America Positions Itself Against Russia

B-52 Stratofortress bomber

US dispatches nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and 800 airmen for Nato exercises near Russia

Vasudevan Sridharan
The US Air Force has dispatched B-52 nuclear-capable bombers along with 800 airmen to Europe to take part in the Nato exercises as a show of strength against Russia. The US European Command said the units were deployed to the UK Royal Air Force base Fairford in England ahead of the training exercises with the Nato allies.
News about the latest mobilisation comes just hours after Moscow warned against Nato’s military build-up in Russia’s doorstep. Military exercises are set to take place in the Baltic Sea, the Arctic and in several Nato member states which share a border with Russia.
The US B-52H Stratofortresses bombers, capable of carrying nearly 31,000kg payload for more than 8,000 miles, are being sent as part of Washington’s bid the prepare the forces for “global challenges,” said the US European Command.
“Training with allied nations and joint partners improves coordination between nations and enables the US Air Force to build enduring relationships necessary to confront a broad range of global challenges. The strategic bomber deployment will support exercises Arctic Challenge, Saber Strike and Baltic Operations in the US European Command area of responsibility throughout the month of June 2017,” read a statement from the US European Command.
While the Arctic Challenge drills, which are taking place in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, will get over on 2 June, the Sabre Strike – war games hosted by Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia – will go on until 24 June.
In what is called as a deterrent move to counter Russia’s aggressive military posture in the region, Nato said as many as 4,600 of its troops will participate in the exercises.

B-52 Stratofortress bombers are sent to take part in Nato exercisesReuters

Speaking about the latest wargames, Russian envoy to Nato Alexander Grushko warned: “Nato countries should understand that all these efforts will not become unnoticed for us and will not stay without response in terms of military planning. With these military steps, military activities and military reinforcements, Nato is building a new military, security situation that we cannot ignore, that we should address using our own military instruments.”
Nato’s eastern states have been asked for bolster its defences ever since the Ukrainian region of Crimean peninsula became a part of Russia in 2014. Though the western world accuses Russia of annexing Crimea by force, Moscow denies the charges.

Preparing For The Great Nuclear War

By Sputnik
Global Research, January 13, 2017
On Thursday, US Secretary of Defense nominee James Mattis told a Senate committee in confirmation hearings that NATO must build capacity in eastern Europe to deter Russia’s alleged aggression. This came a day after Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson testified that the United States would defend NATO member states if Russia invaded.
There is little or no evidence that Russia is being aggressive towards the NATO countries,” Caldicott, co-winner of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize, told Sputnik. “That is a lie that the United States insists on maintaining.”
Caldicott pointed out, however, that it was the United States and NATO, not Russia, that was building up its armed forces to unprecedented levels in central and eastern Europe and exacerbating tensions in the region.
“The severely provocative buildup of military forces, ABM [anti-ballistic missile] systems and equipment on the Russian border is at the least unnecessary and at the most could lead to a nuclear war with Russia,” Caldicott warned.
Far from threatening nuclear war, the Russian government and media were warning their people about the dangers of the NATO military buildup, Caldicott claimed.
“Indeed, the Russian press and leading politicians in the Duma are now postulating that this could well be a future reality, and they are encouraging the Russian population to practice drills to shelter themselves from nuclear war,” she said.
The American public and US policymakers also need to take the threat of nuclear war and the nightmarish consequences that would flow from it far more seriously, Caldicott explained.
In the event of any thermonuclear conflict breaking out between Russia and the United States and NATO “we are all doomed to die a dreadful death of vaporization, severe burns, acute radiation sickness, or freezing and starving to death in the nuclear winter that will ensue,” Caldicott admonished.
Although US Vice President Joe Biden praised the record of outgoing President Barack Obama on reducing the threat of nuclear war during his eight years in office, Caldicott said Obama’s anti-Russian policies had made the danger far worse.
“What on earth Obama, the once-peace-maker, and [US Secretary of Defense] Ashton Carter think they are doing, God only knows unless they are obeying the dictates of their military industrial masters, who need war or the risk of such to survive economically,” Caldicott added.
Caldicott expressed the hope that President-elect Donald Trump would reverse the US force build-up in Eastern Europe after he took office on January 20.
“Once Trump is inaugurated one hopes that his close relationship with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will lead to rapid withdrawal of these forces and a refashioning of the relationship between Russia and the United States which may ensure our survival,” she said.
Caldicott is the author of many books, including “The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s Military Industrial Complex” and “War in Heaven: The Arms Race in Outer Space.”

