Archive for the ‘Nuclear Policy’ Category

Trump’s tweet on nuclear weapons (thanks to Rick Wayman)

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on March 14, 2018 at 9:56 am

Quote by @realDonaldTrump today during his speech at a Marine base near San Diego ⬇️

“We have to be so far ahead of every country…we have to be prepared. In the nuclear front, we are so far and will be so far ahead of every other country. We have no choice.”

2:35 PM – 13 Mar 2018


Stark health findings for Fukushima monkeys

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Public Health on March 13, 2018 at 3:22 am

By Cindy Folkers, Beyond Nuclear, Marcy 11, 2018
Seven years after the Fukushima, Japan nuclear disaster began, forcing evacuations of at least 160,000 people, research has uncovered significant health impacts affecting monkeys living in the area and exposed to the radiological contamination of their habitat.
Shin-ichi Hayama, a wild animal veterinarian, has been studying the Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata), or snow monkey, since before the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Now, his research has shown that monkeys in Fukushima have significantly low white and red blood cell counts as well as a reduced growth rate for body weight and smaller head sizes.
Hayama, who began his macaque research in 2008, had access to monkeys culled by Fukushima City as a crop protection measure. He continued his work after the Fukushima nuclear explosions. As a result, he is uniquely positioned to discover how low, chronic radiation exposure can affect generations of monkeys.

Japanese Macaque monkeys share close DNA with humans
The macaque is an old world monkey native to Japan, living in the coldest climates of all of the non-human primates. Like humans, macaques enjoy a good soak in the mountain hot springs in the region. It is even said that they have developed a “hot tub culture” and enjoy time at the pools to get warm during winter.
However, snow monkeys and humans share more than a love of hot springs. Human DNA differs from rhesus monkeys, a relative of the snow monkey, by just 7%. While that 7% can mean the difference between building vast cities to living unsheltered and outdoors, for basic processes like reproduction, these differences begin to fade. Consequently, what is happening to the macaques in Fukushima should send a warning about the implications for human health as well, and especially for evacuees now returning to a region that has been far from “cleaned up” to any satisfactory level.
Hayama’s research group has published two studies, each comparing data before and after the nuclear catastrophe began, and also between exposed and unexposed monkey populations. In a 2014 study, researchers compared monkeys from two regions of Japan, one group of monkeys from the Shimokita region, 400 Km north of Fukushima, and a second group of monkeys from contaminated land in Fukushima.
The monkeys in Fukushima had significantly low white and red blood cell counts. Other blood components were also reduced. The more a radioactive isotope called cesium was present in their muscles, the lower the white blood cell count, suggesting that the exposure to radioactive material contributed to the damaging blood changes. These blood levels have not recovered, even through 2017, meaning that this has become a chronic health issue.
Changes in blood are also found in people inhabiting contaminated areas around Chernobyl. Having a diminished number of white blood cells, which fight disease, can lead to a compromised immune system in monkeys as well as people, making both species unable to fight off all manner of disease.

Some macaque babies in the Fukushima zone have smaller brains post nuclear disaster
Hayama followed up his 2014 study with another in 2017 examining the differences in monkey fetus growth before and after the disaster. The researchers measured fetuses collected between 2008 and 2016 from Fukushima City, approximately 70 km from the ruined reactors. Comparing the relative growth of 31 fetuses conceived prior to the disaster and 31 fetuses conceived after the disaster revealed that body weight growth rate and head size were significantly lower in fetuses conceived after the disaster. Yet, there was no significant difference in maternal nutrition, meaning that radiation could be responsible.
Smaller head size indicates that the fetal brain was developmentally retarded although researchers could not identify which part was affected. The mothers’ muscles still contained radioactive cesium as in the 2014 study, although the levels had decreased. These mothers had conceived after the initial disaster began, meaning that their fetuses’ health reflects a continuing exposure from environmental contamination. This study mirrors human studies around Chernobyl that show similar impacts as well as research from atomic bomb survivors. Studies of birds in Chernobyl contaminated areas show that they have smaller brains.
Although Hayama has approached radiation experts to aid with his research, he claims they have rejected it, saying they don’t have resources or time, preferring to focus on humans. But humans can remove themselves from contaminated areas, and many have chosen to stay away despite government policies encouraging return. Tragically, monkeys don’t know to leave, and relocating them is not under discussion, making study of radiation’s impact on their health vital to inform radiation research on humans, the environment, and any resettlement plans the government of Japan may have.
Hayama presented his work most recently as part of the University of Chicago’s commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the first man-made controlled nuclear chain reaction. His work follows a long, important, and growing line of research demonstrating that radiation can not only damage in the obvious ways we have been told, but in subtle, yet destructive ways that were unexpected before. The implications for humans, other animals, and the environment, are stark.
Cindy Folkers is the radiation and health specialist at Beyond Nuclear.

Mikhail Gorbachev: The U.S. and Russia Must Stop the Race to Nuclear War

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on March 10, 2018 at 1:36 am

By MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, Time. March 9, 2018

When I became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1985, I felt during my very first meetings with people that what worried them the most was the problem of war and peace. Do everything in order to prevent war, they said.

By that time, the superpowers had accumulated mountains of weapons; military build-up plans called for “space combat stations,” “nuclear-powered lasers,” “kinetic space weapons” and similar inventions. Thank God, in the end none of them were built. What is more, negotiations between the U.S.S.R. and the United States opened the way to ending the nuclear arms race. We reached agreement with one of the most hawkish U.S. presidents, Ronald Reagan, to radically reduce the arsenals.

Today, those achievements are in jeopardy. More and more, defense planning looks like preparation for real war amid continued militarization of politics, thinking and rhetoric.

The National Security Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review published by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration in February orients U.S. foreign policy toward “political, economic, and military competitions around the world” and calls for the development of new, “more flexible” nuclear weapons. This means lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons even further.

Against this backdrop, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his recent address to the Federal Assembly, announced the development in Russia of several new types of weapons, including weapons that no country in the world yet possesses.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, published in Chicago, set the symbolic Doomsday Clock half a minute closer to “Midnight” in January. As the scientists see it, we are now within two minutes of a global catastrophe. The last time this level of danger was recorded in 1953.

