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John McCain: Nuclear Disarmament, and What Might Have Been

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on August 30, 2018 at 11:57 pm

world might have had far fewer nuclear weapons today.

John McCain wanted to ban the bomb. It is not the image one has of the late Arizona senator, but when he ran for president in 2008, he argued that “the United States should lead a global effort at nuclear disarmament.”

It wasn’t just a throwaway line. McCain built it into a speech he gave to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council that March. In between calls for robust U.S. global leadership and his defense of the Iraq War, he delivered this clarion call:

Forty years ago, the five declared nuclear powers came together in support of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and pledged to end the arms race and move toward nuclear disarmament. The time has come to renew that commitment. We do not need all the weapons currently in our arsenal. The United States should lead a global effort at nuclear disarmament consistent with our vital interests and the cause of peace.

A few months later, speaking in Denver, McCain laid out a detailed plan that called for working with Russia and China to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and canceling the development of so-called nuclear “bunker-buster” bombs then underway in the George W. Bush administration. Advised by former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, McCain embraced Ronald Reagan’s vision of a nuclear-free world with specific proposals that still resonate today:

A quarter of a century ago, President Ronald Reagan declared, “our dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the Earth.” That is my dream, too. It is a distant and difficult goal. And we must proceed toward it prudently and pragmatically, and with a focused concern for our security and the security of allies who depend on us. But the Cold War ended almost 20 years ago, and the time has come to take further measures to reduce dramatically the number of nuclear weapons in the world’s arsenals…

Our highest priority must be to reduce the danger that nuclear weapons will ever be used. Such weapons, while still important to deter an attack with weapons of mass destruction against us and our allies, represent the most abhorrent and indiscriminate form of warfare known to man. We do, quite literally, possess the means to destroy all of mankind. We must seek to do all we can to ensure that nuclear weapons will never again be used…

Today we deploy thousands of nuclear warheads. It is my hope to move as rapidly as possible to a significantly smaller force…I would seriously consider Russia’s recent proposal to work together to globalize the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty…As president I will pledge to continue America’s current moratorium on testing, but also begin a dialogue with our allies, and with the U.S. Senate, to identify ways we can move forward to limit testing in a verifiable manner that does not undermine the security or viability of our nuclear deterrent. This would include taking another look at the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to see what can be done to overcome the shortcomings that prevented it from entering into force. I opposed that treaty in 1999, but said at the time I would keep an open mind about future developments.

I would only support the development of any new type of nuclear weapon that is absolutely essential for the viability of our deterrent, that results in making possible further decreases in the size of our nuclear arsenal, and furthers our global nuclear security goals. I would cancel all further work on the so-called Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, a weapon that does not make strategic or political sense.

McCain’s positions were so sweeping that they closely paralleled those advanced by his opponent, Barack Obama. There were plenty of areas of disagreement between the two, but nuclear policy was not really one of them. A debate that year between surrogates for the campaigns, Stephen Biegun for McCain and John Holum for Obama, was a fairly boring affair largely consisting of each side saying, “I agree.” Biegun (now President Donald Trump’s special envoy for North Korea) emphasized McCain’s long track record on nuclear reductions: “For his two decades in the United States Senate, he has been a strong supporter of treaty-based arms control.”

 

If McCain had become president, it is quite likely that he would have continued this support and implemented these shared policies. In fact, as a Republican, he likely would have been more successful than Obama in getting them enacted.

It is not that he was a better strategist than his Democratic opponent, but McCain would not have faced the fierce partisan opposition Obama encountered when he tried to enact the policies the two shared as candidates. McCain could have garnered Republican support in Congress for these policies, much as Ronald Reagan had done during his tenure. Conservatives would have trusted him; liberals would have applauded him. He very well could have guided us around a significant nuclear corner towards fewer arms, lower costs, and reduced risks.

But he never got the chance. Instead, much to his discredit, McCain himself became part of the opposition that blocked Obama’s efforts. Abandoning his principled positions, he voted against the modest 2010 New START agreement reducing U.S. and Russian strategic arms; as chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he pushed billions of dollars into new nuclear weapons programs; he opposed verifiable restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program; and, in 2017, he called for a review of deploying nuclear weapons back to the Korean Peninsula.

