The Man Who Saved the World (2015)
An award-winning documentary about Stanislav Petrov, one of the unsung heroes of the nuclear age. "Few people know of him... Yet hundreds of millions of people are alive because of him. The actions of Stanislav Petrov, a retired Soviet military officer, prevented the start of a worldwide nuclear war and the devastation of much of the Earth."
Opening now in theaters in the USA.
- Film review in The Spectator (UK)
- IMDB listing "I was only 50/50": Russian who saved world from nuclear war
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Grills SecDef Ash Carter
On dangers of US-Russian collision in Syria going nuclear;
during a House Armed Services Committee hearing Dec 2, 2015
TG: Approx how many nuclear warheads does Russia have aimed at the US, and how many does the US have aimed at Russia?
AC: Uh, Congresswoman, we'll get you those precise numbers as best we know them... Let me just summarize it by the fact that I'm confident we have a strong, safe, secure and reliable deterrent, but it's also true that Russia, like the Soviet Union that precedes it, has a massive nuclear arsenal.*
TG: And it would be accurate to say that both our of countries have the capacity to launch these nuclear weapons within minutes.
AC: We do.
*Note the Secretary's choice of words: The US has "a safe and reliable deterrent", while Russia has "a massive nuclear arsenal".
Current nuclear stockpiles- for country reports and other details see original annotated infographic at Ploughshares.org.
Worldwide Nuclear Weapon Modernization Programs
Extensive report by Hans Kristensen, director, Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American Scientists, presented at ANA conference at the UN April 28, 2015. View/download PDF.
Modernizing nuclear arsenals: Whether and how
9-part 2015 roundtable on the modernization of nuclear arsenals at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
("Modernizing..." at the Bulletin)
"What few Americans realize is that the U.S. is completely rebuilding the production side of its nuclear weapons complex, with new multi-billion dollar factories expected to operate until ~2075. The aim of the for-profit nuclear weapons establishment is a never-ending cycle of exorbitant Life Extension Programs for existing nuclear weapons. These programs will not only extend their service lives for up to six decades, but also endow them with new military capabilities, despite denials at the highest levels of government..."
-Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico; comment on NYTimes article U.S. Ramping Up Major Renewal in Nuclear Arms 21 Sept, 2014.
Nuclear Flashpoints: NATO-Russia: Archives
Nuclear Weapons: 70 Years On and Riskier Than Ever
When on the early morning of July 16, 1945, the first nuclear bomb was detonated in southern New Mexico, observers spoke of their feelings of awe and dread. 3 weeks later, when further nuclear bombs were detonated above the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the appalling results could only elicit horror; the only documentary footage immediately following the attack was suppressed for decades.
In the aftermath, many scientists called for the abolition of the bomb; statesmen called for its control by an international agency. But the Cold War confrontation saw a staggering proliferation of nuclear weapons between the two superpowers; finally the sense of dread grew so great that the leaders of both sides sought ways to jointly reduce their arsenals, and even, in the case of Reagan and Gorbachev, dreamt of abolishing these weapons. When in the early nineties the Cold War ended without a shot, many assumed we might finally move rapidly on nuclear disarmament, in keeping with the pledges made when we signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
And indeed, the insane arsenals of the US and Russia were cut back significantly. But ultimately, instead of seizing the chance to be rid of nuclear weapons for good, the prevailing attitude seemed to become 'might as well keep some around, you know, just in case, you never know.' A quarter century after the end of the Cold War, there are still 15,700 nuclear weapons in the world, and the US and Russia together account for 14,700 of them. (ref)
These numbers are still plenty insane, but the weapons are indeed there, and they are deployed, and many are still on hair-trigger. And vast funds are being budgeted for across-the-board "modernizations".
And as it happens, tensions in Eastern Europe have flared with Russia's annexation of Crimea and President Putin's warning to NATO, more or less, 'You've gone too far- back off'; now both sides are conducting military maneuvers on each other's borders. The destabilization of the post Cold War status quo has provided fuel for the "Second Nuclear Age" constituency, those advocating a deep review of our nuclear doctrine and a re-commitment to our nuclear arsenal, and those eager to give our bombs faster delivery with greater accuracy; and smaller ones too, to give decision makers more 'options', to be more 'usable'.
