Russian Nuclear Horn Extends Into Indian Ocean

Putin Ready to Lease Nuclear Submarines to India, Minister Says

russian nuclear submarine launch
By Natalie Obiko Pearson and Anurag Kotoky
December 12, 2014 6:05 AM EST

Russia said it’s ready to lease India more nuclear-powered submarines a day after President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to deepen defense ties.

“If India decides to have more contracts to lease nuclear submarines, we are ready to supply,” Russian trade minister Denis Manturov said in an interview in New Delhi today.

The vessels would bolster India’s ability to patrol its waters as it seeks to thwart China’s efforts to extend influence in the Indian Ocean. Russia, whose economy is being pushed toward a recession by sanctions over Ukraine, aims to boost defense sales and deepen its ties to friendlier nations in Asia.

“Russia will remain our most important defense partner,” Modi said yesterday after welcoming Putin to the capital. They discussed a “broad range of new defense projects,” including plans to make one of Russia’s most advanced helicopters in India, he said.

India inducted its first nuclear attack submarine from Russia for $1 billion in 2012 under a 10-year contract, which can carry out longer missions and respond faster to threats. It’s fleet of 14 diesel-power submarines are more than a decade old, with half of them commissioned in the 1980s.

“Nuclear-powered submarines have assumed far greater significance and changed the complexion of maritime warfare,” then-Defence Minister A.K. Antony said the induction ceremony.
China Fleet

India is seeking to build up its naval defenses amid growing maritime tensions with China. It sent a nuclear submarine to the Indian Ocean in December for a two-month anti-piracy patrol. The waters are home to shipping lanes carrying about 80 percent of the world’s seaborne oil.

China has at least 52 submarines in its fleet, including three nuclear-missile vessels and three operating on nuclear power, the U.S. Congressional Research Service said in July, citing Jane’s Fighting Ships 2013-2014 and previous editions.

India has also yet to build a single submarine of the 24 it’d planned starting in 1999, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar told parliament today. Mishaps are also common: an explosion in August 2013 on a diesel-powered submarine, just months after the vessel returned from a $133 million refit at a Russian shipyard, was the worst-ever disaster for India’s submarine program.

Putin this week pledged to supply oil, weapons and nuclear power reactors to India. Modi, in turn, reassured the Russian leader that India opposes sanctions and asked Putin to build factories in the country to supply spare parts and components for Russian military equipment.

Russia will have to quadruple its current investments of $3.7 billion in India for the two countries to meet their bilateral trade target of $30 billion by 2025, Manturov said. Reaching that target will mean India breaking into Russia’s top five trading partners, up from the current rank of 21, he said.

The two nations said they recognized “the virtually unlimited opportunities for enhancing” their defense cooperation, including joint manufacturing and technology sharing, according to a joint statement yesterday. India allows foreign direct investment in the defense sector of up to 49 percent.

Too Late For Nuclear Deterrence (Rev 15:2)

The end of nuclear deterrence

nuclear deterrence

Since the end of the Cold War, the public mind has pretty much forgotten about the existence of nuclear weapons, except in the Middle East. And yet, they still exist — thousands and thousands of them, ready to destroy all of human civilization several times over. In response, a new nuclear disarmament movement is getting underway.

This week, I attended the Vienna conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. (Full disclosure: one of the sponsoring organizations, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, invited me all expenses paid.) The conference was striking in describing the utter, absolute destruction that can be caused by nuclear weapons.

I came in as a supporter of the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, which says that the world’s major power-brokers should have nuclear weapons as a way of preventing a new world war. Advocates of this doctrine point to the Cold War, which never went hot, as a success for deterrence.

But supporters of disarmament — including the Red Cross, Pope Francis, and, believe it or not, Henry Kissinger — say that’s wrong. These are serious, sober-minded people, not just pie-in-the-sky activists, and they say that deterrence doesn’t work in a multipolar world. Instead, the presence of nuclear weapons just creates an incentive for more proliferation, as small countries try to one-up their regional adversaries.

What’s more — and this was the most striking thing at the conference — they point to the risks inherent in the existence of nuclear weapons. History has recorded many close calls in which nuclear weapons were almost fired. (This, in turn, could have led to a nightmare scenario where an accidental strike is met with a riposte, triggering Armageddon.) For example, in 2007, six U.S. nuclear warheads went missing because of a bureaucratic mistake. Then there’s the story of the U.S. nuclear missile launch officer with the drug problem.

