New York Quake Overdue (The Sixth Seal) (Rev 6:12)

New York City Is Overdue For Large Earthquake: Seismologist

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Won-Young Kim, who runs the seismographic network for the Northeast at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said the city is well overdue for a big earthquake.

The last big quake to hit New York City was a 5.3-magnitude tremor in 1884 that happened at sea in between Brooklyn and Sandy Hook. While no one was killed, buildings were damaged.

Kim said the city is likely to experience a big earthquake every 100 years or so.

“It can happen anytime soon,” Kim said. “We can expect it any minute, we just don’t know when and where.”

New York has never experienced a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake, which are the most dangerous. But magnitude 5 quakes could topple brick buildings and chimneys.

Seismologist John Armbruster said a magnitude 5 quake that happened now would be more devastating than the one that happened in 1884.

After India’s Skirmish With China Pakistan IS Next (Revelation 8 )

After India’s Skirmish With China, Is Pakistan Next?

Looking to reinvigorate support at home, Modi could pick a fight with his country’s traditional enemy.

Fahd HumayunJune 29, 2020, 3:55 PM

An Indian Border Security Force soldier carries a rocket launcher as he takes up position at an outpost along the India-Pakistan border in Ranbir Singh Pora, southwest of Jammu, on Oct. 2, 2016. Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images

The worst border skirmish between India and China in the Himalayas in decades has abated for now, but the potential for crisis still looms large over a nuclear-armed South Asia. Last week, India announced it was formally downgrading relations with its other adversary and neighbor, Pakistan, by reducing the staff at its High Commission by 50 percent. The last time India asked for a similar reduction of embassy staff was in 2001, following an attack on the Indian Parliament. Bilateral ties between the two states have been shunted since New Delhi unilaterally revoked the special status of the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5, 2019, and intensified a heavy-handed crackdown in the valley.

So what exactly does the dust-up with China have to do with Pakistan’s relationship with India? In short, there are five reasons why this month’s Himalayan standoff increases the likelihood of a fresh India-Pakistan crisis.

First: India’s muted response to China in the aftermath of the Galwan Valley skirmish has raised difficult logistical questions and reputational concerns about New Delhi’s much-touted role as counterweight to China in the Indo-Pacific. Although New Delhi adopted a position of nonalignment for much of the Cold War, its potential as a regional diplomatic and military bulwark against a rising China took on new significance after U.S. President George W. Bush sought to enlist it as a strategic partner and approved the sale of U.S. nuclear technology to the country. More recently, New Delhi and Washington announced an expanded defense partnership, including $3 billion in arms sales.

Yet hostile encounters with China in both 2017 and again this year have underscored for Indian policymakers the need to get along with Beijing if only to sustain a mutually feasible cohabitation; informal summits such as those in 2018 and 2019 were driven by this strategic necessity. In the aftermath of the most recent crisis, corps commander-level talks and diplomatic negotiations between Beijing and New Delhi mean India is likely to prioritize a minimum-working engagement with China over an unambiguous geopolitical rivalry that would come with fully partnering with the United States. Meanwhile, the political compulsion to demonstrate military capability—especially in the face of a conventional balance of forces that has shifted in China’s favor—may impel India to look elsewhere to offset suggestions of strategic impotency. If military capabilities drive policy choices, then the theater with Pakistan is a suitable foil for perceived Indian weaknesses compared to China.

Second, since coming to power in 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has demonstrated both a willingness and a capability to deliver on nationalistic pledges at home, especially when his government’s ability to deliver on the economic front has hit snags. Although India has seen its GDP growth fall to its lowest rate in the last 11 years, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has sought to consolidate its political base by doubling down on its nationalistic pledges—from revoking the special status for Jammu and Kashmir (disputed between India and Pakistan since 1947) to building a Hindu temple to the god Ram on a disputed holy site where the Babri Masjid once stood.

