On Aug. 6, 1945, a single B-29 dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, a city of 400,000. Moments later the entire city, three miles across, lay in ruins. On Aug. 9, the United States dropped another bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. The total death toll was between 129,000 and 226,000. On Aug. 15, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s unconditional surrender.
I was in sixth grade. We were all urged to “remember Pearl Harbor,” but today it’s appropriate, in fact essential, to remember Hiroshima because that city symbolizes the continued threat humankind poses to its own existence. Hiroshima remembrances will be held at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8, at the Omni Center for Peace and Justice’s back lawn, 3274 N. Lee Ave. in Fayetteville and at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 6, at the Reservoir Park Pavilion.
It’s become a cliché to say nuclear war can destroy civilization, so I’ll be more specific. Consider just one of the U.S. Navy’s 18 Trident submarines. It can carry 24 intercontinental missiles, each with eight hydrogen bombs, each bomb carrying the explosive energy of seven Hiroshima bombs. Thus one Trident submarine can destroy 192 large cities, which could indeed destroy civilization. Our 18 submarines could do this 18 times over.
But that’s not all. We have an invulnerable fleet of nuclear-weapons-carrying B-52 and B-2 bombers that could quickly bomb the planet back to the stone age.
But that’s still not all. We have 440 Minuteman missiles in silos in the Midwest, each carrying three bombs, each bomb carrying the explosive power of 21 Hiroshima bombs. These are the world’s most dangerous weapons, because they are vulnerable to a quick first strike. In a tense situation, another nation might be tempted to remove these sitting ducks before they are launched. The sooner we get rid of them the safer we’ll be. We should negotiate their removal, and hopefully the removal of equally de-stabilizing land-based missiles in Russia and China, as soon as possible.
Our leaders frequently take us to the brink of nuclear war. For example, in May a British aircraft carrier group of warships sailed into the Black Sea amid rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia. In June, a destroyer from the group ventured into waters claimed by Moscow. The Russians reportedly fired warning shots while a Russian bomber dropped four bombs in the path of the destroyer, forcing it to change course.
For another example, in September 2018, a Chinese destroyer came within 45 yards of the U.S. guided-missile destroyer Decatur in the South China Sea’s disputed Spratly Islands, forcing the American ship to abruptly alter course. The Chinese ship radioed to the Decatur, “If you don’t change course [you] will suffer consequences.” Arms control expert Michael Klare, who reported this incident, asks “What would have transpired had the captain of the Decatur not altered course?”
Were nuclear weapons on board during either incident? We don’t know.
Such cat-and-mouse games go on all the time, and could quickly escalate. We’re talking about the fate of the planet, my friends. Surely we can conduct ourselves in a less asinine manner than adolescent boys engaging in a game of “chicken.”
There is hope: Essentially all policy experts, including conservatives such as former U.S. secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, agree that the world must rid itself of all nuclear weapons. In 2009, President Obama and Russian President Medvedev agreed in principle to a nuclear-weapons-free world.
Most importantly, the non-nuclear-weapons nations of the world have bravely brought to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly an agreement to rid ourselves of these weapons. The International Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the first legally binding agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons. The UN General Assembly approved this treaty in 2017, with 122 nations in favor and 69 abstentions that included the nuclear weapons nations and the NATO nations. Today, 86 nations have signed the treaty and 107 have not signed.
What with global warming, pandemics and other disasters, we certainly don’t need the artificial self-imposed threat that exists today because of our juvenile inability to get along with fellow humans. All of us, including Americans, need to take the macho chip off our shoulders. In particular, I recommend:
• Reducing the dangerous excess of U.S. nuclear weapons; if we must have them, a few Trident submarines are plenty.
• Dismantling the U.S. Minuteman force. We’ll be safer without it.
• Promoting the UN treaty to prohibit of nuclear weapons.
On July 19th, 2021, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced the successful launch of a new hypersonic missile, a weapon unlike any other in the world. What makes the Russian hypersonic missile so powerful is that it is capable of carrying nuclear weapons, travels faster than the speed of sound, and, according to President Vladimir Putin, is capable of breaching a U.S. built missile defense system. While Russia developing hypersonic missiles is not a surprise, this may signal the beginnings of a new arms race with the United States as tensions between the superpowers rise.
