Read the recent articles linked below to get a feel for how alarmed some in the know are at this time. These concerns are not heard much on US mass media. You may find some alarmist, but the general drift is unmistakeable. And lets’ not forget that those who know, such as Former Defense Secretary William Perry, have been saying we are not alarmed enough, nowhere near enough. Perry: “The danger of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than during the Cold War. Our public is blissfully unaware.” (ref)
– Foreign Policy: On the Verge of Nuclear War
– Time: Mikhail Gorbachev: The U.S. and Russia Must Stop the Race to Nuclear War
– The Nation: Unproven Allegations Against Trump and Putin Are Risking Nuclear War
– Counterpunch: The Skripal Poisonings and the Ongoing Vilification of Putin
– Salon: Behind this week’s Russia headlines:
A mystery, a leap to conclusions and a fateful turn
How did we get to this point? Here’s some background:
– Andrew Lichterman: U.S.-Russia Nuclear Arms Racing: Still Crazy After All These Years
– Austin Long: Red Glare: The Origin and Implications of Russia’s ‘New’ Nuclear Weapons
USA Today reported on an unreleased federal study blaming fallout from worldwide nuclear bomb testing for at least 15,000 cancer-related deaths and more than 20,000 non-fatal cancers in U.S. residents born since 1951.
President Donald Trump agrees to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a significant development in the decades-long effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
“Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached,” Trump tweeted Thursday.
- Trump’s decision bypasses the traditional negotiation process in favor of a top-level face-to-face meeting.
The worrisome aspects of Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review represented the arguments of the “Second Nuclear Age” hawks, i.e. that the world is no longer bi-polar, that the US needs more small nukes widely deployed so as not to be caught with either no response or a strategic response in regional conflicts, where the adversary might doubt we would go strategic. Thus US ‘deterrence’ had weakened. In this view, numerous smaller, widely deployed nukes are meant to sustain ‘deterrence’ into the more chaotic “Second Nuclear Age”.
On the other hand, the Russian response is framed by their overriding anxiety that the US, with its missile defense systems surrounding Russia, and NATO troops on Russian borders, is intent on developing the ability to win a nuclear war with Russia. Russia is afraid of the destabilization of the Cold War strategic equilibrium model, wherein neither side sought an advantage so great that it might consider a surprise attack. ABMs – anti-ballistic missile systems- were banned so that neither side could hope to launch a first strike and take out the remaining retaliatory missiles with a missile defense system.
The Russian high command stated last year that they in fact did now think the US was working to develop this capability (ref). The Trump Nuclear Posture Review, with its emphasis on war-fighting nukes, only reinforced Russian command fears that the US could be preparing for a fight. The weapons systems Putin announced last week were all noted for their ability to defeat missile defenses and thus, in the Russian view, to preserve ‘MAD’- mutually assured destruction- the Cold War’s solution to preventing a nuclear war. To understand better the Russian view, it’s worth remembering what Yuri Andropov said in 1981:
“The US is preparing for war but it is not willing to start a war… They strive for military superiority in order to ‘check’ us and then declare ‘checkmate’ against us without starting a war.” (ref)
Putin’s speech to the Federal Assembly March 1, 2018:
“Back in 2001, 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…
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 defense 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…
Despite our numerous protests and pleas, the American machine has been set into motion, the conveyer belt is moving forward. There are new missile defense systems installed in Alaska and California; as a result of NATO’s expansion to the east, two new missile defense areas were created in Western Europe: one has already been created in Romania, while the deployment of the system in Poland is now almost complete…”
Defeating missile defenses, from Putin’s speech to the Federal Assembly, March 1:
– The Sarmat ICBM “is untroubled by even the most advanced missile defense systems.”
– A nuclear-powered, nuclear-capable cruise missile: “invincible against all existing and prospective missile defense and counter-air defense systems.”
– A high-speed, deep ocean nuclear drone “There is simply nothing in the world capable of withstanding them.”
– The RS-26 “Avangard” (aka YU-71) A nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle that can travel at 20 times the speed of sound. “It flies to its target like a meteorite, like a ball of fire”
The intersection of these two contrasting frames of reference could see misunderstandings, confusion, and conflict. Putin seemed to feel obliged to make a clear warning.
“We are greatly concerned by certain provisions of the revised Nuclear Posture Review, which… reduce the threshold for use of nuclear arms… in response to conventional arms attacks and even to a cyber-threat.”
As such, I see it as my duty to announce the following.
Any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies, weapons of short, medium or any range at all, will be considered a nuclear attack on this country. Retaliation will be immediate, with all the attendant consequences.”
But he continued:
“There should be no doubt about this whatsoever. There is no need to create more threats to the world. 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. We have been saying this all along. All these proposals are still valid. Russia is ready for this.
