The science behind the sixth seal: Revelation 6:12

The science behind the earthquake that shook Southern New England

Did you feel it? At 9:10 am EST Sunday morning, a Magnitude 3.6 earthquake struck just south of Bliss Corner, Massachusetts, which is a census-designated place in Dartmouth. If you felt it, report it!

While minor earthquakes do happen from time to time in New England, tremors that are felt by a large number of people and that cause damage are rare.

Earthquake Report

The earthquake was originally measured as a magnitude 4.2 on the Richter scale by the United States Geological Surgey (USGS) before changing to a 3.6.

Earthquakes in New England and most places east of the Rocky Mountains are much different than the ones that occur along well-known fault lines in California and along the West Coast.

Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts fall nearly in the center of the North American Plate, one of 15 (seven primary, eight secondary) that cover the Earth.

Earth’s tectonic plates

Tectonic plates move ever-so-slowly, and as they either push into each other, pull apart, or slide side-by-side, earthquakes are possible within the bedrock, usually miles deep.

Most of New England’s and Long Island’s bedrock was assembled as continents collided to form a supercontinent 500-300 million years ago, raising the northern Appalachian Mountains.

Plate tectonics (Courtesy: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Fault lines left over from the creation of the Appalachian Mountains can still lead to earthquakes locally, and many faults remain undetected. According to the USGS, few, if any, earthquakes in New England can be linked to named faults.

While earthquakes in New England are generally much weaker compared to those on defined fault lines, their reach is still impressive. Sunday’s 3.6 was felt in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire.

USGS Community Internet Intensity Map

While M 3.6 earthquakes rarely cause damage, some minor cracks were reported on social media from the shaking.

According to the USGS, moderately damaging earthquakes strike somewhere in the region every few decades, and smaller earthquakes are felt roughly twice a year.

The largest known New England earthquakes occurred in 1638 (magnitude 6.5) in Vermont or New Hampshire, and in 1755 (magnitude 5.8) offshore from Cape Ann northeast of Boston.

The most recent New England earthquake to cause moderate damage occurred in 1940 (magnitude 5.6) in central New Hampshire.

The Australian nuclear horn continues to grow: Daniel 7

Australia Accelerates Missile Program With Its U.S. Ally

Jason Scott

March 30, 2021, 9:12 PM MDT

Australia is liaising with its U.S. ally to accelerate a A$1 billion ($761 million) program designed to create a sovereign guided-missile program, a move that could add to its friction with China.

“We will work closely with the United States on this important initiative to ensure that we understand how our enterprise can best support both Australia’s needs and the growing needs of our most important military partner,” Defence Minister Peter Dutton said in a statement Wednesday.

Blinken Says U.S. Won’t Force ‘Us-or-Them’ Choice With China

The announcement comes after Australia and the U.S. — which have both had increasing tensions with China — in November signed an agreement to develop and test hypersonic cruise missile prototypes, with long-range strike capabilities. The deal is under the nations’ 15-year Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE) program, which studies hypersonic scramjets, rocket motors, sensors, and advanced manufacturing materials.

China has warned any country accepting the deployment of intermediate-range American missiles would face retaliation. In recent years regional tensions have ratcheted up as China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin have poured money into some of the world’s most advanced missiles systems, while North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been modernizing his arsenal designed to attack the U.S. and its allies.

Within Range

China’s missile arsenal now covers most U.S. Pacific allies

Sources: Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Heritage Foundation and the Office of the Secretary of Defense

Note: Calculations by the United States Studies Centre

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In October 2019, Xi paraded through Beijing a variety of weapons intended to offset American advantages in any conflict, including the DF-17 missile with a hypersonic glide vehicle, which is designed to make warheads almost impossible to intercept.

The latest in global politicsGet insight from reporters around the world in the Balance of Power newsletter.

“The Americans are looking to invest very large amounts of money in advanced missile technology, especially as they realize they are playing catch-up to a large extent” with China and Russia, said Paul Dibb, an emeritus professor in strategic and defense studies at the Australian National University in Canberra. “The Chinese have got nearly 2,000 theater ballistic missiles, some of them with ranges of up to 3,000 kilometers (1,865 miles) and capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.”

For more on regional security:

• China’s Advanced Weaponry on Parade Sends a Message to the U.S.