Since the Cold War, Russia has had difficulty keeping pace with the US and its economic, political, and cultural fortitude. However, Russia has invested and maintained competitiveness with certain aspects of its military innovation and presence. Russia reportedly has the largest nuclear weapons stock with nearly five hundred more weapons than the US, and in the past few years, has outpaced the US in developing new hypersonic missiles. These weapons are apparently faster, more maneuverable, and thus harder to intercept, unlike intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the historical delivery vehicle of nuclear weapons.
Russia’s history with hypersonic missiles goes back to 2018, when Putin announced, “not a single country possesses hypersonic weapons, let alone continental-range hypersonic weapons,” and claimed Western nations were, “playing catch-up with [Russia].”In what has been described as one of Putin’s most provocative speeches, he stated that the missiles were available in the Russian arsenal and threatened that they would be deployed to submarines if the US deployed its own intermediate-range missiles in Europe – even though the US made no such deployment. While it is unclear if Putin’s full readiness claims are accurate, Russia is clearly innovating on hypersonic missile technology and declaring its military superiority relative to the US. This military rivalry left unchecked could rekindle a new arms race between the nations, similar to the days of the Cold War.
While hypersonic missiles are not new for Russia, the announcement comes at a time of rising tensions between Russia and the United States. Over the past year, the two nations have sparred on everything from cyber attacks, to election interference, to Syria, and to Trump’s withdrawal from a Cold War-era nuclear arms treaty. Additionally, President Biden condemned Putin’s arrest of opposition journalist Alexei Navalny, stating there would be, “devastating,” consequences for Russia. While these world leaders recently met in Switzerland in June 2021, there was no substantive outcome on shared goals, and it appears it will take many more meetings to demonstrate progress and lower tensions.
It is critical that the US and Russia not restart an arms race and return to the military chess match of the Cold War. Instead, the two nations should focus on negotiations leading to durable peace and economic partnership. Russia’s development of hypersonic missiles, and its provocation to the world, signal an aggressive stance from Putin and his government and demonstrate that Russia wants to again prove itself on the international stage through its military prowess. The United States shouldn’t take the bait. It needs to rally its allies to push Russia to stop the development of these new and deadly weapons and end its own investment in hypersonic missile technology to compete with Russia. The risk of history repeating itself with an arm’s race is far too great and has dire consequences for the world. Modern technologies like hypersonic missiles (and cyber attacks) represent a new deadly front on an old Cold War concept. The testing and production of technology like hypersonic missiles must end in order for the world to maintain peace.
“More Israeli restrictions and tightening the siege on Gaza will only generate an explosion in the face of the occupant,” Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Abdulatif al-Qanou’a said on Sunday.
“Ending and defying the siege that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip for about 15 years is a natural right for the Palestinian people,” he added.
The spokesperson urged Israel to end the blockade of the Palestinian enclave and respect the May ceasefire that Egypt brokered between Israel and Palestinian factions, including Hamas, reports xinhua news agency.
Hamas and other Palestinian factions complained that Israel has tightened the blockade since the end of the last round of Israeli-Palestinian armed conflict that lasted for 11 days from May 10-21.
Between February 26 and 27 in 2019, Indian and Pakistani warplanes launched strikes on each other’s territory and engaged in aerial combat for the first time since 1971. Pakistan ominously hinted it was convening its National Command Authority, the institution which can authorize a nuclear strike.
The two states, which have retained an adversarial relationship since their founding in 1947, between them deploy nuclear warheads that can be delivered by land, air and sea.
However, those weapons are inferior in number and yield to the thousands of nuclear weapons possessed by Russia and the United States, which include megaton-class weapons that can wipe out a metropolis in a single blast.
Such assessments are not only shockingly cold-hearted but shortsighted. In fact, several studies have modeled the global impact of a “limited” ten-day nuclear war in which India and Pakistan each exchange fifty 15-kiloton nuclear bombs equivalent in yield to the Little Boy uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Their findings concluded that spillover would in no way be “limited,” directly impacting people across the globe that would struggle to locate Kashmir on a map.