In a reversal of the Cold War postures in Europe, it is now the US/NATO conventional forces which are superior. And, like our nuclear doctrine during the cold war, Russia's current military doctrine posits the use of nuclear weapons if in danger of losing to superior conventional forces; the doctrine calls for the use of nuclear weapons to de-escalate a conflict- meaning that if locally overpowered by superior NATO/US conventional forces, a nuclear weapon may be used to stop the conflict from going any further. Whether that would be a realistic outcome is obviously open to question.
We've heard a lot about Russia's aggressive behavior toward her neighbors; on the Russian side it's the reverse; see for example this infographic from sputniknews.com titled "NATO exercises and deployments near Russia since 2014"; with the text caption, "NATO has repeatedly blamed Russia for its aggressive behavior, but it looks like the alliance forgot about its own military maneuvers along the Russian border."
Another example: the western press was abuzz with Putin's announcement that 40 new ICBMs would be added to the Russian arsenal, and condemnations of Putin's "threatening behavior" were widespread, while at the same time little attention was paid to the US Air Force proposal to procure 642 new ICBMs to replace the Minuteman III fleet.
"The atmosphere is a feeling that war is not something that's impossible anymore... The perception is that somebody would try to undermine Russia as a country that opposes the United States, and then we will need to defend ourselves by military means."- Fyodor Lukyanov, chief of Russia's most important foreign policy think tank and its most important foreign policy journal, quoted by Max Fisher.
"Lukyanov, pointing to the US and Russian military buildups along Eastern Europe, also worried that an accident or provocation could be misconstrued as a deliberate attack and lead to war.
In the Cold War, he pointed out, both sides had understood this risk and installed political and physical infrastructure- think of the 'emergency red phone'- to manage tensions and prevent them from spiraling out of control. That infrastructure is now gone. 'All those mechanisms were disrupted or eroded... That [infrastructure] has been degraded since the end of the Cold War because the common perception is that we don't need it anymore.'" (ref)
- Note Ahmed Rashid's "Russia: Twenty Feet from War" in the May 14, 2015 New York Review of Books:
"A senior Estonian official explained to me in vivid detail how a Russian Su-27 fighter jet buzzed a US military plane over the Baltic Sea, only veering off after coming within twenty feet of causing a mid-air collision. Such an event could have prompted retaliation by NATO and possibly given Moscow a pretext for invading Estonia..."
- The Guardian, June 24: Nato to review nuclear weapon policy as attitude to Russia hardens "Among potential topics is an enhanced role for nuclear weapons in Nato military exercises."
"In a development that has attracted remarkably little attention, the world has arrived at a perilous crossroads in the effort to reduce the dangers of nuclear weapons. Much recent progress stands to be lost in a hazardous wave of brinkmanship and arms races. Before it becomes too late, the United States should design and lead a new campaign to control nuclear risk."- Michael J. Mazarr, senior political scientist at the Rand Corporation writing in Newsweek, July 15, 2015.
On January 19th of this year, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that the hands of the Doomsday Clock were advanced to 3 minutes to midnight.
"Didn't they tell us after the fall of the Berlin Wall that NATO would not expand eastwards? However, the expansion started immediately... This is the main issue of current international relations. Our partners never stopped. They decided they were the winners, they were an empire, while all the others were their vassals, and they needed to put the squeeze on them."
"Do we place our troops at US borders? Who is placing NATO troops, military infrastructure closer to us? Does anyone listen to us, talk to us about it? No, nothing. There is always the same response: it's not your business."
-Russian President Putin, 12/18/14 Press Conference
So was there an understanding that NATO would not expand to the East? In a 2009 article for Foreign Policy titled "A Diplomatic Mystery", former senator Bill Bradley attempts to shine some light on "a misunderstanding... that has brought decades of grief."
In 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev was apparently assured by top US officials that in return for allowing East and West Germany to unite and be a full NATO member, NATO would not expand "one inch" to the east. But by 2009, 12 more ex-Warsaw Pact nations had joined NATO.
Andrew Cockburn details the sequence of events that brought us to today's crisis in Ukraine:
"[For the arms contractors] one especially promising market was among the former members of the defunct Warsaw Pact. Were they to join NATO, they would be natural customers for products such as the F-16 fighter that Lockheed had inherited from General Dynamics.