• U.S. Denies Pressing Allies on Missiles That Raised China’s Ire

• How Kim Jong Un Keeps Advancing His Nuclear Program: QuickTake

• U.S. Cites Threat to Carriers From Chinese Anti-Ship Missile

Japan’s Defense Ministry took steps toward a greater strike capability in 2017, when it allocated 2.2 billion yen ($20 million) for an air-to-surface Joint Strike Missile. The fiscal year 2020 budget allocated 13.6 billion yen more for the cruise missiles, which can be mounted on F-35s.

‘Unmistakable Message’

The U.S. intended to discuss deploying medium-range missiles with its Asian allies to counter the immediate threat of China’s nuclear buildup, the Nikkei Asian Review reported in August. It cited Marshall Billingslea, U.S. special presidential envoy for arms control, as saying that a medium-range, non-nuclear, ground-launched cruise missile under development in the U.S. had the defensive capability that countries such as Japan will need.

Earlier this month, the head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Phil Davidson, said China’s military executed a coordinated test launch into the South China Sea of its top anti-ship ballistic missile, which is capable of attacking aircraft carriers in the western Pacific, in an “unmistakable message.”

Dutton’s department is selecting a strategic industry partner to operate the missile program’s manufacturing capability, which could lead to export opportunities, he said. Wednesday’s statement, which didn’t directly link the sovereign guided-missile program with November’s hypersonic cruise missile program announcement, cited estimates by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think tank that Australia would spend A$100 billion in the next 20 years on missile and guided-weapons purchases.

(Updates with details on missiles.)

The farce of the UN weapons inspections

Three decades on, here’s what we’ve learned about the effectiveness of UN weapons inspections in Iraq

Tue, 30 March 2021, 7:03 am

After the end of the first Gulf War in April 1991, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) set up processes to oversee the elimination of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Over the next decade, weapons inspectors demonstrated that – while difficult – internationally verified disarmament is technically possible.

The ceasefire agreement, UNSC Resolution 687, stipulated that Iraq must declare and destroy its chemical and biological weapons and related programmes, as well as missiles with a range of more than 150km. It also required Iraq to give “anytime, anywhere” access to international inspectors and accept long-term monitoring of its territory.

This was not a negotiated agreement – it was a condition for ending hostilities. Until the UNSC agreed that Iraq had complied with the ceasefire agreement, Iraq would be subject to international sanctions.

Resolution 687 also mandated the UNSC to create a special commission (Unscom) to oversee and verify the destruction of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons and designated missiles. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was tasked with verifying the elimination of Iraq’s nuclear weapons capability and set up an Action Team for this. Despite covering separate weapons categories, the two organisations worked closely, with Unscom maintaining overall responsibility for coordinating inspections of undeclared sites in Iraq.

On paper, the ceasefire agreement gave weapons inspectors unprecedented scope and access. In reality, the inspectors met with a high degree of obfuscation. It was immediately obvious that Iraq’s initial declarations were far from complete. There were multiple stand-offs in which the inspectors were refused access to sites, threatened and abused. When they did get access, they frequently found that Iraq had removed key equipment and documentation to avoid detection.

The inspections: technical successes 

Despite Iraqi intransigence, the inspectors successfully uncovered significant biological and chemical weapons programmes, as well as a nuclear weapons programme that had been undetected by the IAEA safeguards system which checked compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

They did this by pioneering new techniques, tailoring different approaches to specific detection challenges. Unscom developed a new approach based on assessing the amount of relevant material in Iraq, which involved painstakingly collecting information about weapons and components the country had imported and produced, and comparing it with information on what had been used and eliminated. This helped the inspectors understand what else they needed to find and destroy.

The weapons inspectors were also pioneers in new technologies and applications. They used overflights to track equipment movements and environmental sampling to analyse trace remains of suspected weapons production sites. Weapons inspectors found it useful to be able to compare information about different types of weapons, unlike international treaties which tend to treat different weapons categories separately. At the same time, the inspectors demonstrated the limits of information from defectors and national intelligence agencies.

 

The Russian and Chinese nuclear horns in the heavens: Revelation 8:10

Russia and China Seek to Tie America’s Hands in Space

Biden should avoid the treaty trap set by Moscow and Beijing.

Bradley Bow man

March 31, 2021, 11:31 AM

This article is part of Foreign Policy’s ongoing coverage of U.S. President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office, detailing key administration policies as they get drafted—and the people who will put them into practice.

