The Sixth Seal Will be in New York (Revelation 6:12)

By Simon Worrall


Half a million earthquakes occur worldwide each year, according to an estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Most are too small to rattle your teacup. But some, like the 2011 quake off the coast of Japan or last year’s disaster in Italy, can level high-rise buildings, knock out power, water and communications, and leave a lifelong legacy of trauma for those unlucky enough to be caught in them.

In the U.S., the focus is on California’s San Andreas fault, which geologists suggest has a nearly one-in-five chance of causing a major earthquake in the next three decades. But it’s not just the faults we know about that should concern us, says Kathryn Miles, author of Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake. As she explained when National Geographic caught up with her at her home in Portland, Maine, there’s a much larger number of faults we don’t know about—and fracking is only adding to the risks.

When it comes to earthquakes, there is really only one question everyone wants to know: When will the big one hit California?

That’s the question seismologists wish they could answer, too! One of the most shocking and surprising things for me is just how little is actually known about this natural phenomenon. The geophysicists, seismologists, and emergency managers that I spoke with are the first to say, “We just don’t know!”

What we can say is that it is relatively certain that a major earthquake will happen in California in our lifetime. We don’t know where or when. An earthquake happening east of San Diego out in the desert is going to have hugely different effects than that same earthquake happening in, say, Los Angeles. They’re both possible, both likely, but we just don’t know.

One of the things that’s important to understand about San Andreas is that it’s a fault zone. As laypeople we tend to think about it as this single crack that runs through California and if it cracks enough it’s going to dump the state into the ocean. But that’s not what’s happening here. San Andreas is a huge fault zone, which goes through very different types of geological features. As a result, very different types of earthquakes can happen in different places.

As Charles Richter, inventor of the Richter Scale, famously said, “Only fools, liars and charlatans predict earthquakes.” Why are earthquakes so hard to predict? After all, we have sent rockets into space and plumbed the depths of the ocean.

You’re right: We know far more about distant galaxies than we do about the inner workings of our planet. The problem is that seismologists can’t study an earthquake because they don’t know when or where it’s going to happen. It could happen six miles underground or six miles under the ocean, in which case they can’t even witness it. They can go back and do forensic, post-mortem work. But we still don’t know where most faults lie. We only know where a fault is after an earthquake has occurred. If you look at the last 100 years of major earthquakes in the U.S., they’ve all happened on faults we didn’t even know existed.

Earthquakes 101

Earthquakes are unpredictable and can strike with enough force to bring buildings down. Find out what causes earthquakes, why they’re so deadly, and what’s being done to help buildings sustain their hits.

Fracking is a relatively new industry. Many people believe that it can cause what are known as induced earthquakes. What’s the scientific consensus?

The scientific consensus is that a practice known as wastewater injection undeniably causes earthquakes when the geological features are conducive. In the fracking process, water and lubricants are injected into the earth to split open the rock, so oil and natural gas can be retrieved. As this happens, wastewater is also retrieved and brought back to the surface.

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Different states deal with this in different ways. Some states, like Pennsylvania, favor letting the wastewater settle in aboveground pools, which can cause run-off contamination of drinking supplies. Other states, like Oklahoma, have chosen to re-inject the water into the ground. And what we’re seeing in Oklahoma is that this injection is enough to shift the pressure inside the earth’s core, so that daily earthquakes are happening in communities like Stillwater. As our technology improves, and both our ability and need to extract more resources from the earth increases, our risk of causing earthquakes will also rise exponentially.

After Fukushima, the idea of storing nuclear waste underground cannot be guaranteed to be safe. Yet President Trump has recently green-lighted new funds for the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. Is that wise?

The issue with Fukushima was not about underground nuclear storage but it is relevant. The Tohoku earthquake, off the coast of Japan, was a massive, 9.0 earthquake—so big that it shifted the axis of the earth and moved the entire island of Japan some eight centimeters! It also created a series of tsunamis, which swamped the Fukushima nuclear power plant to a degree the designers did not believe was possible.

Here in the U.S., we have nuclear plants that are also potentially vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis, above all on the East Coast, like Pilgrim Nuclear, south of Boston, or Indian Point, north of New York City. Both of these have been deemed by the USGS to have an unacceptable level of seismic risk. [Both are scheduled to close in the next few years.]

Yucca Mountain is meant to address our need to store the huge amounts of nuclear waste that have been accumulating for more than 40 years. Problem number one is getting it out of these plants. We are going to have to somehow truck or train these spent fuel rods from, say, Boston, to a place like Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. On the way it will have to go through multiple earthquake zones, including New Madrid, which is widely considered to be one of the country’s most dangerous earthquake zones.

Yucca Mountain itself has had seismic activity. Ultimately, there’s no great place to put nuclear waste—and there’s no guarantee that where we do put it is going to be safe.

The psychological and emotional effects of an earthquake are especially harrowing. Why is that?

This is a fascinating and newly emerging subfield within psychology, which looks at the effects of natural disasters on both our individual and collective psyches. Whenever you experience significant trauma, you’re going to see a huge increase in PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicide, and even violent behaviors.

What seems to make earthquakes particularly pernicious is the surprise factor. A tornado will usually give people a few minutes, if not longer, to prepare; same thing with hurricanes. But that doesn’t happen with an earthquake. There is nothing but profound surprise. And the idea that the bedrock we walk and sleep upon can somehow become liquid and mobile seems to be really difficult for us to get our heads around.

Psychologists think that there are two things happening. One is a PTSD-type loop where our brain replays the trauma again and again, manifesting itself in dreams or panic attacks during the day. But there also appears to be a physiological effect as well as a psychological one. If your readers have ever been at sea for some time and then get off the ship and try to walk on dry land, they know they will look like drunkards. [Laughs] The reason for this is that the inner ear has habituated itself to the motion of the ship. We think the inner ear does something similar in the case of earthquakes, in an attempt to make sense of this strange, jarring movement.

After the Abruzzo quake in Italy, seven seismologists were actually tried and sentenced to six years in jail for failing to predict the disaster. Wouldn’t a similar threat help improve the prediction skills of American seismologists?

[Laughs] The scientific community was uniform in denouncing that action by the Italian government because, right now, earthquakes are impossible to predict. But the question of culpability is an important one. To what degree do we want to hold anyone responsible? Do we want to hold the local meteorologist responsible if he gets the weather forecast wrong? [Laughs]

What scientists say—and I don’t think this is a dodge on their parts—is, “Predicting earthquakes is the Holy Grail; it’s not going to happen in our lifetime. It may never happen.” What we can do is work on early warning systems, where we can at least give people 30 or 90 seconds to make a few quick decisive moves that could well save your life. We have failed to do that. But Mexico has had one in place for years!

There is some evidence that animals can predict earthquakes. Is there any truth to these theories?