"There was one minor impediment... Secretary of State James Baker had unequivocally spelled out Washington's end of that bargain in a private conversation with Mikhail Gorbachev in February 1990, pledging that NATO forces would not move "one inch to the east", provided the Soviets agreed to NATO membership for a unified Germany.
"Even at the beginning, not everyone in the administration was intent on honoring this promise. Robert Gates noted in his memoirs that Dick Cheney, then the defense secretary, took a more opportunistic tack: 'When the Soviet Union was collapsing in late 1991, Dick wanted to see the dismantlement not only of the Soviet Union and the Russian empire but of Russia itself, so it could never again be a threat to the rest of the world.'
"Expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the post cold-war era. Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking."
- George F. Kennan, 1997
"... As it happened, NATO was indeed active, under Bill Clinton's leadership, and moving decisively to expand eastward, whatever prior Republican understandings there might have been with the Russians... Already plushly installed in Warsaw and other Eastern European capitals were emissaries of the defense contractors. 'Lockheed began looking at Poland right after the Wall came down,' Dick Pawloski, for years a Lockheed salesman active in Eastern Europe, told me. 'There were contractors flooding through all those countries.'
"The vision of [Lockheed Martin CEO] Augustine and his peers that an enlarged NATO could be a fruitful market has become a reality. By 2014, the twelve new members had purchased close to $17 billion worth of American weapons, while this past October Romania celebrated the arrival of Eastern Europe's first $134 million Lockheed Martin Aegis Ashore missile-defense system." Game On, Harper's, January 2015
Andrew Cockburn is currently Washington Editor of Harper's Magazine. Cockburn's most recent book is "Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy". more
How the Obama Administration Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb US nuclear policy is undermining our safety and national security. Theodore A. Postol, The Nation, Dec. 10. 2014
"In a highly celebrated speech in Prague in April 2009, Obama declared that "the existence of thousands of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War," and he restated "America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." Later that year, the Nobel Committee cited the president's leadership on this issue when it awarded him the Peace Prize.
"Why, then, we must ask, is the Obama administration moving forward with an ambitious nuclear-weapons modernization program that could dramatically raise the threat of nuclear war?
"Many Russians, including those with moderate political views, believe the United States has been engaged in an endless campaign of disrespect, opportunism and predation toward Russia since the demise of the Soviet Union. Many Americans regard Russia as intransigent, dangerous and aggressive.
"This politically charged environment has grown increasingly tense since the Ukraine crisis erupted last winter. US nuclear hawks now regard the modernization program as an urgent national-security priority, while Russian leaders perceive US rhetoric about the need to increase the reliability of supposedly aging US forces as yet another lie aimed at lulling Russia into a trap.
"Sophisticated Russian analysts, especially those who understand the technical aspects of nuclear weapons, see the modernization drive as a disturbing indication that the US military believes a nuclear war against Russia can be fought and won.
"Our policy-makers have not attempted to analyze the benefit to US security of pushing the Russians to a higher state of alert. Nor have they asked how an increased US nuclear threat to Russia improves the security of US allies- or, for that matter, anyone else around the globe.
"What does the Obama administration hope to achieve by modernizing US nuclear forces? Do the president and his staff realize they are creating conditions that will reduce the security of all involved parties, or have they wrongly convinced themselves that they are creating a more stable deterrence? No rational actor would take steps to start a nuclear war. But the modernization effort significantly increases the chances of an accident during an unpredicted, and unpredictable, crisis- one that could escalate beyond anyone's capacity to imagine.
"The real problem is not irrationality but unpredictability. The reasons things happen are far more complex than obsessive nuclear planning can ever predict. The US modernization program is producing nuclear forces that will severely complicate the chances of backing away from disaster if a crisis were to occur. Anyone who looks at history knows that such crises will occur, and that they result from unpredictable and unforeseen events.
"This basic truth should be the basis for a sober re-evaluation of the modernization program: in a world that is fundamentally unpredictable, the pursuit of an unchallenged capacity to fight and win a nuclear war is a dangerous folly."
More: Theodore A. Postol, The Nation, Dec. 10. 2014
Theodore Postol is Professor of Science, Technology and National Security Policy at MIT... more
Trouble Brewing for U.S.- Russia Nuclear Treaties Here are some of the current disputes:
US Europe-Based Ballistic Missile Defense Systems US BMD deployments in Europe- Russian withdrawal from START?
