Near New York City, New York
1884 08 10 19:07 UTC
This severe earthquake affected an area roughly extending along the Atlantic Coast from southern Maine to central Virginia and westward to Cleveland, Ohio. Chimneys were knocked down and walls were cracked in several States, including Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Many towns from Hartford, Connecticut, to West Chester,Pennsylvania.
Property damage was severe at Amityville and Jamaica, New York, where several chimneys were “overturned” and large cracks formed in walls. Two chimneys were thrown down and bricks were shaken from other chimneys at Stratford (Fairfield County), Conn.; water in the Housatonic River was agitated violently. At Bloomfield, N.J., and Chester, Pa., several chimneys were downed and crockery was broken. Chimneys also were damaged at Mount Vernon, N.Y., and Allentown, Easton, and Philadelphia, Pa. Three shocks occurred, the second of which was most violent. This earthquake also was reported felt in Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Several slight aftershocks were reported on August 11.
Roger Stone to Donald Trump: bring in martial law if you lose election
Roger Stone, whose 40-month prison sentence for lying to Congress and witness tampering in the Russia investigation was commuted by Donald Trump, has said Trump should seize total power and jail prominent figures including Bill and Hillary Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg if he loses to Joe Biden in November.
Trump uses Fox News interview to accuse Biden of taking drugs
The long-time Republican dirty trickster, who has a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back, offered the startling advice on Thursday, in a call to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s Infowars online show.
Stone was sentenced in part for lying about contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 election regarding emails hacked from Democratic party accounts. In turn, special counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate intelligence committee suspected Trump lied when he said he could not recall discussing the leaks with Stone.
Stone did not turn on the president. He had his sentence reduced on the recommendation of attorney general William Barr but he still faced prison before Trump acted. His conviction stands.
Both men were in Nevada on Saturday, Trump holding campaign events while Stone sought to raise money for himself.
Citing widely debunked claims of fraud around early voting, absentee balloting and voting by mail, Stone told Jones Trump should consider invoking the Insurrection Act and arresting the Clintons, former Senate majority leader Harry Reid, Zuckerberg, Tim Cook of Apple and “anybody else who can be proven to be involved in illegal activity”.
He also said: “The ballots in Nevada on election night should be seized by federal marshals and taken from the state. They are completely corrupted. No votes should be counted from the state of Nevada if that turns out to be the provable case. Send federal marshals to the Clark county board of elections, Mr President!”
Nevada has not gone to a Republican since 2004 but is shaping up to be a crucial contest this year. Biden leads there, but polls have tightened. On Saturday, after a planned rally in Reno was cancelled because of coronavirus restrictions, Trump staged an event which disregarded such strictures in Minden. His rhetoric was not far removed from that of the man he spared prison.
Attacking the Democratic Nevada governor, Steve Sisolak, Trump said: “This is the guy we are entrusting with millions of ballots, unsolicited ballots, and we’re supposed to win these states. Who the hell is going to trust him? The only way the Democrats can win the election is if they rig it.”
Stone said: “Governor Sisolak is a punk. He should not face down the president of the United States.”
On Sunday, on ABC’s This Week, senior Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller also attacked moves to facilitate voting by mail in Nevada. He also called Sisolak a “clubhouse governor … who, by the way, if you go against him politically … politically speaking, you’ll find yourself buried in the desert”.
Trump and his campaign have also consistently claimed without evidence that “antifa”, or anti-fascist, activists represent a deadly threat to suburban voters that will be unleashed should Biden win. Commenting on a Daily Beast report about leftwing activist groups planning what to do “if the election ends without a clear outcome or with a Biden win that Trump refuses to recognise”, Stone told Jones the website should be shut down.
“If the Daily Beast is involved in provably seditious and illegal activities,” he said, “their entire staff can be taken into custody and their office can be shut down. They wanna play war, this is war.”
Stone also advocated “forming an election day operation using the FBI, federal marshals and Republican state officials across the country to be prepared to file legal objections [to results] and if necessary to physically stand in the way of criminal activity”.
