The Iraq War Made
LONDON – With the land of the two rivers, Iraq and Syria, now a wasteland of human suffering and rubble, the Report of the Iraq Inquiry, commonly known as the Chilcot report (after its chairman, Sir John Chilcot), has aimed to help explain how we got here. Now that it has detailed the extent of British culpability in the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq, those implicated in the report’s findings are using two arguments to refute it.
The first, offered by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, that the world would be much worse today had Iraqi President Saddam Hussein been left in power. The second is that invading Iraq would have succeeded but for a lack of post-invasion planning, which allowed for the mayhem that followed.
Simon Tilford examines how Barry Eichengreen, Joseph Stiglitz, Laura Tyson, and other Project Syndicate contributors address the anti-trade sentiment roiling advanced economies.
The second argument has some truth to it. But the first argument is surely false – a desperate attempt at reputation management by those responsible for a disastrous decision.
To academic observers and others who reported from Iraq at the time, as I did, Saddam was a prototypical regional bully. Domestically, he was a murderous tyrant; but his primary security concern was Iran, with which he waged, with Western support, a pointless war of nearly ten years that cost a million lives and ended in stalemate.
When Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, he assumed it was purely a regional squabble about oil and territorial claims. He mistakenly believed that the West had given him a green light.
The Kuwait invasion was reversed by Operation Desert Storm and other events that led the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to impose crippling sanctions and no-fly zones across large swaths of Iraq. With these measures in place, Saddam’s Iraq was weakened almost to breaking point.
In his newly diminished state, Saddam continued to obsess over Iran and hint at his own weapons of mass destruction. Iraq, however, had abandoned its nuclear project in 1991, had no biological weapons, and had only limited chemical-weapons capability. At no stage after being expelled from Kuwait did Saddam’s regime pose a serious threat to the region or the West. He was contained, like a jackal in a cage.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, George W. Bush’s administration understandably retaliated, by invading Afghanistan, where the Taliban government hosted Al-Qaeda training camps. By December 2001, the Bush administration was considering attacking Iraq, too.
The biggest obstacle for the Bush administration was the absence of an established connection between Saddam’s regime and Islamic extremism, though an effort was made to concoct a meeting between representatives of the two in Prague. Quite the contrary: Saddam’s regime and militant Islam were mortal enemies.
Still, leading administration figures were determined to wage war on Iraq, so they manufactured a justification: the threat of WMDs. In reality, there was no new Iraqi threat or indication that Iraq was in a position to deploy such weapons. And even when Saddam had used chemical weapons years earlier – against Iranian forces in 1988, at the turning point in the war in the Faw Peninsula, and against Iraqi Kurds in 1991 – the international response had entailed, at most, a no-fly zone, not an invasion. (The 1988 incident drew no response at all.)
Moreover, in the 1991 campaign to liberate Kuwait, Western countries threatened to respond with tactical nuclear weapons if Saddam deployed chemical weapons. He didn’t; and during United Nations inspections before the March 2003 invasion, there was no evidence of any additional WMD program.
The plain purpose of the 2003 invasion was regime change. Indeed, Blair has all but admitted as much. Earlier this year, he explained to Parliament’s foreign affairs committee that he had doubts about Western intervention in Libya for fear of repeating events in Iraq.
The damage from regime change in Iraq has been substantial. According to the Chilcot report, at least 150,000 Iraqis (and possibly four times that number) have been killed in the years since the invasion, and an estimated three million people have been displaced from their homes. The security situation is far worse than under Saddam, and the economy is no better.
Meanwhile, as many had warned at the time, Iran, with its largest historical barrier to expansion gone, now enjoys a significant strategic advantage. Through Shia militias and a sympathetic government in Baghdad, Iran is virtually occupying large parts of Iraq. So, too, is the so-called Islamic State, which is largely composed of Saddam’s former Sunni henchmen. They are locked in battle against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s murderous pro-Iranian regime; a few pro-Western fighting groups, supported by American and British air strikes; as well as the Kurds, the Turks, and the Russians. The view that the Syrian civil war had nothing to do with events in Iraq is untenable.
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We Know They Lied about Iraq’s WMDs, but It Gets Worse
Posted: July 13, 2016
Photo of George Bush and Tony Blair at NATO summit in Istanbul. Image via Wikimedia
Sir John Chilcot’s report on Great Britain’s role in the Iraq War confirmed what many have long assumed: the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair—and, by extension, the administration of President George W. Bush—deliberately misled us, exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and Iraq in order to justify the 2003 invasion of that country.