The alarm that people feel today is fully justified.

How should we respond to this new round of militarization?

Above all, we must not give up; we must demand that world leaders return to the path of dialogue and negotiations.

The primary responsibility for ending the current dangerous deadlock lies with the leaders of the United States and Russia. This is a responsibility they must not evade, since the two powers’ arsenals are still outsize compared to those of other countries.

But we should not place all our hopes on the presidents. Two persons cannot undo all the roadblocks that it took years to pile up. We need dialog at all levels, including mobilization of the efforts of both nations’ expert communities. They represent an enormous pool of knowledge that should be used in the interest of peace.

Things have come to a point where we must ask: Where is the United Nations? Where is its Security Council, its Secretary General? Isn’t it time to convene an emergency session of the General Assembly or a meeting of the Security Council at the level of heads of state? I am convinced that the world is waiting for such an initiative.

There is no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of people both in Russia and in the United States will agree that war cannot be a solution to problems. Can weapons solve the problems of the environment, terrorism or poverty? Can they solve domestic economic problems?

We must remind the leaders of all nuclear powers of their commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to negotiate reductions and eventually the elimination of nuclear weapons. Their predecessors signed that obligation, and it was ratified by the highest levels of their government. A world without nuclear weapons: There can be no other final goal.

However dismal the current situation, however depressing and hopeless the atmosphere may seem, we must act to prevent the ultimate catastrophe. What we need is not the race to the abyss but a common victory over the demons of war.

North Korea Has Put the Ball in Trump’s Court

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on March 8, 2018 at 11:14 pm

New York Times Editorial Board, March 6, 2018
North Korea’s apparent agreement to talk to the United States about abandoning its nuclear weapons is a relief after the world faced months of tension over Pyongyang’s testing of those devices and Washington’s bellicose response.

For once, President Trump’s tweeted reaction made sense. “Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea,” Mr. Trump wrote. “For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!”

As he indicated, optimism needs to be tempered with caution, since the hard work needed for a peaceful solution would have to overcome years of distrust and the bitterness of failed negotiations. But there finally seems to be an opening for talks, so the Trump administration needs to seize it.

The news that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, had agreed to discuss ending his nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees and that he would suspend tests of weapons and missiles during negotiations came from senior South Korean diplomats after discussions in Pyongyang with Mr. Kim. They were the first representatives of the South to meet with Mr. Kim since he came to power six years ago. While the North has not yet made its own statement on the talks, the fact that the South Korean delegation met directly with Mr. Kim was significant.

It seems that the Olympics charm offensive of South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, got a commitment from North Korea that the Trump administration had sought.
We should be very suspicious, this all seems too easy. A few bellicose, insulting tweets with an uninspired oft-used sanctions policy and…

What will John Bolton’s position be at the White House? Can’t wait to see him as the National Security Advisor.Typical column where Trump’s…
mildred rein Ph.D. 16 hours ago
Let us see if Trump takes up North Korea on an agreement that he has repeatedly said he wants. OR- will he just continue to threaten North…

North Korea’s position seems to be the same as it has been — that it would have no need for nuclear weapons if it faced no threat from the United States, including the American military presence in the South. North Korea “made it clear that it would have no reason to keep nuclear weapons if the military threat to the North was eliminated and its security guaranteed,” the South Koreans said in a statement.

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Such formulations have often been the subject of past discussions with the United States. President Bill Clinton gave such security guarantees as part of a 1994 nuclear deal under which North Korea froze its plutonium program in return for food and other assistance. But the North cheated by establishing a separate uranium enrichment program, and under the George W. Bush administration the deal fell apart.

The Trump administration has been loath to enter into negotiations that would have a similar fate and moved to tighten the already strict sanctions. Washington says it will settle for nothing less than a “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” of the nuclear program.

But the administration’s message has often been shifting and confusing, while getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear program has become much harder. The North has at least 20 nuclear weapons and an array of missiles in its arsenal, including one that could reach the United States.

One question is what the North Koreans might demand in return for halting the testing and entering into talks. Mr. Kim apparently has not objected to next month’s United States-South Korea military exercises, or insisted on immediately easing sanctions. Experts say this is because he want a North-South summit set for next month to go smoothly. But those and other issues will be on the table in the future.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence of the United States having any mechanism to implement a strategy for talks. There is no American ambassador in Seoul, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has so eviscerated the State Department that he may not be capable of effectively moving forward. Joseph Yun, the chief American envoy to North Korea and the one senior person who actually knows the portfolio and has met with North Koreans, retired last week, a decision that can only be interpreted as a further sign of the administration’s inept handling of the issue.

Many things helped bring about this opening, including both South Korea’s determination to avoid war and Mr. Trump’s willingness to consider it, as well as the crushing sanctions. It is an opportunity that cannot be squandered.

That will require creative and sustained diplomacy, toughness, patience and a president who can be disciplined enough to keep his thoughts about the situation off Twitter. It should be obvious that a hope for peace, no matter how tenuous, is more welcome than the threat of war.

North Korea Is Willing to Discuss Giving Up Nuclear Weapons, South Says

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on March 7, 2018 at 12:28 am

New York Times,


SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has told South Korean envoys that he is willing to begin negotiations with the United States on abandoning its nuclear weapons and that it would suspend all nuclear and missile tests while engaged in such talks, South Korean officials said on Tuesday.

President Trump reacted with guarded optimism to the news, which potentially represented a major defusing of one of the world’s most tense confrontations.

During the envoys’ two-day visit to Pyongyang, the North’s capital, which ended on Tuesday, the two Koreas also agreed to hold a summit meeting between Mr. Kim and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea on the countries’ border in late April, Mr. Moon’s office said in a statement.

“The North Korean side clearly stated its willingness to denuclearize,” the statement said. “It made it clear that it would have no reason to keep nuclear weapons if the military threat to the North was eliminated and its security guaranteed.”

If the statement is corroborated by North Korea, it would be the first time Mr. Kim has indicated that his government is willing to discuss giving up nuclear weapons in return for security guarantees from the United States. Until now, North Korea has said its nuclear weapons were not for bargaining away.