A Long March 3B rocket launches from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Xichang, China, on Nov. 12, 2020. STR/AFP via Getty Images

Saying one thing and doing the opposite is, unfortunately, common in international diplomacy. Beijing and Moscow, however, seem to have a unique proclivity for the practice.

Consider the actions of the United States’ two great-power adversaries when it comes to anti-satellite weapons. China and Russia have sprinted to develop and deploy both ground-based and space-based weapons targeting satellites while simultaneously pushing the United States to sign a treaty banning such weapons.

To protect its vital space-based military capabilities—including communications, intelligence, and missile defense satellites—and effectively deter authoritarian aggression, Washington should avoid being drawn into suspect international treaties on space that China and Russia have no intention of honoring.

The Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects (PPWT), which Beijing and Moscow have submitted at the United Nations, is a perfect example. PPWT signatories commit “not to place any weapons in outer space.” It also says parties to the treaty may not “resort to the threat or use of force against outer space objects” or engage in activities “inconsistent” with the purpose of the treaty.

On the surface, that sounds innocuous. Who, after all, wants an arms race in space?

The reality, however, is that China and Russia are already racing to field anti-satellite weapons and have been for quite some time. “The space domain is competitive, congested, and contested,” Gen. James Dickinson, the head of U.S. Space Command, said in January. “Our competitors, most notably China and Russia, have militarized this domain.”

Beijing already has an operational ground-based anti-satellite missile capability. People’s Liberation Army units are training with the missiles, and the U.S. Defense Department believes Beijing “probably intends to pursue additional [anti-satellite] weapons capable of destroying satellites up to geosynchronous Earth orbit.” That is where America’s most sensitive nuclear communication and missile defense satellites orbit and keep watch.

Similarly, Moscow tested a ground-based anti-satellite weapon in December that could destroy U.S. or allied satellites in orbit. That attack capability augments a ground-based laser weapon that Russian President Vladimir Putin heralded in 2018. In a moment of candor, Russia’s defense ministry admitted the system was designed to “fight satellites.”

To make matters worse, both countries are also working to deploy space-based—or so-called “on-orbit”—capabilities to attack satellites.

Meanwhile, at the United Nations and other international forums, China and Russia are pushing the PPWT and advocating for a “no first placement” resolution—saying all governments should commit not to be the first to put weapons in space.

Yet more than two years ago, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency noted that both China and Russia were already putting in space capabilities that could be used as weapons. The PPWT would thus protect their weapons while tying Washington’s hands.

In a thinly veiled attempt to mask their intentions, the two countries claim that their on-orbit capabilities are simply for peaceful purposes—for assessing the condition of broken satellites and conducting repairs as needed. This “dual-use” disguise permits Beijing and Moscow to put into orbit ostensibly peaceful or commercial capabilities that those countries can actually use to disable or destroy U.S. military and intelligence satellites.

China, for example, has tested several so-called scavenger satellites, which use grappling arms to capture other satellites. China has also demonstrated the capability to maneuver a satellite around the geosynchronous belt, allowing its satellites to sidle up to other satellites in space.

Not to be outdone, Russia deployed a pair of “nesting doll” satellites that shadowed a U.S. satellite in space. One Russian satellite birthed another, with Russia’s defense ministry claiming its purpose was to assess the “technical condition of domestic satellites.”

But later, the second satellite conducted a weapons test, firing what appeared to be a space torpedo. The Kremlin never explained how a fast-moving one-time projectile provided superior inspection benefits compared with the other Russian satellite flying persistently nearby.

Instead of falling prey to China and Russia’s treaty trap, Washington must urgently work with allies to improve spaced-based military and intelligence capabilities.

A well-crafted treaty that clearly defines acceptable and unacceptable actions in space and includes tough and realistic inspection and verification mechanisms could promote security and stability. But the PPWT is decidedly not that kind of treaty.

For starters, the proposed treaty does not explicitly prohibit the ground-based anti-satellite weapons that China and Russia have already fielded. Nor does the proposed treaty prevent the deployment of space-based weapons under the cloak of civilian or commercial capabilities. The PPWT also does not prohibit the development, testing, or stockpiling of weapons on Earth that could be quickly put into orbit.

Even if these deficiencies were addressed, the PPWT lacks any verification plan to ensure compliance. Instead, the treaty calls for “transparency and confidence-building measures” implemented on a “voluntary basis.” In other words, Beijing and Moscow want the United States to trust but never verify.