In an interview broadcast on Saturday night, Trump told Fox News he would happily “put down” any leftwing protests.
“We’ll put them down very quickly if they do that,” he told Jeannine Pirro.
“We have the right to do that. We have the power to do that if we want. Look, it’s called insurrection. We just send in and we, we do it very easy. I mean, it’s very easy. I’d rather not do that, because there’s no reason for it, but if we had to, we’d do that and put it down within minutes, within minutes.”
The Insurrection Act of 1807 allows the president to use federal troops to enforce federal law. Last used in 1992, it was much discussed this summer, amid protests over racism and police brutality arising from the killing of George Floyd by officers in Minneapolis.
Ultimately Trump chose simply to send federal agents to confront protesters, most prominently in Portland, Oregon, a move which proved hugely controversial.
In his interview with Fox News, Trump discussed an incident in the city in which US Marshals shot dead a suspect in the killing of a member of a rightwing group.
“There has to be retribution when you have crime like this,” Trump said.
He also said protests such as those in Portland would lead to “a backlash” from the political right, “the likes of which you haven’t seen in many, many years”.
Hurricane center eyeing system in the tropics for possible development
Updated: 10:32 AM EDT Oct 12, 2020
The National Hurricane Center is monitoring an area in the tropics that could develop in the next few days.
Forecasters with the NHC said showers and thunderstorms associated with a tropical wave located about 750 miles east of the Windward Islands continue to show signs of organization.
Slow development of this system is possible during the next day or so while it moves generally westward near 15 mph. Strong upper-level winds are expected to limit further development by midweek.
Forecasters say there is a 30% chance of development over the next 48 hours and a 30% chance of development in the next five days.
There are currently not any other areas in the tropics being monitored for possible development at this time.
The Atlantic Hurricane Season lasts until Nov. 30.
By Tom O’Connor On 10/12/20 at 6:06 PM EDT
Iran’s supreme leader hit out at President Donald Trump and his administration after a new round of U.S. sanctions further constricted the economy of the Islamic Republic, which is increasingly looking toward China and Russia for financial support.
In a virtual address delivered to graduating military cadets, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lambasted the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, referring to the U.S. leader as a “scoundrel” whose policies were hurting the peoples of both countries.
For Iran, Khamenei said the answer to the country’s woes lies from within, not from abroad.
“Although many of our problems are related to international issues, their remedy exists inside the country,” Khamanei said. “The remedy consists of relying on correct calculations, adopting the right outlook concerning the affairs of the country and the region, and benefiting from wisdom, diligence and firm determination. The remedy should not be sought outside the country because we will not gain anything from foreigners.”
He advised against paying too much attention to the Trump administration’s saber-rattling and rhetoric.
“Moreover, the commotion created by the thugs dominating the U.S. nation should not occupy anyone’s thoughts,” Khamenei said.
And while Tehran has all but given up on salvaging a path toward diplomacy with Washington, officials have turned to other major powers for trade ties.
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei salutes as he virtually attends a graduation ceremony for Iranian military cadets on October 12. Iran has defied harsh U.S. measures designed to pressure the Islamic Republic into severing support for foreign militias and pursuing missile technology among other policies opposed by the United States. Office of the Supreme Leader of Iran
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hailed the conclusion of “fruitful talks” Saturday with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in China’s southern city of Tengchong in Yunnan province. The top Iranian diplomat suggested the two found common ground in opposing U.S. policy and in shoring up the growing strategic partnership between the two countries.
“Rejected US unilateralism and US attempts to create unipolar world,” Zarif tweeted. “Agreed on strengthening our ties incl 25-yr plan, regional coop, preserving JCPOA & vaccine collab.”
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal, was signed in 2015 by Iran and major powers including the U.S., China and Russia as well as European allies France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
However, Trump pulled out of the agreement in May 2018, after accusing Iran of unfairly benefitting from sanctions relief while still supporting foreign militias and developing missile technology. The U.S. has unsuccessfully campaigned for the remaining parties to drop the deal, which the Trump administration has declared defunct.