Research shows that leaders looking to divert attention tend to target traditional enemies and enduring rivals (as conflict against such persistent adversaries is most likely to promote in-group solidarity), and diversionary conflicts are particularly likely to take the form of territorial disputes. Since the controversial measures in Kashmir last year, India’s politicians have systematically upped the bilateral ante with Pakistan by declaring intent to “secure” the Pakistani administrative areas of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Earlier this year, India’s new Army chief said the Indian Army was “ready to seize control” of Pakistan-administered Kashmir if directed by the Indian government; the same month, Modi said India needed seven to 10 days to defeat Pakistan in war. Two weeks ago, India’s defense minister reiterated that taking Pakistani Kashmir was now a “stated goal of India’s Parliament.”

Ordinarily, such statements might be put down to cheap talk—except, in this case, the BJP’s own track record of follow-through suggests these threats should be taken seriously. Operationally, the Indian Army has begun to set up artillery strikes deep into Kashmiri villages to launch long-distance fire into Pakistan-administered territory. In May, after months of deliberation, the India Meteorological Department began to list several areas on the Pakistani side of the border, in its own internal weather reports—an unprecedented development.

Third, while tempers and temperatures arguably cool on the Sino-Indian front, memories of a short but tense air duel between India and Pakistan last February are still fresh in both Islamabad and New Delhi. While Pakistan shot down an aging, Soviet-era Indian MiG-21 Bison and captured and returned an Indian pilot in the dogfight, India claimed it had downed a Pakistani F-16. The air duel over Kashmir quickly escalated into a war of narratives: Pakistan rejected India’s allegations and asserted it had lost no jets.

In the days after the dogfight, the New York Times ran a story about the implications of India losing a plane to a country whose military was half the size and received a quarter of the funding. India’s right-wing Shiv Sena has since called for more “surgical strikes” on Pakistan to consolidate the BJP’s grip on Kashmir. Furthermore, when Indian papers ran headlines of India having killed “300-400 terrorists” in an airstrike on Balakot last February, Pakistan countered that the targets had been “little more than rocks and trees.” Since last year, India’s opposition too has on various occasion taken swipes at Modi for the Balakot episode; pollsters meanwhile have disputed the extent to which the Balakot strikes actually buoyed the BJP in its 2019 electoral victory. The “decider’s dilemma” for Modi is that the unfinished business from the Balakot standoff needs a less ambiguous final chapter, short of which the BJP risks being domestically perceived as having backed away prematurely from a weaker enemy.

This leads to a fourth and crucial point: Successive regional crises under the BJP mean that the domestic costs for India’s leaders to not be seen as backing down against external adversaries are growing, not diminishing. In the standoff with China, losses incurred by the Indian Army have been a shot in the arm for India’s opposition politicians, who have been quick to condemn the BJP for its lack of preparation and in some cases for surrendering entirely. Conflict with Pakistan could be a much-needed salve for a disheartened Indian media that is largely controlled by the Indian ruling party: According to analysis conducted after an attack on a military convoy in Kashmir last February, Modi got near-total media coverage despite energetic campaigning by India’s opposition at the same time. Bringing up the threat of a salient out-group could help the BJP reenergize its patriotic and supportive base and paper over divisions in its coalition.

A final factor that explains why the China-India standoff may spill over into tensions with Pakistan has to do with the White House’s current occupant: President Donald Trump. Proponents of a strong Indo-U.S. relationship have lobbied hard to present a positive image of bilateral ties, buoyed largely by symbolic spectacles. On the critical economic front leading up to the COVID-19 crisis, however, both the Indian economy and U.S.-Indian economic relations were on a downward trajectory. Trump has at least thrice offered to mediate the India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir, the highest U.S. official to do so since President Bill Clinton after the two sides fought a short war over Kargil. New Delhi has traditionally been allergic to the idea of third-party mediation, referring to the 1972 Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan under which both sides agreed to bilaterally resolve outstanding disputes. Ironically, the same Simla Agreement also held that neither party would unilaterally alter the situation in Jammu and Kashmir—a position India itself compromised by revoking Kashmir’s special status last August. Ties between the United States and Pakistan, meanwhile, have seen a steadying in recent years, in part because of Pakistan’s facilitation in helping the United States reach a truce with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The absence of guaranteed validation from Washington on New Delhi’s position toward Pakistan thus makes India less, not more, secure and likely more convinced that it will need to rely on its own strength and power to clearly delineate its territorial and political interests for the foreseeable future.