“The North expressed its willingness to hold a heartfelt dialogue with the United States on the issues of denuclearization and normalizing relations with the United States,” the statement said. “It made it clear that while dialogue is continuing, it will not attempt any strategic provocations, such as nuclear and ballistic missile tests.”

On Twitter, Mr. Trump, who has veered from bellicose threats against Mr. Kim to offers to sit down with him, welcomed what he called “possible progress” with the North. “For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned,” Mr. Trump said. “The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!”

The South Korean statement said the two Koreas would begin working-level discussions to prepare for the summit meeting, to be held in the Peace House, a South Korean building in Panmunjom, the so-called truce village that straddles the border. Before Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon meet, the countries will install, for the first time, a hotline by which the leaders can talk on the phone directly, the statement said.

The statement gave no indication that North Korea would start dismantling nuclear or missile programs anytime soon. Nonetheless, the reported agreements represented major progress in Mr. Moon’s efforts to improve relations with North Korea. Those efforts advanced considerably during the recent Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, to which Mr. Kim sent athletes, entertainers and political delegations that included his sister.

The top South Korean envoys who returned from North Korea on Tuesday — Mr. Moon’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, and the director of the South’s National Intelligence Service, Suh Hoon — are expected to be dispatched to Washington this week to brief the Trump administration on their discussions with Mr. Kim.

Mr. Chung told reporters in Seoul, the South Korean capital, that Mr. Kim had been unexpectedly flexible. He said the delegation had expected him to insist that the South and the United States not hold their annual joint military exercises, which were suspended for the Olympics.

“Kim Jong-un simply said he could understand why the joint exercises must resume in April on the same scale as before,” Mr. Chung said. “But he said he expected them to be readjusted if the situation on the Korean Peninsula stabilizes in the future.”

Mr. Chung said the South Koreans believed that their agreements with North Korea would be enough to start a dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang. He also said he was carrying additional messages from Mr. Kim to the Trump administration that he could not reveal.

“There was no other specific demand from North Korea in returning to dialogue,” he said. “They only said they wanted to be treated like a serious dialogue partner.”

For the president, the overture by North Korea sets in motion a challenging phase that will call on the United States to exercise diplomatic muscles after a long stretch in which the White House relied on economic pressure, backed by threats of military force, to deal with the North.

That challenge will be compounded because the State Department’s veteran North Korea negotiator, Joe Yun, recently announced his retirement from the Foreign Service. Another experienced negotiator, Victor Cha, was recently sidelined when the White House decided not to move ahead with his nomination as ambassador to South Korea.

Administration officials are deeply wary of being drawn into a negotiation in which the United States makes concessions — on issues like military exercises or shipments of medical and food aid — only to see the North Koreans renege on their commitments later.

Mr. Trump has said that the United States could talk with North Korea, but “only under the right conditions.” American officials have repeatedly said they can start negotiations with the North only if it agrees to discuss denuclearizing. They have also insisted that the North first take some actions that would convince them of its sincerity.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera of Japan, which has steadfastly supported the Trump administration’s tough approach to sanctions against North Korea, struck a note of caution about Pyongyang’s interest in negotiations.

“While talking about nuclear abandonment several times, it turned out that North Korea didn’t halt its nuclear development in the past,” Mr. Onodera said. “We need to carefully assess if this North and South dialogue will really lead to the abandonment of nuclear and missile development.”

China, which has pushed for direct talks between Pyongyang and Washington for many months, had no immediate reaction to the South Korean statement. One Chinese expert on North Korea characterized Pyongyang’s reported offer as “concessions that are dramatic and significant.”

“It will be hard for the U.S. government to resist,” said the expert, Cheng Xiaohe, of Renmin University in Beijing.

But Evans J. R. Revere, a former State Department official who was involved in past negotiations with North Korea, was less impressed. He said the formula of denuclearization for security guarantees had “been the basis of several sets of talks” between the two countries in the past.

“The U.S. has actually provided security guarantees to North Korea, including in writing by President Clinton,” Mr. Revere said. “Such guarantees have never been adequate or acceptable to the North Koreans, just as the U.S. provision of alternative energy sources, food and other assistance has never proved adequate.”

He also noted that the moratorium on nuclear and missile tests offered by the North would not prevent Pyongyang from continuing to build its nuclear arsenal, including by producing fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Even so, Mr. Revere said the Trump administration would be hard-pressed to reject the North’s proposal without making it appear that Washington — not Pyongyang — was the problem.

“With these developments, the door seems wide open to a U.S.-North Korea exploratory conversation if both sides want one,” he said. The North went to considerable lengths to meet the American demand that dialogue had to be about denuclearization, he said.

The 10 members of the delegation Mr. Moon sent to the North were the first South Korean officials to meet Mr. Kim since he took power six years ago. They were also the first outside officials to directly hear Mr. Kim explain his intentions regarding his country’s nuclear weapons programs.

Mr. Kim, 34, has accelerated the North’s nuclear and missile tests since inheriting power after his father, Kim Jong-il, died in 2011. Mr. Moon spent most of the past year helplessly watching the Korean Peninsula edge toward possible war as the North test-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles and conducted its most powerful nuclear test yet, while Mr. Trump threatened to rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea.

After launching an intercontinental ballistic missile in November, Mr. Kim claimed to have a “nuclear button” on his desk with which he could fire missiles capable of reaching the mainland United States. American officials say Mr. Kim is getting dangerously close to being able to strike the United States with nuclear-tipped missiles.

But Mr. Kim suddenly shifted his tone on New Year’s Day, using an annual speech to propose sending a delegation to the Olympics. During the Games last month, his sister, Kim Yo-jong, hand-delivered his proposal for a summit meeting with Mr. Moon.

The South Korean leader hoped to use the thaw surrounding the Olympics to improve inter-Korean ties and to steer the United States and North Korea away from what he called a collision course. Analysts say Mr. Kim’s sudden overture for dialogue is driven at least in part by his desire to weaken sanctions that have begun biting his isolated country, as well as to stave off Washington’s threat to use military force.

But even if Washington and Pyongyang were to begin a dialogue, analysts have said, the onetime battlefield enemies would find it hard to reach a compromise.

Washington says it will settle for nothing less than a “complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement” of the North’s nuclear weapons program. But Pyongyang has insisted that Washington discuss not only denuclearization but also ending such “hostile” policies as the American military presence in South Korea and the two allies’ war games, which Pyongyang says drove it to build a nuclear deterrent in the first place.