Wang reiterated China’s support for the accord in a readout released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry after his meeting with Zarif. The Chinese diplomat opened the door for even closer ties between Beijing and Tehran.
“China is willing to strengthen communication with Iran, intensify cooperation in various fields including the fight against the epidemic, and work with other countries to defend multilateralism, oppose unilateral bullying, and safeguard international fairness and justice and the common interests of developing countries,” Wang said.
He also proposed the establishment of a multinational forum for resolving security issues in the Persian Gulf, where tensions between Iran and the U.S. along with local partners in the Arabian Peninsula and Iraq have led to new unrest and uncertainty in recent years.
Russia has advocated for a similar platform and, on Monday, Iran’s envoy Moscow met with two Russian officials in a bid to boost bilateral relations.
Iranian ambassador Kazem Jalali discussed with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Pankin Aleksandr Anatolievitch Iran’s growing role in the Eurasian Economic Union, an economic group that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia, “as well as a number of pressing international economic problems,” according to a Russian Foreign Ministry readout.
The Eurasian Economic Union is closely linked to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a global series of infrastructure projects that Iran has also sought to sign on to in defiance of the U.S. Citing Chinese and Iranian state media, Asia Times reported Thursday that Iran had dumped the U.S. dollar in favor of the Chinese renminbi as the country’s foreign reserve currency in a bid to bypass sanctions.
Jalali also held an “extensive discussion” on Monday with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin. The Russian readout said the meeting covered issues involving the United Nations Human Rights Council and Security Council, including joint efforts to maintain stability in the Persian Gulf and bring about a resolution to the conflict in Syria, where Tehran and Moscow both back the government against an insurgency and Islamist militants.
Iran has expanded defense ties with China and Russia as well, conducting its first trilateral training with the two countries late last year in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman. The three again came together for drills in Russia last month alongside Armenia, Belarus, Myanmar and Pakistan.
Washington and Tehran have so far avoided conflict, though militias supported by Iran have clashed with U.S. troops in Iraq. The U.S. killing of Revolutionary Guard Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani in January has left the two countries locked in a dangerous feud that threatened to erupt, especially as the Trump administration continues to offer warnings ahead of the expiration of a U.N. arms embargo set to be lifted this weekend as part of the nuclear deal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L), Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani attend the Expo Center before the opening ceremony at the Expo Center at the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in Shanghai on May 21, 2014. The three leaders have a common goal in opposing unilateral U.S. moves. ALY SONG/AFP/Getty Images
Trump lashed out at the Islamic Republic during a lengthy interview on Friday with radio host Rush Limbaugh.
“If you f*ck around with us, if you do something bad to us, we are gonna do things to you that have never been done before,” a COVID-19-positive Trump said, claiming Tehran “knows that and has been put on notice.”
The U.S. leader’s threat, as well as his policies toward Iran, were rejected by Iranian mission to the U.N. spokesperson Alireza Miryousefi.
“Mr. Trump’s attempt to portray himself as a tough guy is unsurprising as the presidential election in America is fast approaching,” Miryousefi told Newsweek.
He accused Trump of crimes against the Iranian people, whom he said would not back down in spite of the hardships imposed on them.
“The U.S. is waging a cruel and illegal economic war, tantamount to economic terrorism, on the people of Iran,” Miryousefi said. “The U.S. also cowardly assassinated general Suleimani, a hero in the fight against Daesh and other terrorists, while he was the official guest of the Iraqi government on a peace mission.”
“The people of Iran have proven to be resilient and not intimidated by such inappropriate, irresponsible and empty rhetoric,” he added.
Palestinians across Middle East suffering unprecedented poverty, says Philippe Lazzarini
Mon 12 Oct 2020 00.00 EDT
Last modified on Tue 13 Oct 2020 09.14 EDT
People in Gaza are searching through rubbish to find food as Palestinians battle unprecedented levels of poverty, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees has said.
Across Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and elsewhere, Palestinian refugees are suffering at new depths because of the pandemic, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency chief, Philippe Lazzarini. “There is despair and hopelessness,” he said in an interview.