The True Nuclear Strength of India (Revelation 8 )

India is allegedly misreporting nuclear weapon stockpile – Global Village Space

June 29, 2020

Concerns have been raised over the actual and reported strength of the nuclear stockpile in India. To complete nuclear triad, India is rapidly expanding its nuclear weapons program under many covert projects removed from international oversight.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has recently launched its annual yearbook 2020 and assessed the current state of armament, disarmament and international security. Concerns have been raised, however, over the actual and reported strength of the nuclear stockpile in India.

While maintaining its years-long tradition of adding 10 more nuclear weapons in Pakistan’s stockpile, SIPRI estimated that India possesses the smallest numbers of nuclear warheads in the South Asian strategic context. The yearbook appeared to be misleading and politically motivated because it did not incorporate other independent sources with higher estimates of Indian nuclear stockpile.

SIPRI did not even bother to take notes from a recent report by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The report has deliberated the annual nuclear spending of the nine nuclear-armed states. The most interesting case discussed was that Pakistan’s expenditure on its nuclear forces is about $1 billion, as compared to India which spends twice the amount, i.e. $2.3 billion to maintain almost the same number of nuclear weapons.

Reports show India’s nuclear programme is picking up pace

Today, India is operating the world’s fastest expanding nuclear weapons programme outside safeguards among any other non-NPT nuclear states. India is pursuing a nuclear triad that encompasses nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), dual-use cruise/ballistic missiles and an enormous naval modernization intended to nuclearize the Indian ocean region.

Various Indian experts and politicians claim India needs more than 300-400 nuclear weapons for its strategic forces. Dr. Anil Kakodkar, the former Chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission, has said in this regards that, “both, from the point of view of maintaining long-term energy security and for maintaining the ‘minimum credible deterrent,’ the fast breeder programme just cannot be put on the civilian list. This would amount to getting shackled and India certainly cannot compromise one [security] for the other.”

#India is becoming the third nuclear power in the world, #SIPRI said #asia #europe #defense #news #military https://t.co/2gY4m3aB8T

— Bulgarian Military (@BGMilitary) June 28, 2020

So, India has intentionally reserved its fast breeder reactors and most of its so-called civil nuclear programme out of the safeguards and surveillance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In order to acquire the full nuclear triad capability, India will strive to produce many more nuclear warheads without IAEA monitoring.

IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review by Robert Kelley has examined that how several avenues enabled India to achieve the quantity and purity of uranium that are needed in a closed nuclear fuel cycle and New Delhi appears to be interested in atomic vapour laser isotope separation (AVLIS).

It further added that reactor-grade plutonium from the unsafe-guarded Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) provides a further strategic military stockpile to India. The IHS Jane also mentioned that India imports Jordanian phosphate in large quantities for fertiliser production.

A large stream of phosphoric acid will be processed at the Rare Material Recovery (RMR) Plant at the Pradeep Phosphates Ltd plant near Odisha in the east of the country. The extraction of uranium from imported phosphate fertilisers gives India a source of uranium that is not subject to international monitoring and uranium from phosphate can be used for military activities.

An in depth analysis has shown that India has enough resources and fissile materials to develop between 356 and 492 nuclear warheads. The study titled ‘Indian Unsafeguarded Nuclear Program’ which was published by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) revealed a recent and detailed evaluation of the capability of India’s nuclear weapons programme.

Whereas, a Belfer Center’s study has indicated that India is already installing more than five fast breeder reactors, which will proliferate its production capacities of weapons-grade plutonium 20-fold to 700 kg annually. The analysis of this production capacity demonstrates that New Delhi has the capacity to produce roughly 80 to 90 plutonium-based and 7 to 8 uranium-based nuclear weapons every year.

