

He also called on Moscow not to respond to provocations but to come to
the negotiating table.

“In the current situation…all political, economic, diplomatic and
cultural forces should be engaged to pacify the world. Mind you, the
next war will be the last.”

© Sputnik/ Ramil Sitdikov
WORLD
05:27 10.07.2016(updated 05:28 10.07.2016) Get short URL
12207501129

Putin warns journalists of Nuclear War: “I don’t know how to get through to you people”

In Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on July 12, 2016 at 11:59 pm

By Enrico Braun
Global Research, July 08, 2016
Russia Insider 6 July 2016

Vladimir Putin has finally taken the kid gloves off.

The Russian president was meeting with foreign journalists at the conclusion of the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 17th, when he left no one in any doubt that the world is headed down a course which could lead to nuclear war.

Putin railed against the journalists for their “tall tales” in blindly repeating lies and misinformation provided to them by the United States on its anti-ballistic missile systems being constructed in Eastern Europe. He pointed out that since the Iran nuclear deal, the claim the system is to protect against Iranian missiles has been exposed as a lie.

The journalists were informed that within a few years, Russia predicted the US would be able to extend the range of the system to 1000 km. At that point, Russia’s nuclear potential, and thus the nuclear balance between the US and Russia, would be placed in jeopardy.

Putin completely lost patience with the journalists, berating them for lazily helping to accelerate a nuclear confrontation by repeating US propaganda. He virtually pleaded with the western media, for the sake of the world, to change their line:

We know year by year what’s going to happen, and they know that we know. It’s only you that they tell tall tales to, and you buy it, and spread it to the citizens of your countries. You people in turn do not feel a sense of the impending danger – this is what worries me. How do you not understand that the world is being pulled in an irreversible direction? While they pretend that nothing is going on. I don’t know how to get through to you anymore.

Does anyone in the reeking garbage heap that is mainstream western media have a conscience? Do they even have enough intellect to get what Putin is saying – that they are helping to push the planet towards World War III?

The original source of this article is Russia Insider
Copyright © Enrico Braun, Russia Insider, 2016

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