If this stuff can happen in the U.S., which has the oldest, best-funded, and most sophisticated nuclear force, one shudders to think about what might be going on in Russia or Pakistan. Given the way human nature and technology works, advocates warn, it is not a matter of if, but when a catastrophic accicent will occur. The only solution is simply to ban nuclear weapons for good.

This is where I started rethinking my position. A lot of research has shown that human brains are wired in such a way that it is very difficult for us to rationally process risks that have a very low probability but a very high cost. This is essentially what caused the 2008 financial crisis: a very low risk was treated as non-existent, so that when the event occurred, the system collapsed. This is exactly the kind of risk we are talking about with nuclear weapons.

The problem with getting rid of nuclear weapons, of course, is that it seems impossible. Almost no country seems to want to voluntarily give them up — at least as long as anyone else has any. But a former U.S. national security official told me that “within your lifetime” it could happen: countries don’t need hundreds (let alone thousands) of nukes to deter adversaries. But if the global stockpile is in the hundreds, then full disarmament starts to become conceivable.

Maybe. But in the meantime, the long-tail risks inherent in nuclear weapons seem significant enough that we should all get behind an agenda for very significantly reducing their number — or at the very least pay more attention to nuclear issues. The Cold War may be over, but the nukes, unfortunately, are still with us.

The Australian Nuclear Horn Exports Uranium (Daniel 7)

Australia could boost Ukrainian energy security with coal, uranium

australian yellowcake
By Matt Siegel
SYDNEY | Wed Dec 10, 2014 8:04pm EST

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia could export coal and uranium to Ukraine to help ease Kiev’s over reliance on Russian energy exports, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday.

Russia has this year annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and given support to separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, driving relations between Moscow and the West to the lowest point since the Cold War.

Last month Russia suspended coal supplies to Ukraine, a blow to domestic energy suppliers who are struggling with a severe lack of raw fuel for power plants due to the conflict in the industrial east.
Abbott, who has been among the most vocal critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine following the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in July, proposed Australian commodities as a secure alternative.

“Australia is an energy super power and energy security is very important to Ukraine, particularly given its current vulnerability to supply,” Abbott said.

Poroshenko, who is on the second day of a three-day state visit to Australia, signaled Ukraine’s interest in importing both coal and uranium.

“We discussed today the possibility of co-operation in the sphere of nuclear energy,” he told reporters. “There is the possibility for Ukraine to buy Australian uranium for our nuclear power stations.”

Russia has been accused of using its enormous energy reserves as a weapon against former Soviet republics, and Ukraine is eager to diversify supply to avoid more disruptions.

Ukraine had been set to rely on Russian coal to get through the current winter after the war disrupted supplies to thermal power plants (TPP), which provide around 40 percent of the country’s electricity.

Australia and Russia signed a bilateral agreement in 2007 enabling uranium exports, but Abbott halted the trade earlier this year in retaliation over MH17.

Australia, which has no nuclear power plants of its own, is one of the world’s top exporters of uranium, mining 7,529 tonnes of uranium in fiscal 2011/12, worth A$782 million ($653.83 million), according to government figures.

Australia is the world’s second biggest exporter of thermal coal, after Indonesia.

(Additional reporting by James Regan in SYDNEY; Editing by Michael Perry)

Antichrist Ready To Fight ISIS

Powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr: Militia ready to fight IS

US President Barack Obama granted war powers in the fight against Islamic State militants

Antichrist Moqtada al Sadr
AFP/Haidar Hamdani“Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr delivers a speech from the southern city of Najaf on February 18, 2014″

Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraq’s most powerful Shiite cleric has said that his militia has been put on alert to battle Islamic State (IS) militants for the city of Samarra.

Sadr’s “Peace Brigades” left the city two months ago but are “fully prepared to answer the call of jihad within 48 hours” and are awaiting further instruction, said a statement released on December 10.

His office said the announcement was due to “exceptional conditions and imminent danger to the sacred city of Samarra from the legions of terrorists.”

Samarra was home to the ninth century Imam Askari shrine which was blown up by Sunni militants eight years ago.

In June Sadr said in a televised speech from the Shiite holy cite of Najaf that “we will shake the ground under the feet of ignorance and extremism,” referring to Sunni insurgents who have overrun a swathe of territory in Iraq.

Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, which battled US forces for years when American troops were stationed in Iraq during their country’s nearly nine-year war, remains officially inactive, but fighters loyal to the cleric have nevertheless vowed to combat the militant advance.