Russian Troops Preparing For Nuclear War

Russia is to up the number of nuclear training drills it holds by 50 percent over the next year.
The increase will affect Russian troops of all military branches, including the Strategic Missile Troops (RVSN), responsible for maintaining the nation’s nuclear and non-atomic warheads.
Russia revamped its training exercises in the wake of its diplomatic fallout with the West over events in Ukraine in 2014—an incident that saw the country’s pro-Russian leadership toppled by a wave of pro-EU protesters.
The Kremlin responded by accusing the West of organizing the protests, before annexing Crimea from Ukraine and backing a pro-Russian insurgency in East Ukraine.
The Ministry of Defense has subsequently held more snap and mass drills to reflect the new militarized climate, and has stated that 2017 will see a further increase.
In a statement released by state news agency RIA Novosti, the troops’ command announced Tuesday that RVSN’s combat readiness drills will rise from 100 to 150 in 2017.
During each of the two annual training periods—held in the winter and summer—the troops will undergo 40 test deployments across the country in a bid to reach the highest possible battle readiness levels.
Russia’s missile drills have concerned neighbors and commentators in the past. However, experts such as former U.S. ambassador Steven Pifer have emphasized the need to look beyond Moscow’s nuclear posturing.
Pifer has claimed that Russia’s nuclear modernisation is nearing its end due to budget cuts, and has argued that the U.S. still outmatches Russia in its ability to store and deploy nuclear warheads.

Russia Enters The New Nuclear Race

Moscow (AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called for the country to reinforce its military nuclear potential and praised the army’s performance in its Syria campaign.
In a speech that recapped military activities in 2016, Putin said the army’s preparedness has „considerably increased“ and called for continued improvement that would ensure it can „neutralise any military threat“.
We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems,“ the Kremlin strongman said.
„We must carefully monitor any changes in the balance of power and in the political-military situation in the world, especially along Russian borders, and quickly adapt plans for neutralising threats to our country.“
He said Russia’s military had successfully demonstrated its capabilities in Syria, showcased its technology to potential arms buyers and helped the Syrian army make considerable advances.
„The Syrian army received considerable support, thanks to which it carried out several successful operations against militants,“ he said.
„The effective use of Russian weapons in Syria opens new possibilities for military-technical cooperation.
„We must take maximum advantage of this. We know there is interest in modern Russian weapons from foreign partners.“
Russia began its bombing campaign in Syria in September 2015 in support of President Bashar al-Assad, with its special forces also operating on the ground in the country.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the military had used „162 types of modern armaments during the military campaign in Syria,“ including its Sukhoi warplanes and MiG and Kamov helicopters.
„They have shown to be highly effective,“ he said.
– ‚35,000 fighters‘ –
Shoigu produced figures for the entire campaign in Syria but did not mention any estimate of civilian casualties.
Russian warplanes have „liquidated 725 training camps, 405 weapon factories and workshops, 1,500 pieces of terrorist equipment, and 35,000 fighters, including 204 field commanders,“ he said.
The Russian airforce has conducted a total of 18,800 sorties and carried out 71,000 strikes since the start of its campaign, Shoigu said.
„In general, the operation has allowed (us) to solve several geopolitical problems,“ he said.
„We have considerably damaged international terrorist organisations in Syria, stopped their expansion… (and) prevented the breakup of Syria.“
Russia is prioritising its Asian partners including India and China for arms sales, he added.
Shoigu said NATO activities along Russia’s western borders have grown eight-fold over the past decade, forcing Moscow to send more warplanes to prevent breaches of Russian airspace.
Next year, four additional S-400 anti-missile defence systems will be delivered to the army, and Russia will pay particular attention to its Western flank and the Arctic, he said.
First and foremost, we will continue to increase military capabilities... take measures to reinforce troops in the western, southwestern and Arctic strategic sectors,“ Shoigu said.