Who was the real John McCain: 2008’s nuclear disarmer or 2018’s nuclear hawk? Likely both. As the Republican Party drifted away from Reagan’s vision, he drifted with it. He seemed to forget his own campaign-trail warning about “the folly of relying on policies that no longer keep us safe.” As defense budgets went up, he went from calls to slash nuclear arms to support for building more. As diplomacy faltered with Iran and North Korea, he went back to calls for regime change.

We will never know if, in time, he might have drifted back. But it was the 2008 McCain that offered the better hope, the better plan for reducing nuclear dangers rather than creating more.

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An Air Force Stealth B-2 Spirit Just Test-Dropped a Nuclear Bomb

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, War on August 26, 2018 at 1:49 am

August 23, 2018

This is what it could do in battle.

by Kris Osborn, August 23, 2018

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/air-force-stealth-b-2-spirit-just-test-dropped-nuclear-bomb-29547

The Air Force’s B-2 Stealth bomber has test-dropped an upgraded,
multi-function B61-12 nuclear bomb which improves accuracy, integrates
various attack options into a single bomb and changes the strategic
landscape with regard to nuclear weapons mission possibilities.

Earlier this summer, the Air Force dropped a B61-12 nuclear weapon
from a B-2 at Nellis AFB, marking a new developmental flight test
phase for the upgraded bomb, Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Hope Cronin
told Warrior Maven.

“The updated weapon will include improved safety, security and
reliability,” Cronin said.

The B61-12 adds substantial new levels of precision targeting and
consolidates several different kinds of attack options into a single
weapon. Instead of needing separate variants of the weapon for
different functions, the B61-12 by itself allows for earth-penetrating
attacks, low-yield strikes, high-yield attacks, above surface
detonation and bunker-buster options.

The latest version of the B61 thermonuclear gravity bomb, which has
origins as far back as the 1960s, is engineered as a low-to-medium
yield strategic and tactical nuclear weapon, according to
nuclearweaponsarchive.org, which also states the weapon has a
“two-stage” radiation implosion design.

“The main advantage of the B61-12 is that it packs all the gravity
bomb capabilities against all the targeting scenarios into one bomb.
That spans from very low-yield tactical “clean” use with low fallout
to more dirty attacks against underground targets,” Hans Kristensen,
Director of the Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American
Scientists, told Warrior Maven.

Air Force officials describe this, in part, by referring to the
upgraded B61-12 as having an “All Up Round.”

“The flight test accomplished dedicated B61-12 developmental test
requirements and “All Up Round” system level integration testing on
the B-2,” Cronin said.

The B61 Mod 12 is engineered with a special “Tail Subassembly” to give
the bomb increased accuracy, giving a new level of precision targeting
using Inertial Navigation Systems, Kristensen said.

“Right now the B-2 carries only B61-7 (10-360 kt), B61-11(400 kt,
earth-penetrator), and B83-1 (high-yield bunker-buster). The B61-12
covers all of those missions, with less radioactive fallout, plus very
low-yield attacks,” he added.

The evidence that the B61-12 can penetrate below the surface has
significant implications for the types of targets that can be held at
risk with the bomb.

By bringing an “earth-penetrating” component, the B61-12 vastly
increases the target scope or envelope of attack. It can enable more
narrowly targeted or pinpointed strikes at high-value targets
underground – without causing anywhere near the same level of
devastation above ground or across a wider area.

“A nuclear weapon that detonates after penetrating the earth more
efficiently transmits its explosive energy to the ground, thus is more
effective at destroying deeply buried targets for a given nuclear
yield. A detonation above ground, in contrast, results in a larger
fraction of the explosive energy bouncing off the surface,” Kristensen
explained.

Massive B-2 Upgrade:

The testing and integration of the B61-12 is one piece of a massive,
fleet-wide B-2 upgrade designed to sustain the bomber into coming
years, until large numbers of the emerging B-21 Raider are available.
A range of technical modifications are also intended to prepare the
1980s-era bomber for very sophisticated, high-end modern threats.

The B-2 is getting improved digital weapons integration, new computer
processing power reported to be 1,000-times faster than existing
systems and next-generation sensors designed to help the aircraft
avoid enemy air defenses.