The USS Donald Cook has deployed in Spain, the first of four ships carrying Aegis' ballistic missile defense system planned for stationing in Europe. The deployment was announced at the Munich Security Conference by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who called it, "An important posture enhancement is European missile defense in response to ballistic missile threats from Iran."
Mikhail Ulyanov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry department for security and disarmament said, "We are concerned that the US is continuing to build up missile defense capability without considering the interests and concerns of Russia. Such a policy can undermine strategic stability and lead to a situation where Russia will be forced to exercise its right of withdrawal from the START treaty."
Read more at Voice of Russia: Russia may quit START III after US deploys the USS Donald Cook, equipped with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, in Spain
Tactical Nuclear Weapons Russia will not disclose, says U.S. in violation of NPT
Feb. 2, 2014. Russia does not intend to disclose information about the storage locations for its tactical nuclear weapons or about their amount, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry department for security and disarmament Mikhail Ulyanov has said.
"Yes, we are invited to adopt some confidence-building measures by disclosing the storage places of the armaments and their quantity. But whom will it make life easier for, if we disclose such information? Only for terrorists."
As for U.S. and and NATO calls for Russia to reduce tactical nuclear armaments, Ulyanov said: "The subject of Russian tactical nuclear armament is far-fetched and fanned quite artificially. In the past 20 years Russia reduced its tactical nuclear armaments by 75%. All these armaments are deployed solely on Russian territory. They are stored at centralized facilities, i.e. are not deployed and pose no threat to anyone. The situation is absolutely different with NATO and the Americans. Approximately 200 tactical nuclear warheads are located in six countries of Europe and they are deployed. Which means they pose a potential threat to us. Moreover, NATO has such a notion as nuclear sharing which means that pilots from non-nuclear countries are trained to pilot nuclear-carrying aircraft. From the viewpoint of nuclear nonproliferation this is a violation of the letter and sprit of the NPT. Many countries share this viewpoint. We are not refusing to conduct a dialogue but we don't see a subject for even a preliminary conversation until all these weapons are withdrawn beyond Europe and before the infrastructure that permits their rapid return to the European continent is liquidated."
(ref: Voice of Russia)
'Obama says Putin is trapped in Cold War logic, it's true. But so is Obama' Washington Post's Ezra Klein interviews Joseph Cirincione on the Wonkblog:
"If Russia would agree, Obama would dramatically reduce the U.S. arsenal. He's hesitant to do it independently. He wants Russian agreement. But Russia won't agree. And Russia is hanging all these other issues on nuclear agreement. Putin wants to talk NATO conventional forces. He wants to talk new precision strike weapons the U.S. has that some fear can knock out Russian nuclear targets. He wants to talk missile defense. And he has a very active missile industrial complex in Russia.
"When Obama says Putin is trapped in Cold War logic, it's true. But so is Obama and so is his bureaucracy. The only reason you need all these weapons is if you're preparing for global thermonuclear war with Russia. You don't need them to deal with Iran or North Korea. It does nothing about terrorism. It just keeps going because it's tethered to the nuclear-weapons complex. The people who build nuclear weapons keep building them. The people with the bases want to keep maintaining them. The commanders of the strategic forces are vested in this complex. But do you need it? You have to really go down to some hard-core, unreconstructed Cold War theorists in town to find people who will justify this arsenal."
(see the Wonkblog interview)
Joe Cirincione is the author of the newly published "Nuclear Nightmares: Securing The World Before It's Too Late". Former Secretary for Defense William J. Perry says, "If you read only one book on [nuclear weapons], this is the one." 'Nuclear Nightmares' website.Read a New York Post review of "Nuclear Nightmares".
Joseph Cirincione is president of Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation, and a member of Secretary of State John Kerry's International Security Advisory Board and the Council on Foreign Relations. The Ploughshares Fund is a funder of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.
"The most disturbing aspect about the spectacular crash and burn of US-Russia relations in the last year is not necessarily the lightning speed with which it occurred, but that it was a deliberate, premeditated act of political violence that was absolutely avoidable."
- Robert Bridge (ref) Bridge is the author of 'Midnight in the American Empire' (2013).
Dec. 14, 2017: Documents show that top US, Germany and UK officials assured Gorbachev and Shevardnadze that NATO would not expand toward the Russian borders(Bloomberg News)
Did US promise not to expand NATO eastward?