The New Cold War (Revelation 18)

by Jonathan Golob – Dec 27, 2016 2:40pm MST
Nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll in the 1940s. That’s a scene some of us would rather not revisit in the near future.
Last Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump issued a few statements (guess where) about America’s military, with this statement as a kicker: „The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its sense regarding nukes.“ Though much remains to be seen about how Trump’s tweets will actually translate into policy, it seems likely that nuclear war will be back on the table. Are we going to roll back decades of policy and technology to return to the Atomic Age?
Despite Trump’s assertion, the world has come to its senses about nukes (and not just in Hollywood). Political consensus over issues like denuclearization has been fairly stable since the 1980s, thanks in part to scientific researchers showing what would happen to a world ravaged by nuclear bombs. One such study was The Medical Implications of Nuclear War, published by Fred Solomon and Robert Q. Marston in 1986. This rigorous and grim estimate of nuclear war’s effects on our planet is written in a bleak manner for good reason: to scare us straight.
„Our national security for the past 40 years has been based on the perception that nuclear war would be unhealthy,“ the study begins. „Understanding what the health consequences of a nuclear war would be, as best we can know them, is very important for informed opinions and actions by citizens and by government.“
It seems we’re due for a reminder.
Bright, hot, then cold
Nuclear war offers a multitude of bad ways to die. The bulk of the initial deaths from a nuclear bomb come from the intense heat from the detonation itself, followed by the firestorms triggered by the blast. Extrapolating from the incendiary bomb attacks in World War II (Tokyo and Dresden being among the more infamous), the authors note, “the projected number of injured requiring medical treatment would be drastically reduced relative to that projected by blast scaling, as many injured that would otherwise require treatment would be consumed in the fires.” If not vaporized at the center of a blast, many of those who survive the initial moments would then promptly be burned alive by a raging super-fire extending for many kilometers from the hypocenter of the blast.
Almost all of the energy of a nuclear bomb (fission or fusion) is released as very short wavelength light, in the X-ray range. These soft X-rays are rapidly absorbed by the surrounding air, heating it to immense temperatures. The result is the characteristic rapidly expanding fireball you’ve seen in stock film of nuclear explosions. For a one megaton airburst fusion bomb, the initial fireball is about 1.6 km (one mile) in diameter.
Shockwaves follow, demolishing structures and tearing apart human beings for miles. For a one-megaton airburst bomb, the EM radiation released is sufficiently intense to spark fires for about a 12km diameter circle around the detonation site, resulting in an enormous firestorm. The rapidly rising column of superheated air over the firestorm generates its own wind, drawing in more material, stoking the fire, and leading to a further expansion of the conflagration.
Noxious gases from burning things that make up cities will increase the death toll by suffocating and poisoning a significant percentage of those not burnt alive from the initial blast and firestorm.
The net result is that as horrible as the human consequences of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were, modern nuclear weapons are much more likely to generate gigantic firestorms (easily a hundred square miles around an American city). With the rosier projections, there would be no survivors within a 4km radius from an air-burst one-megaton bomb over a city; all within that radius would be expected to die within minutes of the detonation. People would be severely injured for at least 18km from the center of the blast—in vast and overwhelming numbers. If one considers the effects of the resultant firestorms, it’s reasonable to expect no survivors within 10km of such a blast. (For quick reference, all of Manhattan is roughly 60 square km.)
Emerge from bunkers, battle superfires
For those who don’t perish in minutes or hours following the blast itself, the environmental consequences of a nuclear exchange become the next nightmare. The nuclear blast and resultant superfires will create massive amounts of black soot (the charred remains of the people, buildings, plants, and other material that made up the city), about 50 percent of which will be injected into the upper troposphere or stratosphere levels of the atmosphere—well above the heights where soot can be rapidly cleared. The remainder will fall as intensely radioactive black rain upon the straggling survivors below. The dark smoke high in the atmosphere will block out the Sun.
Regions below the cloud could see about a 20- to 40-degree Celsius local reduction in temperature within about a week (more during summer months, somewhat less in winter), with the most severe temperature drops persisting for weeks to months. The dramatic change in temperature would then drive winds that would further spread the cloud and the effect. The result is nuclear winter. Slowly, over years, the radioactive dust will drift down to the surface, eventually letting sunlight back through as temperatures gradually return to normal.
Radiation, curiously, contributes relatively little to the overall immediate misery after a nuclear war. The area surrounding a blast site remains intensely radioactive for days to weeks—with weather playing a big effect on the exact spread and locations of the more intense radioactivity. But radioactivity decays exponentially; the long-term effects are subtler, insidious, and include increased rates of cancer.
Exotic chemical changes to the atmosphere are possible, particularly in a larger war over multiple cities, with complex petrochemicals brewing in the upper atmosphere and comprehensive destruction of the ozone layer allowing much more ultraviolet radiation to reach the surface when sunlight returns. This results in a damaging „UV spring“ following the nuclear winter. The projections here become less certain, as we lack the data to develop the right models.
Bunkers and shelters can attenuate some of the effects (mostly from the radiation, provided one is far enough away to avoid the blast and firestorm). A survivor of a nuclear war in which many nuclear devices are detonated would then contend with crumbling societies, failing crops, and chaotic, disturbed weather. For a large war, the end of modern life as we know it is probable; the extinction of humans as a species is possible.
„Everything needed for thinking clearly“
The aftermath of even a single nuclear detonation over an urban center is surreal in the sheer scope and nature of the horror induced. A larger nuclear exchange of hundreds or thousands of devices is and should be mortally terrifying to consider. Nuclear war is often described as unthinkable, but „unthinkable“ is the wrong word.
In the study’s forward, Dr. Lewis Thomas emphasizes the importance of researching the aftermath of such catastrophe: “Unthinkable is the word for whatever is in front of our eyes but too big to figure out, too frightening. Pay attention, in this book, to the doctors and the scientists here assembled. Everything needed for thinking clearly, wincing all the way but thinking anyway, is written down in these chapters. Anyone, any age, can read what’s here and understand what we could be in for if we stay on this road. What to do is another matter, but at least the facts of the matter are laid out here. You’d better bet your life it’s thinkable.”
In an era where our leaders look past the worst possibilities with blind optimism, it’s important once again to wince, read, think, and describe the „unthinkable.“
Jonathan Golob is an MD-PhD physician scientist and science writer based in Seattle, Washington. His takes on modern science and medicine can be found at The Stranger and at his own personal site. His primary research interest is human microbiome research.