According to the study, if all of the weapons and the reactor-grade Plutonium and the Highly Enriched Uranium stocks are taken into account, India could produce between 2,261 and 2,686 weapons.

Matthew Clements, editor of IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review, in an interview, uncovered the expansion of an Indian clandestine uranium enrichment plant that could potentially support the development of thermonuclear weapons. The facility, located near Mysore in southern India, would yield nearly twice as much weapons-grade uranium as New Delhi would need in its fastest-growing nuclear weapons programme.

Whereas, unabated growth in its centrifuge enrichment programme will allow it to intensify the production of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium to 160kg annually. Matthew Clements said that “taking into account all the enriched uranium likely to be needed by the Indian nuclear submarine fleet, there is likely to be a significant excess.”

India attempts to complete the nuclear triad

To complete nuclear triad, India is rapidly expanding its nuclear weapons program under many covert projects. Such as, it is operating a plutonium production reactor, Dhruva, and a uranium enrichment facility, which are not subject to IAEA safeguards.

India is building South Asia largest military complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic-research laboratories. This facility will give India the ability to make many large-yield nuclear arms & hydrogen bombs.

In the back drop of Indo-U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement, undisclosed plutonium reserves were not inspected and were left with Indian weapons development facilities. Al Jazeera and Foreign Policy investigation reports also specified that India is secretly building a nuclear enrichment complex in Challakere to escalate arms race. It will covertly triple the number of nuclear warheads in the coming years from what India possess today.

India is hiding its stockpile using technical loopholes

India has introduced an ambiguous nuclear separation plan with the IAEA in which it encompassed only those facilities on the civilian list and offered them for safeguards that are not involved in activities of strategic implication. The civilian Plutonium reserves that are outside the safeguards of the IAEA and designated for strategic purposes are the main cause of concern.

In a three-stage plan, India is continuing to expand its unsafeguarded nuclear power program. The installation of several nuclear reactors has also been announced by New Delhi. This capability will generate excessive fissile material, other than the fuel necessary for breeder and naval reactors.

Over the next few years, India will be capable to replace China, France and the United Kingdom in terms of its abilities to produce nuclear weapons to become the third behind the U.S. and Russia.

India has intensified development and strategic procurement to stockpile weapons-grade material for future usage in military modernization programmes. The increasing stocks of weapons-grade fissile material by New Delhi would have unbearable effects from the South Asian viewpoint of strategic stability.

A number of nuclear suppliers, on the assumption of non-factual estimates of Indian stockpile, concluded nuclear cooperation with New Delhi. Although the material from these countries appears to be being reused in arms for the policy of Indian military expansion with respect to aggressive nuclear weapon modernization.

The mere simple facts that the Indian Nuclear programme started well before Pakistan’s, has a bigger capacity than Pakistan with bulk of it outside IAEA safeguards, has 14 nuclear deals under exceptional trade waiver in 2008 by NSG and is actively pursuing a triad of nuclear and space forces being sponsored by leading Western states, are sufficient to prove that Pakistan’s nuclear programme is no match to India’s dangerous and expansionist nuclear quest.

It then becomes hard to understand as to why respectable institutions like the SIPRI try to downplay the emerging dangers of massive vertical proliferation carried out by India in the last two decades?

The author is a student of Current Affairs and Political Science with a Masters degree from NUST, Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

The Merchant Tops Iran’s List of U.S. Officials Wanted For Killing Top General

Trump Tops Iran’s List of U.S. Officials Wanted For Killing Top General In January

Brakkton BookerJune 29, 20204:19 PM ET

President Trump is among the three dozen U.S. officials Iran is seeking arrests warrants for the Jan. 3 killing of Iran’s Maj. General Qassem Soleimani. He died in an U.S. airstrike in Baghdad. Trump seen here at a briefing on a coronavirus relief program in May.