“In Gaza, people are going through the garbage,” Lazzarini said, referring to reports from UNRWA staff in the enclave. “More people are fighting to provide one or two meals a day to their families.”
Lazzarini, an experienced humanitarian, was appointed commissioner general of UNRWA in April, and leads it at a time of deep crisis for the agency.
First is the seemingly permanent threat of financial ruin. Then there is the breakdown in the relationship with its former largest donor, the US, which claims – in line with long-running Israeli attacks on the agency – that it is “irredeemably flawed”.
Add to that the threat of coronavirus ripping through refugee camps across the Middle East, home to many of the 5.6 million Palestinians supported by UNRWA. Meanwhile, Israel’s possible annexation of the occupied West Bank looms, threatening to stifle UNRWA’s work there.
Finally, comes the scandal. The former head of UNRWA resigned last year after an investigation involving accusations of widespread nepotism in the organisation, including allegations he hired a lover.
Collected, diplomatic and with three decades of humanitarian experience behind him, the Swiss Lazzarini has been brought in to steady a rocking ship. “In such a highly unstable, volatile environment, we need a predictable UNRWA,” he said. “We need a predictable organisation and predictable funding.”
Limited by pandemic restrictions – he had to isolate for four weeks in Jerusalem and Amman – Lazzarini has been focused on tackling the books first by rallying donors, even if it is via video calls.
“We are constantly in crisis mode when it comes to the cashflow,” he said. “UNRWA is constantly running after the cash.”
With a typical yearly budget deficit of well over £100m, the organisation of 30,000 staff is never more than four or five weeks away from running out of funds. “It’s unsettling,” he said, adding that UNRWA’s schools and health services are cutting back.
The financial crisis exploded in 2018 when Donald Trump cut up to $300m of annual donations, months after he angrily complained that the US received “no appreciation or respect” from Palestinians for the aid.
“It’s a threat, it’s a real threat,” said Lazzarini of the US cuts. “We have to take this threat into consideration.”
While UNRWA is working to rebuild the relationship with Washington, Lazzarini suggested the US move may have backfired.
Trump’s aid cut led to a wave of “exceptional solidarity around UNRWA”, he said, with other global donors filling the shortfall. In fact, 2018 was UNRWA’s most successful money-raising run for its core budget in the past five years.
“For the time being, while the relevancy or the legitimacy sometimes might be questioned, the mainstream support thinks differently,” he said.
But that image was again dented last year, when Lazzarini’s predecessor, Pierre Krähenbühl, resigned after an official investigation found “management issues”. A leaked internal review exposed allegations of “nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority” at the organisation.
Krähenbühl has previously strongly denied allegations of impropriety.
Despite the uncomfortable allegations, Lazzarini does not jump around the subject and even brought it up unprompted when interviewed. He said UNRWA had since bolstered its internal oversight body and ombudsman to reassure donors of the agency’s “ethical foundation”.
“They could see that new senior management was put in place,” he said. “The previous senior management which, because of the crisis, was decapitated, is now slowly being recomposed. And I think there is a willingness to turn the page.”
Yet just as the scandal fades, UNRWA is again in financial trouble, this time because of the pandemic. “There is more pressure on the organisation to deliver more, but at the same time, the environment of our donors is more complicated because they have all been impacted economically by Covid.
© 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. (modern)
KASHMIR has seen a huge surge of anti-Indian clashes after two suspected rebels were killed by police and troops.
By Dylan Donnelly 23:55, Mon, Oct 12, 2020 | UPDATED: 23:56, Mon, Oct 12, 2020
Pakistan forces seen launching attack in north Kashmir
Indian police and paramilitary soldiers led a counter-insurgency operation in Srinagar, Kashmir last night according to AlJazeera. The clash led to the deaths of two alleged rebels in the Indian controlled territory, but the forces enraged locals. Residents claimed Indian troops set a civilian’s house on fire during the firefight.
Indian police claimed one of two killed was a Pakistani insurgent, who was believed to have been in Kashmir since earlier this year.
The insurgent was also accused of being responsible for at least two deadly attacks on Indian paramilitary soldiers in Srinagar.
Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar said to the Hindustani Times: “They were given the opportunity to surrender after evacuating all civilians. However, they fired indiscriminately.”
The police added: “The bodies of the terrorists shall be sent to Baramulla for burial after the completion of all medico-legal formalities.
“The nearest family members of the killed local terrorist shall be allowed to participate in the last rites.”
India news: Indian forces shot two rebels dead in Srinagar, Kashmir (Image: Getty)
India news: Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar claimed one of two was a Pakistani responsible for two deadly attacks on Indians (Image: Getty)
But there was no independent confirmation of India’s claims, and one house was devastated by the operation.
Three other homes, which were believed to be unused to the rebels and were occupied by residents, were also partially damaged.
In response, troops and police shot tear gas and non-lethal shotgun pellets at the locals.
India news: The forces set a peaceful resident’s house on fire in the clash (Image: Getty)
India news: Three more homes were damaged by Indian forces, sparking anti-Indian outrage in residents (Image: Getty)
Srinagar has seen around 18 alleged militants killed by Indian forces this year.
Troops and police have launched eight counter-insurgency measures against believed rebels this year.
Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh added 180 reported militants have been killed in total across Kashmir.
He said: “Whenever any militant outfit tries to establish its base in Srinagar, we successfully corner the militant with the help of our intelligence and other sources.”
Most Kashmiri’s are believed to support unification of the divided territory, whether as an independent country or as a Pakistani-controlled state.
India has blamed Pakistan for the unrest in the region, and said clashes were the result of “Pakistan-sponsored terrorism”.
But Pakistan denies India’s charges, and regards the unrest as a legitimate freedom struggle.
India news: India and Pakistan both hold control over the divided Kashmir (Image: Express)
India news: The clash marks the latest Indian military operation in civilian Kashmir this year (Image: Getty)
Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan in 1947, with more than 94,000 Kashmiri’s dying in clashes with Indian authorities since then.
India and Pakistan, historically tense enemies, have seen tensions ramp up massively this year over border disputes.
India has also been clashing with China over territory, with Beijing forming close ties with Pakistan.
In June, 20 Indian soldiers were killed in hand-to-hand combat with Chinese forces in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh.
This image made from video broadcast by North Korea’s KRT shows what appears to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile during a parade in Pyongyang on Oct. 10. (AP)
North Korea’s new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, paraded through the streets of Pyongyang this past weekend, has underscored a worrying reality: The global threat from nuclear weapons and menacing missiles has grown since President Trump entered office, despite his administration’s fitful efforts to control them.
The unveiling of the untested weapon — which appeared to be a larger version of a North Korean missile that can reach the United States — came less than a week after Russia test launched an anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile on President Vladimir Putin’s birthday and a month and a half after China test fired its “carrier killer” and “Guam killer” ballistic missiles into the disputed South China Sea.
The situation presents a broader challenge to the United States. The administration has heralded an era of “great power competition” with China and Russia, resulting in a competitive buildup that arms-control advocates warn is risking a full-blown arms race.
Russia is developing nuclear-armed underwater drones, nuclear-powered cruise missiles and other destabilizing weapons designed to penetrate U.S. missile defenses. China is ramping up its missile force and building out its nuclear capabilities with new nuclear submarines. And the United States is modernizing its own arsenal, while adding low-yield nuclear warheads to submarines and enhancing missile defenses. All the while, Iran and North Korea are advancing as threats.
The result is an escalatory cycle that experts say is threatening decades of progress controlling the world’s most dangerous weapons. A recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies warned that the decline of U.S. global influence and the rise of regional security tensions, coupled with the staying power of authoritarian leaders, will incentivize more nations to pursue nuclear weapons and limit Washington’s ability to respond.
The issue looms over the final days of the U.S. presidential campaign, as North Korea demonstrates that, despite Trump’s efforts, Kim Jong Un’s regime is busy enhancing its nuclear missile arsenal. Trump is also rushing to conclude a last-minute arms control deal with Russia, hoping to secure an agreement he can tout as a diplomatic win before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Trump’s interest in arms control dates to at least the 1980s, when he sought unsuccessfully to engage in nuclear talks with the Soviets on behalf of the Reagan administration. On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump described nuclear weapons as the world’s biggest problem and has called the issue more important than climate change.