Washington remains deeply skeptical of any attempt by the South to improve ties with the North without progress on denuclearization. Although Mr. Moon wants inter-Korean dialogue, he has said that the two initiatives must move “in parallel,” and has been urging the United States and North Korea to start negotiations on the nuclear program.

Choe Sang-Hun reported from Seoul, and Mark Landler from Washington. Jane Perlez contributed reporting from Beijing and Motoko Rich from Tokyo.


Is MSNBC Now the Most Danverous Network?

In Democracy, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on March 5, 2018 at 4:33 am

By Norman Solomon, TruthDig, 3-1-18

The evidence is damning. And the silence underscores the arrogance.

More than seven weeks after a devastating report from the media watch group FAIR, top executives and prime-time anchors at MSNBC still refuse to discuss how the network’s obsession with Russia has thrown minimal journalistic standards out the window.


FAIR’s study, “MSNBC Ignores Catastrophic U.S.-Backed War in Yemen,” documented a picture of extreme journalistic malfeasance at MSNBC:

● “An analysis by FAIR has found that the leading liberal cable network did not run a single segment devoted specifically to Yemen in the second half of 2017. And in these latter roughly six months of the year, MSNBC ran nearly 5,000 percent more segments that mentioned Russia than segments that mentioned Yemen.”

● “Moreover, in all of 2017, MSNBC only aired one broadcast on the U.S.-backed Saudi airstrikes that have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. And it never mentioned the impoverished nation’s colossal cholera epidemic, which infected more than 1 million Yemenis in the largest outbreak in recorded history.”

● “All of this is despite the fact that the U.S. government has played a leading role in the 33-month war that has devastated Yemen, selling many billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia, refueling Saudi warplanes as they relentlessly bomb civilian areas and providing intelligence and military assistance to the Saudi air force.”

Meanwhile, MSNBC’s incessant “Russiagate” coverage has put the network at the media forefront of overheated hyperbole about the Kremlin. And continually piling up the dry tinder of hostility toward Russia boosts the odds of a cataclysmic blowup between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.

In effect, the programming on MSNBC follows a thin blue party line, breathlessly conforming to Democratic leaders’ refrains about Russia as a mortal threat to American democracy and freedom across the globe. But hey—MSNBC’s ratings have climbed upward during its monochrome reporting, so why worry about whether coverage is neglecting dozens of other crucial stories? Or why worry if the anti-Russia drumbeat is worsening the risks of a global conflagration?

FAIR’s report, written by journalist Ben Norton and published on Jan. 8, certainly merited a serious response from MSNBC and the anchors most identified by the study, Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes. Yet no response has come from them or network executives. (Full disclosure: I’m a longtime associate of FAIR.)

In the aftermath of the FAIR study, a petition gathered 22,784 signers and 4,474 individual comments—asking MSNBC to remedy its extreme imbalance of news coverage. But the network and its prime-time luminaries Maddow and Hayes refused to respond despite repeated requests for a reply.

The petition was submitted in late January to Maddow and Hayes via their producers, as well as to MSNBC senior vice president Errol Cockfield and to the network’s senior manager in charge of media relations for “The Rachel Maddow Show” and “All In with Chris Hayes.”

Signers responded to outreach from three organizations—Just Foreign Policy, RootsAction.org (which I coordinate), and World Beyond War—calling for concerned individuals to “urge Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, and MSNBC to correct their failure to report on the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and the direct U.S. military role in causing the catastrophe by signing our petition.” (The petition is still gathering signers.)

As the cable news network most trusted by Democrats as a liberal beacon, MSNBC plays a special role in fueling rage among progressive-minded viewers toward Russia’s “attack on our democracy” that is somehow deemed more sinister and newsworthy than corporate dominance of American politicians (including Democrats), racist voter suppression, gerrymandering and many other U.S. electoral defects all put together.

At the same time, the anti-Russia mania also services the engines of the current militaristic machinery.

It’s what happens when nationalism and partisan zeal overcome something that could be called journalism.

“The U.S. media’s approach to Russia is now virtually 100 percent propaganda,” the independent journalist Robert Parry wrote at the end of 2017, in the last article published before his death. “Does any sentient human being read the New York Times’ or the Washington Post’s coverage of Russia and think that he or she is getting a neutral or unbiased treatment of the facts?”

Parry added that “to even suggest that there is another side to the story makes you a ‘Putin apologist’ or ‘Kremlin stooge.’ Western journalists now apparently see it as their patriotic duty to hide key facts that otherwise would undermine the demonizing of Putin and Russia. Ironically, many ‘liberals’ who cut their teeth on skepticism about the Cold War and the bogus justifications for the Vietnam War now insist that we must all accept whatever the U.S. intelligence community feeds us, even if we’re told to accept the assertions on faith.”

Across a U.S. media landscape where depicting Russia as a fully villainous enemy is now routine, MSNBC is a standout. The most profound dangers from what Rachel Maddow and company are doing is what they least want to talk about—how the cumulative effects and momentum of their work are increasing the likelihood that tensions between Washington and Moscow will escalate into a horrendous military conflict.

Even at the height of the Cold War during the 1960s, when Soviet Communists ruled Russians with zero freedom of speech or press, most U.S. political and media elites recognized the vital need for détente. They applauded the “Spirit of Glassboro” when the top leadership of the United States and Russia met at length. Now, across most of the U.S. media spectrum, no such overtures to the Kremlin are to be tolerated.

The U.S. government’s recently released “Nuclear Posture Review” underscores just how unhinged the situation has become.

Consider the assessment from the head of a first-rate research organization in the nuclear weapons field, the Los Alamos Study Group. Its executive director, Greg Mello, said: “What is most ‘missing in action’ in this document is civilian leadership. Trump is not supplying that. In part the fault for this comes from Democrats—who, allied with the intelligence community and other military-industrial interests, insist that the U.S. must have an adversarial relationship with Russia. There is no organized senior-level opposition to the new Cold War, which is intensifying week by week. This document reflects, and is just one of many policies embodying, the new and very dangerous Cold War.”