Bloomberg via Getty Images

The government of Iran has issued an arrest warrant and has also requested assistance from Interpol in detaining President Trump as well as other United States military and political leaders for the killing of a prominent Iranian military commander earlier this year.

Though Trump faces no real threat of arrest, the new charges offer fresh evidence that the tension between the U.S. and Iran shows no signs of subsiding.

Gen. Qassem Soleimani was the Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander who was revered in Iran and known for being the mastermind behind many conflicts in the region and against the U.S. He did not become widely known to most Americans until his assassination by a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3.

Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA reports the officials wanted in connection with Soleimani’s killing “have been charged with murder and terrorism acts.” It also adds, “At the top of the list is US President Donald Trump, and his prosecution will continue even after the end of his term.”

Along with Trump, NPR’s Peter Kenyon reports, “Iranian media quote Tehran’s prosecutor general as saying 36 people are being sought in connection with Soleimani’s killing.”

He also notes the arrest warrant had been forwarded to Interpol, along with a so-called “red notice,” which would disseminate the alert to law enforcement agencies around the world.

The France-based Interpol has not commented on the matter.

It is unlikely however that agency will act on the request given that Interpol’s constitution prohibits it from taking on “any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.”

The U.S. airstrike that killed Soleimani was championed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper as a “decisive defensive action.” He said at the time Soleimani was plotting attacks on U.S. diplomats and service members.

A retaliatory attack by Iran came on Jan 8, just days after the U.S. airstrike. Iran fired missiles on the al Asad air base in Iraq where U.S. troops were stationed. As NPR reported dozens of American personnel were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries in the attack.

The acrimonious relationship between the U.S. and Iran had deteriorated even further when the U.S. withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly referred to as the “Iran nuclear deal” more than two years ago.

It was a deal reached in 2015, under the Obama administration, that included China, France, Germany, Russia, the European Union and U.S., that said in exchange for reduced sanctions, Iran would agree to limit its production of nuclear weapons materials.

“The fact is this was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever have been made,” Trump said during a May 2018 announcement that the U.S. was withdrawing from the deal.

The Problematic Chinese Nuclear Horn

New Challenges are Emerging in China

Long before prominent European realist thinkers such as Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli emerged, Kautiliya in his famous work Arashastra, argued that a conqueror shall always seek to add to his own power and increase his own happiness. For modern realist scholars, too, power is a means to survive in the brutal arena of international politics.

The end of the Cold War, and the ascendency of liberal hegemony meant to bring the “end of history,” and an end to the “cynical calculus of power” as former President Bill Clinton observed. However, evidence suggests that the United States, under President Donald Trump, is increasingly acting like an old-fashioned realist, primarily concerned with the balance of power calculations, acting unilaterally to preserve and enhance its own national interests.

The rise of China has been a looming threat to the U.S. primacy on the world stage, as Beijing increasingly seeks to push the United States out of its immediate periphery and ultimately Asia. Facing an increasingly powerful China, Obama initiated the strategic rebalancing of U.S. interests from the Middle East to East Asia. The “pivot to Asia” aimed to slow down the rise of China as a great power, and also to free the United States from the shackles of the Middle East wars. In this context, Obama’s successor, Trump, in his 2019 State of the Union address noted that “great nations do not fight endless wars.” For that matter, the Trump administration has followed its predecessor’s overall strategy to pull the United States out of the Middle East and refocus on its attention on the looming threat of rising China.

Trump, for his turn, has upped the ante by waging a trade war against China and has increased the U.S. military presence in its vicinity. In April and May 2020, the U.S. Navy deployed several warships to the South China Sea, including Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Montgomery to counter Beijing’s “bullying.” Meanwhile, three of the eleven U.S. Navy aircraft carriers are currently patrolling the Pacific, sending a powerful signal to China. Washington has also resorted to economic sanctions to counter Beijing and is considering the deployment of ballistic missiles to Asia pacific; a move that could shift the balance of power in favor of the United States.