But then again, Americans should not be surprised by the PPWT. Moscow habitually seeks to use international arms control treaties to constrain the United States while viewing treaty strictures as optional when they become inconvenient or when the Kremlin sees an opportunity to seize a military advantage.

For more than a decade before its demise in 2019, Moscow used the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty to constrain the United States while the Kremlin produced, flight-tested, and fielded a ground-launched intermediate-range cruise missile in direct contravention of the treaty. Beijing, for its part, often exhibits an allergy to serious international arms control treaties. The willingness of the Chinese Communist Party to support the PPWT is, therefore, cause for some additional reflection in Washington.

So instead of falling prey to China and Russia’s PPWT trap, the United States must urgently work with allies to improve the resilience and redundancy of spaced-based military and intelligence capabilities.

Washington should also advance nascent efforts to establish rules of the road in space. “There are really no norms of behavior in space,” Gen. John Raymond, the chief of space operations at U.S. Space Force, said this month. “It’s the wild, wild West.”

In a notable and positive step, the U.N. General Assembly passed a British-introduced resolution in December that seeks to establish “norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours” in space, which could reduce the chances for dangerous miscalculation.

The vote was 164 in favor, including the United States—and a mere 12 opposed.

Any guesses regarding who voted no? You guessed it: China and Russia. They were joined by their friends Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Cuba.

So much for a Chinese and Russian desire to pursue constructive and peaceful policies in space. Their duplicity continues.

Bradley Bowman is the senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former advisor to members of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees. Twitter: @Brad_L_Bowman

Jared Thompson is a U.S. Air Force major and visiting military analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The views he expresses in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Defense Department or the U.S. Air Force.

Modernization of the Nuclear Horns: Daniel

Nuclear Modernization in an Era of Great Power Competition

March 30, 2021

America’s nuclear weapons deter attacks on the United States from biological, cyber, conventional, or nuclear weapons. That deterrent capability has kept the nuclear peace for seventy-five years but is now in danger of rusting to obsolescence. Why?

With the dissolution of the Soviet empire, the U.S. kicked the nuclear modernization can down the road, going on what MG Garrett Harencak, USAF (ret.) called a three-decade “nuclear procurement holiday.” Consequently, the U.S. now needs to acquire a new nuclear triad, warhead production complex, and command and control system rapidly and sequentially. The challenge of doing so at “the speed of relevance” over the next 25 years is more daunting than any effort since World War II.

The good news is the modernization plan has been endorsed on a bi-partisan basis under both Presidents Obama and Trump and approved by Congress for 12 consecutive years. That consensus is a national gift that should not be squandered. 

The not-so-good news is that to continue, the U.S. will have to be clear about deterrent funding requirements, understand the threats, avoid adopting untenable options that would cripple the deterrent, and ignore calls for more delay. 

What is Deterrence?

 Nuclear deterrence is the state where an adversary chooses not to attack the United States or our allies because our will to use our military capability can inflict unacceptable costs on them. Our deterrent strategy is carefully crafted, conventional wisdom notwithstanding, and holds at risk an adversary’s military capability without which they cannot achieve their hegemonic objectives.

An LGM-30 Minuteman III missile soars in the air after a test launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

How Did We Get Here? 

While the U.S. has been on an extended “nuclear procurement holiday,” the Russians paused only temporarily to comply with START I reductions and regain their economic footing. But since 2004, Russia has completed 90% of its planned acquisition of 22 new types of nuclear-capable cruise, land, and sea-based ballistic missiles, bombers, and submarines. 

The History of Arms Control

Can more arms control rectify the current imbalance of a fully modernized Russian nuclear complex compared to a U.S. nuclear force now older than at any time during the nuclear age? No, it cannot. However, while arms control cannot end the underlying pursuit of hegemonic nuclear objectives by Russia, if done correctly it could help strategic stability by providing transparency about Russian nuclear forces. 

For example, despite the 1972 SALT nuclear arms agreement and a policy of “détente,” Moscow’s long-range strategic nuclear arsenals increased five-fold in the subsequent 15 years to near twelve thousand treaty-compliant warheads. By 1980 Moscow believed the “correlation of forces” had shifted so dramatically it would enable the Soviets to “win” the Cold War. 

Closing the Window of Vulnerability

To remedy this imbalance, in 1981 President Ronald Reagan called for a combined nuclear modernization, and reductions in nuclear weapons. Particularly important was closing the “window of vulnerability,” by securing major reductions in overall nuclear forces and a ban on large, multiple-warhead land-based missiles, the Soviet weapons most capable of carrying out a feared pre-emptive bolt-from-the-blue attack. 