This is a travesty of justice. The thousands of American casualties, trillions of dollars of expenditures, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties, and the rise of sectarianism, terrorism, Islamist extremism, and the other negative consequences of the invasion have been disastrous.
But even worse, even if Iraq really did have the proscribed “WMDs”, delivery systems, and weapons programs at the time of the invasion, the war would have still been illegal and unnecessary. Here’s why.
At the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq roughly two dozen countries had chemical weapons, biological weapons, or nuclear programs with weapons potential. The mere possession of these programs is not legitimate grounds for invasion. Those who claim that the invasion would have somehow been justifiable if Bush and Blair had been telling the truth about Iraq’s WMDs and related programs are effectively saying the United States somehow has the right to invade dozens of other countries as well.
Defenders of the invasion and occupation claim that Iraq was in violation of UN Security Council resolutions regarding its program. But the United Nations determined—and the United States later acknowledged—they were not.
Furthermore, there was no authorization of force by the UN Security Council. The UN Charter—which, as a signed and ratified international treaty, has the force of “supreme law” according to the U.S. Constitution—declares unequivocally in Articles 41 and 42 that the UN Security Council alone has the power to authorize the use of military force against any nation in noncompliance of its resolutions.
The U.N. Security Council alone had the authority to determine what, if any, action to take regarding current or future Iraqi violations. The final pre-war UN resolution (1441) declared that any alleged violations be brought forward by the inspection teams consisting of experts in the field, not by any member state, and that at such a time the Security Council would “convene immediately in order to consider the situation and the need for full compliance.”
Today there are three other countries in violation of UN Security Council resolutions regarding non-conventional weapons (as there were back in 2003). UN Security Council resolution 487 calls on Israel to place its nuclear facilities under the trusteeship of the International Atomic Energy Agency. UN Security Council resolution 1172 calls on India and Pakistan to eliminate their nuclear arsenals and long-range missiles.
Not only have successive U.S. administrations blocked the Security Council from enforcing these resolutions, the United States has provided all three countries with nuclear-capable jet fighters and other military assistance and has subsequently signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with India.
To be clear, not only were charges by American and British officials that Iraq was violating the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty false, neither government expressed concern that Israel, India and Pakistan had never signed on. Furthermore, the NPT requires that the nuclear weapons states at the time of its signing make good-faith efforts to pursue complete nuclear disarmament, which the United States and Great Britain (along with France, Russia, and China) have failed to do. As a result, it is these countries, not Iraq, that were and are in material breach of the NPT.
Even if Iraq had WMDs, the threat of massive retaliation by regional forces—such as nuclear-armed Israel—as well as U.S. forces permanently stationed in the region provided a more than sufficient deterrent to Iraq using the weapons beyond its borders.
While the additional evidence provided by the Chilcot Inquiry of the duplicity by the British and American governments regarding Iraq’s military capabilities certainly merit attention, let’s not pretend that Iraq actually possessing such weapons and weapons programs would have justified the war.
To do so would just open the door for future disastrous military engagements against countries that really might have such capabilities.
Stephen Zunes is a professor of Politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.
No, really, George W. Bush lied about WMDs
Updated by Dylan Matthews on July 9, 2016, 10:00 a.m. ET
The best estimates available suggest that more than 250,000 people have died as a result of George W. Bush and Tony Blair’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003. A newly released investigative report from the UK government suggests that intelligence officials knew ahead of time that the war would cause massive instability and societal collapse and make the problem of terrorism worse — and that Blair and Bush went ahead with the effort anyway.
The correct response to this situation is to despair at the fact that the US and UK governments created such a horrific human tragedy for no good reason at all. However, partisan grudgefests run deep, and some on the right have argued that the UK’s Chilcot report proves the real dastardly actors are liberals who accused Bush and Blair not just of relying on faulty intelligence suggesting Iraq had WMDs but of lying about the intelligence they did have.
To some extent, this is beside the point; even if they had been totally cautious and careful in characterizing the intelligence, the war still would’ve been a catastrophic mistake that took an immense human toll. But the truth also matters, and the truth is that there were numerous occasions when Bush and his advisers made statements that intelligence agencies knew to be false, both about WMDs and about Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent links to al-Qaeda. The term commonly used for making statements that one knows to be false is “lying.”