All we know right now is anecdotal information because this is so hard to test for. We don’t know where the next earthquake is going to be so we can’t necessarily set up cameras and observe the animals there. So we have to rely on these anecdotal reports, say, of reptiles coming out of the ground prior to a quake. The one thing that was recorded here in the U.S. recently was that in the seconds before an earthquake in Oklahoma huge flocks of birds took flight. Was that coincidence? Related? We can’t draw that correlation yet.

One of the fascinating new approaches to prediction is the MyQuake app. Tell us how it works—and why it could be an especially good solution for Third World countries.

The USGS desperately wants to have it funded. The reluctance appears to be from Congress. A consortium of universities, in conjunction with the USGS, has been working on some fascinating tools. One is a dense network of seismographs that feed into a mainframe computer, which can take all the information and within nanoseconds understand that an earthquake is starting.

MyQuake is an app where you can get up to date information on what’s happening around the world. What’s fascinating is that our phones can also serve as seismographs. The same technology that knows which way your phone is facing, and whether it should show us an image in portrait or landscape, registers other kinds of movement. Scientists at UC Berkeley are looking to see if they can crowd source that information so that in places where we don’t have a lot of seismographs or measuring instruments, like New York City or Chicago or developing countries like Nepal, we can use smart phones both to record quakes and to send out early warning notices to people.

You traveled all over the U.S. for your research. Did you return home feeling safer?

I do not feel safer in the sense that I had no idea just how much risk regions of this country face on a daily basis when it comes to seismic hazards. We tend to think of this as a West Coast problem but it’s not! It’s a New York, Memphis, Seattle, or Phoenix problem. Nearly every major urban center in this country is at risk of a measurable earthquake.

What I do feel safer about is knowing what I can do as an individual. I hope that is a major take-home message for people who read the book. There are so many things we should be doing as individuals, family members, or communities to minimize this risk: simple things from having a go-bag and an emergency plan amongst the family to larger things like building codes.

We know that a major earthquake is going to happen. It’s probably going to knock out our communications lines. Phones aren’t going to work, Wi-Fi is going to go down, first responders are not going to be able to get to people for quite some time. So it is beholden on all of us to make sure we can survive until help can get to us.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

India Accelerates the Race in to Nuclear War (Revelation 8 )

India Accelerates Alarming Arms Race in South Asia

June 19, 2020

By Sajjad Shaukat

It is most regrettable that by ignoring the modern global trends like renunciation of war, peaceful settlement of disputes and economic development, India has accelerated alarming arms race in South Asia.

In this regard, in its report, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has revealed on February 17, 2020 that in 2019, total global military expenditure rose to $1917 billion in 2019. It said that the five largest spenders in 2019 accounted for 62 percent of expenditure. India is among the world’s largest recipient of arms.´

According to the ‘Military Balance 2018’ report of IISS, “India’s defence budget broke into the world’s top five…beating the UK for the first time…India overtook the UK as the fifth-largest defence spender in the world in 2017 at $52.5 billion, up from $51.1 billion in 2016.”

It is notable that India test-fired its longest-range surface-to-surface nuclear ballistic missile Agni-5 on December 26, 2017.

Agni-5 is capable of striking a target of more than 5,000 km away. The missile can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one tone. It can target almost all of Asia, including Pakistan, China and Europe. While, the Agni-6 is reported to be in the early stages of development and the most advanced version, with a strike-range of 8,000-10,000 km.

New Delhi already has in its arsenal—the Agni 1, 2, 3 and 4 missile systems and supersonic cruise missiles like Brahmos.

According to Times of India, “Once the Agni-V is inducted, India will join the super-exclusive club of countries with ICBMs (missiles with a range of over 5,000-5,500km) alongside the US, Russia, China, France and the UK.”

Although peace and brinksmanship cannot co-exist in the modern era, yet India seeks to destabilize Asia through its aggressive designs, activated with new arms race.

Recall, on September 25, 2008, President Barack Obama, while accusing President Bush’s policies in the region, offered it as part of his policy to encourage India and Pakistan to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and resolve the Kashmir problem to reduce nuclear dangers in South Asia and militancy in the region.

Quite contrary to his commitments, during his first visit to New Delhi, on November 6, 2010 President Obama announced the measures, America would take regarding the removal of Indian space and defence companies from a restricted “entities list”, and supported Indian demand for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, including membership of four key global nuclear nonproliferation regimes.

And as part of the double standards, America set aside the Indian poor record regarding the safety of nuclear weapons and materials. Despite, Indian violations of various international agreements and its refusal to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Washington signed a pact of nuclear civil technology with New Delhi in 2008. During American President Barack Obama’s visit to India, on January 25, 2016, the US and India announced a breakthrough on the pact which would allow American companies to supply New Delhi with civilian nuclear technology.

New Delhi’s military is acquiring a slew of new types of equipment from combat aircraft to submarines and artillery.

In this connection, on November 2, 2010, the US agreed to sell India the new F-35 fighter jets, including US F-16 and F-18 fighters, C-17 and C-130 aircraft, radar systems, Harpoon weapons, etc. Besides the acquisition of arms and weapons from other western countries—especially Israel, America is a potential military supplier to India. The US also pressurized IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group to grant a waiver to New Delhi for obtaining civil nuclear trade on a larger scale.

Besides, French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation has handed over three Rafale multirole fighter aircraft to the Indian Air Force. Delivery of all 36 aircraft is expected to be completed by April 2022.

In fact, the US wants New Delhi to continue the anti-China and anti-Pakistan roles. Beijing is apprehensive about the emerging threat, as, during the last visit of Obama to New Delhi, the intent of President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quite clear while mentioning about free sea lanes and air passages in the South China Sea.

It is mentionable that during the US President Donald Trump’s two-day visit to India, New Delhi and Washington on February 25, this year signed defence deals worth $3 billion, as President Donald Trump in a joint statement with PM Narendra Modi stated that the two countries have finalised defence deals.

It is worth mentioning that as part of Indian war-mongering diplomacy, in the recent past tensions which still remains, arose between India and China when in response to India’s construction of roads and airstrips adjacent to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which will improve connectivity and enable easier mobility for Indian troops in the area, thousands of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops moved into the regions along the eastern Ladakh border, setting up tents and stationing vehicles and heavy machinery.

Likewise, tension remains over the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir, as India keeps on violating the ceasefire-agreement by shelling Pakistani side of Kashmir in wake of the unresolved issue of Kashmir.

India has escalated tensions with Islamabad particularly in the aftermath of the false-flag terror attack at Pulwama-Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). In this respect, on February 27, last year, in response to the Indian so-called pre-emptive airstrike near the town of Balakot, close to the border with Pakistan’s sector of Kashmir, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) shot down two Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets and launched aerial strikes at six targets in the IOK.