And in closing,
“I hope that everything that was said today would make any potential aggressor think twice, since unfriendly steps against Russia such as deploying missile defenses and bringing NATO infrastructure closer to the Russian border become ineffective in military terms and entail unjustified costs, making them useless for those promoting these initiatives.
It was our duty to inform our partners of what I said here today under the international commitments Russia had subscribed to. When the time comes, foreign and defense ministry experts will have many opportunities to discuss all these matters with them, if of course our partners so desire.”
Experts have been saying for some time that there is no good military solution to the Korea crisis. The best way to see the crisis defused would, of course, start with a rapprochement of the two Koreas. In fact the State Dept. recently said that the US would have no objection to a unified Korea as long as it was de-nuclearized. So that path was in the wind, but when the two Koreas initiated a peace and reconciliation effort at the Olympics, US Vice President Pence refused to go along.
Pence spent the days leading up to Friday’s opening ceremonies warning that the North was trying to ‘hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games’ with its ‘propaganda.’
But the North was still welcomed with open arms to what South Korean President Moon Jae-in called ‘Olympic games of peace’ and the U.S. appeared to be the one left out in the cold.
Pence sat stone-faced in his seat as Moon and North Koreans officials stood together with much of the stadium to applaud their joint team of athletes. White House officials stressed that Pence had applauded only for the American team, but Asia experts said the vice president’s refusal to stand could be seen as disrespectful to the hosts.
While South Korean President Moon did not hesitate to shake hands and smile with his North Korean visitors, Pence didn’t appear to even look in the direction of the North Korean delegation during the Friday event.
Seems the Trump administration would rather threaten than talk.
We often hear these days that the North Korean nuclear weapons program is a failure of deterrence. It is not. DPRK’s nuke forces were developed for the same reasons ours exist: to deter another state from attacking it. (In particular, the US.) DPRK’s program is a confirmation of the concept of deterrence.
The concept of deterrence means a state has nuclear weapons so other states dare not attack. As such all states might aspire to develop a deterrent. Our ‘deterrence’ was never meant to prevent states form going nuclear, only to prevent them from attacking us.
Preventing other states from going nuclear was the purpose of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty. The NPT deal was that non-nuclear weapons states would abstain from developing nuclear arsenals in exchange for a promise from the nuclear weapons states to negotiate in good faith to achieve genuine reductions and eventual abolition of nuclear arsenals. The nuclear weapons states have not done that. They still have 15000 nukes. That is the failure.
DPRK’s nuclear development isn’t down to a failure of deterrence but rather a failure of the nuclear weapons states to abide in good faith by the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“Massive gamble”, “risk of mass casualties and utter devastation”… Urges diplomatic efforts…
Ron Rosenbaum, in his fascinating and highly readable “How The End Begins” (2011) notes that when Kissinger told Nixon that Ellsberg was “the most dangerous man in America” he wasn’t referring to the Pentagon Papers but to what Ellsberg knew about top secret nuclear war plans from his work at RAND. Ellsberg had also made off with thousands of nuclear war-fighting strategy documents in addition to the Pentagon Papers, but decided to release the latter first. As it turned out much of the nuclear papers were lost during the turmoil following the Pentagon Papers release. This book, long overdue, is about what he learned then.
Ellsberg recalls being tasked to review the strategic war-fighting plans in effect under Eisenhower, and discovering that they called for “hitting every city, actually every town, above 25,000 population” in Russia and China and to some extent East Europe. Pressed for an estimate of death toll, the pentagon came back with 600 million dead. And that was not counting US and West European death tolls. “I thought, ‘This is the most evil plan that has ever existed. It’s insane.'”
Referring to US and Russian ICBM forces still to this day on alert: “Here is what we now know: the United States and Russia each have an actual Doomsday Machine.”
Military scientists exposed American civilians to radiation without their knowledge or consent.
“Behind the Fog” documents a dark chapter of “large-scale organizational deviance”…
From the publisher:
“Martino-Taylor documents the coordinated efforts of a small group of military scientists who advanced a four-pronged secret program of human-subject radiation studies that targeted unsuspecting Americans for Cold War military purposes… Agency and academic partnerships advanced, supported, and concealed the studies from the public at large who ultimately served as unwitting test subjects.
‘They targeted the most vulnerable in society… They targeted children. They targeted pregnant women in Nashville. People who were ill in hospitals. They targeted wards of the state. And they targeted minority populations.’
Martino-Taylor’s comprehensive research illuminates a dark chapter of government secrecy, the military-industrial-academic complex, and large-scale organizational deviance in American history. In its critical approach, Behind the Fog effectively examines the mechanisms that allow large-scale elite deviance to take place in modern society.”
Find online here.
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