Mother Jones’s David Corn has been excellent about chronicling specific examples over the years.
Here are just a few:
In October 2002, Bush said that Saddam Hussein had a “massive stockpile” of biological weapons. But as CIA Director George Tenet noted in early 2004, the CIA had informed policymakers it had “no specific information on the types or quantities of weapons agent or stockpiles at Baghdad’s disposal.” The “massive stockpile” was just literally made up.
In December 2002, Bush declared, “We do not know whether or not [Iraq] has a nuclear weapon.” That was not what the National Intelligence Estimate said. As Tenet would later testify, “We said that Saddam did not have a nuclear weapon and probably would have been unable to make one until 2007 to 2009.” Bush did know whether or not Iraq had a nuclear weapon — and lied and said he didn’t know to hype the threat.
On CNN in September 2002, Condoleezza Rice claimed that aluminum tubes purchased by Iraq were “only really suited for nuclear weapons programs.” This was precisely the opposite of what nuclear experts at the Energy Department were saying; they argue that not only was it very possible the tubes were for nonnuclear purposes but that it was very likely they were too. Even more dire assessments about the tubes from other agencies were exaggerated by administration officials — and in any case, the claim that they’re “only really suited” for nuclear weapons is just false.
On numerous occasions, Dick Cheney cited a report that 9/11 conspirator Mohammed Atta had met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence officer. He said this after the CIA and FBI concluded that this meeting never took place.
More generally on the question of Iraq and al-Qaeda, on September 18, 2001, Rice received a memo summarizing intelligence on the relationship, which concluded there was little evidence of links. Nonetheless Bush continued to claim that Hussein was “a threat because he’s dealing with al-Qaeda” more than a year later.
In August 2002, Dick Cheney declared, “Simply stated, there’s no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” But as Corn notes, at that time there was “no confirmed intelligence at this point establishing that Saddam had revived a major WMD operation.” Gen. Anthony Zinni, who had heard the same intelligence and attended Cheney’s speech, would later say in a documentary, “It was a total shock. I couldn’t believe the vice president was saying this, you know? In doing work with the CIA on Iraq WMD, through all the briefings I heard at Langley, I never saw one piece of credible evidence that there was an ongoing program.”
The Bush administration on numerous occasions exaggerated or outright fabricated conclusions from intelligence in its public statements. Bush really did lie, and people really did die as a result of the war those lies were meant to build a case for. Those are the facts.
The failure of Iraq was not merely a case of well-meaning but incompetent policymakers rushing into what they should’ve known would be a disaster. It’s the story of those policymakers repeatedly misleading the public about why, exactly, the war started.
By Bill Gertz –
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
China has begun patrols with nuclear missile submarines for the first time, giving Beijing a new strategic nuclear strike capability, according to the U.S. Strategic Command and Defense Intelligence Agency.
U.S. intelligence and strategic nuclear officials, however, remain uncertain whether China’s four Jin-class missile submarine patrols are being carried out with nuclear-tipped JL-2 missiles on board.
DIA and Strategic Command representatives said this week that there were no changes to DIA’s assessment earlier this year that China would begin the nuclear missile submarine patrols this year.
The problem for officials in declaring the Jin-class submarines a new Chinese strategic nuclear threat is a lack of certainty that Chinese Communist Party leaders have agreed to the unprecedented step of trusting operational submarine commanders with control over the launching of nuclear missiles.
Navy Capt. Pamela S. Kunze, Strategic Command spokeswoman, elaborated on comments by Adm. Cecil Haney, the Strategic Command commander, and confirmed that the nuclear submarine patrols were taking place.
She told Inside the Ring: “Given China’s known capabilities and their efforts to develop a sea-based deterrent, in absence of indicators to the contrary, it is prudent to assume that patrols are occurring.”
Adm. Haney said in October that he was not waiting for China to announce its first nuclear missile patrols because, as with most other issues related to Chinese nuclear forces, the capabilities of the submarines remain hidden by military secrecy.
“The Chinese have had these submarines at sea this year, so I have to look at it as operational capability today,” the four-star admiral said. “And [I] can’t think that when those submarines are at sea that they aren’t on patrol.”
The real question, the Stratcom leader said, is: “Have they put the missile we’ve seen them test, the JL-2, in for a package that is doing strategic deterrent patrols? I have to consider them today that they are on strategic patrol,” he said, meaning the submarines were equipped with nuclear missiles.