And those results are merely a conservative baseline, as India and Pakistan are estimated to possess over 260 warheads. Some likely have yields exceeding 15-kilotons, which is relatively small compared to modern strategic warheads.
Recurring terrorist attacks by Pakistan-sponsored militant groups over the status of India’s Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir state have repeatedly led to threats of a conventional military retaliation by New Delhi.
Pakistan, in turn, maintains it may use nuclear weapons as a first-strike weapon to counter-balance India’s superior conventional forces. Triggers could involve the destruction of a large part of Pakistan’s military or penetration by Indian forces deep into Pakistani territory. Islamabad also claims it might authorize a strike in event of a damaging Indian blockade or political destabilization instigated by India.
India’s official policy is that it will never be first to strike with nuclear weapons—but that once any nukes are used against it, New Dehli will unleash an all-out retaliation.
The Little Boy bomb alone killed around 100,000 Japanese—between 30 to 40 percent of Hiroshima’s population—and destroyed 69 percent of the buildings in the city. But Pakistan and India host some of the most populous cities on the planet, with the population densities of Calcutta, Karachi and Mumbai at or exceeding 65,000 people per square mile. Thus, even low-yield bombs could cause tremendous casualties.
A 2014 study estimates that the immediate effects of the bombs—the fireball, over-pressure wave, radiation burns etc.—would kill twenty million people. An earlier study estimated a hundred 15-kiloton nuclear detonations could kill twenty-six million in India and eighteen million in Pakistan—and concluded that escalating to using 100-kiloton warheads, which have greater blast radius and overpressure waves that can shatter hardened structures, would multiply death tolls four-fold.
Moreover, these projected body counts omit the secondary effects of nuclear blasts. Many survivors of the initial explosion would suffer slow, lingering deaths due to radiation exposure. The collapse of healthcare, transport, sanitation, water and economic infrastructure would also claim many more lives. Nuclear blasts could also trigger deadly firestorms. For instance, a firestorm caused by the U.S. napalm bombing of Tokyo in March 1945 killed more people than the Fat Man bomb killed in Nagasaki.
The civil war in Syria caused over 5.6 million refugees to flee abroad out of a population of 22 million prior to the conflict. Despite the relative stability and prosperity of the European nations to which refugees fled, this outflow triggered political backlashes that have rocked virtually every major Western government.
Now consider likely population movements in event of a nuclear war between India-Pakistan, which together total over 1.5 billion people. Nuclear bombings—or their even their mere potential—would likely cause many city-dwellers to flee to the countryside to lower their odds of being caught in a nuclear strike. Wealthier citizens, numbering in tens of millions, would use their resources to flee abroad.
Should bombs begin dropping, poorer citizens many begin pouring over land borders such as those with Afghanistan and Iran for Pakistan, and Nepal and Bangladesh for India. These poor states would struggle to supports tens of millions of refugees. China also borders India and Pakistan—but historically Beijing has not welcomed refugees.
Some citizens may undertake risky voyages at sea on overloaded boats, setting their sights on South East Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. Thousands would surely drown. Many regional governments would turn them back, as they have refugees of conflicts in Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar in the past.
Radioactive fallout would also be disseminated across the globe. The fallout from the Chernobyl explosion, for example, wound its way westward from Ukraine into Western Europe, exposing 650,000 persons and contaminating 77,000 square miles. The long-term health effects of the exposure could last decades. India and Pakistan’s neighbors would be especially exposed, and most lack healthcare and infrastructure to deal with such a crisis.
Studies in 2008 and 2014 found that if one hundred 15-kiloton bombs were used, it would blast five million tons of fine, sooty particles into the stratosphere, where they would spread across the globe, warping global weather patterns for the next twenty-five years.
The particles would block out light from the sun, causing surface temperatures to decrease an average of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit across the globe, or 4.5 degrees in North American and Europe. Growing seasons would be shortened by ten to forty days, and certain crops such as Canadian wheat would simply become unviable. Global agricultural yields would fall, leading to rising prices and famine.
The particles may also deplete between 30 to 50 percent of the ozone layer, allowing more of the sun’s radiation to penetrate the atmosphere, causing increased sunburns and rates of cancer and killing off sensitive plant-life and marine plankton, with the spillover effect of decimating fishing yields.