Meanwhile, implementing the August 5 announcement of 2019, the Indian central government issued a map on October 31, 2019. In accordance with it, Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two union territories—Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and identifies the Pakistani side of Azad Kashmir as well as certain areas of Gilgit-Baltistan as Indian territory. Islamabad and Beijing had rejected the map.

Regarding the India-Nepal confrontation, a new road opened by New Delhi which passes through the disputed territory has roused territorial dispute between the two countries. The link road connects Dharchula in the India state of Uttarakhand to the Lipu Lekh pass near the LAC–India’s border with China.

Notably, under the Pak-China pretext, Indian ex-Army Chief, General Deepak Kapoor had said on December 29, 2010 that the Indian army “is now revising its five-year-old doctrine” and is preparing for a “possible two-front war with China and Pakistan.”

And with the US-led Indo-Israeli secret diplomacy, New Delhi has been acquiring an element of strategic depth by setting up logistical bases in the Indian Ocean for its navy.

In this context, while replying to a question, in his interview, published in the Indian weekly Outlook on February 18, 2008, the then Israel’s ambassador to India, Mark Sofer, had surprisingly revealed: “We do have a defense relationship with India, and with all due respect, the secret part will remain a secret.”

Particularly, the fast-growing economic power of China coupled with her rising strategic relationship with Russia, the Third World and especially Pakistan—after signing of the agreement, “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” which is, though for the benefit of South Asia, but, has irked the eyes of Americans, Indians and Israelis. Owing to jealousy, America desires to make India a major power to counterbalance China in Asia.

It is owing to the American dual policy that New Delhi openly follows threatening diplomacy in South Asia. In this respect, in May 1998 when India detonated five nuclear tests and also compelled Pakistan to follow the suit. The then Defense Minister George Fernandes had also declared publicly that “China is India’s potential threat No. 1.” Now, by setting aside peace-offers of Beijing and Islamabad, New Delhi has entangled the latter in a deadly arms race.

Similarly, by pursuing the US double standards, President Trump is also favouring India. So, manipulating American conflicting policy in South Asia, New Delhi is destabilizing the regional countries in general and Afghanistan, Pakistan and China in particular by supporting the insurgency in these countries.

While, the international community has been making strenuous efforts for world peace in wake of global financial crisis and war against terrorism, especially against ISIL (Daesh or ISIS), but, emboldened by the US, India has accelerated alarming nuclear arms race in South Asia where people are already facing multiple problems of grave nature. The majority of South Asian people are living below the poverty level, lacking basic facilities like fresh food and clean water. Yielding to acute poverty, every day, some persons commit suicide.

Even, Indian civil society organizations, while complaining of Indian excessive defense spending, pointed out that the government spends very little amount for the betterment of people. Indian defense analyst Ravinder Pal Singh, while indicating New Delhi’s unending defense expenditures at the cost of poverty-alleviation, calls it a guns-versus-butter question.

We can conclude that India has accelerated the alarming arms race in South Asia while following war-like strategy against Pakistan and China.If not checked by the international community, it can culminate in a nuclear war between India and Pakistan or between India and China.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations


Trump Threatens to Nuke Off

An anti-war protester wears a mask showing President Donald Trump in Berlin, Germany, Nov. 18, 2017, during a demonstration against nuclear weapons near the Brandenburg Gate. | Michael Sohn / AP

Trump threatens to re-start nuclear weapons tests, undoing 50 years of agreements

Conn HallinanJune 18, 2020

If the Trump administration follows through on its threat to restart nuclear tests, it will complete the unraveling of more than 50 years of arms control agreements, taking the world back to the days when school children practiced “duck and cover” and people built backyard bomb shelters.

It will certainly be the death knell for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, passed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996. The Treaty has never gone into effect because, while 184 nations endorsed it, eight key countries have yet to sign on: the U.S., China, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, Iran, and North Korea.

Even without ratification, the Treaty has had an effect. Many nuclear-armed countries, including the U.S., Britain, and Russia, stopped testing by the early 1990s. China and France stopped in 1996, and India and Pakistan in 1998. Only North Korea continues to test.

Halting the tests helped slow the push to make weapons smaller, lighter, and more lethal, although over the years, countries have learned how to design more dangerous weapons using computers and sub-critical tests. For instance, without actually testing any weapon, the U.S. recently created a “super fuze” that makes its warheads far more capable of knocking out an opponent’s missile silos. Washington has also just deployed a highly destabilizing low-yield warhead that has yet to be detonated.

Nonetheless, the test ban did—and does—slow the development of nuclear weapons and retards their proliferation to other countries. Its demise will almost certainly open the gates for others—Saudi Arabia, Australia, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, Turkey, and Brazil—to join the nuclear club.

“It would blow up any chance of avoiding a dangerous new nuclear arms race,” says Beatrice Fihn of the Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, and “complete the erosion of the global arms control framework.”

While the Trump administration has accelerated withdrawal from nuclear agreements, including the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, the Intermediate Nuclear Force Agreement, and START II, the erosion of treaties goes back almost 20 years.

At stake is a tapestry of agreements dating back to the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty that ended atmospheric testing. That first agreement was an important public health victory. A generation of “down winders” in Australia, the American Southwest, the South Pacific, and Siberia are still paying the price for open-air testing.

The Partial Test Ban also broke ground for a host of other agreements

The 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) restricted the spread of nuclear weapons and banned nuclear-armed countries from threatening non-nuclear nations with weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately, key parts of the agreement have been ignored by the major nuclear powers, especially Article VI that requires nuclear disarmament, followed by general disarmament.

What followed the NPT was a series of treaties that slowly dismantled some of the tens of thousands of warheads with the capacity to quite literally destroy the planet. At one point, the U.S. and Russia had more than 50,000 warheads between them.

The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty reduced the possibility of a first-strike attack against another nuclear power. The same year, the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks agreement (SALT I) put a limit on the number of long-range missiles. Two years later, SALT II cut back on the number of highly destabilizing multiple warheads on missiles and put ceilings on bombers and missiles.

The 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Force Agreement banned land-based medium-range missiles in Europe that had put the continent on a hair-trigger. Four years later, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) cut the number of warheads in the Russian and American arsenals by 80%. That still left each side with 6,000 warheads and 1,600 missiles and bombers. It would take 20 years to negotiate START II, which reduced both sides to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and banished multiple warheads from land-based missiles.

All of this is on the verge of collapse. While Trump has been withdrawing from treaties, it was President George W. Bush’s abandonment of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 that tipped the first domino.

The death of the ABM agreement put the danger of a first-strike back on the table and launched a new arms race. As the Obama administration began deploying ABMs in Europe, South Korea, and Japan, the Russians began designing weapons to overcome them.