One of the effort’s key modifications is designed to improve what’s
called the bomber’s Defensive Management System, a technology designed
to help the B-2 recognize and elude enemy air defenses, using various
antennas, receivers and display processors.

The Defensive Management System is to detect signals or “signatures”
emitting from ground-based anti-aircraft weapons, Air Force officials
have said. Current improvements to the technology are described by Air
Force developers as “the most extensive modification effort that the
B-2 has attempted.”

The modernized system, called a B-2 “DMS-M” unit, consists of a
replacement of legacy DMS subsystems so that the aircraft can be
effective against the newest and most lethal enemy air defenses. The
upgraded system integrates a suite of antennas, receivers, and
displays that provide real-time intelligence information to aircrew,
service officials said.

Upgrades consist of improved antennas with advanced digital electronic
support measures, or ESMs along with software components designed to
integrate new technologies with existing B-2 avionics, according to an
Operational Test & Evaluation report from the Office of the Secretary
of Defense.

The idea of the upgrade is, among other things, to inform B-2 crews
about the location of enemy air defenses so that they can avoid or
maneuver around high-risk areas where the aircraft is more likely to
be detected or targeted. The DMS-M is used to detect radar emissions
from air defenses and provide B-2 air crews with faster mission
planning information – while in-flight.

Air Force officials explain that while many of the details of the
upgraded DMS-M unit are not available for security reasons, the
improved system does allow the stealthy B-2 to operate more
successfully in more high-threat, high-tech environments – referred to
by Air Force strategists as highly “contested environments.”

Many experts have explained that 1980s stealth technology is known to
be less effective against the best-made current and emerging air
defenses – newer, more integrated systems use faster processors,
digital networking and a wider-range of detection frequencies.

The DMS-M upgrade does not in any way diminish the stealth properties
of the aircraft, meaning it does not alter the contours of the
fuselage or change the heat signature to a degree that it would make
the bomber more susceptible to enemy radar, developers said.

Many advanced air defenses use X-band radar, a high-frequency,
short-wavelength signal able to deliver a high-resolution imaging
radar such as that for targeting. S-band frequency, which operates
from 2 to 4 GHz, is another is also used by many air defenses, among
other frequencies.

X-band radar operates from 8 to 12 GHz, Synthetic Aperture Radar, or
SAR, sends forward and electromagnetic “ping” before analyzing the
return signal to determine shape, speed, size and location of an enemy
threat. SAR paints a rendering of sorts of a given target area. X-band
provides both precision tracking as well as horizon scans or searches.
Stealth technology, therefore, uses certain contour configurations and
radar-absorbing coating materials to confuse or thwart electromagnetic
signals from air defenses

These techniques are, in many cases, engineered to work in tandem with
IR (infrared) suppressors used to minimize or remove a “heat”
signature detectable by air defenses’ IR radar sensors. Heat coming
from the exhaust or engine of an aircraft can provide air defense
systems with indication that an aircraft is operating overhead. These
stealth technologies are intended to allow a stealth bomber to
generate little or no return radar signal, giving air dense operators
an incomplete, non-existent or inaccurate representation of an object
flying overhead.

Also, the B-2 is slated to fly alongside the services’ emerging B-21
Raider next-generation stealth bomber; this platform, to be ready in
the mid-2020s, is said by many Air Force developers to include a new
generation of stealth technologies vastly expanding the current
operational ranges and abilities of existing stealth bombers. In fact,
Air Force leaders have said that the B-21 will be able to hold any
target in the world at risk, anytime.

The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of
them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of
50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both
conventional and nuclear weapons.

The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions
over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as
many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from
Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego
Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.

This first appeared in WarIsBoring here.

https://accounts.google.com/o/oauth2/postmessageRelay?parent=https%3A%2F%2Fmail.google.com&jsh=m%3B%2F_%2Fscs%2Fabc-static%2F_%2Fjs%2Fk%3Dgapi.gapi.en.bSfaJ330ulQ.O%2Frt%3Dj%2Fd%3D1%2Frs%3DAHpOoo9ETX0ujNe7X7enovCK61wuo61HKQ%2Fm%3D__features__#rpctoken=881871279&forcesecure=1

The modern nuclear arsenal: A nuclear weapons expert describes a new kind of Cold War

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on August 24, 2018 at 11:26 pm

August 24, 2018

With the flurry of talks with North Korea and the fallout from the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, nuclear weapons have become a major topic of discussion in recent months. But secrecy abounds: Who has what weapons? How many? How much damage could they do?