But—with everyone’s survival at stake—none of that seems to matter much to those who call the shots at MSNBC.

Putin’s State of the Union

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on March 4, 2018 at 2:11 am

The military/security complex and the neoconservative ideology of US world hegemony have proved sufficiently powerful to prevent President Trump from normalizing relations with Russia. If push comes to shove, how can any country hosting US ABMs, US nuclear weapons, and US military bases expect to escape destruction? The basic fact of the matter is that NATO is an obstacle to peace.

by Paul Craig Roberts, 1/3/18, Pressenza (Italy)

Putin has given a remarkable address to the Federal Assembly, the Russian People, and the peoples of the world.
In his speech Putin revealed the existence of new Russian nuclear weapons that make it indisputably clear that Russia has vast nuclear superiority over the United States and its pathetic NATO vassal states.
In view of the Russian capabilities, it is not clear that the US any longer qualifies as a superpower.

There is little doubt in my mind that if the crazed neoconservatives and military/security complex in Washington had these weapons and Russia did not, Washington would launch an attack on Russia.

Putin, however, declared that Russia has no territorial ambitions, no hegemonic ambitions, and no intention to attack any other country. Putin described the weapons as the necessary response to the West’s firm refusal year after year to accept peace and cooperation with Russia, instead surrounding Russia with military bases and ABM systems.

Putin said: “We are interested in normal constructive interaction with the United States and the European Union and are expecting that common sense will prevail and our partners will choose fair and equal cooperation. . . . Our policy will never be based on aspirations for exceptionalism, we are defending our interests and respect the interests of other countries.”

Putin told Washington that its efforts to isolate Russia with sanctions and propaganda and to prevent Russian capability to respond to the growing military encirclement from the West has failed. Russia’s new weapons have made the entire US/NATO approach “ineffective from a military point of view.” “The sanctions to constrain Russia’s development, including in the military sphere… they did not work out.” They have not been been able to contain Russia. They need to realize this… Stop rocking the boat in which we all sit.”

So, what is to be done? Will the West come to its senses? Or will the West, drowning in debt and loaded to the gills with bloated and ineffective military industries, intensify the Cold War that Washington has resurrected?
I do not think the West has any senses to come to. Washington is totally absorbed in “American exceptionalism.” The extreme hubris of the “indispensable country” afflicts all. The Europeans are bought and paid for by Washington. I am confident that Putin was hopeful that European leaders would understand the futility of trying to intimidate Russia and cease to endorse Washington’s Russiaphobia that is leading to nuclear war. No doubt Putin was disappointed in the idiotic response of the UK defense minister Gavin Williamson who accused Russia of “choosing a path of escalation and provocation.”
My guess is that the neoconservatives will play down Russia’s capability, because the neoconservatives do not want to accept that there are any constraints on Washington’s unilateralism. On the other hand, the military/security complex will hype the Russian superiority in order to demand a larger budget to protect us from “the Russian threat”.

The Russian government concluded from years of frustrating experience with Washington’s refusal to consider Russia’s interests and to work together in a cooperative manner that the reason was Washington’s belief that American power could compel Russia to accept American leadership. To shatter this Washington illusion is the reason for Putin’s forceful announcement of the new Russian capabilities.

In his address, he says, “no one wanted to speak with us. No one wanted to listen to us. Listen to us now.” Putin stressed that Russia’s nuclear weapons are reserved for retaliation, not for offense, but that any attack on Russia or Russia’s allies will receive an immediate response “with all the attendant consequences.”

Having made it clear that the Western policy of hegemony and intimidation is dead in the water, Putin again held out the olive branch: let us work together to solve the world’s problems.

I hope that Russian diplomacy succeeds in bringing an end to the rising tensions fomented by Washington. However, Russian diplomacy faces two perhaps insurmountable obstacles. One is the need for the bloated US military/security complex to have a major enemy as a justification for its $1,000 billion annual budget and the power that goes with it. The other obstacle is the neoconservative ideology of US world hegemony.

The military/security complex is institutionalized in every US state. It is an employer and a source of major political campaign contributions, which makes it almost impossible for a senator or representative to go against its interests. In US foreign policy circles there is yet to appear countervailing power to the crazed neoconservatives. The Russiaphobia that the neoconservatives have created now affects ordinary Americans. These two obstacles have proved sufficiently powerful to prevent President Trump from normalizing relations with Russia.

Perhaps in his next speech, Putin should address the Europeans directly and ask them how European interests are served by enabling Washington’s hostilities toward Russia. If push comes to shove, how can any country hosting US ABMs, US nuclear weapons, and US military bases expect to escape destruction?

Without NATO and the forward bases it provides, Washington cannot drive the world to war. The basic fact of the matter is that NATO is an obstacle to peace.

Putin Just Gave Trump the Arms Race He Wants

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on March 3, 2018 at 4:54 am

‘Let it be an arms race,’ Trump said, two years ago. Now we have one. It doesn’t have to be this way.

If you missed the Cold War, it looked a lot like right now, plus a Berlin Wall. Last month, the United States announced three new nuclear weapons to be aimed at Russia, at least in part. This month begins with Russian President Vladimir Putin in his annual state-of-the-nation address unveiling five new nuclear arms of his own — weapons he claims can fly around, under, over, and through any conceivable missile defense system.

Boasting? Absolutely. But it’s like bragging about a muscle car you already have in the garage. These weapons are in development, some are far-fetched, but all are possible. To underscore the point, the last few frames of his “Star Wars”-style computer graphics presentation showed nine nuclear warheads delivered by one new missile heading directly for Mar-a-Lago.

The new missile is monster. The “Sarmat” is a 200-ton, very long-range intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, shown in a cartoon graphic carrying multiple warheads over both the North and South Poles. Why the South? Because all our radars point north and our ground-based interceptor missiles are in Alaska. The “Sarmat will be equipped with a wide range of high-power nuclear ammunition, including hypersonic,” said Putin. “And the most modern systems to overcome missile defense.”

The hypersonic ammunition he mentions is the “Avangard” hypersonic boost-glide weapon. Instead of a free-falling ballistic missile, this weapon, similar to ones under development in the United States and China, would be able to maneuver in flight to evade interceptors. President Putin claims that it “heads towards its target like a meteorite.”