The recent outbreak of the deadly coronavirus has also enabled the U.S. administration to increase its diplomatic attacks against China, blaming Beijing for hiding the truth about the spread of the deadly virus. It is interesting to note that U.S. officials in reference to China are increasingly using the word “communist,” a reminiscent of the Cold War great-power rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. Washington’s efforts to slow down and hinder China’s rise, as a potential peer-competitor are in line with the realist predictions that great powers seek to ensure that no other power can challenge them.

Over the years, the United States has also increased its defense spending, which is projected to reach a historic record of $740.5 billion for the year 2021. Meanwhile, some analysts have even argued that the U.S. defense budget exceeds $1 trillion. Furthermore, the United States is investing in new military technologies, including missile defense systems to counter China’s “[development of] missile capabilities intended to deny the United States the capability and freedom of action to protect U.S. allies and partners in Asia.” In the same context, as China unveiled its own “game-changer” DF-17 hypersonic missile, the United States is pressing for its own “super-duper” missiles—as Trump calls them—to take the lead in the emerging arms race for hypersonic missiles. Russia, for its part, has also deployed Avangard hypersonic missiles, claiming that it can reach twenty times the speed of sound.

With respect to nuclear weapons, the Trump administration has also called for the expansion of the role, and capabilities of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) observes the “need” for replacement, sustainment and modernization of the U.S. nuclear triad. Following the NPR, the United States has deployed low-yield nuclear warheads, which in turn could lower the threshold of the use of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, some reports suggest that the United States, after decades of a moratorium, may conduct its first nuclear test.

The new changes in the U.S. nuclear policies are reflective of the recent developments in great power rivalry with Russia and China and are in line with realist predictions that great powers go into a great length to maintain a credible nuclear deterrence against other nuclear states. In this vein, Russian president Vladimir Putin recently signed Russia’s nuclear deterrent policy, announcing that Russia, in response to conventional attacks, would use nuclear weapons. Ironically, Putin’s move echoes President Dwight Eisenhower’s “massive retaliation” policy,  which implicitly threatened nuclear strikes against the Soviet Union in response to any conventional aggression against America’s allies.

Although much smaller in size compared to the United States and Russia, China for its own part, has embarked on modernizing its nuclear arsenal, fielding a greater number of warheads. A report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies indicates that the number of Chinese nuclear warheads between 2012 and 2019 grew from 240 to 290, suggesting a 21 percent increase. From Beijing’s perspective, however, “rising strategic threats” emerging from Washington, mandates the country to increase the number of its warheads, and complete its nuclear triad.

The Trump administration has also set on the path of abandoning international arms control agreements, unshackling the U.S. military from previous limitations. In the latest case, the Trump administration, citing Russia’s violation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), withdrew from the four-decade arms control agreement in August 2019, allowing the U.S. military to develop and test previously banned intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Notwithstanding the official reasoning however, the decision to abandon the INF treaty has more to do with concerns over China’s growing intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which is not bound to any restrictions.

As the expiration date for another arms control treaty, the New START is approaching, the Trump administration is pressing China to join any future agreement between Washington and Moscow; a demand that seems to be unlikely given China’s own insecurities, and small nuclear arsenal. In the case of INF for example, reports indicate that China could lose up to 95 percent of its ballistic missiles capability, should it join an agreement similar to INF. These developments are consistent with Realist dictums that states are concerned with their relative gains when joining international regimes, such as arms control agreements.

After more than three decades of primacy on the world stage, the United States is facing serious challenges emerging from Asia. To counter them, the United States has sought to increase its relative power and simultaneously contain its closest competitor, Beijing, which after two centuries of absence from the world stage, is bent on upending the current ordering of the international system. In any case, the current U.S. approach to increasing military spending, nuclear modernization and unilaterally abrogating multilateral agreements are consistent with realist predictions of great-power rivalry. In this context, under the likely scenario of a second Trump term, one should expect the United States to continue abrogating international regimes, and to further increase military expenditure, which in turn could trigger another arms race, reminiscent of the Cold War era.