 Kerry calls for new three-year war powers to fight IS

S.Ramis, J.Jacobsen (AFP)
S.Ramis, J.Jacobsen (AFP)“The Islamic State in Syria, Iraq”

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Thursday to authorize President Barack Obama’s war against the Islamic State. This is the first Congressional vote which will grant Obama war powers in the fight against the Islamic militants.

US Secretary of State John Kerry Tuesday urged lawmakers to adopt this authorization to underpin military action against Islamic State militants for at least three years, and passed by a vote of 10-8.

But during a heated debate, the top US diplomat came under fire from Republicans and Democrats who argued that if President Barack Obama wanted new powers to combat the jihadists, he should have drawn up a draft text to propose to the Senate.

So far, the Obama administration has used the existing authorization for use of military force against Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and their branches approved in the days after the September 11, 2001 attacks as the legal justification for going after IS.

Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations committee: “I think we all agree that this discussion must conclude with a bipartisan vote that makes clear that this is not one party’s fight against ISIL (IS), but rather that it reflects our unified determination to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL.”

Our coalition partners need to know it. The men and women of our armed forces need to know it. And ISIL’s cadres of killers, rapists, and bigots need to understand it.”

The authorization would allow ground combat operations, except as necessary to protect or rescue US soldiers or citizens, conduct intelligence operations, spotters to help with airstrikes, operational planning or other forms of advice and assistance.

Kerry argued the new legal authority should “not constrain our ability” to act in other places if needed.

Obama has insisted he will not send US ground troops into combat operations against IS, saying that “will be the responsibility of local forces.”

That does not mean we should preemptively bind the hands of the commander-in-chief — or our commanders in the field — in responding to scenarios and contingencies that are impossible to foresee,” Kerry said.

The authorization will be valid for three years with room for a possible extension, the administration must also report every 60 days on the fight against IS. Kerry also urged that the text should not limit US actions geographically to just Syria and Iraq.
(with AFP)

The Only Standard For 2015: The Beginning of THE END (Rev 15:2)

Double Standards are Killing Non-Proliferation Treaty

Revelation 15: Lack of Nuclear Restraint

Revelation 15: Lack of Nuclear Restraint

20:00 10.12.2014(updated 11:17 11.12.2014)
Ekaterina Kudashkina
Sputnik International

With the US military declaring nuclear weapons their ‘highest priority’ does that spell the end to the Non-Proliferation regime? Radio Sputnik is discussing it with Prof. Anoush Ehteshami of Durham University (UK).

2015 is the year when the next conference on the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review is supposed to be held. These conferences take place every five years. Last time, back in 2010, the nuclear powers restated their commitment to a “diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies to minimize the risk that these weapons ever be used and to facilitate the process of their total elimination.” Now, things seem to be taking the opposite direction.

Shortly before leaving his post of the US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel authorized the US Department of Defense to request a further 10 percent increase in funding to upgrade its nuclear infrastructure every year for the next five years. “Our nuclear deterrent plays a critical role in ensuring US national security and it is Department of Defense’s highest priority mission,” Hagel declared. “No other capability we have is more important.”

So, does that imply that the NPT is dead?

Says Professor Anoush Ehteshami, Joint Director of the Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World at England’s Durham University:

I think it is too early to write it off. I think it is also dangerous to write it off, because this is the only internationally binding treaty that we have which can, hopefully, prevent, but at the very least control proliferation. And its failure would come at great cost to all of us. In that regard, I then hope that this is not the end, that when the occasion of review comes up in 2015 we can really begin to look at the weaknesses of the treaty and find ways of overcoming those elements.

Professor, but what do you think has been standing in the way of its successful implementation?

Prof. Anoush Ehteshami: I think there are a number of critical issues, one of which is of course the difficulties that the five permanent members, the five nuclear states have had in managing the reduction. None of them, it seems to me, have any interest whatsoever in reducing the nuclear threshold below a level which then becomes visible to everybody else.

We know that there are the discussions between Russia and the US about a transition of nuclear weapons, but both countries develop new technologies, warheads. We don’t have much of a dialog with China about these matters. In France and Britain, in spite of the domestic pressures, certainly in Britain, to limit its nuclear program or indeed to end it, the governments of these countries seem to have little appetite for it.

And I think the global south, in particular, looks at this and sees an inherent bias built into the system – these countries have nuclear weapons, their programs are accepted through this nuclear regime and they can do what they like, irrespective of the international requirements.

And then, if a country like Pakistan develops the nuclear weapons and India develops the nuclear weapons, they are immediately sanctioned by the international community.