He also showed off the “Kinzhal” hypersonic air-launched cruise missile (possibly with multiple warheads). Like the Avangard, states Putin, the hypersonic speed will guarantee that it will “overcome all existing and, I think, prospective anti-missile systems.”

The most questionable of the new systems is a nuclear-powered, “low-flying, low-visibility cruise missile armed with a nuclear warhead and possessing a practically unlimited range, unpredictable flight path and the capability to impregnate practically all interception lines and is invulnerable to all existing and future anti-missile and air defense weapons,” Putin said. During the speech, Putin showed an animation of the cruise missiles flying across the Atlantic, maneuver around radars, going around South America before it reached its destination, presumably the American west coast.


Putin claims one of Russia’s strategic successes is a “small-scale, heavy-duty, nuclear energy unit that can be installed in a missile.” Adding, “in late 2017, Russia successfully launched its latest nuclear-powered missile at the Central training ground….Now that the missile launch and ground tests were successful, we can begin developing a completely new type of weapon, a strategic nuclear weapons system with a nuclear-powered missile.”

And finally, we have an underwater drone that Putin described as capable of operating at “very extreme depths covering intercontinental distances” and would be traveling at speeds much faster than existing underwater machinery. The system, which he noted had been under development for a number of years, claims to be “highly maneuverable and almost invincible to an enemy.” The Defense Department calls the underwater drone the “Status-6” in it’s report on nuclear weapons, called the Nuclear Posture Review, describing it as a “new intercontinental, nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo.” This weapon, too, would face serious operational obstacles but is designed to unleash a massive nuclear explosion just outside port cities, triggering a radioactive tsunami.

Tellingly, Putin says that he spoke to U.S. officials in 2004 about the initial plans for these weapons, but they didn’t listen.

“Listen to us now,” he intones.

If this sounds like an escalatory cycle, you’re paying attention. It may have begun 15 years ago but it got a major boost with the Trump presidency.

“Let it be an arms race,” President Donald Trump told MSNBC in December 2016. He wants to be the “top of the pack” and boasted that “We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.” He has repeated this posture at various points ever since.


Trump now has the arms race he sought.

But it’s not all his fault. In December 2001, when President George W. Bush withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that limited the number and location of anti-missile systems, many experts warned that it would lead to a new arms race. It did not immediately, but it certainly has now.


Trump could at least keep the cap on this race by agreeing to extend New START which limits both sides’ offensive forces. The treaty expires in 2021, but could quickly be extended for five years by simple executive agreement. Putin wants to, but Trump rebuffed his request to do so in the first phone call the two leaders had in early 2017.

Better, the two could open up new talks to cut both sides’ massive arsenals. The most effective way to intercept Russia’s new nuclear weapons is to kill them before they are built.

But don’t hold your breath. The new Missile Defense Review set to be released at the end of the month (possibly on March 23, the 35th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” speech) will call for a major expansion of our technologically-challenged interceptor system, plus fleets of new space-based weapons and a crash program for 1980’s-style directed energy weapons.

This arms race is just getting warmed up.

Normalizing Nukes, Pentagon-Style

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on March 1, 2018 at 12:42 am

Rajon Menon, Tomgram, February 25, 2018

Despite the dystopian fantasies about nuclear terror and destruction that hit popular culture in the Cold War era and those “duck and cover” drills kids like me experienced in school in the 1950s, the American people were generally sheltered from a full sense of the toll of a nuclear cataclysm. Consider, for instance, the U.S. military’s secret 1960 Single Integrated Operational Plan, or SIOP, for loosing the American arsenal against Russia and China at the height of the Cold War. Three thousand two hundred nuclear weapons were to be “delivered” to 1,060 targets in the Communist world, including at least 130 cities, most of which would, if all went according to plan, essentially cease to exist. Estimates of casualties ran to 285 million dead and another 40 million injured (figures that undoubtedly underplayed the effects of both mass fires and radiation). Such a strike would, theoretically at least, only have been launched in retaliation for a Soviet nuclear attack on the United States, yet the figures don’t even include U.S. casualties.

And mind you, those estimates were offered almost a quarter of a century before we learned even worse news. Thanks to the phenomenon of nuclear winter, a “war” of that sort would have been likely to threaten human survival on this planet. Today, we know that even a far more localized and modest version — say, a South Asian nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan — could throw enough particulates into the stratosphere to block sunlight for significant periods and cause mass global starvation, threatening the deaths, it’s estimated, of perhaps a billion people across the planet.

In his new book, The Doomsday Machine, Daniel Ellsberg, a man deeply involved in nuclear planning of the Cold War era (before he became the famed leaker of the Pentagon Papers), describes the situation:

“What none of us knew at that time — not the Joint Chiefs, not the president or his science advisors, not anyone else for the next two decades, until 1983 — were the phenomena of nuclear winter and nuclear famine, which meant that a large nuclear war of the kind we prepared for then or later would kill nearly every human on earth (along with most other large species).”

As you read TomDispatch regular Rajan Menon’s analysis of the first Nuclear Posture Review of the Trump era, think about the Pentagon’s urge to create ever more “useable” nuclear weapons and ever more advanced delivery systems for them. Then try to take in just what a path of folly we remain headed down — especially with a president once reportedly eager for “a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal” and proud beyond belief of the size of his “nuclear button.”

This is indeed the road to hell and it’s paved with the worst intentions imaginable. Tom


If you’re having trouble sleeping thanks to, well, you know who… you’re not alone. But don’t despair. A breakthrough remedy has just gone on the market. It has no chemically induced side effects and, best of all, will cost you nothing, thanks to the Department of Defense. It’s the new Nuclear Posture Review, or NPR, among the most soporific documents of our era. Just keeping track of the number of times the phrase “flexible and tailored response” appears in the 75-page document is the equivalent of counting (incinerated) sheep. Be warned, however, that if you really start paying attention to its actual subject matter, rising anxiety will block your journey to the slumber sphere.

Threats Galore

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that the United States devoted $611 billion to its military machine in 2016. That was more than the defense expenditures of the next nine countries combined, almost three times what runner-up China put out, and 36% of total global military spending. Yet reading the NPR you would think the United States is the most vulnerable country on Earth. Threats lurk everywhere and, worse yet, they’re multiplying, morphing, becoming ever more ominous. The more Washington spends on glitzy weaponry, the less secure it turns out to be, which, for any organization other than the Pentagon, would be considered a terrible return on investment.