Sina Azodi is a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council and a foreign policy advisor at Gulf State Analytics. He is also a PhD candidate in international relations at the University of South Florida. Follow him on Twitter @Azodiac83.

Image: Reuters

Babylon the Great Prepares for Nuclear Testing

FILE – In this file photo dated Monday, Dec. 4, 1989, a Trident II missile launched by the U.S. Navy during a performance evaluation from the submerged submarine USS Tennessee in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Canaveral …

U.S. eyes nuclear tests in show of force reaction to latest Russia, China moves

Tom Cotton amendment would prepare for first test in decades

By Ben Wolfgang – The Washington Times – Sunday, June 28, 2020

It has been nearly 30 years since the U.S. last tested a nuclear bomb, but the Trump administration and its allies on Capitol Hill are teasing a return while Russia conducts its own secretive underground experiments and China gives deep concerns to the national security community.

The Senate’s version of the massive annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) being debated in Congress this month includes $10 million to speed up nuclear weapons tests on American soil if the administration determines they are needed. Such language has met stiff resistance from Senate Democrats and is a nonstarter in the House, where lawmakers instead are seeking an outright ban and warn that any resumption of testing could spark the first post-Cold War nuclear arms race.

Top administration officials last week insisted there are no immediate plans to resume nuclear testing but pointedly would not close the door on the issue. They cited intelligence assessments that Russia had violated the terms of a multinational treaty banning such experiments and argued that the U.S. may need to respond in kind at some point.

Some arms control experts say the provision could serve as a useful bargaining chip as the Trump administration seeks to keep tabs on the nuclear arsenals of Russia and, more particularly, China.

Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, echoed the concerns of a number of private China hawks that Beijing was expanding, upgrading and testing its nuclear weaponry without constraint.

“It’s foolish to trust anything the Chinese Communist Party says, especially when it comes to grave matters like nuclear testing,” Mr. Cotton said in a statement as a Senate panel agreed to his amendment on a 14-13 vote this month. “Beijing is modernizing its nuclear arsenal while the United States handcuffs itself with one-sided arms-control restrictions.”

By simply raising the prospect, the White House has made a dramatic break with tradition and conventional geopolitical wisdom that views nuclear testing as a provocative act that by its very nature stokes fear and increases the likelihood of military conflict.

The last U.S. nuclear test was in September 1992, in the final year of the George H.W. Bush administration.

Military analysts say the administration can and should develop new delivery systems for the nation’s nearly 6,200 nuclear warheads, but they caution that there is no scientific justification for restarting tests. They also argue that it’s unlikely such tests would have any major sway over the behavior of Moscow, Beijing or any other likely nuclear adversary.

“I think often people have this kind of arms race in mind: If we do something, then they’ll do something and we’ll be worse off,” said Matthew Kroenig, deputy director of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. “I think we’ve seen that at times during the Cold War, but I think recently that hasn’t been the case. Russia and China are pushing ahead despite what we do.”

Indeed, skeptics of renewed testing say that fact underscores the U.S. need for funding and development of specific technology, particularly systems able to counter Russian nuclear submarines and China’s rising arsenal of intermediate nuclear-range missiles. Still, they say the U.S. should steer clear of testing new nuclear weapons.

The U.S. and Russia remain by far the world’s top nuclear powers, each with more than 6,000 warheads. China’s quickly modernizing military is estimated to have about 300 nuclear warheads.

Treaty restraints

Treaties that established some boundaries around the countries’ nuclear stockpiles have ended, leading to fears that nuclear competition could return to Cold War-era levels. The U.S. last year exited the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty after accusing Russia of violating the deal. The White House also argued that the pact was flawed because it didn’t include China’s smaller but growing arsenal.

The U.S. and Russia also are barreling toward the February expiration of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Negotiators met last week in Vienna for the first serious bargaining session.