Trump Planning For A Nuclear Showdown With Russia

Journalist Bob Woodward says President-elect Donald Trump recognizes the U.S. must keep pace with Russia’s growing nuclear arsenal.
“You talk to the military and the intelligence people and they say, ‘This is a giant buildup,’” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Tuesday. „I think what’s happened here is Trump is responding to this.”
“This is years of work to build up the nuclear deterrence that this country has,” added Woodward, whose reporting helped expose the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. „I think if you asked Trump he’d say, ‘Yeah, that’s job one. We’ve got to do that.’”
Our weapons are very old. They go back to the Kennedy and Reagan buildup. If you look at plans for say, new ballistic submarines, they’re 10 years away. [It’s going to be] very expensive, very controversial, so keep your seatbelts on, once again.”
Woodward said he recently spoke with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s incoming national security adviser, about the president-elect’s strategy for handling Russia’s nuclear weapons expansion.
“What Flynn said is that Trump is convinced that we have to modernize, spend vast amounts of money on this, and bring ourselves in a position of strength,” he said of his talk with Flynn Monday.
“It’s kind of a page from the Reagan playbook — talk tough, act tough, build up and then, I guess, presumably, negotiate,” Woodward added, referencing former President Ronald Reagan.
Trump last week tweeted about expanding America’s nuclear weapons stockpile, without making clear what inspired his remark.
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capacity until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” he said Dec. 22.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the same day his nation must “strengthen [its] strategic nuclear forces” to handle any potential global threat.
MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski claimed last Friday Trump privately told her he is comfortable with a nuclear arms race as the U.S. can “outlast” any other nation.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller, however, clarified that the president-elect’s remarks were “referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it.“