Hans Kristensen tries to answer those questions. As the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, Kristensen and his colleagues delve into open source data, analyze satellite imagery and file requests under the Freedom of Information Act to get the most accurate picture of the world’s nuclear-armed countries. The initiative produces reports on nuclear weapons, arms control and other nuclear matters, and gives recommendations on how to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons worldwide.

Kristensen sat down with The Washington Post to discuss how the United States’s nuclear capabilities stack up with the rest of the world, and potential problems down the road. The questions and answers have been edited for brevity.

Why do you have to come up with estimates about the stockpiles? Why don’t we have hard data?

KRISTENSEN: Countries like to keep nuclear weapons data secret. That’s the tendency. It varies from country to country a lot. In the United States, there’s a lot of information available. It wasn’t always like that. There has been a process in the United States where the government has gradually become more at ease, if you will, with disclosing a certain amount of information. There are still secrets, by all means. But a lot of information can come out.

In other countries, it’s not like that. So it varies tremendously from country to country. In some countries, even if you try to collect this information, you go to jail. So we find ourselves in a very interesting role where for countries like China, we can provide information to people in China that want to have a discussion about nuclear weapons, because they can use information coming from outside. They don’t have to do their own homework.

One thing that really sticks out on your bio was that in 2010 you almost completely accurately estimated the U.S. stockpile. How much were you off on that?

KRISTENSEN: 13 weapons out of a stockpile of 5,113. But of course that didn’t come about because of one person doing some work over six months. It came about because many, many people over the years have been digging in and gleaning information from congressional hearings, budget documents, declassified documents that were released under the Freedom of Information Act. And so I was sort of standing on the shoulders of the giants that have created the methodology to do this and just happened to get really, really close to the real number, this top secret number, when the Obama administration in 2010 finally decided to declassify the actual number of nuclear warheads in the U.S. military stockpile.

So that was the number then, and now it has changed?

KRISTENSEN: That was the number then. Since then, they have reduced more. We’re down to about 4,000 now. There’s always been these fluctuations in the nuclear stockpile, but since the end of the Cold War, the trend has been very consistent going south. Fewer and fewer nuclear weapons. Now it’s sort of leveling out a bit and it’s sort of part of a broader trend, if you will, of nuclear reductions worldwide, where it is if the nuclear weapon states are sort of slowing down the disarmament process and are beginning to look at the long term and seeing, how do we want to exist as nuclear weapon states 20, 30 years from now? And what’s going to be the role of nuclear weapons in the world at that time? So there’s a lot more reluctance to progress toward zero these days than there was just 10 years ago.

There is a dilemma here for the countries to figure out the international security order as we progress down to deep cuts and eventual elimination, potentially. So that’s a really tough issue. But what we’re seeing now is also that we have an up-flare of an adversarial relationship again, most dramatically illustrated by the deterioration of relations between Russia and the West. We are back in a real Cold War type adversarial relationship again. It’s not at the scale or intensity of the Cold War, but it has all the characteristics.

Could you talk about the nuclear triad, who still maintains it and why?

KRISTENSEN: The United States has a triad of strategic nuclear forces. That means we have a land-based ballistic missile force, long-range ballistic missiles. They are in silos in the Midwest. We have about 400 of those silos loaded right now with long-range ballistic missiles. Each of those missiles currently carries one nuclear warhead, but some of them can be uploaded to carry more if we need them to. They have such a long range, they can reach anywhere on the planet where they need to go. That means in Russia, China, North Korea, wherever.

Then we have a second leg, which is the ballistic missile submarine force at sea, on board strategic submarines, nuclear powered submarines, very big ships that dive and disappear in the ocean for three months. And their role, essentially, is ultimately to hide so that if an adversary decided to conduct a first strike and try to wipe out everything on land, there was no way they could avoid a devastating retaliatory strike from those submarines.