For the U.S., that means “there’s another capability that’s out there having nuclear capability of ranges that can strike the United States of America,” the admiral said.
The patrols mark a significant turning point for the Chinese. In the past, Beijing stored all nuclear warheads separately from its missiles, in part to demonstrate what China calls its policy of “no first use” — that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict and would use them only in retaliation for hostile nuclear attacks.
Another reason warheads are kept separate is the Communist Party’s near-paranoid obsession with political control. Separating warheads from missiles allows for a greater centralized control over the nuclear arsenal, which is estimated to be 300 warheads but is likely far larger.
Chinese authorities fear giving a submarine commander control over the launch of nuclear missiles and worry that one of the military’s hawks could ignore the party’s nuclear chain of command and order a nuclear strike on his own.
Patrols by Jin-class submarines with nuclear-armed JL-2s, if confirmed, mark a new stage in Communist Party trust with the People’s Liberation Army.
Sending the Jin submarines on patrol without nuclear missiles or warheads would be viewed as a hollow gesture and undermine the intended message behind the capability to launch stealthy underwater missile attacks.
China is extremely secret about its nuclear forces. However, PLA missile submarines appear to be different. In 2013, state-run Chinese media published details on contingency plans to attack the western United States with submarine-launched missiles, an attack that would kill what the Global Times newspaper estimated would be up to 12 million Americans.
The congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, in its annual report made public last month, said the missile submarine patrols will mark China’s “first credible at-sea second-strike nuclear capability.” The Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao reported in September that the first nuclear submarine patrols had taken place.
The commission report quoted PLA Navy Commander Adm. Wu Shengli as saying: “This is a trump card that makes our motherland proud and our adversaries terrified. It is a strategic force symbolizing our great-power status and supporting national security.”
Recent Chinese military enthusiast websites have posted photographs of suspected Chinese submarine tunnels. One was shown Oct. 7 at a naval base on Shangchuan Island, along the southern Chinese coast near Hong Kong. In May, photos posted online showed the opening of a nuclear missile submarine cave at an undisclosed location.
PUBLISHED: 6:03 PM, NOV 30, 2015 UPDATED: 6:03 PM, NOV 30, 2015
The United States is actively supporting its Asian allies with their territorial claims over the disputed South China Sea. But what the government does not realize is that China has risen to be a major nuclear power, an expert said. The more active the U.S. participate in the conflict over the contested region, the more it risks a nuclear confrontation.
The U.S. is now regularly patrolling the South China Sea with its warships sailing within 12 nautical miles from the vast territory claimed by China. President Barack Obama had also gifted the Philippines with warships, warplanes and had increased its military aid to as much as $79 million.
“China is major nuclear power. When cornered, nuclear-armed states can threaten asymmetric escalation to deter an adversary from harming its key interests,” according to Zhang Baohui, Professor of Political Science and Director of Center for Asian pacific Studies at Mingnan University in Hong Kong.
“When a crisis situation escalates and starts to involve potential nuclear tensions, the US faces the stark choice of either backing down first or facing the prospect of fighting a nuclear-armed China,” Baohui wrote. He noted that China paraded a new generation of tactical missiles during the Sept 3 military parade. The communist country had recently acquired long-range cruise missiles that can carry tactical nuclear warheads. Just recently, it also released photos of JL-2 sea-based nuclear missile launching from the sea. Baohui is the author of China’s Assertive Nuclear Posture: State Security in an Anarchic International Order.
On Nov. 23, China test fired its new hypersonic nuclear attack vehicle, the Free Beacon reported. Last week’s testing of the DF-ZF was the sixth time that the hypersonic glider was tested since 2014.
According to people familiar with the matter, the test fire was tracked by U.S. intelligence agencies. The F-ZF reportedly flew at speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 10 or 3, 836 to 7, 680 miles per hour. This means the hypersonic nuclear guided vehicle is five times faster than the speed of sound.
According to Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy center, the six tests conducted by China hint that the country is developing weapons similar to U.S. Prompt Global Strike. The analyst suggested for Pentagon to ramp up its own development of the strike vehicle in order to deploy it at any given instance that China does the same.
US Faces Nuclear War Threat Over South China Sea – Chinese Professor
By Polina Tikhonova on November
China is willing to start a nuclear war with the United States over the South China Sea, according to a Chinese professor.