And then, Israel develops the nuclear weapons and nothing happens. It is allowed to hold the nuclear weapons, it has developed the nuclear weapons, and yet America remains it closest military partner.
North Korea declares that it wants to have a nuclear weapon, and it is immediately isolated and it is sanctioned, and its people are literally starved to death.

We can’t blame the West for this, but I’m just making a comparison of how the countries are treated from the perspective of their compliance with the NPT. So, the North Koreans have decided – you know what, we might as well leave the treaty, than be subjected to this kind of pressure which is coming upon us.

Then, there is Iran which says – you know, we don’t actually have a nuclear weapons program, we have a peaceful nuclear program. But nobody believes them for the previous transgressions and they are then subjected to the very intensive international sanctions regime.

We don’t seem to be judging the world by the same yardstick. And that, I think, at the heart of it, is the most important element that needs to be reviewed again. And when the review takes place, when they look at the additional protocol which requires a more intrusive investigation and presence of the international inspectors in the countries like Iran and elsewhere, they need to make sure that they actually look at all the countries with potential nuclear programs equally.

This is what every Middle Eastern country wants. That says – look, tell us if Israel has got nuclear weapons and bring it within the controlled international regime. If Pakistan has its nuclear program, make sure that it is part of a broader discussion about counter-proliferation or limiting nuclear proliferation. At the moment we are just kind of marginalized, bypassed, dismissed, sanctioned or ignored in this process which is going on globally.

So, like you are saying, the discriminatory approach is still there. Could it be the reason why all those attempts to hold an efficient conference on creating a WMD free zone in the ME are a failure? Is it the double-standard approach?

Prof. Anoush Ehteshami: I think that is absolutely the key issue that there is the double standard, at least that is how the parties see it. And for the Arab countries, certainly, before the Iranian crisis brew up in 2002, Israel was always in the sight – a nuclear weapons country that was never questioned for its clandestine nuclear program. While the rest of the region has been calling for the nuclear weapons free zone, for example, in the ME, Israel and the West have not engaged in that discussion at all with the rest of the region.

And it is that kind of double standard which is obviously taxing the other countries’ patience and their attitude towards the international regime. And they also, though maybe not correctly, cite what happened to Gaddafi in Libya, where some see cynicism in the West’s approach, that the minute he gave up all his defenses in terms of the nuclear, chemical program, missile program, he was totally vulnerable to the internal and external pressure.

The lesson learnt form that can be really dangerous for the rest of us – that if other countries think that our protection is only in having a WMD program. It is a recipe for a disaster, because what you are doing is encouraging proliferation by that misconception. I don’t think myself that Gaddafi’s fall was the result of it – the abandonment of his WMDs. There were very strong domestic reasons for what happened to him. Thirty plus years of dictatorship is an obvious case.

But, nevertheless, it is the lesson that other countries learnt from this situation that we need to be really weary of, because they take that degree of cynicism into their negotiations and they will not look at us as being fair and transparent, and applying the same global standard to every country. It is back again to the issue of double standards, I guess.

But now we have another challenge and, perhaps, that could be some kind of a wakeup call. I’m referring to the growing chaos in the region and the emergence of those militant entities. And they have already proved that they have a capacity to get hold of the WMD, the chemical weapons, for instance. And the chemical arsenal, if we talk about Libya, has been plundered and the weapons really got into the wrong hands. So, couldn’t that actually happen to the nuclear arsenals?

Prof. Anoush Ehteshami: Absolutely! This is very scary, I agree with you. And we need to be so cautious about this and about uncontrolled proliferation. You may recall that when the Soviet Union was dissolved, Russia and the US made a very conscious effort to make sure that the nuclear-related material in Kazakhstan would not be spilling over into the wrong hands. And they managed that together very carefully and very well.

What is happening now in other places, Syria is another example, where we know that there are stores of chemical weapons are now being destroyed, that could have fallen into the wrong hands; we don’t know whether any did or not. And this is a great cause for concern. Some say that the West needs to be really vigilant in Pakistan, because it needs to make sure that Pakistan’s nuclear facilities are completely safe from the Islamist terrorism, for example, and so on.

So, the proliferation increases, if you like, multiplies the dangers of insecurity for those country and their citizens, but also for the rest of us. And uncontrolled proliferation through the non-state actors is something that the nuclear regime just doesn’t have any means of dealing with, because it is so focused on the state.

In the review conference that comes up, it needs to begin the talk on how do you manage control of all the nuclear stockpiles. We have the technology for this for a long time, at the height of the Cold War. Very clear items were never offered to the Warsaw pact countries, were kept off the list. And the other side didn’t give the West the technologies that were seen to be of dual use and so on.