Arms control advocates mobilized against the idea of renewed nuclear testing after reports of it broke last month. But as the NDAA and its nuclear test provision began to move through Congress, Trump administration officials made clear that the option would remain on the table.

“We maintain and will maintain the ability to conduct nuclear tests if we see any reason to do so, whatever that reason may be,” Marshall Billingslea, the U.S. special presidential envoy for arms control, told reporters in Vienna last week. “But that said, I am unaware of any particular reason to test at this stage. I won’t shut the door on it because why would we? That said, we made clear to the Russians that we were deeply concerned about what they’re doing at their test site.”

Under terms of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Russia agreed “not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.” The U.S. signed the agreement but did not ratify it, though successive administrations have abided by its ban on nuclear testing.

China has not formally ratified the treaty but claims to be abiding by its terms.

This century, North Korea is the only country to have conducted a verified nuclear weapons test, and it has drawn global condemnation for doing so.

But U.S. officials fear that nuclear rivals have found a way to test the reliability of their nuclear weapons while hiding the evidence. Specialists say Russia likely has been conducting tests in huge underground spaces capable of concealing the seismic disturbances of a nuclear blast.

In its annual summary of countries’ compliance with arms treaties, the State Department this year declared that “Russia has conducted nuclear weapons experiments that have created nuclear yield and are not consistent with the U.S. ‘zero-yield’ standard.”

The State Department raised “concerns” that China could be pursuing similar efforts but stopped short of making similar accusations as those lodged against Moscow.

Administration allies seem eager to put the pieces into place to resume nuclear testing. The NDAA amendment offered by Mr. Cotton aims to reduce the amount of time it would take to get nuclear tests up and running.

Administration officials say the time frame already is short and that tests could resume within months if necessary.

House Democrats warn that even considering such a move is too risky.

“It is unfathomable that the administration is considering something so short-sighted and dangerous,” five House Democrats, led by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith of Washington, wrote in a letter this month to military leaders. “The notion that resuming testing would somehow pressure Russia or China into arms control negotiations is baseless and uninformed. Resuming testing would open the door for widespread global testing, which would only serve to benefit our adversaries and make Americans less safe.”

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC

The Russian Horn Continues to Lie

Russia denies nuclear incident after international body detects isotopes

By Anastasia Teterevleva and Anna Ringstrom Reuters

MOSCOW/STOCKHOLM, June 29 (Reuters) – Russia said on Monday it had detected no sign of a radiation emergency, after an international body reported last week that sensors in Stockholm had picked up tiny amounts of unusual radioactive isotopes produced by nuclear fission.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which monitors the world for evidence of nuclear weapons tests, said last week one of its stations scanning the air for radioactive particles had found unusual, although harmless, levels of caesium-134, caesium-137 and ruthenium-103.

The isotopes were “certainly nuclear fission products, most likely from a civil source,” it said. It tweeted a map showing where the material was likely to have originated, which included parts of several Baltic and Scandinavian countries as well as a swathe of western Russia.

Asked on Monday about reports that Russia could have been the source of a leak, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We have an absolutely advanced radiation levels safety monitoring system and there are no any emergency alarms.

“We do not know the source of this information.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency has asked countries whether they have detected the isotopes, and “if any event may have been associated with this.”

Finnish nuclear safety authority STUK said on Monday it had also found tiny amounts of nuclear particles in samples collected on its southern coast. But the concentrations were small enough that they could have been “derived from the normal operation or maintenance of nuclear reactors,” it said.

Radiation protection expert Jan Johansson at the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority said the variations were extremely low – far below levels seen in Sweden after the 2011 Fukushima accident far away in Japan – and had no impact on radiation protection.

“What stands out here is the combination of these substances. That’s not something we usually see,” he told Reuters.

The TASS news agency, citing Rosenergoatom, a unit of the state nuclear company Rosatom, said over the weekend that Russia’s two northwest nuclear power plants, in Leningrad and Kola, were working normally and radiation levels were unchanged.