Beijing’s rhetoric after an incident with a U.S. warship sailed to the South China Sea suggests that Chinese decision-makers could resort to more “concrete and forceful measures” to counter the U.S. Navy, according to Zhang Baohui, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.
“If so, a face-off between the two navies becomes inevitable. Even worse, the face-off may trigger an escalation towards military conflicts,” the professor wrote in a piece for RSIS Commentary.
But, according to Baohui, the U.S. military is “oblivious” to this scenario, since Washington decision-makers think America’s conventional military superiority discourages China from responding to such “provocations” in the South China Sea militarily. However, this “U.S. expectation is flawed, as China is a major nuclear power,” the professor wrote.
“When cornered, nuclear-armed states can threaten asymmetric escalation to deter an adversary from harming its key interests,” he added.
Baohui then refers to the military parade in Beijing that took place on Sept. 3 and revealed that China’s new generation of tactical missiles – such as the DF-26 – are capable of being armed with nuclear warheads. Moreover, according to the latest reports, China’s air-launched long-range cruise missiles can also carry tactical nuclear warheads.
U.S. could provoke nuclear war with China
And while the U.S. does not have its core interests in the South China Sea, the disputed islands present China’s strategic interests, which is why this kind of asymmetry in stakes would certainly give Beijing an advantage in “the balance of resolve” over Washington, according to the professor. And if the South China Sea situation escalates and starts spiraling into a nuclear confrontation between the U.S. and China, Washington will face a choice of either backing down first or fighting a nuclear-armed power and the world’s largest military force with a strength of approximately 2.285 million personnel.
“Neither option is attractive and both exact high costs, either in reputation or human lives, for the U.S.,” Baohui wrote.
So it would be unwise for the U.S. to further provoke China in the disputed area, since China’s willingness to defend its interests, reputation and deterrence credibility could easily escalate the conflict into a military confrontation that would ultimately harm U.S. interests, according to the professor.
China will join Russia in nuclear war with NATO
With NATO member state Turkey downing a Russian jet in its airspace, there is already a high risk of military confrontation in the world. And with China being so close and allied with Russia, Beijing decision-makers could see the incident with the Russian warplane as an opportunity to avenge the West for the South China Sea provocations.
The Turkish military said it had shot down a Russian jet on Tuesday, triggering a furious response from Moscow and escalating the already hot tensions in the Syrian conflict. With Russian President Vladimir Putin warning the West of “serious consequences,” analysts believe the Kremlin is willing to unleash a nuclear war over the incident.
Despite the fact that Turkey is backed by NATO’s 5th Article, which states that an attack on one Ally shall be considered an attack on all NATO members, the chances that Putin will start a nuclear war over the incident with the Russian jet are very “likely,” according to Pavel Felgengauer, Russia’s most respected military analyst.
Felgengauer said Turkey wants to protect a zone in northern Syria controlled by the Turkmens, Ankara’s allies, while the downing of the Russian warplane in the region must prompt the Kremlin to either accept the zone or “start a war with Turkey,” which means starting an all-out war with NATO. And the only way Russia could win a war against NATO is by going nuclear, Felgengauer said.
“It is most likely that it will be war,” said Felgenhauer, as reported by Mirror. “In other words, more fights will follow when Russian planes attack Turkish aircraft in order to protect our [Russia’s] bombers. It is possible that there will be fights between the Russian and Turkish navies at sea.”
U.S. provokes China to respond militarily
The U.S. recently asserted its freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea. On Oct. 27, the USS Lassen traveled inside the 12-mile nautical zone around Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands archipelago. This reef is one of seven reefs China has artificially built in order to claim its sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and the sea around it.
Even though Beijing did not take immediate action to counter the U.S. vessel, such further “provocations” could seriously destabilize the peace and stability of the whole region, according to Baohui.
“They could touch off an unintended escalation and push the two countries towards military conflict. The logic is quite obvious,” the professor wrote.
The U.S. Navy’s further operations in the South China Sea could thus corner Beijing and force China to respond militarily. After all, China cannot risk its national interests and power reputation, according to the Chinese professor. Shortly after the incident, Vice-Admiral Yi Xiaoguang, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) deputy chief of staff, warned that China “will use all means necessary to defend its sovereignty” if the U.S. conducts similar provocations.