The Nuclear Posture Review unwittingly paints Russia, which has an annual military budget of $69.2 billion ($10 billion less than what Congress just added to the already staggering 2018 Pentagon budget in a deal to keep the government open), as the epitome of efficient investment, so numerous, varied, and effective are the “capabilities” it has acquired in the 17 years since Vladimir Putin took the helm. Though similar claims are made about China and North Korea, Putin’s Russia comes across in the NPR as the threat of the century, a country racing ahead of the U.S. in the development of nuclear weaponry. As the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler has shown, however, that document only gets away with such a claim by making 2010 the baseline year for its conclusions. That couldn’t be more chronologically convenient because the United States had, by then, completed its latest wave of nuclear modernization. By contrast, during the decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia’s economy contracted by more than 50%, so it couldn’t afford large investments in much of anything back then. Only when oil prices began to skyrocket in this century could it begin to modernize its own nuclear forces.

The Nuclear Posture Review also focuses on Russia’s supposed willingness to launch “limited” nuclear strikes to win conventional wars, which, of course, makes the Russians seem particularly insidious. But consider what the latest (December 2014) iteration of Russia’s military doctrine actually says about when Moscow might contemplate such a step: “The Russian Federation reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and/or its allies, and also in the case of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.”

Reduced to its bare bones this means that countries that fire weapons of mass destruction at Russia or its allies or threaten the existence of the Russian state itself in a conventional war could face nuclear retaliation. Of course, the United States has no reason to fear a massive defeat in a conventional war — and which country would attack the American homeland with nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and not expect massive nuclear retaliation?

Naturally, the Nuclear Posture Review also says nothing about the anxieties that the steady eastward advance of NATO — that ultimate symbol of the Cold War — in the post-Soviet years sparked in Russia or how that shaped its military thinking. That process began in the 1990s, when Russian power was in free fall. Eventually, the alliance would reach Russia’s border. The NPR also gives no thought to how Russian nuclear policy might reflect that country’s abiding sense of military inferiority in relation to the United States. Even to raise such a possibility would, of course, diminish the Russian threat at a time when inflating it has become de rigueur for liberals as well as conservatives and certainly for much of the media.

Strangelove Logic

Russian nuclear weapons are not, however, the Nuclear Posture Review’s main focus. Instead, it makes an elaborate case for a massive expansion and “modernization” of what’s already the world’s second largest nuclear arsenal (6,800 warheads versus 7,000 for Russia) so that an American commander-in-chief has a “diverse set of nuclear capabilities that provide… flexibility to tailor the approach to deterring one or more potential adversaries in different circumstances.”

The NPR insists that future presidents must have advanced “low-yield” or “useable” nuclear weapons to wield for limited, selective strikes. The stated goal: to convince adversaries of the foolishness of threatening or, for that matter, launching their own limited strikes against the American nuclear arsenal in hopes of extracting “concessions” from us. This is where Strangelovian logic and nuclear absurdity take over. What state in its right mind would launch such an attack, leaving the bulk of the U.S. strategic nuclear force, some 1,550 deployed warheads, intact? On that, the NPR offers no enlightenment.

You don’t have to be an acolyte of the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz or have heard about his concept of “friction” to know that even the best-laid plans in wartime are regularly shredded. Concepts like limited nuclear war and nuclear blackmail may be fun to kick around in war-college seminars. Trying them out in the real world, though, could produce disaster. This ought to be self-evident, but to the authors of the NPR it’s not. They portray Russia and China as wild-eyed gamblers with an unbounded affinity for risk-taking.

The document gets even loopier. It seeks to provide the commander-in-chief with nuclear options for repelling non-nuclear attacks against the United States, or even its allies. Presidents, insists the document, require “a range of flexible nuclear capabilities,” so that adversaries will never doubt that “we will defeat non-nuclear attacks.” Here’s the problem, though: were Washington to cross that nuclear Rubicon and launch a “limited” strike during a conventional war, it would enter a true terra incognita. The United States did, of course, drop two nuclear bombs on Japanese cities in August 1945, but that country lacked the means to respond in kind.

However, Russia and China, the principal adversaries the NPR has in mind (though North Korea gets mentioned as well), do have just those means at hand to strike back. So when it comes to using nuclear weapons selectively, its authors quickly find themselves splashing about in a sea of bizarre speculation. They blithely assume that other countries will behave precisely as American military strategists (or an American president) might ideally expect them to and so will interpret the nuclear “message” of a limited strike (and its thousands of casualties) exactly as intended. Even with the aid of game theory, war games, and scenario building — tools beloved by war planners — there’s no way to know where the road marked “nuclear flexibility” actually leads. We’ve never been on it before. There isn’t a map. All that exists are untested assumptions that already look shaky.

Yet More Nuclear Options

These aren’t the only dangerous ideas that lie beneath the NPR’s flexibility trope. Presidents must also, it turns out, have the leeway to reach into the nuclear arsenal if terrorists detonate a nuclear device on American soil or if conclusive proof exists that another state provided such weaponry (or materials) to the perpetrator or even “enabled” such a group to “obtain nuclear devices.” The NPR also envisions the use of selective nuclear strikes to punish massive cyberattacks on the United States or its allies. To maximize the flexibility needed for initiating selective nuclear salvos in such circumstances, the document recommends that the U.S. “maintain a portion of its nuclear forces alert day-to-day, and retain the option of launching those forces promptly.” Put all this together and you’re looking at a future in which nuclear weapons could be used in stress-induced haste and based on erroneous intelligence and misperception.