But after nearly four years in office, he hasn’t signed any significant new treaties to regulate the world’s most devastating weapons and has populated his administration at times with arms-control skeptics, such as John Bolton, the former national security adviser.
“You have the U.S. leaving arms agreements with the Russians, failing to open any kind of meaningful talks with the Chinese, really just succeeding in antagonizing the Iranians and the North Koreans and looking the other way while allies like the Saudis acquire some interesting capabilities,” said Jeffrey Lewis, an arms-control advocate who serves as director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, describing the situation as “bad.”
Trends were already moving in a worrisome direction before Trump took office, and any administration would struggle to strike substantive new arms control deals in the current environment, said Vipin Narang, associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But Trump has exacerbated the challenges, he argued.
China and Russia are becoming more aggressive in their own neighborhoods; nuclear-armed India and Pakistan are clashing over disputed territory; and the Trump administration is alienating allies in Europe, Narang said. The U.S. killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Iraq, he said, has only increased the rationale for Iran and North Korea to pursue nuclear programs to safeguard their regimes.
“It’s not just we are building and modernizing our nuclear weapons program; we are doing it at a time when states are seeking riskier behavior with each other also,” Narang said.
Trump’s administration has overseen an arms control rollback that has unnerved antinuclear advocates but cheered hawks who say Washington shouldn’t stay in problematic agreements just because prior presidents signed them. Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord that the Obama administration negotiated with Iran, citing flaws with the pact and malign activities by Tehran outside the agreement, and withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia and the Treaty on Open Skies, citing violations by Moscow.
Tim Morrison, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute who served as the National Security Council’s senior director for counterproliferation and biodefense under Trump, said the increasing threat shouldn’t be blamed on the president.
“What I have trouble doing is saying that it’s Trump’s fault, that somehow the Obama administration or a Biden administration would do it better,” Morrison said. “I think the problem is this era that we’re in — it’s an incredibly complicated era.”
Trump’s critics, however, counter that his brash and undisciplined approach to foreign policy has squandered diplomatic opportunities, undermined work with allies and contributed to global instability.
“It’s not just that the U.S. is not playing a leadership role, which it’s definitely not, but it’s not providing any of the functions that it used to provide,” Lewis said. “Everyone is on their own, and there are no rules, and there is no predictability, so I do think things can get a little crazy.”
An array of new weapons
Perhaps Trump’s biggest achievement in the arms-control space has been to broker an informal agreement with Kim to pause North Korea’s tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads in exchange for a U.S. suspension of military exercises with South Korea. The moratorium reduced tension that flared between Washington and Pyongyang in 2017.
But Kim has continued to advance his nuclear weapons and missile programs in the meantime, according to a U.N. Panel of Experts report and U.S. officials, conducting a ballistic missile test from a submarine last year and more recently threatening to resume the long-range-missile and nuclear tests he agreed to halt.
On Saturday, North Korea underscored the advancing threat its nuclear program poses by unveiling an ICBM on an 11-axle truck. The missile, which hasn’t been tested, appeared to be the nation’s biggest and most powerful to date, according to analysts, some of whom described it as a larger derivative of the Hwasong-15 tested in late 2017. The larger size suggests North Korea is working on advancing its arsenal by affixing several warheads to one missile.
In the Middle East, Iran has ramped up production of enriched uranium since the Trump administration pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal, according to the U.N. nuclear watchdog. The country’s regional archrival, Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has been working with the Chinese to build production capacity for nuclear fuel, according to a report in the New York Times, and has moved to expand its missile capabilities, raising concerns about the kingdom’s nuclear ambitions.
In Russia, Putin unveiled new weapons in 2018 that are designed to penetrate American missile defenses, including the nuclear-armed Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle and the nuclear-armed undersea Poseidon drone. Development of a nuclear-powered cruise missile, known as the Burevestnik or Skyfall, led to an accident that killed five people last year in Russia’s far north, according to U.S. officials. Washington explored similar technology during the Cold War but deemed it too dangerous.