We need to revisit all of these criteria and categories to really understand how dangerous the proliferation is in this new world, and how the key countries – the five nuclear weapon countries – need to work together more closely and show the rest of the world that they are doing this in order to try and bring these unregulated proliferation, if you like, substate proliferation under control. But it is a very-very difficult act to undertake, I agree.

But Professor, since you’ve mentioned Kazakhstan, do I get it right that you have been referring to the so-called project Sapphire which was finalized something like 20 years ago, if I’m not mistaken. And it is seen as one of the best examples of cooperation between the huge state actors in the nonproliferation domain. Am I correct?

Prof. Anoush Ehteshami: Absolutely! That’s exactly what I’m referring to.

Do you think you could remind our listeners a little bit of the details of the project?

Prof. Anoush Ehteshami: Essentially, what happened was that all of the knowhow – the technologies, but also the software and the hardware to do with the nuclear program, that was there during the Soviet Union, were meticulously dismantled and nuclear materials were reprocessed in Russia and elsewhere. And the equipment was dismantled and taken back to Russia, and some that Kazakhstan could use without proliferation was left behind.

And at the height, if you like, the chaos that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union it cleared a very dangerous flashpoint internationally, that the two parties came together in the common interest, that also suited the emerging Kazakh Government’s interests as well. It had no interest in being a nuclear weapons state, nor did it feel that it had the ability to contain the facilities there and opened its doors, with the Russian approval at that time, to the West, so that the West could come in and assist in the cleanup operation. And as you know, it’s been a successful example of cooperation at that level.

Look, the nuclear weapons are so destructive, are so dangerous and the arsenals could blow up our planet a hundred of times, I suppose, though only once is needed, right? And the technological progress is still moving on. So, is the preservation of that nuclear arsenal that crucial for maintaining the security of a state nowadays?

Prof. Anoush Ehteshami: That is such a good question. When the Cold War ended, there were many who saw it as an opportunity to begin to really drawdown the nuclear arsenals across the world. If Russia and the US do it, then China, Britain, France and others will be under pressure to do the same.
And as you know, even during the Cold War the two sides made a huge progress is removing some offensive warheads, in extending the lifespan of their negotiations, during the Reagan and Gorbachev period in particular. They made real progress. In the 1990’s they made a real progress, and even in 2000’s they made progress.

But it comes down to politics, again. When the two sides have a sour taste in the mouth about each other, all of this other stuff becomes the flashpoint. It is interesting that both militaries recognize that they cannot afford to let the political spats between Washington and Moscow affect their dialog with each other, because they are the ones who know how bad a war is and how dangerous it is to start one, and how hard it is to end it.

So, actually, I think the military on both sides are probably the most alert to the dangers of not dialoging, not talking and not exchanging the information about the exercises, about the hardware and so on.

But that’s not the same for the politicians to sit around the table, the elected leaders of the countries to sit around the table and actually start knocking down a number of warheads, and the types of warheads, and delivery systems that they have. It is that level of discussion that we need to have. And for that to take place we need trust at all levels.

I cannot see China, for example, agreeing to sit down with the Americans and reveal all of its nuclear secrets in the hope that America would reciprocate by showing China all of its nuclear secrets, and agreeing not to have, for example, the nuclear weapons submarines offshore the South China Sea. I see that as an absolutely impossible proposition to make at this point.

So, the only place where this can start is between Russia and the US. And the only way that that can start is at the highest level – through a dialog at the elected leadership’s level. But maybe the NPT’s review conference can provide a forum for the countries to press the nuclear weapon states to take seriously the desire of the rest of humanity to begin to drawdown these weapons.

And it is interesting, because when you speak to any of these countries, they say – oh, no, we will never use our nuclear weapons, it is unthinkable to have a nuclear war. And as you rightly ask – well, why do you have these weapons then? What is it really deterring? The answer is – it deters a conventional attack. That is the underlying doctrine for having nuclear weapons – it keeps off a conventional attack from us.

It holds true to a degree, I agree. But it is not a very good solution to have the capability to destroy the humanity many times over, in case somebody attacks you with an aircraft or a tank. It is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. That’s not the way to live in the 21st century.

Absolutely! And all the more so that now there is a new concept, saying that a limited nuclear war could actually take place, which means that nuclear arsenals are not deterring a conventional war and, moreover, they are likely to be used in a so-called limited regime, which, as we know, is awful. I mean, we’ve seen those dirty bombs being used in several locations in the ME and it is absolutely inhumane.