So while the NPR’s prose may be sleep inducing, you’re unlikely to nod off once you realize that the Trump-era Pentagon — no matter the NPR’s protests to the contrary — seeks to lower the nuclear threshold. “Selective,” “limited,” “low yield”: these phrases may sound reassuring, but no one should be misled by the antiseptic terminology and soothing caveats. Even “tactical” nuclear weapons are anything but tactical in any normal sense. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki might, in terms of explosive power, qualify as “tactical” by today’s standards, but would be similarly devastating if used in an urban area. (We cannot know just how horrific the results would be, but the online tool NUKEMAP calculates that if a 20-kiloton nuclear bomb, comparable to Fat Man, the code name for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, were used on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I live, more than 80,000 people would be killed in short order.) Not to worry, the NPR’s authors say, their proposals are not meant to encourage “nuclear war fighting” and won’t have that effect. On the contrary, increasing presidents’ options for using nuclear weapons will only preserve peace.

The Obama-era predecessor to Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review contained an entire section entitled “Reducing the Role of U.S. Nuclear Weapons.” It outlined “a narrow set of contingencies in which such weaponry might still play a role in deterring a conventional or CBW [chemical or biological weapons] attack against the United States or its allies and partners.” So long to that.

The Shopping List — and the Tab

Behind the new policies to make nuclear weapons more “useable” lurks a familiar urge to spend taxpayer dollars profligately. The Nuclear Posture Review’s version of a spending spree, meant to cover the next three decades and expected, in the end, to cost close to two trillion dollars, covers the works: the full nuclear “triad” — land-based ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ones, and nuclear-armed strategic bombers. Also included are the nuclear command, control, and communication network (NC3) and the plutonium, uranium, and tritium production facilities overseen by the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The upgrade will run the gamut. The 14 Ohio-class nuclear submarines, the sea-based segment of the triad, are to be replaced by a minimum of 12 advanced Columbia-class boats. The 400 Minuteman III single-warhead, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, will be retired in favor of the “next-generation” Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, which, its champions insist, will provide improved propulsion and accuracy — and, needless to say, more “flexibility” and “options.” The current fleet of strategic nuclear bombers, including the workhorse B-52H and the newer B-2A, will be joined and eventually succeeded by the “next-generation” B-21 Raider, a long-range stealth bomber. The B-52’s air-launched cruise missile will be replaced with a new Long Range Stand-Off version of the same. A new B61-12 gravity bomb will take the place of current models by 2020. Nuclear-capable F-35 stealth fighter-bombers will be “forward deployed,” supplanting the F-15E. Two new “low-yield” nuclear weapons, a submarine-launched ballistic missile, and a sea-launched cruise missile will also be added to the arsenal.

Think of it, in baseball terms, as an attempted grand slam.

The NPR’s case for three decades of such expenditures rests on the claim that the “flexible and tailored” choices it deems non-negotiable don’t presently exist, though the document itself concedes that they do. I’ll let its authors speak for themselves: “The triad and non-strategic forces, with supporting NC3, provide diversity and flexibility as needed to tailor U.S. strategies for deterrence, assurance, achieving objectives should deterrence fail, and hedging.” For good measure, the NPR then touts the lethality, range, and invulnerability of the existing stock of missiles and bombers. Buried in the review, then, appears to be an admission that the colossally expensive nuclear modernization program it deems so urgent isn’t necessary.

The NPR takes great pains to demonstrate that all of the proposed new weaponry, referred to as “the replacement program to rebuild the triad,” will cost relatively little. Let’s consider this claim in wider perspective.

To obtain Senate ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty he signed with Russia in 2010, the Nobel Prize-winning antinuclear advocate Barack Obama agreed to pour $1 trillion over three decades into the “modernization” of the nuclear triad, and that pledge shaped his 2017 defense budget request. In other words, President Obama left President Trump a costly nuclear legacy, which the latest Nuclear Posture Review fleshes out and expands. There’s no indication that the slightest energy went into figuring out ways to economize on it. A November 2017 Congressional Budget Office report projects that President Trump’s nuclear modernization plan will cost $1.2 trillion over three decades, while other estimates put the full price at $1.7 trillion.

As the government’s annual budget deficit increases — most forecasts expect it to top $1 trillion next year, thanks in part to the Trump tax reform bill and Congress’s gift to the Pentagon budget that, over the next two years, is likely to total $1.4 trillion — key domestic programs will take big hits in the name of belt-tightening. Military spending, of course, will only continue to grow. If you want to get a sense of where we’re heading, just take a look at Trump’s 2019 budget proposal (which projects a cumulative deficit of $7.1 trillion over the next decade). It urges big cuts in areas ranging from Medicare and Medicaid to the Environmental Protection Agency and Amtrak. By contrast, it champions a Pentagon budget increase of $80 billion (13.2% over 2017) to $716 billion, with $24 billion allotted to upgrading the nuclear triad.

And keep in mind that military cost estimates are only likely to rise. There is a persistent pattern of massive cost overruns for weapons systems ordered through the government’s Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP). These ballooned from $295 billion in 2008 to $468 billion in 2015. Consider just two recent examples: the first of the new Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers, delivered last May after long delays, came in at $13 billion, an overrun of $2.3 billion, while the program to produce the F-35 jet, already the most expensive weapons system of all time, could reach $406.5 billion, a seven percent overrun since the last estimate.

Flexibility Follies

If the Pentagon turns its Nuclear Posture Review into reality, the first president who will have some of those more “flexible” nuclear options at his command will be none other than Donald Trump. We’re talking, of course, about the man who, in his debut speech to the United Nations last September, threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and later, as the crisis on the Korean peninsula heated up, delighted in boasting on Twitter about the size of his “nuclear button.” He has shown himself to be impulsive, ill informed, impervious to advice, certain about his instincts, and infatuated with demonstrating his toughness, as well as reportedly fascinated by nuclear weapons and keen to see the U.S. build more of them. Should a leader with such traits be given yet more nuclear “flexibility”? The answer is obvious enough, except evidently to the authors of the NPR, who are determined to provide him with more “options” and “flexibility.”

At least three more years of a Donald Trump presidency are on the horizon. Of this we can be sure: other international crises will erupt, and one of them could pit the United States not just against a nuclear-armed North Korea but also against China or Russia. Making it easier for Trump to use nuclear weapons isn’t, as the Nuclear Posture Review would have you believe, a savvy strategic innovation. It’s insanity.

Rajan Menon, a TomDispatch regular, is the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of International Relations at the Powell School, City College of New York, and Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University’s Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. He is the author, most recently, of The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention.


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

Jon Schwarz The Intercept, February 21 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are Risch’s most disturbing words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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