Trump Wants A Nuclear Arms Race

Trump on nuclear weapons tweet: „Let it be an arms race“ – MSNBC
Reuters
WASHINGTON, Dec 23 (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, asked to clarify his comments about expanding U.S. nuclear weapons capability, said, „Let it be an arms race,“ and that the United States would win it, MSNBC reported on Friday.
Trump had alarmed non-proliferation experts on Thursday with a Twitter post that said the United States „must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.“
MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski spoke with Trump on the phone and asked him to expand on his tweet. She said he responded: „Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.
Shares of uranium producers and a nuclear fuel technology company have jumped on Trump’s comments with Uranium Resources Inc, Uranium Energy Corp, Cameco Corp and Lightbridge Corp all trading higher on Friday.
It was not clear what prompted Thursday’s tweet by Trump, a Republican who takes office on Jan. 20, but it came the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country needed to boost its nuclear forces.
In his year-end news conference in Moscow on Friday, Putin said Trump’s comment on Wednesday was not out of line and that he did not consider the United States to be a potential aggressor.
Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said in several television interviews on Friday that there would not be an arms race because the president-elect would ensure that other countries trying to step up their nuclear capabilities, such as Russia and China, would decide not to do so.
„He’s going to ensure that other countries get the message that he’s not going to sit back and allow that,“ Spicer, who was named this week as White House spokesman for the president-elect, told NBC. „And what’s going to happen is they will come to their senses, and we will all be just fine.“ (Reporting by Eric Walsh; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Dan Burns; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Bill Trott)

Nebuchadnezzar Builds Up Babylon’s Nuclear Arms (Ezekiel 17)

140602-N-ZZ999-202-Trident-II-e1450107792212

A Trident II D5 missile built by Lockheed Martin for the Navy is tested.

Obama Backs Biggest Nuclear Arms Buildup Since Cold War

Loren Thompson, Contributor

National security is shaping up to be the top issue in next year’s presidential election. The media are awash in worries about terrorism and cyber attacks, with President Obama generally getting low marks for his handling of threats. Republican presidential candidates say he has no coherent strategy for dealing with the danger posed by radical jihadists, and complain that he has deprived the military of the funding needed to protect America.

However, there is one facet of national security — arguably the most important one — where President Obama is turning out to be a real hardliner. That area is nuclear weapons. Obama has backed investment in new nuclear delivery systems, upgraded warheads, resilient command networks, and industrial sites for fabricating nuclear hardware that, when added to the expense of maintaining the existing arsenal, will cost $348 billion between 2015 and 2024. At least, that’s what the Congressional Budget Office estimated earlier this year. If the Obama plan continues to be funded by his successors, it will be the biggest U.S. buildup of nuclear arms since Ronald Reagan left the White House.

This isn’t what most observers expected from Obama. A longtime supporter of nuclear disarmament, he gave a speech shortly after being inaugurated in 2009 highlighting “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” He backed up that commitment with concrete actions. When his administration completed the third post-Cold War review of America’s nuclear posture in April of 2010, it called for “a multilateral effort to limit, reduce, and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons worldwide.” A nuclear arms pact signed with Russia the same year called for cutting the number of warheads in the strategic arsenal to a quarter of the level agreed to in 1991 — about 1,500. The New York Times reported early the following year the administration wanted to cut the warhead count yet again to 1,000.

That doesn’t sound like much of an arsenal for a country that had over 30,000 nuclear warheads the year Obama began elementary school. Granted, there are several thousand additional warheads in storage or not counted by the 2010 pact, but the general trend in inventory levels has been down, down and down, and the Obama Administration began its time in office planning to stay on that vector. So what changed?

What changed was that the White House ceased believing it could work with Russia at a time when much of the Cold War nuclear arsenal was reaching an advanced state of decay. With prospects for further arms reduction agreements rapidly receding, the administration decided it had to move forward with modernization of the entire nuclear enterprise. Although plans to sustain a nuclear “triad” of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, sea-based ballistic missiles, and long-range nuclear bombers had been endorsed by the 2010 posture review, the White House initially appeared ambivalent about spending the money needed to revitalize the nuclear arsenal. But any resistance to “recapitalizing” the arsenal disappeared after Russia began threatening Eastern Europe, and conducting nuclear exercises seemingly aimed at scaring the West.

So now Barack Obama, the longtime proponent of nuclear disarmament, finds himself presiding over a vast reconstruction of the nation’s strategic force, not to mention the introduction of new aircraft and weapons for conducting tactical nuclear operations in places like Europe. The basic goal is to dissuade any enemy from nuclear aggression by fielding a resilient retaliatory force that can survive a surprise attack, and then destroy the assets that matter most to the aggressor. The strategy is called deterrence, and in the absence of active defenses capable of intercepting a nuclear attack, it is the main bulwark America has against a threat that could destroy the Republic in a single day. Here are the key elements of the Obama buildup.