They also have a third leg, which is the air leg, which is long-range strategic bombers. They can carry a variety of weapons, gravity bombs of different kinds, but also long-range cruise missiles. So either they can fly all the way into their target and drop a gravity bomb on it, or they can loiter off the coast and employ their nuclear cruise missiles from those positions and they will they find their way into their targets.

They also have a fourth leg we don’t normally hear about when we talk about triads. There’s also a leg that is a nonstrategic leg, a tactical leg. It consists of shorter-range fighter aircraft and shorter-range missile systems that can for example go on ships and submarines. They may be designed to blow up other ships or attack land targets. Or the Russians, for example, today still have nuclear torpedoes for their submarines that could be used to shoot other submarines, but with nuclear explosives.

Is cost one reason that some countries don’t maintain nuclear triads, and how has that discussion gone in the U.S.?

KRISTENSEN: Cost is important, but by and large, countries make the sacrifice they need to make if they really think it’s important. The thing with nuclear forces is that they’re very expensive to develop: you have to go through a very long testing program, both for delivery systems and for the warheads themselves, command and control, all these elements that constitute a nuclear posture. And that costs a lot of money to develop. Once you have it, you can maintain it at much less of a cost. You need to overhaul it from time to time.

But if you look at the U.S. nuclear arsenal today compared with what the entire defense budget costs, it’s only a small portion of it. And so there are a lot of people who fall for the temptation to say, see, nuclear weapons are very cheap. So we shouldn’t worry about a modernization program. But that’s not exactly how it works. Any country doesn’t want just nuclear weapons. They want a full military, and nuclear weapons are not very useful because you can’t use them. So you need to have them in the background, so to speak. So you don’t want too much nuke and you don’t want too much nuke to eat up too much of the total defense budget, because then you have to take that money from other conventional programs that might actually be more usable and more vital for the military operations you’re planing to do.

So what we’re seeing right now is that, in the case of the United States, the share of nuclear weapons eat up something in the order of about 4 percent of the defense budget. Because of the modernization program we’ve set in motion, that might increase to about 6, 7, 8 percent in the next decade. So we hear this argument a lot that, oh, it’s not very cheap, but it actually creates some serious problems for defense planning.

In your analysis, is the path we’re on a sustainable one?

KRISTENSEN: The current modernization program, to the best we can see, is not sustainable economically. It’s not that the United States couldn’t pay for all of those modernizations if it really wanted to, of course it could. But it would have to take that money from somewhere else. So we’d have to cut some conventional programs and use that money on nuclear instead. And that’s a huge dilemma inside military planning.

So what’s happening now is that there are so many warning signs already that in the ’20s, the cost of the nuclear modernization program is going to force cuts elsewhere in the defense budget, if you want to pay for it. So right now there are people who are out saying, well, why don’t we adjust the nuclear modernization program now, so we don’t have to make these catastrophe cuts later in that may mess up a program or create confusion about our posture and all these types of things.

But we have a very die-hard nuclear advocacy group or community right now that, every time they go to Congress and testify about the nuclear modernization program, it’s like, “Oh no, this is the only one, this is all we can do. Oh no, we can pay for it, it’s only a small portion of defense budget.” They just keep perpetuating this and all the warning signs are out that there are going to be some nasty adjustments that have to be made.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Fictions and Facts

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on August 12, 2018 at 6:47 am

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About the US atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, popular accounts still stick to the false but “greatest generation” story that, “Without [them], more Japanese would have died in a US assault on the islands, as would have tens of thousands of Americans,” as Mike Hashimoto wrote in the Dallas Morning News in 2016.

The New York Times reported that year, “Many historians believe the bombings [of] Hiroshima and then Nagasaki, which together took the lives of more than 200,000 people, saved lives on balance, since an invasion of the islands would have led to far greater bloodshed.” Many historians, perhaps; but not that many.

On the contrary the chief historian of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, J. Samuel Walker, wrote in the journal Diplomatic History in 1990, “The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time. It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed and that Truman and his advisers knew it.”

Historian Martin Sherwin has debunked the tale of the “good” atom bombs, citing in his 2003 book A World Destroyed “a ‘considerable body’ of new evidence that suggested the bomb may have cost, rather than saved, American lives. That is, if the US had not been so determined to complete, test, and finally use the bomb, it might have arranged the Japanese surrender weeks earlier, preventing much bloodshed on Okinawa.”