President Reagan also proposed a “zero-zero” option, banning the Soviet SS-20 medium range missiles in Europe and Asia. Originally ridiculed as a “trick,” the deployment of a NATO-approved Pershing and Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) counter missile deployment, a “peace through strength strategy,” ended the Soviet attempt to intimidate our European NATO allies. The subsequent 1987 Intermediate Forces Treaty (INF) banned such missiles on both sides, the first such agreement in history. 

President Reagan’s larger geopolitical strategy also succeeded, and just four years later the Soviet empire collapsed. With the subsequent signing of the START I (1991) and START II (1993) treaties by President George H.W. Bush, deployed strategic nuclear warheads on both sides were intended to be cut by an unprecedented 70 percent. Reagan’s new and sensible idea worked: you could simultaneously reduce nuclear weapons while modernizing. (While the 1991 START I treaty entered into force, the START II ban on multiple warhead land-based missiles, signed by Presidents Yeltsin and Bush in 1993, was eventually rejected by the Russian Duma.)

In 2002, President George W. Bush first removed the United States from the ABM treaty in order to deploy a missile defense against North Korean missile threats. 

And then the next year, the United States and Russia agreed to the “Moscow Treaty” further reducing deployed strategic nuclear weapons from the START I level of 6000 to 2200, proving you could build defenses while also doing arms control, upending a long-standing disarmament community assumption. 

In 2010, the United States and Russia signed New START, capped Strategic Nuclear Delivery Vehicles (SNDVs), at 700 long-range strategic missiles and bombers, while cutting warheads to a notional 1,550. 

American drafters of New START knew the U.S. required a modern ICBM force of Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) missiles, a fleet of 12 new Columbia class submarines, and a nuclear capable B-21 bomber, along with 40 nuclear capable legacy B-52 bombers for continued deterrence. All of which fit within the constraints of the agreement. 

The Obama administration confirmed the New START framework with Congress in December 2010 in a bipartisan deal with Senator Jon Kyl. In short, while the United States still has the smallest and oldest nuclear deterrent in 60 years, a bipartisan modernization consensus exists to rectify the current geostrategic imbalance. 

Two Choices Ahead

Admiral Charles Richard, Commander of USSTRATCOM, underscored that the United States faces two choices: we either replace our legacy systems with modern deterrent forces, or our forces become obsolete within the next decade. 

Nonetheless, nuclear critics are advocating for major force changes: the unilateral elimination of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program; eliminating up to half of our submarines; and ending the bomber cruise missile. If adopted, these measures would unilaterally reduce American SNDVs under New START from 700 to 156, a whopping 80%. The biggest push by disarmers is to eliminate ICBMs. Their argument goes as follows: 

• The ICBM missiles are in fixed silos. 

• It is assumed that in a crisis the Russians would attack those locations. 

• The U.S. might mistakenly cause Armageddon by launching our missiles having assumed a Russian attack is underway.

In fact, in 1980, a training tape used at Strategic Air Command was mistakenly loaded into the early warning system and appeared to show real Soviet missiles headed our way. The disarmers fear that such an error could happen again, and the President might mistakenly assume the Russian strike was real. And if the President was under pressure to launch our ICBMs (“use ‘em or lose ‘em”) there would not be time to determine whether the attack was authentic. The notion then arose that ICBMs are on ‘hair trigger” alert, and vulnerable to launch on warning. 

The real story is that the 1980 alarm was quickly determined to be false, the USAF went back to normal alert levels, but more importantly, a technology fix was instituted to where such a false warning from a training tape is no longer possible. 

Sponge Strategy?

Bound and determined, the disarmers then invented another ICBM ghost story. In this new narrative, our 450 ICBM silos and their 45 launch control centers spread out over tens of thousands of square miles in five midwestern states, are assumed to be strategically irrelevant and nothing but a “giant sponge.” 

If Russia decided to take out America’s nearly 500 ICBM assets, Moscow would need to use upwards of 1000 highly accurate warheads, and thus divert weapons that would otherwise have been used against American cities. 

However, when examined, the narrative falls apart. First what are the chances the Russians would actually attack American ICBM silos? The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, a 2020 Federation of American Scientist essay, and a 2021 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace publication, all concluded the chances of such an attack are “near zero.” 