"After speaking with many of those involved and examining previously classified British and German documents in detail, SPIEGEL has concluded that there was no doubt that the West did everything it could to give the Soviets the impression that NATO membership was out of the question for countries like Poland, Hungary or Czechoslovakia. Der Spiegel, November 6, 2009
What Putin Wants
Alexei Arbatov details the basis for an understanding between the US and Russia from Putin's perspective; this event organized and hosted by the Graduate Initiative in Russian Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies on May 13, 2016.
Rand Corp Report: False Alarms, True Dangers? Current and Future Risks of Inadvertent U.S.-Russian Nuclear War
"This report uses simple fault tree models- top-down, graphical depictions- to examine three primary scenarios in which an inadvertent nuclear conflict is a possible outcome..." (view/download PDF)
Jan 16, 2017: Don't Add Montenegro To 'Obsolete' NATO: Senate Shouldn't Sacrifice U.S. Security For Balkan Mouse Doug Bandow in Forbes
"...After the collapse of the Soviet Union NATO acted like a gentleman's club which every civilized European state wanted to join. Thus entered former Warsaw Pact nations and Soviet republics, extending the alliance up to Russia’s borders. That included Poland and the Baltic States, all essentially irrelevant to the security of the rest of the continent and the latter almost indefensible, at least at reasonable cost, as the U.S. and other Europeans finally have come to recognize.
"More recent proposals to bring in Georgia and Ukraine suggested that Washington had gone slightly mad. The two prospective members would offer nothing to America's defense but would bring along potential conflicts with nuclear-armed Russia." (ref)
July 18, 2016: War Fever Jill Dogherty, Wilson Center:
"In the past two months, I've traveled to the Baltic region, to Georgia, and to Russia. Talk of war is everywhere... On to Moscow, where 'war fever' is at fever pitch. Here, there is no softening of language; NATO and the U.S. are the enemy and Russia must be ready for attack."
Gorbachev: NATO "talks about defense, but actually is preparing for offensive action."
Russia gathers troops at Baltic military bases ahead of Cold War-style stand-off with Nato July 5, 2016:
"Russia is assembling military forces in eastern Europe as it draws closer to a potential Cold War-style standoff with Nato in the Baltic states.
The Russian military has been mobilizing troops, trucks and equipment to various bases around Kaliningrad, a crucial outpost between Poland and Lithuania, as well as sites further inland according to Reuters."
Is NATO Undermining Global Stability? June 18, 2016:
"From a Western perspective, the Cold War really could not have ended any better. Why then, when the status quo was so much in its favor and the world was (mostly) stable, has NATO expanded, provoked Russia, and arguably contributed to undermining global stability?" (read all at ModernDiplomacy.eu)
Former Policy-Makers Urged Clinton Not To Expand NATO
"June 26, 1997.
We, the undersigned, believe that the current U.S.-led effort to expand NATO, the focus of the recent Helsinki and Paris Summits, is a policy error of historic proportions. We believe that NATO expansion is neither necessary nor desirable and that this ill-conceived policy can and should be put on hold."
Senator Bill Bradley
Ambassador Richard T. Davies
Ambassador Jonathan Dean
Dr. Morton H. Halperin
Senator Mark Hatfield
Professor John P. Holdren
Ambassador Jack Matlock
Robert S. McNamara
Senator Sam Nunn
Professor Richard Pipes
Admiral Stansfield Turner
See the letter
Planned Eurasian Apocalypse, c. 1956
Here are the 1100 [declassified] nuclear targets in the 1956 US target list for the Eurasian communist nations. Click image above to see the interactive infographic at the Future of Life site- clicking on any target dot will bring up a satellite map of the target area with the blast zone, variable depending on the yield you choose, fallout paths, and other info.
''We have gone on piling weapon upon weapon, missile upon missile, helplessly, almost involuntarily, like the victims of some sort of hypnosis, like men in a dream, like lemmings headed for the sea."
- George Kennan, 1981
Our Mission: Through comprehensive research, public education and effective citizen action, Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks to promote safety and environmental protection at regional nuclear facilities, mission diversification away from nuclear weapons programs, greater accountability and cleanup in the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex, and consistent U.S. leadership toward a world free of nuclear weapons.