China: we can seize more islands in the South China Sea
China recently said it can use military force to kick out nations illegally to seize more islands in the disputed South China Sea, but China is now showing restraint, as reported by ValueWalk last week.
“The Chinese government has the right and the ability to recover the islands and reefs illegally occupied by neighboring countries,” Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said, speaking about the disputed artificial islands but not naming any particular country.
China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei all have sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. All but Brunei have military fortifications in the disputed area, which raises concerns about a high risk of military confrontation in the region.
“But we haven’t done this [seized the islands]. We have maintained great restraint with the aim to preserve peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Liu said.
If China gains complete control over the Spratly Islands, it gets the key to controlling waters through which $5 trillion in trade passes every year, mostly to and from China.
The professor concluded that reckless actions by one or both parties may well turn mistrust into “bloody military conflicts.” But nobody, especially countries in the region, are interested in such a scenario.
“If the US claims to be the defender of world peace and regional stability, it must do everything to avoid this scenario through unintended escalations,” Baohui wrote.
MOSCOW – Details of a new Russian submarine-launched nuclear torpedo have been shown on state-controlled TV, a secret the Kremlin said should never have been aired. Some observers, however, saw it as a deliberate leak.
The airing of the video on television channels under tight Kremlin control raised suspicions that it was done intentionally to scare the West at a time when its ties with Russia are at the lowest point since the Cold War.
NTV and Channel One showed a large document — filmed over a general’s shoulder during a meeting with Putin — with drawings and details of a prospective weapons system called Status-6.
The system developed by St.Petersburg-based Rubin design bureau includes nuclear submarines carrying long-range torpedoes, which could create “extensive zones of radioactive contamination” that would make enemy coastal areas “unsuitable for military, economic, business or other activity for a long time,” the document said.
The channels later removed the footage, which was shot during a meeting on Monday in Sochi.
“It’s true that some secret information was caught by the camera and therefore it was subsequently removed,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said late Wednesday. “We hope this will not happen again.”
Independent experts noted, however, that it would be hard to imagine cameramen of state TV stations closing up on any documents on the table during a Kremlin meeting on military issues. Most saw the incident as a deliberate leak intended to warn Washington and its allies that Russia is working on a new devastating weapon that would tip the scales in case of conflict.
“I have a feeling it was shown in order to scare the world,” said Alexander Golts, an independent Moscow-based military analyst. “It’s an attempt to offer an asymmetrical answer to the U.S. missile defense.”
Putin has held four meetings on defense issues in as many days this week, reflecting the close attention he is paying to military modernization at a time of heightened tensions with the United States and Europe over the crisis in Ukraine.
The Russian leader described NATO’s U.S.-led missile defense program as an attempt to break nuclear parity and warned that Moscow would counter it by deploying new strike weapons capable of piercing the shield.
Military experts and commentators traced the nuclear torpedo concept to the 1950s, when it was first offered by Andrei Sakharov, the father of Soviet thermonuclear bomb who later came to defy the Soviet system and won a Nobel Peace Prize. He proposed targeting the U.S. with high-yield nuclear torpedoes that would create huge tsunami waves and high levels of radioactivity to render large coastline areas uninhabitable.
The proposal was rejected, partly because naval technology of the era wouldn’t allow a Soviet submarine to approach the U.S. shore undetected.
The Status-6 appears to be a new reincarnation of the old idea, said Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent military analyst.
“The plan is to deliver a 100-megaton nuclear bomb to the U.S. shores,” he said. “It would cause a highly radioactive tsunami.”
The details of the new weapon shown on Russian state TV indicated that the torpedo should have a trans-Ocean range of 5,400 miles, something military experts considered impossible.
But while the torpedo’s real range could be much shorter, its relatively small size, a purported operational depth of 3,280 feet and a speed of 65 miles per hour appear realistic, making it difficult to spot and destroy, some observers said.
“Detecting it could be significantly different from detecting a submarine,”said Pavel Podvig, an independent analyst based in Geneva, where he runs his research project, “Russian Nuclear Forces.”
The government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta alleged that in order to achieve the stated purpose of “extensive radioactive contamination” of coastal areas, the project could envisage using the so-called cobalt bomb, a nuclear weapon designed to produce enhanced amounts of radioactive fallout compared to a regular atomic warhead.
Podvig said the apparent deliberate leak of the Status-6 details looks menacing, irrespective of how realistic the project is from the technological viewpoint.
“The whole thing just strikes me as crazy,” he said.