Prof. Anoush Ehteshami: I couldn’t agree more! The problem is that military planners talk about tactical nuclear weapons, which are the ones that you can deploy in the field. The technology that the big powers now have, China less, but certainly the other four countries have, means that they can have battlefield-size nuclear weapons.

And if you think about it, if you can actually fit a nuclear warhead in a mortar shell, for example, then you are already assuming your ability to use it in a battlefield. And all your potential adversaries will act upon that assumption, and will develop the similar countermeasures – either similar weapons, or the ways of deterring you from using it.

And then you get yourself down the same cycle of proliferation and utter madness, as it comes down to it, because there is no such a thing as a safe battlefield nuclear weapon. You cannot control the fallout from a nuclear device once it’s been fired. You can harm that particular environment for hundreds of years. You can destroy the neighborhood outside of the battlefield for hundreds of years. What could possibly justify a military planner to even think about having nuclear weapons in battle?

It is totally, as you said, inhumane. And yet that conversation is being heard through the defense ministries, and it is really dangerous. And the nonnuclear weapon states, in particular, become really worried about it, because how do they know that those nuclear countries which have battlefield weapons will not use them against them. What defense do they have? Absolutely nothing! And this is the world of the 18-19th centuries, not the world of the 21st century.

Uranium Smuggled From The Russian Horn


Russian uranium smuggled through Moldova

Russian uranium smuggled through Moldova

from AP 10 Dec 2014

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Seven people have been detained in Moldova on suspicion they smuggled uranium and mercury in a metal container from Russia to be used in a dirty bomb, police said Tuesday.

House searches were carried out last week in the capital and two other towns and police confiscated 200 grams (7 ounces) of uranium-238 mixed with uranium-235, a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of mercury and an unidentified radioactive solid material. The material, smuggled by train, has a black-market value of 1.6 million euros ($2 million), police chief Ion Bodrug said.

Aided by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, authorities began investigating in January and a police officer was infiltrated into the group.

Those arrested are aged 32 to 75, belong to a criminal gang and have specialized knowledge in radioactive substances, authorities said. They have admitted their guilt, Bodrug said Tuesday.
Prosecutor Vladimir Mosneaga said the uranium had been transported on the train in a metal container specially adapted to diminish the effect of radiation.

“They had experience in the past with radioactive material and had certain links with other people,” Mosneaga said, without providing more details. Authorities gave no indication of the material’s eventual destination.

Police are cooperating with Ukrainian and Russian police to identify other gang members.

Five people were detained in June 2011 in Chisinau suspected of smuggling radioactive substances as they were attempting to sell a kilogram of uranium for 32 million euros. The buyers were believed to be in North Africa. The suspects were convicted and handed prison sentences of three to five years.

Uranium-238 can be enriched into the fissile material of nuclear warheads or converted into plutonium, also used to arm nuclear missiles.

The 2009 Mood Spelled Backwards Is Doom

Why President Obama Needs to Revive His Pledge for a Nuclear Free World

Obama's nuclear speech in Prague 2009 is now ancient history.

Obama’s nuclear speech in Prague 2009 is now ancient history.

James Carroll on December 11, 2014 – 11:21AM ET
The Nation

Mark these days. A long-dreaded transformation from hope to doom is taking place as the United States of America ushers the world onto the no-turning-back road of nuclear perdition. Once, we could believe there was another way to go. Indeed, we were invited to take that path by the man who is, even today, overseeing the blocking of it, probably forever.

It was one of the most stirring speeches an American president had ever given. The place was Prague; the year was 2009; the president was the recently sworn in Barack Obama. The promise made that day is worth recalling at length, especially since, by now, it is largely forgotten:

“As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act… So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. I’m not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly — perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now, we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, ‘Yes, we can…’”

President Obama had been in office only three months when, boldly claiming his place on the world stage, he unequivocally committed himself and his country to a nuclear abolition movement that, until then, had at best existed somewhere on the distant fringes of power politics. “I know,” he added,
“that there are some who will question whether we can act on such a broad agenda. There are those who doubt whether true international cooperation is possible… and there are those who hear talk of a world without nuclear weapons and doubt whether it’s worth setting a goal that seems impossible to achieve. But make no mistake. We know where that road leads.

The simple existence of nuclear weapons, an American president declared, paved the road to perdition for humanity.