The ABM’s demise also led to the destruction of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement (INF) that banned medium-range, ground-based missiles from Europe. The U.S. claimed the Russians were violating the INF by deploying a cruise missile that could be fitted with a nuclear warhead. The Russians countered that the American ABM system, the Mark 41 Aegis Ashore, could be similarly configured. Moscow offered to let its cruise be examined, but NATO wasn’t interested.

The White House has made it clear that it will not renew the START II treaty unless it includes Chinese medium-range missiles, but that is a poison pill. The Chinese have about one fifth the number of warheads that Russia and the U.S. have, and most of China’s potential opponents—India, Japan, and U.S. bases in the region—are within medium range.

While Chinese and Russian medium-range missiles do not threaten the American homeland, U.S. medium-range missiles in Asia and Europe could decimate both countries. In any case, how would such an agreement be configured? Would the U.S. and Russia reduce their warhead stockpile to China’s 300 weapons, or would China increase its weapons levels to match Moscow and Washington? Both are unlikely.

If START II goes, so do the limits on warheads and launchers, and we are back to the height of the Cold War.


On many levels, this makes no sense. Russia and the U.S. have more than 12,000 warheads between them, more than enough to end civilization. Recent studies of the impact of a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan found it would have worldwide repercussions by altering rain patterns and disrupting agriculture. Imagine what a nuclear war involving China, Russia, and the U.S. and its allies would do.

Partly this is a matter of simple greed

The new program will cost in the range of $1.7 trillion, with the possibility of much more. Modernizing the “triad” will require new missiles, ships, bombers, and warheads, all of which will enrich virtually every segment of the U.S. arms industry.

But this is about more than a rich payday. There is a section of the U.S. military and political class that would like to use nuclear weapons on a limited scale. The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review explicitly reverses the Obama administration’s move away from nuclear weapons, reasserting their importance in U.S. military doctrine.

That is what the recently deployed low-yield warhead on the U.S.’s Trident submarine is all about. The W76-2 packs a five-kiloton punch, or about one-third the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, a far cry from the standard nuclear warheads with yields of 100 kilotons to 475 kilotons.

The U.S. rationale is that a small warhead will deter the Russians from using their low-yield nuclear warheads against NATO. The Trump administration says the Russians have a plan to do exactly that, figuring the U.S. would hesitate to risk an all-out nuclear exchange by replying in kind. There is, in fact, little proof such a plan exists, and Moscow denies it.

According to the Trump administration, China and Russia are also violating the ban on nuclear tests by setting off low-yield, hard to detect, warheads. No evidence has been produced to show this, and no serious scientist supports the charge. Modern seismic weapons detection is so efficient it can detect warheads that fail to go critical, so-called duds.

Bear baiting—and dragon drubbing in the case of China—is a tried and true mechanism for opening the arms spigot.

Some of this is about making arms manufacturers and generals happy, but it is also about the fact that the last war the U.S. won was Grenada. The U.S. military lost in Afghanistan and Iraq, made of mess of Libya, Somalia, and Syria, and is trying to extract itself from a stalemate in Yemen.

Just suppose some of those wars were fought with low-yield nukes. While it seems deranged—like using hand grenades to get rid of kitchen ants—some argue that if we don’t take the gloves off we will continue to lose wars or get bogged down in stalemates.

The Pentagon knows the Russians are not a conventional threat because the U.S. and NATO vastly outnumber and out spend Moscow. China is more of a conventional challenge, but any major clash could go nuclear, and no one wants that.

According to the Pentagon, the W76-2 may be used to respond “to significant non-nuclear strategic attacks” on the U.S. or its allies’ “infrastructure,” including cyber war. That could include Iran.

Early in his term, President Trump asked why the U.S. can’t use its nuclear weapons. If Washington successfully torpedoes START II and restarts testing, he may get to do exactly that.

Conn Hallinan can be read at

World War 3 and the Chinese Nuclear Horn (Revelation 7)

World War 3: How many nuclear weapons does china have? | World | News |

PUBLISHED: 09:00, Fri, Jun 19, 2020

WORLD WAR THREE fears have ignited once more this week as China and India were locked in border hostilities which left at least 20 casualties and 10 prisoners. How many nuclear weapons does China have?

World War 3 fears have materialised amid the coronavirus pandemic this month, as border clashes erupted between India and China. The two nations have skirmished before, but the latest conflict comes with an already fraught backdrop of global health, worrying officials of potential escalation.

How many nuclear weapons does China have?

The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) estimates China may have 200 to 300 nuclear warheads in its possession-based on estimates made in 2011.

In 2015, atomic scientists Robert Norris and Hans Kristensen suggested the country has approximately 260 warheads.

They added the number is slowly increasing and includes roughly 190 operational examples.

Leaders have insisted their nuclear weaponry exists as a “minimum deterrent”, but have never publicly disclosed warhead numbers.

The country successfully tested its first in 1964, and their resulting nuclear programme runs on a “no first use” basis according to the NTI.

A policy of no first use would mean China only ever uses its nuclear arsenal in retaliation from another nation’s attack.

The country is one of several to engage in the policy and includes their occasional rivals India

India arrived on the nuclear scene a decade after China, having tested its first weapon in July 1974.

The country’s continued conflict against neighbouring Pakistan has kept it engaged in nuclear proliferation, with a growing arsenal according to the NTI.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimated in 2019 India has some 130 to 140 warheads, and possesses both weapons-grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium.

The latter material also has uses in research reactors and nuclear submarines, outlining the country’s dual focus on nuclear energy.

India is outside the international Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) but has agreements and a waiver in place with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

The latter two agencies allow it to participate in global civilian technology commerce.

Although it is not a CTBT signatory, Indian officials maintain a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing.

The New Russian Nuclear Policy

Revelations about Russia’s Nuclear Deterrence Policy

On June 2, the Kremlin published an unprecedented six-page document entitled Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Sphere of Nuclear Deterrence. Although this statement of Russia’s official position on nuclear deterrence policy does not overturn current military doctrine, it is notable for identifying the range of threats that Russia seeks to deter with its nuclear forces, clarifying Russia’s approach to nuclear deterrence, and articulating the conditions under which Moscow might escalate to the use of nuclear weapons. Given Russia’s nuclear stockpile of approximately 4,310 warheads  and the deteriorating relations between Moscow and the West, such issues are vital to global peace and security.

The set of public statements, or declaratory policy, on nuclear deterrence matters — especially for American analysts — because it gives insight into how the role of Russian nuclear weapons has evolved over time in response to technological innovation, international challenges to the security of Russia’s nuclear deterrent policy, and internal debates in Moscow over the details of military policy and how best to ensure a credible nuclear deterrent posture. Despite sharing some similarities with the deterrence policies of the United States — such as maintaining a nuclear triad to address threats to the survivability of land-based forces and considering limited nuclear options to deter further escalation or de-escalate a conflict — important elements of Russia’s approach to nuclear deterrence are unique.