Why? As former Air Force Chief of Staff, General David Goldfein explained, the U.S. ICBM force is so broadly spread out that any disarming attack is technically and operationally impossible. In addition, even after such an attack, the U.S. could respond with upwards of a thousand retaliatory warheads from surviving elements of the Triad and destroy most significant vestiges of Russian military power. This makes any such initial Russian nuclear attack suicidal. 

Second, even if you assume the Russians would use 1,000 warheads in a suicidal attack on the U.S. ICBM “sponge,” the Russians retain plenty of additional warheads to incinerate America’s largest cities. Thus, there is no “sponge strategy.” The sponge idea exists only in the fevered imagination of some in the disarmament community.

Does The United States Have Too Many Warheads?

Another disarmament meme – also wrong – is that the U.S. just has too many warheads, as we can destroy most Russian cities with a much smaller force. Since the early 1970s, the United States adopted a “counter-force” deterrent policy where we hold at risk an adversary’s military capability and forces but not their cities. Mutual assured destruction, or “MAD” as it was known, that called for “city busting,” went out the strategy window some half century ago. 

The deterrent policy requirements are not set by the U.S. military but by the President. Military leaders then adopt a strategy to implement those requirements. Today, that strategy holds at risk enemy military targets which, if destroyed, would compel our enemies to stop the fight and the pursuit of their hegemonic objectives. Our deterrent is sized to accomplish that task. 

The U.S. Has to Stop Arms Racing?

But isn’t the U.S. engaging in an arms race by modernizing its nuclear enterprise? Wouldn’t U.S. restraint end the “arms competition.” 

The United States is not in an arms race; Russia and China are. The Russians are building new types of nuclear systems at two-thirds the Cold War rate. While the Chinese are projected to double their nuclear arsenal within this decade. 

Since the inception of New START in 2010, the Russians have deployed 20 new types of nuclear systems including cruise, land-based and sea-based strategic missiles, submarines, and bombers. 

By contrast, the U.S. will not initially deploy a new type of nuclear weapon until 2029. As former Defense Secretary Harold Brown described the arms race and the Soviets: “When we build, they build. And when we stop, they build.” 

Nuclear Threats

What are the major nuclear threats the United States and its allies face? 

First, Russia and China are building up their nuclear forces across-the-board. Second, Russia and China have a militarily cooperative policy, including conducting joint military exercises. Third, and most disquieting, Mr. Putin has adopted an “escalate to win” nuclear strategy, a threat in a crisis or during a conventional conflict to use a limited number of nuclear weapons against the United States to coerce the U.S. to stand down. The Russians, and now increasingly Chinese Communist Party leaders, believe this will succeed, as they assume the United States will not have the stomach to risk, or have the necessary forces to credibly deter, any such threatened escalation.

However, it is important to acknowledge that under a limited strike scenario, all U.S. nuclear forces, including ICBMs, would be available for retaliatory strikes. The Russians and Chinese if contemplating such strikes, would face the full panoply of Americas retaliatory deterrent forces, but credibly available only if acquired in a timely fashion.

Eliminate the GBSD

Minuteman III for the time being remains a credible deterrent. It was upgraded starting in 1995 with a propulsion and guidance replacement program that extended the life of the system through the year 2030. 

Having repeatedly lost the fight to unilaterally eliminate U.S. ICBMs, critics have adopted an interim idea – extend Minuteman III, delay GBSD, and study everything – again. 

Does this make sense? No. 

Admiral Charles Richard, the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, has explained that Minuteman is old technology that can no longer be replaced. The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Hyten, has said that shortly after 2030, Minuteman will “begin to fall apart.”

General Hyten led requirements when ICBMs were assigned to Air Force Space Command where he examined the issue. He has repeatedly testified before Congress that the Minuteman system cannot be further refurbished, that the 1995-2005 guidance and propulsion replacement program was only designed to give Minuteman an additional 20 years of life. During that extra time, it was assumed the United States would develop and begin to deploy a new land-based missile – which indeed is the current plan approved by Congress. 

Numerous studies by both the U.S. government and outside independent groups have all concluded GBSD is required to sustain credible nuclear deterrence and is the cost-effective choice. Extending the life of Minuteman III – even if possible– makes no sense because it simply cannot provide the required capabilities for a credible nuclear deterrent. 

The GBSD not only meets the deterrent requirements set by U.S. Strategic Command, but the new modular technologies also allow for considerably less required maintenance personnel. This factor alone may eliminate tens of billions of dollars in lifetime costs.