Historian Gar Alperovitz wrote in Atomic Diplomacy (Vintage Books, 1967), “available evidence shows the atomic bomb was not needed to end the war or to save lives — and that this was understood by American leaders at the time.” Further declassification of wartime secrets and 28 additional years of research make Alperovitz’s definitive 1995 history The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb even stronger on this point. 

Admirals and Generals Destroy the Myth

Combat veterans and bomber crews defeated Japan well before August 6, 1945 by fighting and dying in dreadful battles over Midway, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and elsewhere, a fact corroborated by dozens of military commanders, as Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the 21st Bomber Command, boasted. LeMay said publicly on Sept. 20, 1945: “The war would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb.” Asked to clarify, the general who directed the destruction of 67 Japanese cities using mass incendiary attacks doubled down saying, “The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.”

Gen. George Kenny, who commanded parts of the Army Air Forces in the Pacific, was asked in 1969 for his opinion and said, “I think we had the Japs [sic] licked anyhow. I think they would have quit probably within a week or so of when they did quit.” Alperovitz notes further that Adm. Lewis Strauss, an assistant to WW II Navy Secretary James Forrestal, wrote to historian Robert Albion in 1960: “[F]rom the Navy’s point of view, there are statements by Admiral King, Admiral Halsey, Admiral Radford, Admiral Nimitz and others who expressed themselves to the effect that neither the atomic bomb nor the proposed invasion of the Japanese mainland were necessary to produce the surrender.”

In Mandate for Change, President Dwight Eisenhower admitted that when Sec. of War Henry Stimson told him atomic bombs were going to be used, “I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary….”

President Truman’s Chief of Staff, Adm. William Leahy, agreed. As Robert Lifton and Greg Mitchell, report in Hiroshima in America: 50 Years of Denial, Leahy said, “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.…” Even official histories have debunked the fiction. “[T]he US Strategic Bombing Survey published its conclusion that Japan would likely have surrendered in 1945 without atomic bombing, without a Soviet declaration of war, and without an American invasion,” Alperovitz recounted in The Decision. 

Still, the myth that the mass destruction of 200,000 was necessary to save lives is believed by millions in the US who refuse to consider or accept the historical record. This greatest of the “greatest generation’s” yarns may help some sleep at night, and to think better of killing civilians than does the rest of the world, but it doesn’t help abolish nuclear weapons.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

A Review of the Book Losing Military Supremacy by Andrei Martyanov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is scheduled to become available on September 1st.

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

The Saker

After Helsinki, Can Trump and Putin Strike a Grand Bargain on Nukes?

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on July 24, 2018 at 6:54 am

Tom Z. Collina , The National Interest•July 23, 2018
Presidents Trump and Putin want to get nuclear arms control back on
track. Here’s how they can get it done.

The unforgettable Helsinki summit will be remembered for President
Donald Trump’s refusal to side with his own intelligence community
over Vladimir Putin on the issue of Russia’s meddling in the 2016
election. So it was easy to miss some of the less prominent but
important details—such as signals that U.S.-Russian talks on nuclear
arms control may resume—which have floundered since 2010. This may be
a significant opening for reducing the global risk of nuclear war that
the two leaders must quickly build on.

Before the summit, things were looking bleak for the future of
U.S.-Russian nuclear relations. Major arms reduction treaties are in
trouble and the United States and Russia are in a new nuclear arms
race, spending trillions on weapons they do not need. This could be
the end of arms control as we know it.

But in Helsinki, Trump said nuclear weapons are “the greatest threat
of our world today,” and that, “we have to do something about nuclear,
and so that was a matter that we discussed actually in great detail,
and President Putin agrees with me.” Putting more meat on the bone,
President Putin said Russia wanted to “work together…on the
disarmament agenda,” including the New START Treaty, U.S. anti-missile
systems, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and
weapons in space.

Time will tell if the two leaders are serious about these intentions.
But if they are, they could break through stale strategic dogma and
take a giant step toward reducing their excessive arsenals of these
dangerous weapons. Like President Ronald Reagan and Premier Mikhail
Gorbachev before them, Trump and Putin could use nuclear arms control
to forge a new, transformative partnership.