A new ballistic missile submarine. The U.S. Navy’s 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines are the most survivable part of the nuclear triad, but the subs will begin retiring at the rate of one per year toward the end of the next decade. To have a replacement ready, the Obama Administration is pushing ahead with the Ohio Replacement Program which will commence construction of a new class of subs in 2021. There will be twelve such vessels, each carrying 16 ballistic missiles equipped with multiple warheads. General Dynamics GD -0.72% Electric Boat division, builder of the Ohio class, is leading development of the next-generation subs, and will likely perform most of the construction. A separate Navy program is extending the life of the Lockheed Martin LMT -0.93% D5 missiles carried on the Ohio class, and at least initially on its successor. Both the missiles and their improved warheads will be operational for another 30 years.

A new strategic bomber. The airborne part of the nuclear triad currently consists of 76 aged B-52 bombers and 20 newer B-2s, both of which also perform non-nuclear missions. However, a senior Air Force officer told Congress earlier this year that the bombers “are becoming increasingly vulnerable to modern air defenses,” so last month the service awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman for development of a “Long Range Strike Bomber” that will provide 80-100 very stealthy successors beginning in 2025 (loser Boeing is protesting the award). Meanwhile, all of the nuclear missiles and gravity bombs carried on the bombers are being upgraded to extend their lives, improve their accuracy, and assure their safety. A new air-launched cruise missile is also planned, but the administration is taking no chances, pouring billions of dollars into enhancing the performance and connectivity of the existing fleet.

A new intercontinental ballistic missile.  The third leg of the nuclear triad consists of 450 Minuteman III missiles deployed in hardened silos at three bases in the western U.S.  The Air Force is spending $7 billion to modernize the propulsion systems, guidance, warheads and other elements of the Minuteman force, but the force’s projected service life only extends to 2030.  In 2014, the command responsible for managing the missiles conducted an analysis of alternatives for developing a next-generation “Ground Based Strategic Deterrent,” meaning a new ICBM.  InsideDefense.com reports that the Air Force will begin operating the new missile in 2027.  Missile silos and launch control centers, which have become quite decrepit, will be renovated for decades of additional service.  A parallel effort is under way to upgrade the warheads carried on ICBMs, substituting more powerful weapons from the retired MX missile.

An enhanced command, control & communications network.  Credible deterrence requires a resilient command system that can ride out a surprise attack and then execute appropriate responses (there are numerous retaliatory options in nuclear war plans).  The network of assets supporting this system includes sensors that can detect an attack, flying command posts, hardened underground operations centers, secure communications satellites, and a complex array of links between them.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that administration plans for modernizing the nuclear command and control system will cost $52 billion between 2015 and 2024, with the biggest outlays going to Boeing for flying command posts, Lockheed Martin for satellites, and Northrop Grumman for sensors and networks.  Raytheon will also likely be a key player in nuclear-related sensors and networks.

New tactical nuclear systems.  Although the Obama nuclear posture has sought to minimize the role of nuclear weapons outside the area of strategic deterrence, the administration faces a practical problem in countering thousands of tactical nuclear systems that Russia has deployed in Europe.  Under the doctrine of “extended deterrence,” the U.S. must have credible retaliatory options for dealing with the regional threat that these weapons pose in order to reassure its overseas allies.  The administration therefore plans to equip at least some Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters with a capability to deliver tactical nuclear weapons, and is upgrading the inventory of nuclear munitions suitable for conducting such operations.

A revitalized nuclear weapons industrial base.  Much of the responsibility for supporting the U.S. nuclear posture resides not in the Department of Defense, but in the Department of Energy.  DoE is expected to spend $121 billion between 2015 and 2024 on its nuclear-weapons functions, over a third of the $348 billion spent on the nuclear enterprise during that period.  A big chunk of that money will go to the laboratories and industrial facilities involved in researching, refurbishing, modifying or demilitarizing nuclear devices.  Although the U.S. no longer builds new nuclear warheads, it is constantly reclaiming nuclear material from old devices and enhancing the features of warheads already in the stockpile.  That requires extensive investment in revitalizing the plant and equipment at facilities that often trace their origins to the dawn of the Cold War.