Obama as The Captain Ahab of Nuclear Weapons

At that moment, the foundations for an imagined abolitionist world were modest indeed, but not nonexistent. The 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) had, for instance, struck a bargain between nuclear haves and have-nots, under which a path to abolition was treated as real. The deal seemed clear enough: the have-nots would promise to forego obtaining nukes and, in return, the world’s reigning nuclear powers would pledge to take, in the words of the treaty, “effective measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament.”

For decades before the Obama moment, however, the superpower arsenals of nuclear warheads continued to grow like so many mushrooms, while new nuclear states — Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea — built their own impressive arsenals. In those years, with the singular exception of South Africa, nuclear-weapons states simply ignored their half of the NPT bargain and the crucial clause mandating progress toward eventual disarmament was all but forgotten.

When the Cold War ended in 1991 with the disappearance of the Soviet Union, and the next year Americans elected as president Bill Clinton, who was famously against the Vietnam War, it was at least possible to imagine that nukes might go the way of internationally banned chemical weapons. But Washington chose otherwise. Despite a paucity of enemies anywhere on Earth, the Pentagon’s 1994 Nuclear Posture Review insisted on maintaining the American nuclear arsenal at Cold War levels as a “hedge,” an insurance policy, against an imagined return of Communism, fascism, or something terrible in Russia anyway — and Clinton accepted the Pentagon’s position.

Soon enough, however, even prominent hawks of the Cold War era began to worry that such a nuclear insurance policy could itself ignite a global fire. In 1999, a chief architect of the nuclear mindset, Paul Nitze, stepped away from a lifetime obsession with building up nuclear power to denounce nukes as “a threat mostly to ourselves” and to explicitly call for unilateral disarmament. Other former apostles of nuclear realpolitik also came to embrace the goal of abolition. In 2008, four high priests of the cult of nuclear normalcy — former Senator Sam Nunn, former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, and former Secretaries of State George Schultz and Henry Kissinger — jointly issued a sacrilegious renunciation of their nuclear faith on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. “We endorse setting the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons,” they wrote, “and working energetically on the actions required to achieve that goal.”

Unfortunately, such figures had come to Jesus only after leaving office, when they were exempt from the responsibility of matching their high-flown rhetoric with the gritty work of making it real.

Obama in Prague was another matter. He was at the start of what would become an eight-year presidency and his rejection of nuclear fatalism rang across the world. Only months later, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, in large part because of this stunning commitment. A core hope of the post-World-War-II peace movement, always marginal, had at last been embraced in the seat of power. A year later, at Obama’s direction, the Pentagon, in its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, actually advanced the president’s purpose, committing itself to “a multilateral effort to limit, reduce, and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons worldwide.”

“The United States,” that document promised, “will not develop new nuclear warheads.” When it came to the future of the nuclear arsenal, a program of responsible maintenance was foreseen, but no new ground was to be broken. “Life Extension Programs,” the Pentagon promised, “will use only nuclear components based on previously tested designs, and will not support new military missions or provide new military capabilities.”

Obama’s timing in 2009 was critical. The weapons and delivery systems of the nuclear arsenal were aging fast. Many of the country’s missiles, warheads, strategic bombers, and nuclear-powered submarines dated back to the early Cold War era and were effectively approaching their radioactive sell-by dates. In other words, massive reductions in the arsenal had to begin before pressures to launch a program for the wholesale replacement of those weapons systems grew too strong to resist. Such a program, in turn, would necessarily mean combining the latest technological innovations with ever greater lethality in a way guaranteed to reinvigorate the entire enterprise across the world — the polar opposite of “effective measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament.”

Obama, in other words, was presiding over a golden moment, but an apocalyptic deadline was bearing down. And sure enough, that deadline came crashing through when three things happened: Vladimir Putin resurfaced as an incipient fascist intent on returning Russia to great power status; extremist Republicans took Congress hostage; and Barack Obama found himself lashed, like Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab, to “the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on half a heart and half a lung.” Insiders often compare the Pentagon to Moby Dick, the Great White Whale, and Obama learned why. The peaceful intentions with which he began his presidency were slapped away by the flukes of the monster, like so many novice oarsmen in a whaling skiff.

Hence Obama’s course reversals in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria; hence the White House stumbles, including an unseemly succession of secretaries of defense, the fourth of whom, Ashton Carter, can reliably be counted on to advance the renewal of the nuclear force. The Pentagon’s “intangible malignity,” in Melville’s phrase, was steadily quickened by both Putin and the Republicans, but Obama’s half-devoured heart shows in nothing so much as his remarkably full-bore retreat, in both rhetoric and policy, from the goal of nuclear abolition.