Putin has said some of the new weapons Russia is developing would fall under the New START agreement if Washington and Moscow agree to prolong the 2010 pact, which expires in early February but includes a five-year extension option. In his platform, Democratic nominee Joe Biden has said that if elected president, he would extend the treaty; Putin has also expressed a willingness to do so.
But the Trump administration wants a broader treaty. According to U.S. officials, the administration is discussing a one- or two-year extension of New START with Russia, pending the negotiation of a new pact. The deal would also freeze both countries’ nuclear stockpiles in the meantime, a detail first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The Trump administration previously has demanded Russia put all its nuclear weapons up for negotiation and include China in the framework for a follow-on treaty. If the talks falls apart, Washington and Moscow would have no substantive restraints on their arsenals for the first time since the Cold War.
China, which has refused to take part in the talks, is pursuing a full nuclear triad that can launch nuclear warheads from air, land and sea — and is developing its own stealth strategic bomber. The Pentagon predicts that Beijing’s arsenal will double from about 200 to 400 warheads over the next decade. The United States and Russia each have more than 5,000, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
Still, the Chinese military’s advancements have raised questions about whether the nation, which has long said it will use a nuclear weapon only after being hit by one, is moving away from that “second strike” doctrine.
Beijing has also developed a formidable missile force that has checked U.S. power in Asia, including the nuclear-capable DF-26 ballistic missile, sometimes called the “Guam killer” because it can reach U.S. military facilities on the island, and the DF-21D, an intermediate-range ballistic missile that has been dubbed the “carrier killer” because it can threaten U.S. aircraft carriers. It is also developing hypersonic glide vehicles that can move more than five times the speed of sound.
U.S. modernization plans
The buildups by Moscow and Beijing come as the United States modernizes its nuclear arsenal, with the Pentagon planning to introduce a new nuclear bomber, submarine, intercontinental ballistic missile system and air-launch cruise missile in the coming years. The 30-year effort, when including the sustainment of the current nuclear force, is projected to cost more than $1 trillion.
The Trump administration earlier this year deployed a new low-yield nuclear warhead for Trident ballistic missiles on submarines and is starting work on a new nuclear cruise missile for submarines as well. It’s also in the early stages of developing a nuclear warhead known as the W93. The Pentagon is working on a range of hypersonic weapons to keep pace with China, though it says they are conventional rather than nuclear.
The developments have led to growing concerns about a nascent arms race. Trump’s recent comments to journalist Bob Woodward about a secret, unidentified nuclear weapons system heightened those fears.
The United States has continued investments in missile defense — which the Russians have said prompted their investments in exotic weapons.
Despite the tension, it’s important to put the current state of affairs in broader context, said Rose Gottemoeller, a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, who served as deputy secretary general of NATO and one of the Obama administration’s top arms-control negotiators.
In the late 1960s, Gottemoeller said, the United States had more than 30,000 nuclear weapons, and the Soviet Union by some accounts had at least 40,000 — far more than today. She said that the Trump administration is right to sound the alarm about Russia’s new systems and China’s expanded nuclear and missile forces, but that people shouldn’t overreact.
“There is no need to panic,” Gottemoeller said.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — a Cold War-era pact whereby nuclear nations pledged to reduce their arsenals in exchange for nonnuclear nations not pursuing nuclear weapons — could be strained if New START falls apart, Gottemoeller warned, and there is no follow-on agreement between the United States and Russia to limit strategic arms. But she said she expects Washington and Moscow to come to an agreement.
The other big issue that must be addressed, Gottemoeller said, is the rapid advance and proliferation of missile technology around the globe, which is giving more countries access to very fast and highly accurate missiles.
“At the end of the day, I think the likelihood of nuclear use has gone up since President Trump took office,” said James Acton, co-director of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who said Trump has built up leverage on countries such as North Korea but hasn’t been able to use it. “I think the trend lines are bad and moving us further in that direction.”