Some might quibble with using the word “buildup” to characterize this sprawling effort, since the Obama Administration does not plan to exceed weapons levels specified in arms reduction agreements.  However, the reality is that President Obama is backing efforts to upgrade and replace every nuclear delivery system in the U.S. arsenal, plus the warheads they carry, plus the command networks and industrial base that supports them.  None of his recent predecessors undertook nuclear efforts this ambitious — the Arms Control Association says the life-cycle cost of the new submarine alone will be over $300 billion through 2080 — and whether the arsenal shrinks or grows will be left to his successors.  So for all of the criticism about Mr. Obama being weak on defense, when it comes to the most fearsome weapons humanity has devised, he will be remembered as the president who kept America on top.

(Disclosure: All of the companies mentioned here have contributed to my think tank at one time or another; some are consulting clients.)

 

The Saudis quietly launch a nuclear spending spree
Bill Law
Monday 6 July 2015 16:20 UTC
As US Secretary of State John Kerry leads the P5+1 group – the US, UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany – in last-ditch talks aimed at thwarting any ambitions Iran may have to build a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia has been on a hectic multi-billion dollar spending spree in the global nuclear technology marketplace.
The latest recipient of Saudi largesse is France. It just inked a deal that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius boasted was part of a package “worth $12 billion,” ahead of a ceremony between President Francois Hollande and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman.
The French and the Saudis will undertake feasibility studies aimed at securing contracts for two nuclear reactor facilities to be built by Areva, a French company that has struggled to secure export sales for its EPR reactor.
That followed hard on the heels of a deal with Russia to cooperate on nuclear energy development.
Add that to a similar agreement signed with South Korea in early March, as well as deals with China and Argentina, and the Saudis are well on their way to achieving their ambitious goal of building 16 nuclear reactors by 2032.
At a price of roughly $2 billion per reactor, to say nothing of extremely lucrative maintenance deals once the facilities are in place, the world’s builders of nuclear reactor plants are almost falling over themselves wooing Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis make a cogent argument that they need to move beyond oil dependency in generating power. Solar and nuclear are the way forward. Fair enough. Saudi Arabia has a burgeoning population with a near insatiable appetite for cheap energy and a wanton disregard for conservation.
Thus far, the government has coped by taking oil off the global market so as to generate the electricity it needs to satisfy a hungry domestic market. Additionally, the kingdom is facing serious challenges with water supply. Nuclear power will help to drive the new desalination plants the country urgently needs.
Reasonable, forward thinking, responsible reactions by a government committed to serving the needs of its people, one would say.
The thing is, the Iranians have said pretty much the same thing. But unlike the Saudis, Iran publicly insists there is no hidden agenda toward building a nuclear weapon. There will be, they claim, no bomb. The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei himself has said so. The world, however, is wise to take the claim with a large dose of salt. Iran is a rising power with a strong desire and the clear intent to challenge Saudi Arabia for regional hegemony. So we are right to be wary. Hence the forensic examination of Iranian claims and the stiff demands for extensive international oversight of the country’s nuclear reactor facilities.
The Saudis on the other hand have made it very clear and quite public that when it comes to the bomb, all options are on the table. Most recently, Nawaf Obaid, an analyst who often reflects official Saudi government policy wrote in the Telegraph newspaper of a “nuclear defence doctrine”.
He went on to claim that the kingdom already has the “capability to produce HEU (highly enriched uranium), the skills to add PMDs (possible military dimensions) and the advanced deliverable systems onto which nuclear warheads can be placed. It now possesses all three of these systems”.
Citing the widely held belief that Iraq is poised to nuclear arm itself, Obaid concludes that nuclear weapons are “seen by the Saudi leadership as absolutely necessary to carry out their most important mission: the defence of the realm”.
Even granting an element of bravura in what Obaid says, it is nonetheless the case that for several years reports have circulated that the Saudis have an “off the shelf” arrangement with Pakistan to deliver either the necessary nuclear technology or indeed the warheads should a request be made.
While it is true that the government ratified the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1988, Saudi Arabia, like Iran, has yet to sign a protocol adopted in 2005 that calls for a tighter inspection regime. And though it has long been on record as supporting calls for the establishment of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has yet to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty thus joining a small but select group of non-signers that includes North Korea, India and Pakistan.
If, as many critics of President Obama say, America and the rest of the world are being played the fool and that inevitably Iran will secure nuclear weaponry, then perhaps the Saudis are wise to have all the options in play.
But the lack of international scrutiny of the recent Saudi deals, coupled with the kingdom’s opacity about what it is actually intending as it attempts to cope with Iran’s growing regional clout bodes ill for efforts to contain the spread of nuclear weapons.
In a region which is tumbling rapidly into chaotic violence the likes of which we have not seen for many decades, if indeed ever, surely we need to be taking a long, hard a look at the Saudis too. Or shall we continue, as we have always done with Israel, to look the other way, comfortable in trusting the good intentions of a friend and ally?