To be clear, these are outcomes for a “light” nuclear winter scenario, not a full slugging match between the Russian and U.S. arsenals.
Any one of the factors above would likely suffice to cause a global economic recession. All of them combined would guarantee one.
India and Pakistan account for over one-fifth world’s population, and therefore a significant share of economic activity. Should their major cities become irradiated ruins with their populations decimated, a tremendous disruption would surely result. A massive decrease in consumption and production would obviously instigate a long-lasting recessionary cycle, with attendant deprivations and political destabilization slamming developed and less-developed countries alike.
Taken together, these outcomes mean even a “limited” India-Pakistan nuclear war would significantly affect every person on the globe, be they a school teacher in Nebraska, a factory-worker in Shaanxi province or a fisherman in Mombasa.
Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.
The United States will today declare an end to combat operations in Iraq, asserting that the fight against Islamic State can be led by local forces.
The announcement will be part of a deal signed with Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who is in Washington and will meet President Biden.
It will state formally that US combat troops will be withdrawn from Iraq and the forces that remain will perform only training and advisory roles. Its aim is to help Kadhimi to argue that he is no longer beholden to western military interests, and that attacks by pro-Iran militias on US targets, often bases shared with Iraqi troops, are illegitimate.
The public rationale is the defeat of Islamic State, whose surge across half the country
US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Monday will seal an agreement formally ending the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021, more than 18 years after U.S. troops were sent to the country.
Coupled with Biden’s withdrawal of the last American forces in Afghanistan by the end of August, the Democratic president is completing US combat missions in the two wars that then-President George W. Bush began under his watch.
Biden and Kadhimi are to meet in the Oval Office for their first face-to-face talks as part of a strategic dialogue between the United States and Iraq.
The shift is not expected to have a major impact since the United States has already changed the focus of its 2,500-stong force to training Iraqi forces.
US diplomats and troops in Iraq and Syria were targeted in three rocket and drone attacks earlier this month. Analysts believed the attacks were part of a campaign by Iranian-backed militias.
The senior administration official would not say how many U.S. troops would remain on the ground in Iraq for advising and training.
Kadhimi is seen as friendly to the United States and has tried to check the power of Iran-aligned militias. But his government condemned a U.S. air raid against Iran-aligned fighters along its border with Syria in late June, calling it a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.
The United States plans to provide Iraq with 500,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine under the global COVAX vaccine-sharing program, the senior administration official said.
Russia has begun building an upgraded version of its top-secret aerial command center nicknamed the “Doomsday” plane, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported Monday.
The country’s existing “Doomsday” planes, the Ilyushin Il-80s, were developed in the 1980s and are designed to evacuate the Russian president and other top officials in the event of a nuclear conflict and allow them to send orders to forces on the ground. The planes are almost windowless save for those in the cockpit in order to safeguard from the effects of a nuclear blast.
A new version of the plane, modeled after the Ilyushin Il-96-400M, is currently being manufactured in the southern Russian city of Voronezh, RIA Novosti reported, citing an unnamed source in the military-industrial complex.
“The Russian Aerospace Forces will receive two air command posts based on the Il-96-400M. One is in production,” RIA Novosti quoted its source as saying.
The new planes, like their predecessors, will be able to refuel mid-flight and will be accompanied by fighter jets.
In addition to being more technologically advanced than the Il-80, the Il-96-400M is expected to be able to fly for twice as far as the Il-80, RIA Novosti reported. Its radio system will also be able to deliver nuclear launch orders to strategic aviation, mobile and silo missile launchers and submarines within a 6,000-kilometer radius.
Many details about the Il-80 are unknown as information about the planes and their contents are classified as state secrets.
In a rare disclosure late last year, the Kremlin said sensitive equipment had been stolen from one of the Il-80s during upgrade work.
The manufacture of the Il-96-400M comes as Russia has unveiled a slew of hypersonic weapons systems in recent years, edging to the front of the global pack in the new military technology’s development. Analysts say these weapons, while impressive, are unlikely to be game-changers — but instead will add to Russia’s leverage in arms control negotiations with the United States.