Analysts should read Principles of State Policy extremely carefully and with a Russian lens. Importantly, Russia experts should appreciate that Moscow is animated by a persistent fear that Washington seeks to neutralize Russia’s strategic deterrent. As a result, the military is fixated on preemption to prevent a disabling first strike, even as the political leadership has traditionally resisted pre-delegating nuclear authority. The document also shows that Russian nuclear doctrine has focused more on ensuring deterrence and less on nuclear coercion for aggressive aims.

American Views on Russian Nuclear Policy

American strategists need to understand how the contents of Principles of State Policy fit into the larger body of evidence about Russia’s nuclear decision calculus. As a start, the new document indirectly addresses Western concerns that Russian strategy embraces limited nuclear employment in future regional conflicts to signal its resolve and “compel an end to a conventional conflict” that Russia starts. In other words, Moscow would seek to “escalate to de-escalate” “a conflict on terms favorable to Russia.”

U.S. policymakers mistakenly consider this de-escalation concept in primarily coercive terms by which Russia lowers the nuclear threshold to consolidate battlefield success. Then, they elevate this interpretation into an ominous component of Russian military doctrine that must be countered, as reflected in the 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review and other official statements. In fact, “escalate to de-escalate” and other concepts for controlling escalation have been discussed for decades in Russian military journals. However, the phrase appears nowhere in official Russian doctrine. Though Principles is consistent with the Russian preference to leverage the risk and uncertainty of potential nuclear escalation to enhance its deterrence of adversaries, it avoids language that would reinforce U.S. misconceptions.

Experts have speculated about a classified document with almost the exact same title, “Principles of State Policy in the Sphere of Nuclear Deterrence Until 2020,” that was approved by then President Dmitry Medvedev in Feb. 2010 on the same day the military doctrine was issued. That document, unlike either the 2020 Principles or official Russian government doctrine from both 2010 and 2014, reportedly contained references to nuclear preemption. The latest version of official Russian military doctrine, which was released in 2014, states that

The Russian Federation reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and/or its allies, as well as in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is threatened.

One reason for speculation that the secret doctrine was different from the published text was the 2010 debate on the subject within the Russian leadership. Preemption advocates like Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian security council, and Gen. Yuri Baluevsky, a former chief of the general staff, saw preemption as a way to counter the threat of America’s conventional prompt global strike capabilities. Detractors, including Col. Gen. Viktor Esin, a former chief of staff of the Strategic Rocket Forces, didn’t see preemption as credible in that role. A decade ago, Russian opponents of preemption apparently won the battle over the 2010 official doctrine. Nevertheless, it remains unclear what was in the secret variant and whether there is a secret version of the new Principles document.

Troublesome incremental changes in Russian nuclear declaratory policy continued to appear, notably in the 2017 naval doctrine, which contends that “demonstrating the willingness and determination to employ force, including non-strategic nuclear weapons” strengthens deterrence in conditions of an escalating military conflict. In 2014 during the Ukraine conflict, President Vladimir Putin and other officials reinvigorated the public discussion on nuclear operational policy and simultaneously launched a nuclear saber rattling campaign to signal Russian national interests while preserving ambiguity about how far their actions would go. Putin again underlined the threat posed by a disarming strike that uses non-nuclear, high-precision weapons against key sites of Russia’s military infrastructure, telling a meeting of the Valdai Club in 2015 that such weapons are “comparable in their effect to nuclear weapons.”

Principles enumerates similar dangers that drive Russia’s need for a nuclear deterrent — none of which are surprising or new. Besides global strike capabilities, the document lists the possession and proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, the deployment of missile defenses, cruise missiles, hypersonic weapons, directed energy weapons, combat drones, and other nuclear-capable systems near Russia, including U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe that are part of NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements.

In Clause 10, Principles also essentially reiterates the language of the 2014 military doctrine, stating that nuclear deterrence is ensured when Russian nuclear weapons, support forces and facilities, as well as command and control systems are maintained at a level of readiness that “guarantees the infliction of unacceptable damage on an aggressor in whatever situation.” Thus, there is no downshifting to a less demanding requirement, such as assured retaliation, for strategic nuclear forces.

What’s New in Russian Nuclear Strategy?

What is new and most striking in Russian nuclear strategy is how Principles handles the possible employment of nuclear weapons if deterrence fails. Section III on “Conditions under which the Russian Federation Transitions to the Use of Nuclear Weapons,” especially Clause 19, specifies four conditions that could lead to nuclear use. The first such condition is the possession of reliable information about the launch of ballistic missiles to attack Russian territory and/or its allies. This situation opens the possibility for Moscow to launch Russian nuclear weapons on warning of a nuclear attack instead of delaying retaliatory action until confirmation that targets are destroyed or alternatively launching while an attack is underway. Developed during the Cold War, the “launch on warning” option was considered by both sides as a means to strengthen nuclear deterrence by helping to guarantee retaliation. But, if adopted, launch on warning is also associated with the significant risk of false warning alerts and an accidental launch. The second condition is the use of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction by an adversary against Russian territory and/or its allies. Next, the third condition has to do with actions taken against Russian critical government or military installations by an adversary that would have the effect of disrupting Russia’s capacity for nuclear retaliation. Finally, the fourth condition in which Russia could employ nuclear weapons is in the event of aggression against Russia using conventional weapons that threaten the very existence of the state.

Putin and other officials have hinted at launch on warning, but such statements have not previously appeared in official documents. Even then, it is unclear whether the leadership really means launch on warning or the current posture of launch while under attack, supported by the semi-automatic Perimeter system. This system reportedly involves a degree of pre-delegation of authority to ensure that decapitation does not prevent retaliation. The third subclause of Principles’ Clause 19 is also noteworthy as it raises concerns about threats to the nuclear enterprise that are not specified but likely include cyber attacks against command and control infrastructure and/or attempted leadership decapitation.

It’s possible that the debate over a launch on warning and preemptive strikes is not resolved by the new document. It’s also possible that Moscow is concerned about potential U.S. missile deployments in Europe. With the termination of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Col. Gen. Esin predicted that the United States would return ground-based nuclear missiles to Europe and, because of such missiles’ short flight time to Russian targets of about six minutes, Moscow would “abandon the doctrine of retaliatory strike by ‘launch under attack’ [otvetno-vstrechnyy udar] and move to the ‘doctrine of preemptive strike’ [uprezhdayushchiy udar].” It is curious that Principles only specifies launch on warning for ballistic missile attacks. Is this phrasing intended to fuel Western opposition against the return of Pershing II or similar intermediate-range ballistic missiles to Europe, or is it related to Russia’s geography problem that constrains warning time when U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missiles are launched from the Atlantic Ocean or closer to Russia?