he Terror Of The Iranian Horn (Dan 8)

 
Iran Terrorism Highlighted by U.S. as Nuclear Deadline Looms

by Indira Lakshmanan
June 19, 2015 — 8:28 AM PDT Updated on June 19, 2015 — 10:50 AM PDT

With a June 30 deadline looming for an agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, the U.S. State Department said the Islamic Republic’s terrorist activities continue “undiminished,” a finding sure to inflame opponents of any deal with the regime in Tehran.

Asked if Iran can be trusted to abide by a nuclear deal while it continues terrorist activities that destabilize the Middle East, a senior State Department official on Friday said that the nuclear negotiations are important to curb Iran’s actions.

If Iran agrees to nuclear curbs in exchange for relief from economic sanctions, the U.S. won’t lift sanctions on any Iranians cited for terrorism, Ambassador Tina Kaidanow, the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, said at a press conference.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, notorious for its involvement in terrorist activities and its control of major sectors of Iran’s economy, will remain under U.S. sanctions, Kaidanow said.

Asked if entities controlled by the IRGC, including the state-run National Iranian Oil Company, would be taken off the sanctions list, Kaidanow said, “It is not being contemplated.” She added: “We aren’t going to remove any of the sanctions related to terrorism.

U.S. and European Union oil sanctions imposed in mid-2012 have reduced Iran’s primary source of revenue, trimming its exports to about 1.1 million barrels a day from 2.5 million barrels a day and denying Iran billions of dollars, according to the U.S. government. In addition to congressional sanctions penalizing any country that doesn’t reduce its imports of Iranian crude, the U.S. listed NIOC as an entity of the IRGC.

Oil Sanctions
 
It’s unclear if buyers of Iranian oil could still face penalties if oil sanctions are suspended but Iran’s state-owned oil company remains on the U.S. sanctions list,

The U.S. has designated Iran a state sponsor of terrorism every year since 1984, citing a litany of efforts to destabilize the Middle East and aid foreign terrorist groups. In its annual report on worldwide terrorism released Friday, the department said Iran continues to support militant groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, and also continues “subtle efforts at growing influence” in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Iran used the elite arm of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Quds Force, “to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East,” according to the 2014 report. The unit is Iran’s “primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.”

The State Department cited media reports that Quds Force soldiers have taken part in combat operations supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian ally, in his bloody four-year campaign to put down a domestic uprising.

Shia Militias

In response to the advance of Islamic State terrorists into neighboring Iraq, Iran has increased training and funding to Iraqi Shia militias, the U.S. said. While critics of President Barack Obama have expressed fears that the U.S. military — which is aiding the Iraqi government — would coordinate with Iran in the common fight against the Islamic State, the administration denies doing so.
The State Department said Friday that the Iranian-backed militias fighting Islamic State have worsened sectarian tensions in Iraq and are guilty of human rights abuses against Sunni civilians.

Iran is unwilling to bring senior al-Qaeda members it detains to justice, and refuses to publicly identify those in its custody, the State Department said. Previously, Iran had allowed al-Qaeda facilitators to move funds and fighters through Iran to South Asia and Syria, the report said.

Supporting Hezbollah

The report also accuses Iran of supplying weapons, financing and training to Lebanese Hezbollah, which the U.S., the European Union and Israel consider a terrorist group, and seeking to arm Palestinian militants in Gaza, citing Israeli seizures of rockets, mortar and ammunition hidden in crates of cement labeled “made in Iran”.

Despite numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding that Iran suspend illicit nuclear activities, the Islamic Republic’s atomic program remains in “noncompliance,” the State Department said.

At the same time, the report concludes that Iran has complied with its commitments under an interim agreement to curb its nuclear activities that took effect in January 2014. Iran says its atomic program is for civilian energy and medical research.