Stability, Hedge Capability, and ICBMS

What if the United States eliminated all ICBMs and if needed, moved all the ICBM warheads to the submarine fleet? 

The United States currently has over 500 nuclear assets with which any potential adversary must contend if contemplating a military conflict with United States. Eliminating the ICBM force would reduce the number of strategic targets an adversary would have to attack to disarm the U.S. from about 500 to 10-13 – three bomber and two submarine bases plus five to eight submarines at sea. 

As former USAF Chief Staff Larry Welch warned, eliminating ICBMs is an open invitation to our enemies to concentrate their technological ingenuity in finding our submarines at sea. Without ICBMs, the potential to pre-emptively disarm the United States of its nuclear capability emerges as a real possibility. 

Former Secretary of the Navy John Warner revealed his biggest fear was if one of our “Boomers” did not come home. He noted further: “How would we even know who took out one of our ballistic missile carrying submarines?” Over time, the entire fleet of submarines could be eliminated.

Former senior OSD official Dr. Brad Roberts underscored this danger. He explained  that conventional wisdom assumes the oceans, unlike the air, space, and land, will never become transparent. Prudence dictates the requirement for a prompt response capability to deter conflicts that only ICBMs can provide, and a smart insurance policy should a technological problem arise with our submarines. 

Even more calamitous, eliminating ICBMs reduces the number of warheads the United States is allowed under New START by 64 percent, leaving the U.S. in a weak position from which to maintain deterrence or negotiate any further arms reductions.

Now why not simply add the 400 ICBM warheads to the submarine missiles to maintain the number allowed by treaty? The U.S. could, in theory, add all 400 ICBM warheads to all 16 missiles deployed on each of 12 Columbia class submarines. The end result would be a submarine fleet maxed out at 1536 warheads, and thus with zero ability to add to the American arsenal. This eliminates any “hedge” or insurance policy to build back up if the strategic environment worsens. 

Is Defense Affordable? 

The final issue raised by critics of nuclear modernization is that it’s “not affordable.” Often relied upon are CBO reports estimating American nuclear modernization costs of $1.2 trillion. To get to that number, CBO: 

• Estimates costs for three decades. 

• Includes 100 percent of the bomber costs. 

• Arbitrarily adds a 3 percent per year cost growth; and

• Merges legacy system sustainment and new modernization. 

What’s wrong with these numbers? 

• Congress considers budgets for five-year defense plans or even a ten-year budget window, but not 30 years. Projecting three decades effectively doubles cost estimates.

• The nuclear elements on U.S. bombers are 3% of the total cost. 

• Fully half of the estimated nuclear costs are the maintenance of legacy systems, not modernization. 

In short, when these factors are considered, modernization costs are actually quite reasonable. Even at its peak in 2030, all nuclear costs will remain at less than 1 percent of the federal budget, while modernization alone will be 0.5 percent and 3-3.4 percent of the federal and defense budget, respectively. As former Secretary of Defense James Mattis understood, such costs are reasonable because as he explained, “Survival is affordable.”

Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, founded in 1983 and specializing in strategic nuclear and missile defense analysis. This past year he co-directed the publication of a nuclear handbook distributed by the Louisiana Tech Research Institute.

The UK Horn Continues to Grow: Daniel 7

April 2021

By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

In a significant departure from an earlier pledge, the United Kingdom announced in March that it will raise the ceiling on its nuclear warhead stockpile by more than 40 percent above its previous target and would no longer publish information about the number of warheads it maintains in an operational status.

The HMS Vengeance returning to its homeport on the River Clyde in Scotland in 2007. Vengeance is one of four Vanguard-class nuclear-armed submarines operated by the British Royal Navy. (Photo: Tam McDonald/MOD)

The decision prompted concern around the world and raised questions about the UK’s commitment to its nuclear disarmament obligations under Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

London will raise the ceiling on its overall stockpile to 260 warheads by the middle of the decade, according to an integrated review of security, defense, development, and foreign policy published March 16. The new ceiling is a 44 percent increase above the level of 180 warheads that was first announced in the UK’s 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review and reiterated again in 2015. (See ACT, December 2015; November 2010.)

The UK currently has about 195 nuclear warheads, of which 120 are operational, according to an estimate by researchers at the Federation of American Scientists. The UK deploys its entire nuclear arsenal aboard four Vanguard-class submarines, each of which is armed with Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles. At least one submarine is always at sea on deterrence patrol. London maintains that a submarine on patrol would require several days’ notice to launch a missile.