In 2019, the United States tested both a ground-launched, intermediate-range cruise missile and ballistic missile, and dismissed Putin’s proposed freeze on missile deployments (preserving about 100 of Russia’s non-INF Treaty compliant SSC-8/Novator 9M729 ground-launched cruise missiles). However, the United States disavows intentions to return nuclear intermediate-range missiles to Europe. Both sides are also developing conventional and nuclear prompt global attack capabilities, including hypersonic weapons that similarly raise concerns about crisis stability given their greater maneuverability to change direction and avoid defenses. Some experts worry that such weapons may lead states fearing a nuclear attack in a crisis to respond promptly on warning — or even preemptively.

Principles also mentions the role of “uncertainty” in deterrence, which — at one level — is evidently a factor underlying Putin’s nuclear threats. With respect to uncertainty in ensuring a survivable second-strike capability and nuclear command, control, and communications, both Soviet history and U.S. experience are again instructive. Although it invested in a more survivable triad, Washington has faced the vulnerability of its land-based forces and, like Moscow, seeks to maintain a resilient nuclear command, control, and communications system despite myriad challenges, including some from new Russian and Chinese anti-satellite weapons. American policymakers historically debated a launch on warning posture — especially for U.S. ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles — yet resolved, according to a Reagan administration nuclear employment policy directive, not to irrevocably rely on a launch on warning posture but to “leave Soviet planners with strong uncertainty as to how we might actually respond to such warning.”

From the standpoint of national policy, Principles, which was issued by presidential decree (ukaz), is a reminder that Putin is the most actively engaged Russian leader on nuclear weapons since Nikita Khrushchev. Putin is far more successful than Khrushchev in rebuilding Russian military and nuclear capabilities without breaking the economy or losing power while also perhaps the most nuclear attentive current leader of any contemporary nuclear weapons state. Principles reminds us that, like the American president, the Russian president has the responsibility to decide the use of nuclear weapons. Putin is unusually blunt in signaling Russia’s willingness to exploit its nuclear strength and declares the active deterrent relevance of nuclear weapons such as in the event that the United States or NATO attempt to use force to reverse Russia’s annexation of Crimea. This coercive form of nuclear signaling reflects the Russian emphasis on deterring major powers by means of intimidation and the punishing use of Russian nuclear forces.

Russian Nuclear Forces

Putin has presided over Russia’s most extensive and costly nuclear modernization program since the Cold War, which has led to the development of six new nuclear systems designed to ensure a robust deterrent and capabilities for multiple contingencies. Russia’s exotic new systems — especially the Avangard nuclear-armed hypersonic glide vehicle that will sit atop an intercontinental ballistic missile and the multi-megaton Poseidon, a nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed torpedo with transoceanic range — while not necessarily designed to achieve greater destruction than the current arsenal, are not counted under New START Treaty limits but vividly challenge assertions of U.S. nuclear primacy. They give credence not only to deterrence but also to Putin’s demands to “listen to us now” and take Russian interests seriously. For reassurance, which reflects the other side of the coin that nuclear war is best avoided, Putin embraces the reality of mutual assured destruction, and disavows that Russia would attempt all-out preventive nuclear strikes — but hasn’t ruled out more limited preemptive strikes.

What about a potential Russian fait accompli operation against a U.S. ally or partner that Moscow could terminate with the limited use of low-yield nuclear weapons in accordance with the so-called “escalate to de-escalate” concept? Current and former Western officials infer aggressive intentions from increased Russian deployments of tactical and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, including the SSC-8, from Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, and from their own confirmation bias in reading Russian military statements about nuclear use for de-escalation. Indeed, the 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review asserts that “Russia has demonstrated its willingness to use force to alter the map of Europe and impose its will on its neighbors, backed by implicit and explicit nuclear first-use threats.” American conflict scenarios start with Russian aggression and shift to the Russian first use of nuclear weapons in either demonstration or small strikes to coerce NATO to abandon allies.

Given Russia’s large and growing stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons, providing credible response options to deter limited nuclear attacks is a prudent measure. One such response option  involves modifying some W76 Trident II warheads to include survivable low-yield W76-2 warheads on U.S. nuclear ballistic missile submarines. These modifications, which do not increase the total U.S. nuclear stockpile, strengthen the package of available limited nuclear options to demonstrate U.S. credibility and will to respond to even limited Russian nuclear first use, helping ensure that attempted Russian aggression will fail.

On the other hand, U.S. statements and analyses about Russian writings on escalation are frequently problematic or incorrect, relying on quotations out of context or Russian military debates about proposed changes to doctrine. Of course, Russians do not write about how they will seize the Baltic states and lob a few nuclear missiles at NATO allies to convince them to abandon the fight; at the same time, there is no expectation embedded in Russia’s strategy that they can escalate their way out of failed conventional aggression, as U.S. officials frequently allege. Rather, a willingness to escalate is deemed essential for deterrence by providing a means to impose costs, increasing the risk of what comes next, or denying the opponent his objective. The deterrent logic of resorting to escalation with the limited use of nuclear weapons could be to compel the United States and its allies to back down when Russian critical assets are under aerospace attack, as noted in Clause 19. Other than demonstrating a readiness and resolve for deterrence, official Russian doctrine does not specify how Moscow might employ its non-strategic nuclear weapons.

With this detail in mind, Western readers should resist misinterpreting Clause 4 in Section I about “General Principles,” which states that, besides deterring aggression against Russia, the objective “in the event of a military conflict” is to “prevent the escalation of military actions and end them under conditions acceptable” to Russia and/or its allies. In previous official statements, the standard formulation was to end conflict on “favorable” terms; now, it expects only “acceptable” conditions. Perhaps this change is another signal that Russian doctrine should not be erroneously characterized as “escalate to win.” Principles goes on to underscore the defensive nature of nuclear deterrence, the aim for sufficiency in force requirements, and that Russia considers nuclear weapons solely as a deterrent — the use of which would constitute an extreme and necessary measure.

This interpretation is not to deny that Russian planners probably have secret nuclear weapons employment guidance that specifies a range of possible options for integrating conventional and nuclear forces in support of global or regional objectives. However, Principles is not that document. Instead, it outlines Russian ideas about deterrence and only hints at deterrence/employment trade-offs.

Consider the Audience and the Context

Principles of State Policy Nuclear Deterrence is clearly aimed at multiple audiences. The Kremlin seeks to signal its updated declaratory policy to domestic stakeholders — like the Russian military and defense community, as well as diplomats dealing with security and arms control. Moreover, the document is meant to shape opinion among international opponents and potential partners.