A recent piece by New York Times science correspondent William J. Broad made the president’s nuclear failure dramatic. Cuts to the U.S. nuclear stockpile initiated by George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, he pointed out, totaled 14,801 weapons; Obama’s reductions so far: 507 weapons. In 2010, a new START treaty between Moscow and Washington capped future deployed nukes at 1,500. As of this October, the U.S. still deploys 1,642 of them and Russia 1,643; neither nation, that is, has achieved START levels, which only count deployed weapons. (Including stored but readily re-armed and targeted nukes, the U.S. arsenal today totals about 4,800 weapons.)

In order to get the votes of Senate Republicans to ratify the START treaty, Obama made what turned out to be a devil’s bargain. He agreed to lay the groundwork for a vast “modernization” of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which, in the name of updating an aged system, is already morphing into a full-blown reinvention of the arms cache at an estimated future cost of more than a trillion dollars.

In the process, the Navy wants, and may get, 12 new strategic submarines; the Air Force wants, and may get, a new long-range strike bomber force. Bombers and submarines would, of course, both be outfitted with next-generation missiles, and we’d be off to the races. The arms races.

All of this unfolds as Vladimir Putin warms the hearts of nuclear enthusiasts everywhere not only by his aggressions in Ukraine, but also by undercutting the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by testing a new ground-launched cruise missile. Indeed, just this fall, Russia successfully launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile. It seems that Moscow, too, can modernize.

On a Twenty-First Century Road to Perdition

Responding to the early Obama vision of “effective measures” toward nuclear disarmament, and following up on that 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, senior Pentagon officials pursued serious discussions about practical measures to reduce the nuclear arsenal. Leading experts advocated a shift away from the Cold War’s orgasmic strike targeting doctrine that still necessitates an arsenal of weapons counted in the thousands.

In fact, in response to budget constraints, legal obligations under a jeopardized non-proliferation treaty, and the most urgent moral mandate facing the country, America’s nuclear strategy could shift without wrenching difficulty, at the very least, to one of “minimal deterrence.” Hardcore national security mavens tell us this. Such a shift would involve a reduction in both the deployed and stored nuclear arsenal to something like 500 warheads. Even if that goal were pursued unilaterally, it would leave more than enough weaponry to deter any conceivable state-based nuclear threat, including Russia’s, no matter what Putin may do.

Five hundred is, of course, a long way from zero and so from the president’s 2009 goal of abolition, and yet opposition even to that level would be fierce in Washington. Though disarming and disposing of thousands of nukes would cost far less than replacement, it would still be expensive, and you can count on one thing: Pentagon nuclearists would find firm allies among congressional Republicans, who would be loathe to fund such a retreat from virtue’s Armageddon. Meanwhile, confronting such cuts, the defense industry’s samurai lobbyists would unsheathe their swords.

But if a passionate Obama could make a compelling case for a nuclear-free world from Prague in 2009, why not go directly to the American people and make the case today? There is, of course, no sign that the president intends to do such a thing any longer, but if a commander-in-chief were to order nuclear reductions into the hundreds, the result might actually be a transformation of the American political conscience. In the process, the global dream of a nuclear-free world could be resuscitated and the commitment of non-nuclear states (including Iran) to refrain from nuclear-weapons development could be rescued. Most crucially, there would no longer be any rationale for the large-scale reinvention of the American nuclear arsenal, a deadly project this nation is even now preparing to launch. At the very least, a vocal rededication to an ultimate disarmament, to the actual abolition of nuclear weapons, would keep that road open for a future president to re-embark upon.
Alas, Pentagon advocates of “minimal deterrence” have already been overridden. The president’s once fiercely held conviction is now a mere shadow of itself. As happened with Ahab’s wrecked whaling ship, tumultuous seas are closing over the hope that once seized the world’s attention. Take it for granted that, in retirement and out of power, ex-president Obama will rediscover his one-time commitment to a world freed from the nuclear nightmare. He will feel the special responsibility proper to a citizen of “the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon.” The then-former president’s speeches on the subject will be riveting and his philanthropy will be sharply targeted. All for naught.

Because of decisions likely to be taken this year and next, no American president will ever again be able to embrace this purpose as Obama once did. Nuclear weapons will instead become a normalized and permanent part of the twenty-first century American arsenal, and therefore of the arsenals of many other nations; nuclear weapons, that is, will have become an essential element of the human future — as long as that future lasts.

So yes, mark these days down. Nuclear abolition itself is being abolished. Meanwhile, let us acknowledge, as that hopeful young president once asked us to, that we know where this road leads.