The integrated review attributed the change in the warhead stockpile to “the evolving security environment, including the developing range of technological and doctrinal threats” and cited “risks to the UK from major nuclear armed states, emerging nuclear states, and state-sponsored nuclear terrorism.” But the document did not provide further detail about these threats.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab justified the plan to increase the warhead stockpile as “the ultimate insurance policy against the worst threat from hostile states” in an interview with the BBC.

UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace told the BBC on March 21 that the change is a response to what “the Russians and others have been up to in the last few years,” specifically citing Russian investments in ballistic missile defense and new offensive capabilities.

The integrated review also states that the UK will “no longer give public figures for our operational stockpile, deployed warhead or deployed missile numbers” as such “ambiguity complicates the calculations of potential aggressors, reduces the risk of deliberate nuclear use by those seeking a first-strike advantage, and contributes to strategic stability.”

The Johnson government’s decision to increase the warhead stockpile was controversial within the UK.

Keir Starmer, the head of the Labour Party, said the plan “breaks the goal of successive prime ministers and cross-party efforts to reduce our nuclear stockpile. It doesn’t explain, when, why, or for what strategic purpose.”

Foreign governments also criticized the new direction in policy.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on March 18 that “this move is at odds with London’s many statements about its commitment to obligations to promote nuclear disarmament under the NPT.”

“The British leadership’s decisions underscore the urgent need to directly involve U.S. nuclear allies in the efforts to reduce and limit nuclear weapons, which Russia never ends to point out,” she said.

Asked about the UK decision to grow its nuclear stockpile, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, “We don’t want nuclear weapons arsenals to grow. If you don’t want that to happen, you can’t expand them.”

Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, raised similar concerns in a March 17 press briefing. “[W]e do express our concern at the UK’s decision to increase its nuclear weapons arsenal, which is contrary to its obligations under Article VI of the NPT,” he said. “It could have a damaging impact on global stability and efforts to pursue a world free of nuclear weapons.”

But Dujarric walked his remarks back the next day, saying that “we’re not expressing a legal opinion” but rather the view that the UK “announcement is not consistent with the disarmament commitments…all nuclear-weapon states have undertaken.”

A spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on March 16 that the NPT “doesn’t require us to reduce the number of warheads. All of our actions are consistent with our nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations.”

“The 260 figure is a ceiling, not a target,” the spokesperson added. “We will continue to keep this under review in the light of the international security environment and make adjustments as appropriate.”

But skeptics warned that London will need to do more to assuage concerns ahead of the NPT review conference, now scheduled to take place in August after being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. (See ACT, November 2020.)

“The UK will need to clarify how it plans to contribute to and lead on nuclear disarmament amidst these changes in the stockpile number,” said Heather Williams, a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lecturer at King’s College London.

The change in policy comes as London lobbies Washington to move forward with development of a newly designed, high-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead, the W93.

The current warhead for the UK’s Trident ballistic missiles is believed to be based on the U.S. W76 warhead. Adm. Charles Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said in February 2020 that the UK has “a parallel replacement warhead program,” although London is responsible for the design and production of its warhead fleet.

The Guardian reported in August that Wallace sent a letter to Congress in April 2020 encouraging funding for the W93. “Congressional funding in [fiscal year 2021] for the W93 program will ensure that we continue to deepen the unique nuclear relationship between our two countries, enabling the United Kingdom to provide safe and assured continuous-at-sea deterrence for decades to come,” he wrote.

Congress in December appropriated the Trump administration’s request of $53 million in fiscal year 2021 to accelerate work on the W93, although not without controversy. (See ACT, January/February 2021.)

Israeli navy attacks Palestinian fishing boats outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israeli navy attacks Palestinian fishing boats off Gaza shore, damage one

GAZA, Tuesday, March 30, 2021 (WAFA) – Israeli navy today attacked Palestinian fishermen sailing off the northern Gaza shore and damaged one boat, reported WAFA correspondent.

He said that the fishermen were sailing within the allowed three nautical miles when the Israeli navy opened gunfire and water houses at them causing damage to one boat but no injuries.

The fishermen returned to shore to avoid being injured.

Israeli occupation forces deliberately target Gaza fishermen on daily basis and prevent them from making a living from fishing.

M.K.