Nevertheless, it will not resolve all the debates about Russian nuclear policy. The document’s timing follows Washington’s termination of the INF Treaty after Moscow refused to come back into compliance. It is probably no accident that Principles emerged while the U.S. is engaged in its own nuclear modernization program. Russians perceive further U.S. improvements to strategic forces, both conventional and nuclear, as part of a continuous effort to stalk Russia’s nuclear deterrent and deny Moscow a viable second-strike option.

Another reason that Principles should be read through a Russian lens involves Russia’s long preoccupation with forestalling the risk of potentially fatal first blows — from preempting its adversaries in 1914, which led to disaster and defeat in World War I, to the opposite decision in 1941, when Stalin rebuffed the General Staff for advocating a preemptive attack against the German army massing on the border. The German invasion led to catastrophe and near defeat for Russia before its arduous and costly victory in World War II. From this experience, the Russian military learned not to cede the initiative or wait to act until the enemy lands its devastating first blows but, instead, to anticipate and when feasible preempt the enemy. This lesson is arguably not the right one for either the circumstances in 1941 or the nuclear age. Even if it’s only a coincidence that Principles emerged at the beginning of June, in between the 75th anniversary of Russia’s victory in the Great Patriotic War, which was rescheduled because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the remembrance of the German attack on June 22, it should be remembered that Russia’s attention to preemption — both as an opportunity and a threat as from a surprise nuclear strike — has strong historical roots.

Looking Ahead

Debate over Russian nuclear intentions will not end with the publication of Russia’s new statement about its deterrence policy — nor should it since both the United States and Russia consider the nuclear deterrence mission as the bedrock of their national security. Nevertheless, U.S. policymakers and analysts should read Russian statements and publications more carefully to avoid succumbing to confirmation bias. A better understanding of Russian intentions and perspectives would help advance critical analyses of the nuclear policy challenges facing the United States and its allies.

It’s doubtful that Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Sphere of Nuclear Deterrence will impact the current stalemate in nuclear arms control, although that may be one of its motivations. The document mentions that Russia’s principles for nuclear deterrence are in compliance with arms control obligations and universally recognized norms of international law. However, there is little in Principles that will likely energize the Trump administration to negotiate an extension of the New START Treaty or settle on a concrete plan to build on it.

What this new document could do is structure future strategic stability talks, which Moscow and Washington agreed to resume in May. Given misconceptions about doctrines, policy directives, and intentions, there is an advantage in seeking improved explanations and airing disagreements, especially in the nuclear realm where miscalculations can have catastrophic consequences.

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Cynthia Roberts is a professor of political science at Hunter College, City University of New York, and a senior research scholar at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, Columbia University.

Babylon the Great’s Empty Threats

U.S. “not going to allow Russia and China to continue” increasing nuclear weapons stockpile, top negotiator says – CBS News

June 19, 2020 / 4:48 AM

By Pamela Falk

U.S. arms control talks with Russia, and perhaps China, are slated for Monday, June 22 in Vienna, just days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Honolulu to meet with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi at Hickam Air Force Base. The talks are aimed at bringing China into broader negotiations with Russia to limit all three countries’ nuclear weapons stockpiles. 

Concerns are mounting about Russian and Chinese interest in developing their nuclear arsenals. The talks come two months after a State Department report raised questions about their compliance with arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament agreements and commitments. 

“China’s overall nuclear stockpile is going to double over the next 10 years. That of course is a great concern,” U.S. arms control negotiator Ambassador Robert A. Wood told CBS News.

Ambassador Robert Wood U.S. State Department

Wood is the U.S. Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament, and serves as U.S. Commissioner for the New START Treaty’s Bilateral Consultative Commission. He has been a U.S. Foreign Service officer and worked with other agencies of the government for 32 years, serving both Republican and Democratic administrations. Along with Marshall Billingslea, who took up his post last month as President Trump’s senior envoy on arms control, Wood said the arms control team is “laser focused” on bringing both Russia and China into a new framework agreement.

Wood spoke with CBS News’ Pamela Falk from his State Department office in Geneva.

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“We’re not going to allow Russia and China to continue to move forward on their modernizations and increasing the stockpiles of nuclear weapons,” Wood said in the interview. “This is something that the president said cannot continue. And so, right now, we are modernizing our stockpile. But we are not increasing the number in any substantial way. And we are having to deal with and respond to these growing challenges from Russia and China. And we cannot turn a blind eye to this.” 

Read more excerpts of the interview below:

CBS News’ Pamela Falk: You have been calling on China to come to the table for a new agreement, a trilateral arms control negotiation, at a time when relations are, to say the least, strained. What is it about China’s nuclear capacity that worries you and are they expanding stockpiles?

Ambassador Robert Wood: With regard to China, let me just put in a little bit of historical context. In the last 10 years, the U.S. has been trying to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in its overall national security strategy. China and Russia have gone in the opposite direction. China has been modernizing its strategic nuclear forces. It’s also modernizing its non-strategic nuclear weapons that pose a very serious security concern to U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific region as well as some of our allies, and China is the least transparent of all the P5 countries [the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China]. So there’s some real concerns here about China’s buildup and we don’t really have a great sense of what that exact buildup looks like, except that we do know that China has been developing mobile ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles]. They’re assumed to have a nuclear triad [nuclear weapons delivery capacity from land, submarine and aircraft].

A formation of Dongfeng-41 intercontinental strategic nuclear missiles takes part in a military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing, October 1, 2019. Xinhua/Lan Hongguang via Getty

As I said, I think the biggest problem we have is lack of transparency coming from China, and we have discussed with China on numerous occasions, the need for all nuclear weapon states to meet their NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] commitments to make a good faith effort to negotiate on nuclear disarmament. So that is why we have been calling for China to come to the table with the United States and Russia, so that we can start to address some of these issues that we have great concern about. …


We think it’s imperative that China comes to the table, and there will be a seat there in Vienna for them. We hope they will show up. 

When we spoke earlier you talked about a doubling by China of some of this capacity. Could you explain that?

It’s expected that, at a minimum, China’s overall nuclear stockpile is going to increase over the next 10 — double over the next 10 years. That of course is of great concern to not just the United States but another, a lot of other countries and it, as I said earlier, they are, in essence, growing their ballistic missile submarine fleet. They are developing road-mobile ICBMs. They are engaged in developing hypersonic weapons.

And as I said, China has been free from any kind of constraints on them with regard to arms control, because the treaties the U.S. and Russia have agreed on in the past [do] not included China. So we think it is long overdue for China to come to the table, and that’s an imperative, that is a priority for this administration and we’re going to continue to push until China does take the responsible position and come to the table, so that we can have negotiations on these weapons of concern. 

Is there an implication that the U.S. will also engage in modernization of its nuclear weapons, if Russia and China don’t fall into line?