If Trump (for whatever reason) wants to build his relationship with
Putin and prove his diplomatic chops back home, there is no better
opportunity than right now on arms control. There is a grand bargain
in the offing, which would make both nations and the world safer and
save hundreds of billions of dollars. As Trump said last year, “Let’s
see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For one thing, I think
nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially.”

So let’s go. Here is what Trump and Putin need to do to make nuclear
arms control a centerpiece of an improved U.S.-Russian relationship:

First, the low-hanging fruit is to extend the 2010 New START treaty.
The agreement caps U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals at 1,550
strategic weapons each and allows for on-site inspections to verify
compliance. The treaty expires in 2021, but can be extended for five
years by a simple agreement. This should be ano-brainer.

But, alas, nothing is simple with President Trump, who may oppose
extending New START just because it is President Obama’s treaty. (As
similar illogic was applied to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.) To get
around that, Trump can do what Obama could not: strike a new deal with
Russia to reduce long-range nuclear forces on both sides to 1,000
warheads or less. This is the “big deal” that will get Trump into the
history books. But when Obama made this offer in 2013, Russia was not
interested.

Is Putin interested now? Maybe. In March, Putin gave a major speech
describing how President George W. Bush withdrew from the 1972
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. This allowed the United States to
deploy missiles meant to intercept Russian missiles, which eventually
put a freeze on Moscow’s willingness to reduce its forces. As Putin
put it, “If we do not do something, eventually this will result in the
complete devaluation of Russia’s nuclear potential. Meaning that all
of our missiles could simply be intercepted.”

Putin—showing unwarranted confidence in U.S. missile defense
technology, which has not worked as advertised—announced that Russia
would build a new generation of nuclear weapons to defeat U.S. missile
interceptors, including new land-based missiles, nuclear-powered
cruise missiles and underwater drones. But he also said he was open to
future arms talks.

“There is no need to create more threats to the world,” Putin said.
“Instead, let us sit down at the negotiating table and devise together
a new and relevant system of international security and sustainable
development for human civilization.”

Of course, Moscow may be willing to discuss new nuclear arms
reductions only if Trump agrees to constrain U.S. missile
interceptors. This condition doomed Obama’s efforts for a New START
follow-on treaty, since Senate Republicans (for whom missile defense
is an article of faith) would never approve a Democratic treaty that
limited U.S. interceptors. But Trump, who apparently has complete
control of his party, could make history by striking a deal with Putin
that even a Republican Senate would approve.

Finally, Trump and Putin must also come to terms on the 1987 INF
Treaty, which banned all mid-range land-based missiles from Europe.
Russia is in violation of the INF, having deployed a prohibited cruise
missile. However, Russia claims that U.S. missile interceptor
deployments in Eastern Europe also violate the INF by providing a base
for U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles.

In exchange for Putin scraping his prohibited cruise missile, Trump
should agree to remove U.S. missile interceptor bases from Romania and
Poland. They are not needed for their declared purpose—defending
against Iranian long-range nuclear-armed missiles, which do not exist.
This would also help meet Trump’s goal of reducing U.S. military
spending on NATO.

At Helsinki, Trump put politics over country and showed that he is
much more concerned about “Trump First” than “America First.” Trump
can now put country over politics by exploring a grand bargain on
nuclear arms control that no other president since Reagan has been
willing to touch. This would fit well with Trump’s desire to shake up
the international system, make transformational deals, and be a
statesman on the world stage. Unconventional as Trump may be, let’s
see if he can get us back on track to reducing these very
unconventional weapons.

Tom Z. Collina is the Policy Director at Ploughshares Fund in Washington DC.

Watch Out World: Peace May be Breaking Out!!

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

By Alice Slater, July 7, 2018.

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

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

Let us do a thought experiment: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

Alice Slater serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War

By Alice Slater, July 7, 2018.

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

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

Let us do a thought experiment: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

Alice Slater serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War

NEW POLL: Europeans reject US nuclear weapons on own soil

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

July 6, 2018

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

Download the full survey here →

What did the survey find?

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

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

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

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

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



  • aiweiwei

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

    Ai Weiwei Artist and activist

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

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

by Alice Slater

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nuclear Weapons Pose the Ultimate Threat to Mankind | The Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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