We’re not going to allow Russia and China to continue to move forward on their modernizations and increasing the stockpiles of nuclear weapons, and this is something that the president said cannot continue. And so, right now, we are modernizing our stockpile. But we are not increasing the number in any substantial way, and we are having to deal with and respond to these growing challenges from Russia and China. And we cannot turn a blind eye to this.  … 

We have to deal with the world as it is, and not as we would like it to be. And so, with Russia and China moving in this different trajectory than we have been moving, we have to do what’s in our national interest and not only in our interest but in the interest of our allies and partners. 

First published on June 19, 2020 / 4:48 AM

© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Pamela Falk

Pamela Falk is CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst and an international lawyer, based at the United Nations.

Iran Is Accused of Hiding Suspected Nuclear Activity

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, which is facing new accusations that it hid nuclear activity.EPA, via Shutterstock

Iran Is Accused of Hiding Suspected Nuclear Activity

The United States and the big European powers came together to declare they had serious concerns about Tehran’s failure to allow inspectors into two locations.

By David E. Sanger and Lara Jakes

June 19, 2020, 2:47 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — International nuclear inspectors and the United States accused Iran on Friday of hiding suspected nuclear activity, the first time in more than eight years that Tehran has been accused of obstructing inspections, paving the way for a new confrontation with Western powers.

The accusation came in a resolution passed by the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations watchdog, after its new director general, Rafael Grossi, reported that Iranian officials had repeatedly blocked inspectors and “sanitized” a site they wanted to visit beginning last July.

It was the first time that the big European powers — Britain, France and Germany — have sided with the Trump administration on a major Iran issue since splitting with President Trump on his decision more than two years ago to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement negotiated by the administration of former President Barack Obama.

The tersely worded resolution, running just over one page, noted “serious concern” that Iran had refused to allow inspectors into two locations and was unwilling to clearly answer questions about its “possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear related activities.”

Russia and China both voted against the resolution in a vote in Vienna, leading Christopher Ford, a top nuclear official in the State Department, to accuse the two countries of acting as “protector and enablers” of the Iranian effort to restart its nuclear program.

“What is happening here is that while everyone was staring at the J.C.P.O.A., new safeguards problems have arisen in a very different lane,” Mr. Ford told journalists in Washington on Friday, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal.

He added: “Whatever disagreements there may still be about the J.C.P.O.A. — and I don’t doubt that there are some — the whole world has an interest in coming together now to protect the integrity of the global system of I.A.E.A. safeguards that everybody has relied upon to detect or prevent the diversion of nuclear material to weapons purposes for generations, in countries all around the world.”

For Mr. Trump, the announcement on Friday provided cover should he choose to intensify pressure on Iran in the midst of the presidential election season. But with memories still strong of demands by former President George W. Bush that Iraq open up to inspections in 2002, only to later discover that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction under development, there would likely be strong domestic and international objections to any threats to compel access to the sites.

In this case, the United States would have a difficult time proving that Iran is racing to build a bomb anytime soon.

Under the 2015 agreement, Iranian officials shipped 97 percent of their existing stockpile of low-enriched uranium out of the country. And the nuclear agency’s latest assessment of Iran’s enrichment activities concludes that while it is violating the limits imposed in the 2015 accord, it would still take months to fashion its uranium stockpile into something that could be used to produce a single nuclear weapon. It also would take months or years more to produce the weapon.

The vote by the International Atomic Energy Agency came as no surprise to the Iranians, who have been jousting with inspectors over whether they are required to provide access under its agreements for nuclear transparency.

Ahead of the vote, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, warned on Thursday that a resolution by the international body would “ruin” prospects for what he described as an “agreeable solution.”

He also accused enemies of the nuclear deal of conspiring with international inspectors who had audited more Iranian nuclear sites “over the last five years than in I.A.E.A. history.”

“We’ve nothing to hide,” Mr. Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Brian H. Hook, the State Department’s special envoy for Iran policy, called that claim laughable. “If only that were true,” he said.

The issue is not how many sites inspectors have visited but which ones. Several that were previously unknown were identified after a bold raid on Tehran in early 2018 where agents of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency broke into a warehouse and seized thousands of long-hidden files about Iran’s early nuclear efforts, some stretching back nearly two decades.

Since then, the Israelis have shared some — but not all — of the findings with international inspectors, including the location of one major site, which Israeli officials called the Abadeh Nuclear Weapons Development Site. Experiments using conventional explosives are believed to have been conducted there.

When inspectors demanded access last summer, some buildings at the site were razed, satellite photographs showed. The inspectors still have not been able to visit.

Perhaps recalling the embarrassment of the Iraq experience, American officials have been careful to cite no evidence of their own, and simply to quote from the findings of the I.A.E.A., which had refused to go along with the Bush administration’s assessments of Iraq in 2002 and 2003.

According to American officials, classified intelligence assessments produced by the United States have been far less declarative about how close Iran might be to nuclear “breakout” — the time it would take to produce a single nuclear weapon.

Officials at the C.I.A., the State Department and the Energy Department all have agreed that the time period has dropped to under a year, though they each have different estimates. Keeping it at a year or more was the goal of the 2015 agreement, and the Iranians did not appear to have violated that until after Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement and reimposed devastating economic sanctions against Tehran.

Mr. Ford said it was not clear exactly what nuclear materials Iran is believed to have hidden, nor their significance. “That’s what the world is waiting to find out,” he said. “If there really is nothing to conceal here, they need to come clean.”

Mr. Trump and other officials have made no threats about what might happen — or might not — if Iran continues to block access. Iran is required to allow inspectors into sites under a provision of I.A.E.A. agreements called the “Additional Protocol.” Iran has never ratified that, but largely abided by its terms as long as the United States remained part of the nuclear accord.

Mr. Grossi, a longtime nuclear official who took over as director general of the organization last year, is considered more hard-line than his predecessor on nations that would flout the inspection agreements. “There are no exceptions,’’ he said at the I.A.E.A. meeting.

Mr. Hook said that Iran’s refusal would increase its “diplomatic isolation,’’ a line that officials have used, to little effect, back to the Bush administration. So far, European officials have shown no interest in elevating the issue to the United Nations Security Council, where Russia and China would undoubtedly block action.

“Iran has a choice: It can answer the I.A.E.A.’s questions and comply with the legitimate requests for access, let inspectors travel freely and be transparent about its activity,” Mr. Hook said. “Or Iran can take its current path of stonewalling and deception.”

David E. Sanger is a national security correspondent. In a 36-year reporting career for The Times, he has been on three teams that have won Pulitzer Prizes, most recently in 2017 for international reporting. His newest book is “The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age.” @SangerNYT • Facebook

Lara Jakes is a diplomatic correspondent based in the Washington bureau of The New York Times. Over the past two decades, Ms. Jakes has reported and edited from more than 40 countries and covered war and sectarian fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, the West Bank and Northern Ireland. @jakesNYT